With a rare weekend off in a grueling season, Arsenal boss Unai Emery could have kicked back and enjoyed himself. He could’ve visited a spa. Gone on a walking holiday. Or perhaps binged watched Stranger Things on Netflix.
Instead, he opted for a trip to Valencia. Not a bad option, admittedly. But Emery went to the Spanish city to work. It was not a social trip. Which is why he took his place in the stands of Mestalla on Sunday to watch Los Che, a club he once coached, take on Getafe, La Liga’s surprise package.
And, specifically, Emery was there to watch Djené Dakonam, a 27-year-old who started in the visitors’ back four. The defender was first linked with Arsenal last summer and the Gunners boss is reportedly a big admirer of the Togo international.
That is for good reason. Dakonam has blossomed into one of La Liga’s finest centre-backs this term. His game isn’t as refined as others, but it doesn’t need to be in the Getafe side.
He is there, first and foremost, to stop the opposition scoring. It’s something he and his teammates have done extremely effectively this term, only Atlético Madrid and Valencia have conceded fewer goals in the Spanish top flight this season.
The stats in the graphic above highlight Dakonam’s output on a per 90 basis. Impressively, though, no defender has made more interceptions (44) in La Liga this season and he is inside the top 15 for aerial duels won, clearances made and tackles attempted.
This is down, in part, to his workload. No team averages less possession than Getafe (39.43) so José Bordalás’ side spend the majority of games settled in a defensive shape, repelling opposition attacks, and countering through Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina.
It’s why Dakonam only completes 20.24 passes per 90. He isn’t trying to build from the back, he is getting the ball to his attackers – evidenced from his 12.97 forward passes per 90 – as effectively as possible.
However, this doesn’t mean that with the ball Dakonam can’t be progressive. He has previously played at right-back and in defensive midfield, so his skills in possession have been honed. It’s why he has been mooted as a potential Barcelona transfer target.
Dakonam wouldn’t come cheap, though. He has a release clause of £30million which is a significant fee for a defender without elite-level experience, especially given Emery will not have a huge budget in the summer.
The centre-back is, however, keen to make the jump to a European giant. Last season, his first in Spain, the Togo star said that while he was happy with Getafe he was “working to play for a bigger club.”
At 27 years old, Dakonam is coming into his peak years. Having previously played for Alcorcón and Sint-Truidense, it’s understandable why the Togo international doesn’t want to miss out on a big-money transfer.
So should Arsenal make a move? Well given Laurent Koscielny‘s age, Shkodran Mustafi’s inconsistency, Rob Holding’s injuries, and the raw Konstantinos Mavropanos, the Gunners could do with another centre-back.
Dakonam may not be a star name but he has proven himself a fine defender with Getafe. He does the basics well and would improve with better players around him.
Emery is supposedly “captivated” by the defender so it would be a surprise if a deal doesn’t take place in the summer. Stranger things have happened, though.