Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa to Hearts: The quick, direct and lively Japanese forward who would fit into starting XI - plus Joe Savage hint

Having been presented with an early Christmas present in the shape of the signing of Nathaniel Atkinson, Hearts fans were readying themselves for a belated gift on Boxing Day when speculation increased regarding the signing of a new forward.

Ogashiwa is a quick, direct and diminutive forward. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)
Ogashiwa is a quick, direct and diminutive forward. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

There was talk of a bid for Japanese forward Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa on the day the team defeated Ross County 2-1 at an empty Tynecastle Park to end the year on a high in third place.

Sporting director Joe Savage hinted at a move when speaking to fans on a watchalong of the County match run by This is My Story podcast.

While reports in Japan of a bid of €800,000 are wide of the mark, Hearts have approached Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo regarding a January deal following the end of the J-League season.

Hearts have made an approach to Consadole Sapporo for Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

If a deal is to be done, the club will have made swift work of strengthening an area pinpointed by manager and fans prior to the transfer window opening, while adding a player who fits the young and athletic profile outlined by Neilson when asked about the signing of Atkinson.

With Ogashiwa, the club would be signing a player with a skillset which isn't matched by any of the other forward players.

The diminutive 23-year-old contributed seven goals and four assists in 30 appearances as Consadole Sapporo finished mid-table in the 20-team J-League and much of his threat is down to his movement and willingness to run in behind the opposition defence.

There would be no issue fitting into Neilson's formation with Ogashiwa, a hard-worker without the ball, providing versatility in the final third, capable of playing across a front three but most often found on the right or in the centre of the attacking trio in a 3-4-3 system.

His pace and acceleration is a threat in either position but he is much more involved and productive in a central role. He happily drops deep to link play and wants to offload the ball quickly with one or two touches, before looking to spin and get up the pitch. His touch is good and with his back to goal will keep it simple, knowing he doesn't have the strength to fend off bigger defenders.

The biggest threat

It was his goal in a 3-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol, however which really expressed his qualities. As soon as midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin picked up the ball in the centre of the pitch, Ogashiwa was off like a shot. Despite giving the defender a head start of more than five yards he ran over the top and finished past the goalkeeper.

It is easy to imagine him forming a good relationship with Peter Haring, the club’s most effective passer from deep.

Playing wide right would see him open up space for Liam Boyce to operate in. Ogashiwa can offer width and run on to passes, before standing up and taking on defenders. But he wants to get in the box – he recorded the fourth most touches in the opposition box in the J-League – making darts between centre-back and full-back.

With only one full season of top flight football in Japan and the physical side of Scottish football to get used to, there will have to be a period of patience but Ogashiwa promises to be an exciting prospect. Quick, direct and lively.

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