Arsenal will want to make some stellar signings in the summer and one name that continues to be linked is Dayot Upamecano.
The 21-year-old defender is widely regarded as one of the best young players in Europe. His strong build coupled with excellent technique on the ball make him immediately stand out from the crowd. Few players of his age are so physically blessed but perhaps even more impressive is how comfortable he is in possession, marshalling the Leipzig back four and being the building block on their attacking play since the age of 18.
Upamecano joined Leipzig from their ‘sister’ club RB Salzburg back in January 2017. The fee was minimal – €10million and since joining the club he has been an important part of the starting 11.
It’s only a matter of time before Upamecano’s form is recognised at international level too. He’s yet to receive a senior cap but with over 70 games for Leipzig under his belt, including tough European fixtures, Dayot is ready for the next level of the international stage.
When the summer comes, Upamecano will have just one year remaining on his current contract. It seems he will not sign a new deal and for that reason he could be available for around £40million, which considering his age and talent, would represent a real bargain.
But Arsenal will not be alone in their pursuit of the defender. Bayern Munich and Barcelona are reportedly interested, and few clubs wouldn’t want to sign a player that is already performing at such a high level, aged 21.
And the interest in Dayot will have only increased based on his performance against Bayern Munich on Sunday 9 February. I watched this game and it struck me how well rounded and complete of a defender he already is. Up against some of the fiercest attackers in Europe and away from home, he never looks phased and played with a incredible confidence for a player of his age. With Bayern of course dominating possession, Upamecano showed his defensive qualities in this game, completing 3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 8 clearances and blocking 3 shots, only making 1 foul in the process.
I also watched him on 15 February as Leipzig hosted Werder Bremen. Here I saw the other side to Upamecano’s game. With 98 touches, 79 passes (with 93.7% success rate), the defender was at the heart of everything Leipzig did. Building attacks from the back, the defender was more than happy to carry the ball out of defence to help initiate attacks. In van Dijk esque fashion, he also targeted long balls on several occasions, being succesful with 6 out of 8 attempts. The game finished 3-0 to Leipzig with another clean sheet for the defender and his team, who have every chance of winning the league this season and going far in the Champions League.
A defensive duo of William Saliba and Upamecano for Arsenal next season is a very exciting prospect. Should they both continue to develop as expected, the duo could form a defensive partnership at the club for years to come. Both have the ability and attributes to both succeed in the Premier League and fit well into Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal system.