Arsenal

Arsenal

Premier League • England

The Arsenal centre-back target who’s a blend of Gabriel and Saliba and also a Gunners fan

Gabriel, Ousmane Diomande, William Sailba

Ousmande Diomande (c) has traits from both Arsenal starting centre-backs

Sporting CP defender Ousmane Diomande is one of the most sought-after defenders in the world and the Arsenal fan is being chased by the Gunners.

Arsenal’s defence has improved so much over the past few seasons and in particular this season. They currently have the least number of goals conceded in the Premier League with 24, six less than Liverpool (30) in 2nd and seven less than Man City (31) in 3rd. Arsenal also have the lowest xGA (expected goals against) with 21.3xGA, Liverpool in 3rd with 36.2xGA and Man City 2nd with 30.1xGA.

A huge part of their defence being so good has been the defensive trio of Gabriel, Saliba and Rice. That triangle is the core of Arsenal’s defence and what has made them so defensively solid.

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But Arsenal are looking to further bolster their defensive options by signing long term target Ousmane Diomande.

Diomande was first approached by Arsenal in the January transfer window in 2023. The Ivorian CB at the time was on loan at Liga Portugal 2 side Mafra from Midtjylland and starring in their defence. There were even rumours that Arsenal planned to sign him and loan him out to Sporting CP.

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In the end, Sporting ended up signing Diomande for €7.5m in that January window and Diomande would then go on to face Arsenal in the Round of 16 of the Europa League and knock out the Gunners with an impressive mature display.

From that moment on Diomande’s stocks have continued to rise and more and more of the world’s biggest clubs have been looking at him as a potential option for their defence, and for good reason too.

Ousmane Diomande is the best of both worlds between Gabriel and Saliba

Diomande has the aggression, ground duel winning and lateral power of Gabriel Magalhaes but also blended with the calmness, composure, ball-playing and ambipedal distribution of William Saliba. In the modern game, Diomande has everything you’d want in a CB.

At Sporting, Ruben Amorim builds up from the back and loves to use his wide centre backs to progress the ball. One of them tends to carry the ball far up the pitch (Goncalo Inacio or Eduardo Quaresma) and meanwhile Diomande on the other side will carry the ball forward too but not as far, more so to beat one player to create more space to pass.

But as a ball carrier Diomande is very powerful. His sturdy legs and upper body strength make him hard to out muscle on the ball which allows him to protect the ball whilst dribbling. Despite such a big frame (6’3”) he’s got quite quick feet when dribbling in tight areas and his calmness on the ball makes him so press resistant when put under massive pressure by opponents.

In this regard, he’s a lot like Saliba. So often Saliba loves to drive up the pitch from deep and his leg:torso ratio of shorter legs, longer torso makes him a lot more agile on the ball for someone of his height (6’4”).

Diomande’s composure is one the most impressive aspects of his game. Both on the ball and in defensive scenarios he’s calm and mature in the way he deals with scenarios. There’s still room for improvement in this area at times where he’s a little reckless with passes but this is very normal for a 20- year-old CB. For his age, as a CB, it’s rare to see someone stay so calm and execute more technical passes.

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Ousmane Diomande’s passing is another way he’s so similar to Saliba. For Arsenal, William Saliba loves to pass through the lines and also has the ability to play accurate long passes over the top of the defence or diagonals to the wings, with either foot. Diomande has this too.

The way he is able to pass so comfortably on both feet is actually what makes him able to play as both a RCB and a LCB. Ball security and passing accuracy is one of the most important components of a ball-playing defender in a possession-based team and Diomande has a pass accuracy of 91.6% in Liga Portugal this season. Such a high percentage allows the player to retain possession and execute the tactical instructions from the manager.

But Diomande doesn’t just have similarities to Saliba, he does with Gabriel Magalhaes too. A huge trait with Gabriel is his ability to win duels both on the ground and aerially. His threat from set-pieces in the opponent’s box and the ability to clear the ball in his own is a different level to Saliba’s.

Since joining Sporting, Diomande has actually scored three goals coming against Benfica last season and both Moreirense and Sturm Graz this season. All of these came from set-pieces and two were towering headers.

Like Gabriel, Diomande has a real dominance in how he wins the ball and wins his duels. So often he’ll body check the opponents and they go flying due to how much stronger he is. There’s definitely part of this which needs to be toned down and channelled better but Gabriel is someone who managed to do that so well at Arsenal.

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If Arsenal do go in for Diomande, he’s the right profile to suit their defence and is good enough to cover for either side of the defence, all whilst still being young enough to not demand to start in one of the better teams in Europe. Instead he could come in and learn from the likes of Saliba and Gabriel and also give them a much-needed rest when the time is right. There’s no doubt he’d be a quality signing who could develop into one of the best centre-backs in world football. But where will he end up?