Having received his first France under-21 call-up for over a year, his last one coming in October 2017, West Ham United defender Issa Diop impressed on his return to the international scene.
The integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers team started and caught the eye in last Thursday’s friendly with Croatia under-21s at the Stade Pierre Brisson in Beauvais. Today, as Diop prepares for his return to Premier League action on Saturday afternoon, we are going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on his impressive performance, join us.
For the first stage of this tactical analysis and with the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com from whom we’ve obtained the below graphic, we are going to be analysing Diop’s key general stats from the even encounter.
As you can see, the image also contains a mini heatmap of the 21-year-old’s evening in the rainy conditions of France’s north and a column with his career average for these stats. But it’s just the individual figures from the Croatia match we are going to be focussing on for now, although it does make for an interesting comparison.
The first stat we are drawn to is his minutes played, staying on the field for the full 93, a feat considering it was his first international appearance in 13 months, his 91 actions were also some feat, 72, or 79 per cent, of which he completed successfully.
Diop failed to score or assist on his sixth outing at U21 level, no shame for a centre-back, but did manage to register an effort, it was on target too, a late volley from close-range after a delivery from the left side. However, opposing goalkeeper Ivo Grbic was up to the task of saving it.
The No5’s expected goals rating for the clash was a comfortably above average 0.24 by his own standards as he does carry a threat, opening his West Ham account in only his second start at AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup and also going close to a late winner in the Irons’ last match, a league draw away to Huddersfield Town.
As you can see, the former Toulouse captain and stand-in captain for Les Blues late in the game’s passing stats were near flawless, completing 91% of his 69 short passes, and 80% of his five longer trickier balls.
From central defence, it’s no surprise to see that Diop failed to deliver a cross or attempt a dribble, but he will have wanted to have done much better when it came to a key aspect of his job, duelling. The Hammer could win just seven of his 15 duels and none of his two aerial duels for Sylvain Ripoll’s men.
The youngster, who has formed a formidable partnership with Fabian Balbuena in central defence in both players’ debut season in East London, recorded an admirable five interceptions.
Meanwhile, for the excessive amount he was involved in the match that ended 2-2, he lost the ball on a mere six occasions, half of those losses coming in his own half, whilst recovering 11 times, the majority of the time in his own half. In addition, he was able to stay in referee Urs Schnyder’s good books for the entirety, not picking up any cards, with his full disciplinary record for the night just being out of the picture on the night.
Overall, these stats would be more than fantastic for a centre-back that hasn’t missed a match for France U21s since October 2017, let alone one that hasn’t turned out for the national team in over a year. But it’s hardly a surprise that the man who’s represented France at every youth level was able to produce these figures on the international stage, only a mere translation of his wonderful club form in England.
Next, we will be taking an in-depth look at Diop’s heat map from the entertaining four-goal stalemate, a month after the French secured their place at next summer’s U21 European Championships, which again, has been provided by Wyscout.
As you can see from the heat map, and the position section of the first graphic, Diop was being played on the opposite side of the defence to the one he has become accustomed to in English football, in a right-centre-back role alongside Moussa Niakhate.
For every appearance he has made in Claret & Blue, he has been positioned as a left-sided centre-back, with Balbuena occupying the position to the right. This proves that even slightly out of position and in a role he has not fulfilled since his days in Ligue 1, the promising defender reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain, is capable of eclipsing his usual high standards of performance.
What This Means
Despite not being able to help the French to get the win they so desired against the Croatians, this display would have done Diop the world of good in so many different ways and meant a hell of a lot to him.
As well as virtually cementing his place back in the France U21 squad with the 2019 Euros in mind and displaying to Pellegrini that his form hasn’t been allowed to drop over the international break, it would have highly impressed those at the level above him.
The star, who guided Toulouse to safety against the odds in France’s top-flight last season before his then-club-record move to London Stadium, is rumoured to already be on the brink of breaking into Didier Deschamps’ French senior side, fresh from their FIFA World Cup 2018 triumph.
In spite of being involved in some way with the national set-up for five years now, Diop is yet to be capped at senior level having pledged his full allegiance to his nation in the last few weeks. After progressing through the ranks with the likes of world football superstar Kylian Mbappe, he will be desperate for his chance sooner or later and this showing may have just secured it for next March.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that Diop not only impressed on his eagerly-awaited return to the international scene but shone brightly and contended for the Man of the Match award on an evening he couldn’t have performed much better.
Although he was rested as an unused substitute in the friendly draw with Spain U21s four days later, the starlet will be returning to East London from international duty as confident, hungry and eager as ever for a busy festive period in Claret & Blue. It all starts with his first-ever meeting with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City in two days’ time.
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