When Tommaso Bianchi signed this past summer for Leeds United few people anticipated the type of impact he has had to this point. However, in the Italian’s short time at the club he has quickly emerged as one of the staples of the Massimo Cellino era. The former Sassuolo and Modena midfielder is now one of the first names penciled into the team sheet every week and the statistics show exactly why.
Bianchi’s 1,721 minutes on the pitch are the most of any Leeds field player. This remarkable statistic has occurred in spite of the fact that he has been subbed off eight times in his 20 starts, both of which are also the most of any Leeds outfield player. A great deal of this is due to his bullish and aggressive style of play, but the number 14 boasts a nifty eye for possession and link-up play as well.
While the sheer amount of time he spends on the pitch is impressive, the starkest aspect of Bianchi’s game is his defensive intricacies, all of which explain why he is such a sure presence at Elland Road and away. His defensive awareness allows him to admirably shield the back line and disrupt forays forward from opposing midfielders and strikers.
While these are great qualities, what often goes unnoticed is how consistently well Bianchi does his job. His role often is unheralded and overlooked, as it doesn’t result in much of an offensive impact. But, a quick glance at some finite numbers reveals how impactful the former Serie A and B player is when he suits up for the Peacocks.
His 45 interceptions are the fifth most among midfielders in the entire Championship. This means that time and time again Bianchi is clogging up key passing lanes and disrupting opposition possessions before they can become promising. Even more importantly, Bianchi’s interceptions demonstrate how he opts for positional and tactical awareness rather than rangy and undisciplined play.
Another key defensive element for the Italian is his shot blocking ability. So far he has stopped shots 11 times, which is the third most among midfielders in the league. This element reveals a great deal of commitment on Bianchi’s part and shows that he is willing to place his body on the line for the sanctity of his countryman and goalkeeper, Marco Silvestri.
Bianchi also thrives in clearances, as shown by the 47 times he has sent the ball out of danger this season. In this category he ranks ninth best among midfielders in the Championship. This goes to show that he has a knack for putting out fires, but also covering up for the mistakes that his back four and fellow midfielders make.
One last defensive measure for Bianchi is the massive amount of challenges he engages in. He has attempted 61 tackles so far and won 53 percent of them, both of which are second best in the Championship for a midfielder. To put it lightly, the Italian doesn’t shy away from confrontations in the trenches of midfield and more often than not, he emerges the victor. The below tweet highlights this aspect of Bianchi's game in the October 4th draw against Sheffield.
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) October 6, 2014
From an offensive perspective, Bianchi is up there with the best in the Championship as well. His ability to connect short passes and keep possession is phenomenal. He has a passing accuracy of 82 percent from 1,068 attempts, both of which are good for seventh among midfielders in the entire league.
Through these categories it becomes apparent that Bianchi is one of the finest holding midfielders in the entire league. He has only been in the Championship for a handful of months now, but he is already statistically one of the best anyone will see in England’s second division. A lot of Leeds’ play goes through Bianchi and they could be in a worse position in the league without his presence.
This past month Neil Redfern even praised Bianchi’s importance when discussing the team with LUTV. The gaffer was quick to point out how effective Bianchi is tactically and technically: "He's one of these unsung ones that does simple things really well. His touch is good in tight situations and he understands his role. Sometimes those types of players sort of miss the eye."
In truth, Redfearn’s comments are spot on. Bianchi often is overlooked due to the nature of his position, but he is one of the most important signings Leeds made this summer. As he continues to further acclimate to life in West Yorkshire he should thrive more offensively and defensively. After all, he could be one of the best players in the Championship nobody is talking about.
Were you expecting to see this side of Bianchi's game? Is he one of your favorite new signings? Should he receive more plaudits than he does? Share your thoughts below.