Axel Disasi: An in depth look at the Arsenal target
By Charlie Maywood
It is no myth that during the upcoming transfer window Arsenal are on the lookout for a capable centre-back to bolster their shaky defence, and I believe Axel Disasi would be an excellent acquisition in this area. The Frenchman is just 22, and has endured his first full season in the top flight of French football, appearing in 27 out of 28 league matches for Reims.
He has excelled after being given an opportunity to be their main central defender, and is one of the first name’s on the team sheet. He has been part of a Reims back four which have the best defensive record in the French top flight, having conceded just 21 times in Ligue 1 this campaign.
In 27 appearances, Disasi has kept 12 clean sheets, including a memorable 2-0 win away to PSG, ending a 16 month undefeated run at home for the French giants, along the way. Although he isn’t talked about in the same glowing terms as young centre backs like Saliba and Upamecano, he has the potential to be an excellent signing for the gunners and to match these sorts of player’s ability.
He is a classic ‘hard-man’ centre back who is physically strong, tall and loves a crunching tackle, which will most definitely give us more protection at the back. This contrasts to the incoming Saliba, who is a much more modern defender who doesn’t need to throw himself into tackles because he has such excellent positioning. Despite his love for flying into tackles, Disasi is relatively clean in doing so, with just 3 bookings this season and an 80% slide tackle success rate.
I believe the signing of Disasi would fabricate an assured centre-back pairing with himself and Saliba, as the two Frenchmen would complement one another well due to their athleticism, speed and assertiveness when playing at the heart of defence. Like Saliba, he is excellent in the air, winning 65.7% of aerial duels bringing extra assurance at the back when dealing with the more direct and physical teams.
His style of play appears to be very relaxed, but not in the type of way where it gives the impression that he is switched off. He seems very unflustered by everything that comes his way, creating a calm and collected pursona at the back. Dealing with the pressure an intensity of the Premier League will not be an issue.
An area which he could possibly improve on is his ball distribution, as he isn’t as technically gifted as Saliba or even the likes of Rob Holding and David Luiz. However, Disasi does like to distribute long, similarly to David Luiz, and something that Arteta likes his defenders to do. On average, he plays about 6 long balls per 90, completing 53% of them, so there is some work to do there but there is definitely an option to play direct football when the classic progressive and silky ground level Arsenal football isn’t on.
He predominantly plays on the right side of defence and is more than capable in filling in at right-back if need be. He occasionally likes to sneak further up the pitch to win loose balls in front of the defence, in which he has a 77% win rate. His strong and imposing nature creates a dominating character on the pitch for himself and is a key reason as to why he is so successful when challenging the opposition for the ball.
His contract at Reims is set to expire in the summer of 2021 and it is expected that the French club are looking to get Disasi off their hands this summer as they’re supposedly unable to reach an agreement on a new contract. It is reported that a fee between £15m-£20m will be accepted. From my personal perspective, I would see this fee as a bargain due to extortionate prices for young prospects which we commonly see in the modern transfer market and it would be a superb signing to bolster our defence.
Players which we have been linked with like Dayot Upamecano have been labelled with costly price tags of £60m upwards and, whilst this would be any Arsenal fan’s dream signing and is a player we should be going in for, it feels somewhat unrealistic due to our summer budget or lack of budget if you will.
Therefore, I believe an affordable, young and promising defender like Axel Disasi would be a more than acceptable replacement signing in the likely outcome that we don’t get our hands on Upamecano. Whilst writing this it has also been announced that Ligue 1 has been cancelled, meaning Reims have earnt themselves a Europa League spot- Disasi certainly playing a role in that.