Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

Man Utd


Manchester United’s transfer window plan could be shaped by Upamecano

4 min read

Compared to previous years, the Premier League winter transfer window has been relatively quiet this January.

Of the traditional ‘Big Six’ clubs, only Arsenal have been active in the market after moving recently to secure the signature of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid, with the exception of Manchester United who signed Amad Diallo recently after a transfer was arranged in the summer.

There has been a lack of business despite rumours suggesting that United, Chelsea and Liverpool all desire a new central defender, with Dayot Upamecano linked to all three of the English giants.

But these clubs could all be biding their time for the right man.

Could the availability of the Frenchman in the upcoming summer be the reason behind why the three clubs have opted against purchasing a new centre-back this month?

RB Leipzig’s French defender Dayot Upamecano

The RB Leipzig man has a contract until 2023, but there has been speculation surrounding whether his deal incorporates a sensible release clause which will become active at the end of the current campaign.

Just 22 years-old, Upamecano seems to have the credentials to reach the very top of the game and he’s well-suited to forming part of an offensive system.

Each of United, Chelsea and Liverpool have aspirations to play attacking football, but in order for that to be achieved, the central defenders at each club have to be complete enough to cope with the demands on their shoulders.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously described aspects of his philosophy, stating: “I’d like a team to have control of the game but you have to be able to attack quickly when you have the ball. I am always going to be demanding that when we’ve got the ball, we will try to make the most of it.

“I believe in forward passes, penetrative passes, wide play, getting crosses in the box. Every player I’ve had if you ask them will tell you the same, that it’s about passing forward, running forward.”

Dayot Upamecano in action for RB Leipzig

Teams which represent an attacking brand of football have to commit players forward; they have to take risks on the ball and require every player to contribute with some sort of threat in possession regardless of the position.

As a consequence, central defenders for top attacking sides have to be composed on the ball, able to cope in isolation without support, capable of managing wide open spaces and ultimately, they have to dominate opponents.

Those types of players aren’t particularly common; central defenders who are strong in the air don’t tend to be quick across the ground, and the same usually applies the other way around.

Upamecano is rare by those requirements as he ticks many of the desirable boxes for a centre-back executing an offensive brand of football.

The French defender ranks eighth in the Bundesliga this season for aerial success based on players who have contested at least 30 battles, winning 73% of his 63 duels. His ability in the air stems mostly from his physical maturity, standing 6-foot-2.

While governing most of his aerial battles, Upamecano also copes well when faced with opponents when the ball is on the floor. He is aggressive, proactive, and strong enough to outmuscle others while also possessing enough pace to sweep up through balls in behind.

Dayot Upamecano is quick enough to manage through balls in behind his defence
Dayot Upamecano is quick enough to manage through balls in behind his defence

His ability to boss one-on-one defensive situations is one of the key reasons why he’s so suited to performing as part of an attacking unit, as his presence permits his teammates to get forward and advance into the final third.

In possession, Upamecano is equally as useful; once compared to Bundesliga defenders who have played at least 900 minutes this season, the French international places eighth for passes into the final third per 90 and 25th for progressive passes per 90.

His longer passes are his most notable means of using the ball, though, with 19.6 passes longer than 30 yards completed per 90, which places him behind only Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba.

Dayot Upamecano regularly demonstrates his valuable long passes for RB Leipzig
Dayot Upamecano regularly demonstrates his valuable long passes for RB Leipzig

Upamecano is keen to bring his team to the final third quickly by hitting long, ranking third in the division for progressive distance per 90, which covers the total distance – in yards – that completed passes have travelled towards the opponent’s goal.

By purchasing the Leipzig centre-back, United would be adding a very valuable tool to their squad, as he holds many of the necessary skills needed to contribute to an attacking team across a number of different departments.

Whether it is allowing others to get forward, showcasing aerial prowess or bringing his team to the business end of the field through his use of the ball, he seems to be well-rounded enough to make a difference to whoever manages to secure his signature, and he’s far from entering his peak years.

He isn’t yet perfect and he does have areas to improve upon but ultimately, Upamecano is such a prized asset that he could be the factor behind the current lack of transfer activity at the Premier League’s elite table.

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