Arsenal are finally set to address their defensive shortcomings with an approach for RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano.
The Gunners conceded the ninth-highest number of goals (51) in the Premier League last year, destroying all the hard work put in by the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette at the other end of the field and effectively consigning them to a fifth-place finish.
Who is Dayot Upamecano? Five key things to know…
- Age: 20
- Position: Centre-back
- Career path so far: Liefering, RB Salzburg, RB Leipzig
- Key stat: Ranked second for interceptions per 90 minutes (2.37) at Leipzig last term.
- Did you know? Upamecano’s idol is Real Madrid star Raphael Varane.
But these issues could soon be a thing of the past with the Evening Standard reporting that Unai Emery is free to negotiate with Leipzig now that Man Utd have signed Harry Maguire from Leicester.
So, just who is Dayot Upamecano and how much of a difference will he make to that leaky Arsenal defence?
Read on for Squawka’s scout report.
Style of play
Without a doubt, Upamecano’s standout talent is his ability with the ball at his feet. The Frenchman played 42.98 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga last season, the highest of any Leipzig defender, and is well adept at breaking opposition lines with his distribution, as well as carrying the ball out himself.
All of this isn’t to say Upamecano is a bad defender. He really, really isn’t. In fact, his reading of the game is superb. He isn’t one to get himself into too many physical confrontations but his positional awareness and anticipation allowed him to make 2.37 interceptions per 90 minutes last season – a number only topped at Leipzig by Arsenal loanee, Emile Smith Rowe (3.21), who was playing much further forward and was involved in a high-press system.
Arsenal were one of the most defensively shambolic sides in the English top-flight last season, sitting level with relegated Fulham on 12 errors leading to goals and 28 errors leading to shots, both league highs. Upamecano should help snuff out those errors, given that he didn’t actually make any leading to a shot or goal in the Bundesliga at all during 2018/19. Furthermore, Emery loves squeezing the pitch into a small, horizontal band, making things as compact as possible with an aggressively high line. While the likes of Mustafi and the ageing Koscielny struggled with this, there will be no such problems from Upamecano, thanks to his pace and athleticism.
But, back to his ball-playing skills. The only way an Emery side’s attackers can exploit their pace behind the opposition defence is if their defensive teammates are good enough with the ball to keep it for sustained periods, drawing a press onto them before playing through it at speed.
Upamecano’s passing accuracy of 82.49% was the third-highest of any Leipzig player last season and the highest of any of their defenders. It sits just 0.82% behind Arsenal’s team average (83.31%) last term and given some time and patience – it’s easy to forget Upamecano is still only 20 – he has the potential to become a real cornerstone of the Emery era in north London. The thought of fellow French youngster William Saliba joining him for the 2020/21 campaign should fill Gunners fans with excitement.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
From RB Leipzig to Arsenal?
As mentioned, the Evening Standard’s report says interest from Bayern and Man Utd ended long ago, thanks to their respective moves for Lucas Hernandez and Harry Maguire. The Gunners are still negotiating a fee but given their clear run at the centre-back, these talks could move quickly.
It is claimed Upamecano has an £89m release clause in his current contract, but that Leipzig are looking for a fee more in the region of £50m up front. Initially, that looks like it could stretch Emery’s budget a little too far but at the start of the window it was thought he had just £40m at his disposal before unloading £72m on the signing of Pepe, so who knows what aces Arsenal still have up their sleeves? Moreover, the Gunners could still bring in some cash with the sale of Mustafi, adding to the small fee they have received from Bordeaux for Koscielny.
Say what you like about the Red Bull football clubs but there’s one thing that’s for certain: they’re talent factories. Tyler Adams moving from NY Red Bulls to Leipzig, Timo Werner’s goalscoring exploits and Upamecano himself are just a few examples of that. Given their ability to quickly produce star talent, the prospect of selling to Arsenal won’t be so daunting to Leipzig as the conveyor belt keeps moving.
And as for Upamecano himself, Arsenal will be a massive step up in stature and quality, while the chance to play alongside compatriots Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as Saliba a year later, only makes this move more attractive.