William Saliba will be joining Arsenal but at 18 years old can’t be seen as the answer to all of Arsenals defensive frailties. It is well known that Arsenal will be looking at reinforcing the back four with center back a priority. It is also clear that Arsenal have turned their attention to youth in the transfer market and the sort of player they want to sign when searching for new talent.
William Saliba, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Gabby Martinelli, Kieran Tierney and Nico Pepe is evidence of Arsenals new transfer strategy, with the exception of one or two – most noticeably the signing of David Luiz which is hopefully an outlier.
According to reports over the last few weeks, it seems that there could be another promising youngster on his way to The Emirates, with Arsenal reportedly very interested in Axel Disasi.
How his career has gone so far.
Disasi was born on the outskirts of Paris in a place called Gonesse to Congolese parents. Disasi grew up playing football for local teams like USM Senlis before joining Paris FC in 2014 as a 16 year old.
Having come through the ranks with Paris FC, Disasi signed for Reims 2 years later and made his senior debut later that season when he made his debut against Valenciennes in the Coupe de la Ligue.
He went on to impress enough in the few Ligue 2 matches he played in and received more playing time the following season. In the 17/18 season, he had a hand in helping Reims get promoted back to the top flight, making 11 starts.
Thinking he would progress and play more, last season was not the season Disasi would have hoped for as he was deemed not ready for the jump in quality to play in Ligue 1, managing to only make four league appearances, making his first and only start in the last match of the season.
It wasn’t until this season he became a regular in the starting 11. He finally got his chance when Belgian center back Bjorn Engels left Reims and joined Aston Villa. Reims manager David Guion opted to promote Disasi rather than dip into the transfer market for a replacement. It seemed to be a perfect blend of youth and experience with Disasi partnering Yunis Abdelhamid at the heart of the Reims defence.
Fast forward to today and Disasi is currently part of Ligue 1’s best defence at Reims. Over the last two seasons, Disasi has grown tremendously on and off the pitch thanks to Guion and the trust he has shown in him. Reims finished 8th last season and are currently well placed in 6th in the current Ligue 1 standings, having the same points as 5th place Nice. This season the talented youngster has been part of a defence that has conceded just 21 times in 28 Ligue 1 matches to date, bettering PSG who have conceded 24 goals in 27 Ligue 1 matches.
With Disasi being a mainstay in the starting 11, the ‘Red and Whites’ have kept 11 clean sheets, including most notably one against PSG at Parc de Princes earlier in the season.
What are his strengths and weaknesses
Just turned 22 in March, he is an imposing figure standing at 6′ 2″ and seems to cherish the opportunity of testing himself against the best teams in France. The French defender has now become one of the first names on the team sheet. At a glance he seems to be equipped to go to the very top. Strength in abundance, pace to burn and a calmness on the ball, Disasi has grown into one of France’s most complete and coveted young centre backs. After being reportedly scouted by some of Europe’s biggest teams, Disasi could be ready to take the next leap in his career and become a worldwide name.
Given that he has played more first team football against stiffer competition, he seems to be a player who is always improving.
On paper, he ticks all the boxes that a young defender should have –
- covers ground quickly
- intelligence with the ball
- uses his body well to shield the ball
- Very good reading of the game.
Disasi would be in the bracket of a very good tackler with a 66% successful tackle rate. For some context, new Arsenal CB William Saliba is at 47%. As good as his tackling is, his interceptions/decisiveness is also at a very good standard boasting a recovery of possession on average 10 times per match.
With the modern game always changing and the ever more presence of top teams playing out from the back, Disasi would be well equipped as a ball-playing centre-back who has a successful pass percentage of 84.6% this season with Saliba just ahead with 88%. Disasi just edges out another reported Arsenal target Gabriel, with the Lille CB at 82.2%.
Disasi, this season has on average made 3.6 clearances and 1 block per match edging out another (yes I know there are many reported transfer targets) Arsenal target Dayot Upamecano who has registered 3.2 clearances and 0.7 in blocks. When it comes to aerial duels, Disasi has won 62%, compared to Harry Maguire who won 71.5% and Virgil Van Dijk with an incredible 75% this season.
As impressive as some of his stats are, the Reims player can still be considered raw which is understandable given his age and lack of 1st team experience in a top division – with only 31 senior appearances for Reims. He has a tendency to carry the ball up the pitch, sometimes making the wrong decision or picking the wrong pass, meaning he his out of position when he gives the ball away, leading to unnecessary fouls.
With only one year left on his contract, and no sign of him signing a new deal with Reims a club could acquire his services for a reported fee in the region of €12-15 million.