West Ham United centre-back Issa Diop has drawn a lot of attention in the last couple of days and weeks, whether it be speculation linking him to some of Europe’s top clubs or rumours of his first senior International France call-up being on the horizon.
Today, we ask what’s all the rage about the 21-year-old who Manuel Pellegrini captured from Toulouse over the summer? Find out as we carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of his time in Claret & Blue so far, to answer that question.
As aforementioned, Diop has been given a lot of column inches in times more recent, mainly due to his excellent start to life in East London, which we will get onto in more detail later on, and the entourage of rumours linking him with a move away that have come with it, despite only being five months into his long-term contract.
The biggest of them has undoubtedly been the one involving French giants Paris Saint-Germain, who according to various France and UK-based outlets, are lining up a bid in the region of £50 million for him in the January transfer window. This shows just how many waves he’s made in the world footballing ocean recently.
To begin to understand what all the rage is about and why Diop is being regarded so highly in the infancy of his Premier League career, we are going to take an in-depth look at his profile, provided to us by our good friends over at wyscout.com.
As you can see from the graphic, at just 21, the Frenchman is one of the taller players in the English Top-Flight, a huge asset to any centre-back and one that’s needed for a central defender to survive in the world’s toughest league, and he has more than done that.
The right side of the image contains some brief stats from his time in the PL so far, more of which we’ll touch on in the next section, but mainly, a heatmap and position map displaying where he has played under Pellegrini. Contrary to where he spends most of his time on the pitch, it has been as a left-sided centre-back alongside Fabian Balbuena, with whom he has formed a formidable partnership.
For the main part of this analysis and adopting the use of the fantastic Wyscout website once more, we are going to be analysing Diop’s key general average statistics from the 2018/2019 campaign thus far, to see just how impressive they have been.
While the above graphic does contain these stats for each of the ten combined Premier League and Carabao Cup matches he’s featured in, it’s just the average column at the top that we are going to be focussing on today.
The first stat we are drawn to is average total actions and his rate of success in them as he averages a busy 52.65, impressively, over 70 per cent of them are completed successfully.
Much like his partner Balbuena, Diop has carried a goal threat since moving to London Stadium, hence his average of 0.09 goals per game, which was created by a sweet second-half strike in a 1-3 away League Cup victory over AFC Wimbledon in late-August.
His zero assists are reflective of the fact he is yet to assist a goal in English football, no sin for a defender. But he does manage to get a shot off around every other game, 40.4% of which are on target, explaining an expected goals rating of 0.06.
For a centre-half, the ex-Toulouse captain and Toulouse-born star possesses wonderful passing stats, as we can see, over 90% of his 34.35 average short passes reaching their intended targets along with 47.7% of his 1.97 trickier longer passes.
While he is yet to deliver a cross in West Ham colours, stepping out of defence and embarking on a dribble is something we have seen him do, uncharacteristically for a player in his position, and with some success, too, completing 73.7% of his dribbles.
What the Wyscout graphic also tells us is that the starlet’s duelling figures are admirable ones having started every game in every competition since his competitive debut against Arsenal. He has won 52.4% and 65.1% of his average respective 12.01 and 3.75 duels and aerial duels.
Diop’s excellent reading of the game, he was born to play, is displayed by 5.16 interceptions and he is not prone to being intercepted himself, losing the ball under five times per game, 65.4% of the time in his own half. However, he often recovers, 10.32 times per 90 minutes with the majority being on his own half.
For a centre-half in the most competitive league in the world, playing against the best attackers in the world, the disciplinary record of the summer arrival is also one to be admired with an average of 0.09 yellow cards and zero red cards. He has been carded just once, on his debut at the Emirates Stadium.
As we come to the end of the stats, there can be no denying that these figures would be impressive if Diop was a 28-year-old central defender with ten years of Premier League experience, let alone being a 21-year-old with under three months under his belt in the English Top-Flight. In layman’s terms, these stats more than warrant the rage around him.
The hype surrounding Diop could be about to be turned up a notch as it hasn’t just been the biggest club in his home country that has been keeping an eye on him, but the national team of it as well, according to reports.
After representing recent World Cup winners France at every age level from under-16s, in October, Diop declared that he would only ever play for the nation, despite being eligible to turn out for Morocco and Senegal through his African heritage. There are rumours in France that manager Didier Deschamps could be calling on his services soon.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, from a statistics and tactical analysis point of view, the rage around the young Diop is totally understandable, he has shown an unbelievable amount of promise in just a few short months in England.
It’s no surprise that a giant of a club like PSG are reportedly willing to pay a fee like £50 million for the man who was described by Jose Mourinho after the Hammers’ win over Manchester United in September as a “monster.” It’s going to be tricky for Pellegrini to hold onto Diop in the next transfer window if he carries on like this, but in the short-term, the only ones benefitting from having this prodigy on their hands are his West Ham.