At this specific moment, Arsenal are devoid of any real rock solid player in their starting eleven. This is particularly evident in defence. David Luiz, Sokratis and Holding are all susceptible to horrendous mistakes and injuries. They are largely poor in comparison to the rest of the top six.
On most Arsenal fans wish list for January, is French centre half Dayot Upamecano. Upamecano is the epitome of the modern day defender. He is both classy and elegant on the ball, whilst being ruthless and magnificent in the tackle. A defender Arsenal fans dream of.
Playing Time Last Season
Last season, Upamecano played 22 games in all competitions for RB Leipzig, culminating in 1945 minutes out of a possible 4680. Upamecano struggled with several injuries last term, and only started in 14 of 34 league games, coming off the bench once. He had a persistent knee injury throughout the season. This should be of concern to Arsenal should they pay out the huge sums being quoted for Upamecano. Given the injuries Rob Holding has suffered its all the more crucial that it’s not a regular occurrence for him.
Statistics Last Season
He won 62% of his 110 aerial battles last season. He averaged a remarkable 5 aerial duels per game. Sokratis last season for Arsenal, won only 57% of his aerial battles. Sokratis averaged 3.82 aerial challenges per game throughout last season. Both Upamecano and Sokratis are 6ft 1 inches, however it is Upamecano who is far more dominant in the air against his rivals. Aerial battles are clearly a problem for Arsenal. Last season, former player and captain Laurent Koscielny only won 44% of his aerial battles. Clearly based on last season statistics, Upamecano would have greatly improved Arsenals defence regarding defensive stability in the air.
Upamecano also made a total of 128 interceptions last term. This averages as 5.82 interceptions per 90 minutes. Koscielny averaged 6.75 per 90. Sokratis averages the lowest amount of interceptions per game at a mere 4.43 per game. It is clear that Upamecano would improve Arsenal defensively. He would be a vast improvement on both Sokratis and Koscielny in all departments.
On The Ball
A large part of how Unai Emery wants his centre backs to play, is by playing out from the back. Upamecano had a pass completion rate of 85% for RB Leipzig. He played a total of 1033 passes. Both Sokratis and Koscielny, boast rather impressive pass stats for last season. The former averaged 91% pass accuracy and the latter beating that with 93%. Koscielny averaged 53 passes per 90 and Sokratis 49. Upamecano averaged 47. Upamecano clearly has the class to play out from the back, however last season Koscielny and Sokratis were more effective. That could be down to the manager more than anything with Ralf Rangnick being in charge of RB Leipzig last season.
Last season, Sokratis attempted 0.42 dribbles per game, whilst Koscielny was more conserved with 0.25. Upamecano demolishes both the Arsenal pairing, with 1.9 dribbles per game. The French man had a success rate of 62%. Koscielny only has a success rate of 50%, whilst Sokratis has one of 55%. In the modern game, where a defenders ability to bring the ball out of defence is crucial, Upamecano blows the Arsenal players away. This could be very important when breaking down oppositions low block defences. Upamecano can commit players through his dribbling ability and create space for others in the process.
Statistics So Far This Season
So far this season, Upamecano has played 11 games in all competitions, resulting in 966 minutes out of a possible 1530. Sokratis has accumulated 12 games in all competitions amassing 1080 minutes. Arsenal’s £8 million signing David Luiz has also played 12 games, playing the same amount of minutes as Sokratis.
Upamecano has won 66% of his aerial battles this season compared to Sokratis, who has won only 52%. His defensive partner Luiz has merely won 50% of his battles this season. Just like last season, Arsenal appear shaky when defending crosses, with teams aiming to exploit this faux pas. Upamecano would significantly improve upon Arsenal’s current options regarding aerial defence.
Upamecano has won 66% of his total duels this season. He has made 67 interceptions and 159 ball recoveries. 23 (14%) of his ball recoveries have come in the oppositions half, showing his confidence to push high up the field. David Luiz in comparison, has won 58% of his duels this seasons and Sokratis has only won 57% of his. Both Upamecano and Luiz have a similar percent for ball wins in the opposition half, 14% and 13% respectively. Sokratis leads the ranking with an impressive 15%. Again, this shows how Upamecano would fit in with Emery’s styles of play.
On The Ball
Upamecano has played 664 passes, completing 88% of them. Upamecano plays on average 60 passes per 90. In comparison, David Luiz has completed 90% of his passes. He has averaged 42 per 90. Sokratis has an 86% pass completion. He averages 40 per 90. It’s a significant increase on his 47 passes per game last season. Upamecano has attempted 15 dribbles this season with a success rate of 46%. This is an average of 0.5 per game. Sokratis has attempted 0.5 dribbles per game as well, with a success rate of 50%. David Luiz, somewhat more daring has undertaken 0.85 dribbles per game with a success rate of 60%.
A lot of context must be given to this report. At RB Leipzig, Upamecano playes under Julian Nagelsmann. A very progressive coach who is fixated on positional tactics. He partners Upamecano with either Lukas Klostermann or Stefan IIsanker. Both are steady and more reserved in the build up play whilst Upamecano is given the freedom to step out. At Arsenal, Emery has given this role to Luiz. This is evident by his 0.85 dribbles per game. Presumably Emery would partner Upamecano with Sokratis given his greater ability to defend positionally when his partner steps out. Whilst, Upamecano is a better defender than David Luiz, is Sokratis good enough to be that covering centre half? This will be especially important in the early stages of Upamecano’s time in the premier league, whilst he is adjusting to the league. Extra emphasis will be placed on a defender who was partly responsible for the second worse defence out of the top six sides last season. They conceded 51 goals, with Manchester United conceding 54. So far this season RB Leipzig have conceded just the 12 goals in the league. Arsenal have conceded 17, playing only one more game.
In conclusion, I believe that Upamecano would most certainly improve Arsenal’s team. Defensively, he is a major improvement on Arsenal’s two most regular starters this season. You can see this from the total duels he has won this season in comparison to Sokratis and Luiz, 66%, 57% and 58% respectively. On the ball, despite making 18 more passes per 90 than Arsenal’s highest ball playing defender David Luiz, I wouldn’t expect the same numbers should he make the switch to Arsenal. This is purely because RB Leipzig play in the majority of games, a more possession based formula of football and can dominate their opponents. Arsenal do not play this way and cannot dominate the majority of their opponents. Emery prefers to react to his opposition defensively more than anything. Should Arsenal have to pay the quoted £50 – £60 million, then they must be careful with his persisting knee injuries and cater for the fact that he most likely can’t play every single game and probably shouldn’t if he is given enough time to adjust to the league.