As international football took centre stage over the summer, Dortmund took the time out to invest in a few young prospects (which we’ll be profiling in the coming weeks). The most promising prospect so far seems to be Abdou Diallo a French U/21 international that made 27 Appearances for Mainz last year. We all know how excellent the French defence was at the World Cup. They’ve produced a host world-class backline players in the last few years and their talent pool won’t be running out anytime soon with players like Abdou Diallo having such a rapid career rise.
Abdou Diallo’s background:
22-year-old Abdou Diallo was born in Tours, France and moved to Monaco at 15 to play for their world-famous academy. He was promoted to the 1st team at 18 and made 10 appearances before being loaned out to Zulte Waregem of Belgium only a year later. He spent 1 season in Belgium before returning to Monaco and being sold directly to 1.FSV Mainz 05. Under Sandro Schwarz Diallo matured immensely by displaying his qualities in a tougher, faster and more tactically complex league. He commands his area with his large frame, pace off the mark and good ball control. Areas he requires work in include his defensive awareness against superior attackers. However, under a coach like Lucien Favre (who speaks French and worked in Ligue 1), Diallo is set to grow into one of the finest defenders in the Bundesliga over the next few seasons. With Sokratis Papasthapopoulos signing for Arsenal over the summer, he’ll have a great opportunity to regularly challenge Manuel Akanji for a starting place alongside Omer Toprak. If Favre opts to use a back three he’s almost guaranteed to start, as his natural left foot will be useful in the left centre-back position.
#1 Long passing
A key feature of Dortmund’s play last season was their poor positional play in midfield areas. They constantly faced defences set up in midfield and defensive blocks which they struggled to penetrate and create chances at the same level that Bayern Munich did. Now that may sound harsh but if we’re to compete for the Bundesliga our possession game has to increase tenfold.
Now, Dortmund are a good team when playing out of their own defensive third but their movement and decision-making tends to be poor in the middle third. One of the reasons is the slow tempo at which they circulate the ball. It was too easy for opposing defences to shift in time to shut down spaces and prevent Dortmund from progressing.
Dortmund tried to play around the visitors’ block on several occasions but they were constantly outnumbered, especially when they tried cutting in from the flanks. This resulted in constant turnovers and by being outnumbered they couldn’t execute their counter-press effectively enough.
Diallo brings his accurate range of passing with him, which will see Dortmund switch play at devastating pace. This would allow players like Pulisic, Achraf Hakimi, and Lukasz Pisczcek to combine on the right-flank with more space than they would have had compared to last season.
He can also play accurate long passes laterally and diagonally, not only in midfield but closer to the opponent’s goals. He is unafraid of carrying the ball into the opponents half before switching directly into a player in the final third. This gives the team another deep-lying creator outlet in the similar way Jerome Boateng gives Bayern Munich an advantage in advanced areas.
#2 Large frame
Diallo has an impressively large frame and he’s also quick off the mark.
He’s great at retaining possession in 1v1 duels by using his big frame to fend off players. He’s very athletic and considering his age, 22, he can only get more powerful and is definitely worth the investment considering that Sokratis had just turned 30.
Tactically, his pace will be useful when Dortmund play a high-line against a fast counter-attacking team. However as mentioned above, his positioning needs to improve as he can’t rely solely on his pace against quality opposition, especially in the Champions League. The good news is that Favre is a coach who clearly conveys his philosophy to his players. By joining a stronger and more structured defensive unit, it will be great to watch Diallo develop throughout the 2018/19 season.
Borussia Dortmund have done it again by signing one of the best young players in the Bundesliga at a great price. Abdou Diallo brings something unique to the Signal Iduna Park and looks set to develop into a world-class defender. His arrival has coincided with Lucien Favre’s which allows the French youngster to work with one of the best player developers in the game right now. Just ask Marco Reus.