Dayot Upamecano is one of the most wanted players in European football right and with his contract with RB Leipzig ending next year, a transfer is extremely likely.
A host of top clubs are queueing up to see if they can persuade the French starlet to swap clubs in the summer, with Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United the Premier League clubs currently eyeing him up.
At the time of writing football is still in a period of significant uncertainty. The Dutch football federation has taken the decision to cancel the remainder and make results null and void. This means no promotion or relegation will take place.
The German Bundesliga, on the other hand, is looking to restart at some point in May.
Financial implications surrounding the current crisis and how they will affect football clubs is still unsure. It is possible that we will see less transfer activity this coming summer but it is equally possible that activity will remain the same, or even increase, while prices fall.
Some teams may now be more amenable to selling players that they would previously have built their team around. Indeed, this could provide an opportunity for some clubs to significantly strengthen.
Centre-back Upamecano has already been heavily linked to Arsenal in the last 12 months and this talk has resurfaced along with reported interests from the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich.
The purpose of this tactical analysis is to provide a snapshot of the type of player that Upamecano is prior to him making a move this summer.
The first step in reports of this type is to use data to identify key areas in the players game.The first thing that we will consider is his ability in possession of the ball as this is a key factor in the modern game.
The chart measures each players passes to the final third per 90 minutes and their progressive passes per 90 minutes. The size of the coloured dot is dependent on the % of these progressive passes that were successful. The bigger the dot the more successful the player was at completing his progressive passes.
Why though are these metrics important? Previously, passes per 90 minutes and pass completion % were thought to be indicators in quality on the ball but these include players who play safe passes constantly.
The metrics that we have used are designed to show which defenders progress the ball into the opposition half and therefore move the ball forwards for their team.
As you can see Upamecano features prominently with 10.77 passes to the final third and 13.02 progressive passes per 90 and a progressive pass success rate of 81.98%.
Next, we have to consider the defensive output that we see from Upamecano compared to the other defensive players in our data set.
Defensive metrics are more difficult to use as they are dependent, to an extent on team style, as such, instead of using defensive duels and aerial duels per 90 metrics we have compared the percentage of successful defensive duels and the percentage of successful aerial duels.
Again we see that Upamecano performs well in our metrics winning 65.08% of his aerial duels and 79.04% of his defensive duels. These are elite outputs.
Next, we will turn our attention to some examples from our video analysis that further highlight these points.
Positioning and strength
One of the first things that stands out when you watch Upamecano is his size and strength. He normally lines up as the left sided centre-back and is comfortable playing as part of a back three or a back four.
When defending in and around his own penalty area his size, combined with a high football intelligence that often see him perfectly positioned, makes it very difficult for opposition strikers to easily bypass him.
We see an example of this above as Benfica attack down their left, the ball far side for Upamecano, the second central defender is pulled over towards the ball and this stretches the gap between him and Upamecano.
This space is then quickly exploited by a Benfica midfielder making a run from a deep position and when that player collects possession it seems as though he will have an easy chance on goal.
Upamecano has, however, read the danger and quickly shifted across. As the ball is played into the feet of the midfield runner the French central defender simply stands his ground and wins the ball cleanly before moving forward to launch an attack in transition.
A similar situation here although the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch. This time the ball is fed into the Koln attacker at the edge of the penalty area as initially, he looked to have space and time.
Before the pass was played, however, Upamecano had already read the danger and moved across to close down the space.
As the forward received possession of the ball and tried to turn he found Upamecano in position to challenge for the ball. Once again the young central defender had the strength to win the duel cleanly before passing forward.
This ability to overpower attackers in one on one situations combined with a strong sense of positioning and good timing of the challenge make Dayot Upamecano a very difficult defender to bypass.
Defending in space
As well as being comfortable when defending in tight spaces in and around the penalty area our subject also possesses the physical and technical profile to allow him to defend in space when the ball is played over the top of the defensive line.
For a player who is so physically imposing, Upamecano also covers ground extremely well when facing his own goal. There are few attacking players in the German league who have the capacity to outrun the young defender.
We see an example of this here in the match between RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach.
RB Leipzig had been attacking and when they have possession they tend to favour a compact attacking structure with a high defensive line. The ball, however, was lost and Gladbach have transitioned quickly through a direct pass over the top of the RB Leipzig defensive line.
You can see from the image above that there is a large gap between Upamecano and the other defensive players as he moves towards his own goal to prevent the attacking player from winning the ball.
He is so quick that he is able to not only keep pace with the opposition attacker but get to the ball first and defend effectively in a potentially dangerous situation.
The pace of Upamecano and his comfort when defending in space against speed combined with his reading of the game and anticipation make him a defender who can fit a variety of playing styles. This versatility is crucially important at the top levels of the modern game.
Ability in possession
While defensive output will always, and rightly so, be the most important consideration when recruiting a central defender we also have to acknowledge that ability on the ball and passing range is an important factor for defensive players in the modern game.
We have already talked about the fact that in possession RB Leipzig like to be compact and play in the opposition half.
This means that they face a large number of deep blocks when they are attacking and as such the willingness and ability of the central defenders to progress the ball into the final third is crucially important.
In this example, we see that Borussia Dortmund, defending a one-goal lead, have dropped deep in a compact block.
Upamecano is in possession and instead of trying to force a pass through or around the defensive block he instead carries the ball forward. This movement from the central defender forces two opposition defensive players to press out to engage the ball and stop the dribble.
From a more advanced position, he is then able to time his pass over the defensive block as the full-back makes a timed run to access the space behind the defensive line.
A similar situation here in the match between Benfica and RB Leipzig although this time the defensive block is far more spread out.
As Upamecano steps out in possession of the ball he waits for an opposition player to move and engage him. As this happens the French defender simply shifts the ball to the right and plays a diagonal pass that perfectly accesses the space on the far side of the pitch behind the defensive line.
Upamecano is comfortable moving in possession of the ball and he has the passing range to access all areas of the pitch with ease.
There is no doubt that, at just 21, Dayot Upamecano has the physical and technical profile to become an elite level central defender.
With that said, however, it is important that he makes the right choice when he does move on from RB Leipzig.
Joining a club with the ‘right’ coach who understands the tactical profile that will get the best out of the French central defender is important.
There is little doubt that he is bound for the Premier League. It remains to be seen, however, which club will win the race for his signature.
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