Club: Leeds United
Position(s): CM, DM, AM
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: ball progression, physicality, athleticism, ball-striking, anticipation, passing ability
Areas for Development: consistency, experience
Premier League 2 Stats: 18 Games, 1439 Minutes, 16x90s, 2 Goals, 3 Assists
From Tosin Adarabioyo to Jeremie Frimpong, from Felix Nmecha to James Trafford, we’ve seen plenty of Manchester City academy products flourish since making the move away from the Etihad, and the next player to do so could Darko Gyabi. Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Gyabi left Millwall for City in 2018 and spent four years at the club before making the move to Leeds in 2022, where he has made four appearances thus far.
The 6’5″ midfielder is a dominant presence in physical duels, boasting the athleticism and anticipation to track back on defense and make vital interceptions. When winning the ball back or turning past an opponent, he calmly passes the ball out wide to an advanced teammate to progress the attack. However, don’t let his size misprofile him, he’s much more than just a ball-winning DM. Gyabi thrives in progressing the ball.
He has great dribbling in tight spaces as he’s able to weave in and out of surrounding players with the drop of the shoulder. When watching him, he just glides through games due to having such great composure. This allows him to comfortably receive the ball under pressure on the half-turn and break away from his marker.
Gyabi loves to shoot from distance and possesses great power in his shots, and he’s even good at shooting with both feet. Whilst his height and physicality have meant that he’s played in a deeper position where he’s had more defensive responsibility, his dribbling, ball-carrying and shooting ability is wasted here. Playing alongside a more defense-minded midfielder could see him take advantage of his ball-striking prowess and become a reliable goal-scorer for Leeds.
He was included in England’s squad for this summer’s U-20 World Cup, playing the entirety of their 1-0 win against Tunisia and doing the same in their second fixture against Uruguay. England went into the break with a 2-0 lead only for Franco González to cut the deficit in half after the break, but Gyabi would restore England’s advantage in the 94th minute, receiving the ball in the left half-space and driving into the box. Two defenders closed in on him and he ran inside to show one defender inside, before opening up his hips and using the defender to help him guide his shot into the bottom far corner.
Gyabi came off the bench in their 0-0 draw to Iraq before doing the same in the Round of 16 fixture against Italy, with Cesare Casadei’s late penalty securing a 2-1 victory for Italy, who would go on to lose to Uruguay in the final. Gyabi has since started in a friendly against Manchester United as well as a 2-1 win against Shrewsbury Town in the EFL Cup, although he is yet to make his Championship bow.
It remains to be seen whether or not the 19-year-old stays put at Elland Road, but with the likes of Tyler Adams and Marc Roca departing, Gyabi may back himself to compete with 17-year-old talent Archie Gray and new arrival Ethan Ampadu and challenge for a starting spot in midfield under Daniel Farke.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images