Is Moussa Diaby worth the expensive gamble?
you welcome in window shopping, a recurring feature in which Defector highlights and analyzes some of the biggest players who are rumored to be turning in big money in every window. Every summer and January, we take a look at these potential stars to answer two simple questions: Who the heck is this guy, and why is he worth that much money?
I’m always curious as to what the club does after it goes missing. Being ahead meant missing out on a conversion goal at the last minute, as another team more prepared and/or wealthier jumped in to secure the signature. That’s what just happened to Arsenal: After a quick but powerful flirtation with Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Modric, the Gunners lost out to the Ukrainian to Chelsea and Todd Boley appears to have an endless appetite for players who can’t play any defence.
So, wow, that was kind of a wet fart for Arsenal, but this is where things get a little more interesting. Arsenal could go one of two ways in the final days of the January window: they can stand their ground and hope their current squad is enough to win the Premier League they currently lead by five points with a game in hand, or they can. Making a difference, but the same size, in the attackers market. This is where Moussa Diaby enters the fray.
The 23-year-old French winger, who currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, is surprisingly available for a player of his caliber. A product of the Paris Saint-Germain youth academy, Diaby has been excellent since his move to Germany in the summer of 2019: in three and a half seasons, he has scored 28 goals and 32 assists, and recent stats place him as Leader of players 23 and under In the top five tournaments in Europe.
His presence in Leverkusen at this very moment also bodes well for Diaby’s chances of making a move in the final few days of the window. Although the Lions and Reds finished third in the Bundesliga season, they are in eighth place. Their Champions League campaign also petered out, sending the club instead to the Europa League, thanks to a third-place finish in Group B.
This means that Leverkusen could want to cash in on Diaby’s price tag while he is as high as before – rumored to be around €75m. It would be hard to see the move happen if Leverkusen were in the Champions League, or in the top four of the Bundesliga, but the time might be right for a club with higher aspirations, such as Arsenal, to drop a bag of Diaby’s size. services.
There seems to be a move in the cards; Since the collapse of Modric’s signing, Arsenal have been immediately linked with Diaby as a backup. That is, if Arsenal can match Leverkusen’s asking price, thanks to Chelsea losing €70m to Modric last week. In the world of transfers, higher sales lead to higher sales for other players, and Diaby is more experienced and plays on the more valuable right side of attack.
This is perhaps the biggest hurdle for Arsenal, a rich club that is not of huge net worth like Chelsea. Or Manchester City. Or Diaby’s other fiancé in January, Newcastle United. Flushed with Saudi cash, the newly wealthy Magpies estate could easily meet the same price (or something significantly higher) that Chelsea dropped for Modric without it impacting the club’s actual budget. While Newcastle will likely not be title contenders even with Diaby, the club are vying for the top four in the Premier League at the moment, so have similar motivations as Arsenal to make a move in the winter, rather than wait until the summer.
Given Arsenal’s previous interest in Modric, I’m inclined to think Diaby is squarely on Arsenal’s radar. However, is €75m too much for a player not to meet immediate needs? Arsenal have Bukayo Saka on the right wing, and Gabriel Martinelli on the left.
Certainly, the current Premier League leaders could use attacking depth, given Gabriel Jesus will be out for at least another month, if not more, but sign a player who will either be behind two promising young stars or, perhaps worse, push those stars. On the bench often looks questionable. Also, Arsenal may be wary of spending too much money on the Francophone winger after the way Nicolas Pepe has adapted following his €80m move to the Premier League. (which means he didn’t).
As for Newcastle, who knows? The club has the money to do whatever it wants, so I wouldn’t even try to speculate what it will or won’t do.
Diaby’s main advantage on the wing is his top speed technique. The man is extremely quick with and without the ball, putting pressure on opposing defenses when in the final third. When he has the ball, he can get past defenders and dribble around them, and this decisiveness allows him to create chances at a large clip:
Diaby has an eye for goal, and although he doesn’t shoot as much as a player of his talent usually does (he averages around just two shots a game, in the wingers’ 33rd percentile), he has an accurate left foot that allows. He has to score a goal every three games or so. Take this amazing October goal, in which he picked up the ball just short of midfield, dribbled crosswise to about 25 yards, and then laser-fired the ball into the far top corner of the goal:
When not looking for his own goals, Diaby is also an innovator, in part because he’s always in dangerous positions: He takes seven forward passes per game, good for the top 20 percent, and turns them into assists with a high clip. He is the type of winger who can act as an attacking mover, as long as he has the ability to deliver wide to the right.
Diaby is a very small player, only 5-foot-7, if one is generous. This means that he can get rid of the ball much easier than the top players, so he has to rely on his dribbling technique to open up space with the ball at his feet. This also makes him a non-player on set-pieces, although he can serve those kicks and free corners, and probably should, given how little he can get in the air.
Nor is he the greatest passer when it comes to acquisition. Diaby completed just 74 per cent of his passes, partly due to his attempts to break through the last ball, but it also speaks to his lack of wing control. If a team plays a possession-based style, it will diminish some of its best qualities while putting it in uncomfortable positions and making passes into the middle of the field.
Finally, the club should not sign Diaby to make any kind of defensive contribution. With his offensive mentality and small frame, he ranks near the bottom in every notable defensive stat. This is generally good for a winger, but some teams play in defense up front, and those teams have to teach Diaby how to press properly and how to use his pace to compensate for the shortcomings of his strength.
There is a simple truth in football: left-footed right-wingers are inherently more valuable than the other set-up on the left-hand side for attack. Lefties are much rarer, so Diaby will find it easier to fit into the right-wing position than if he was born on the right. Football is such a fierce thing, especially since inverted wingers have grown in popularity. His best position on that wing would be in a standard 4-3-3 formation, where his defensive shortcomings are less important and his proximity to the opposite goal will make his eye on the killing pass or blazing shot more important.
Diaby also, of course, still plays on the left wing as a left winger. Plenty of players do, and he’s skilled enough to dribble inside as he can use his powerful left foot to shoot across goal or cuts. It won’t be as valuable as playing on the right, but no one will say it’s bad on the left.
More interestingly, however, Diaby can play centrally, whether as a fast striker in a two-forward formation, or a striker in a 4-2-3-1 position, behind a larger goal. He’s skilled enough and direct enough to counterattack in the middle of the park, and his pass numbers will only go up, especially if he has the freedom to drift wide.
Expensive transfers tend to change things, be it the dressing room, the squad hierarchy, the manager’s position, the outlook of the fans, or the domestic and international scene. With that in mind, this section attempts to determine who stands to lose from a potential transfer.
If Arsenal were to buy Diaby, the Gunners would have a pickle on wing slots. More specifically, the aforementioned Saka and Martinelli will face competition from the Frenchman for two places. It’s possible Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta could deploy all three, possibly with Martinelli in the striker role. This will be a small forward line with some aerial threats, and it would also bench him for another promising youngster in Eddie Nketiah, who has just scored twice in the Premier League. Exciting 3-2 win over Manchester United. Nothing Diaby fits easily at Arsenal, so it comes down to him buying him to be a deep-lying option, which likely won’t sit well with him as he tries to push for a regular place in the France national team.
Elsewhere, even if Leverkusen get a hefty fee for signing Diaby, the German side should still hate the move. This is the kind of move a club in the second or third tier of one of Europe’s less affluent leagues would have to make when they knock the Premier League, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous when they’re young and promising. The star is moved. Leverkusen can at least comfort himself in the knowledge that he could turn €75m into plugged holes elsewhere in his squad, although if the move happens in January, those build-ups will likely have to wait until the summer.
Significant signatures are bound to be controversial, so here we include a representative example at each end of the emotion spectrum.
With the January transfer deadline approaching deadline day on January 31, moves such as a Diaby move to Arsenal, to Newcastle or elsewhere are becoming more urgent. This is the last chance for teams to bring in support in order to achieve their goals, and for both Premier League sides the next few months could be history-making and course-changing.
Is Diaby the kind of player who can make the difference in an Alaoui side’s rise to glory? He is certainly expensive, perhaps the most expensive player on the market for the month of January, but he provides very specific value for clubs in need of strikers. He can score, he can create, and he can open up the middle of the park for midfielders.
Certainly, he’s not perfect, and €75m is a lot for an individually focused player as it is in the luxury position of a club like Arsenal. But Diaby is exactly the kind of player who is on Premier League winners lists, so it is up to Arsenal to decide whether they think they will win without him, or if they need to bite the bullet and buy a player. which could be a key component of its first real shipment since the mid-2000s. For these reasons, Moussa Diaby has a score of 63.7 on the Defector Boom/Bust Scale.