The great shame of Paris Saint-Germain‘s wealth is the fact they’ve still produced youngsters, yet the majority are plying their trade away from the club. Reported Arsenal transfer target Moussa Diaby is one such example.
The winger, 20, joined Bayer Leverkusen in June of last year on a five-year deal. In the same summer, Christopher Nkunku left the Parc des Princes for RB Leipzig. Stanley N’Soki also departed the capital to sign for Nice. Timothy Weah moved onto pastures new, switching to Lille.
Those deals netted Les Parisiens some €52.5million in transfer revenue. Given PSG spent €94.5million on transfer fees alone – that’s without the considerable cost of loaning Mauro Icardi from Internazionale – the money they recouped will have helped their accounts.
But there’s no escaping the fact they allowed four talented homegrown players to leave Paris. Players who could have supplemented an already talent-rich squad as Thomas Tuchel went after the UEFA Champions League.
The loss of Diaby, in particular, will be a sore point for Les Parisiens. The 5ft 7in winger has flourished in the Bundesliga, netting four times and supplying five assists in Germany’s top-flight. As such, interest from bigger clubs than Bayer was inevitable.
According to Le10Sport, Arsenal lead the way for the France Under-21 winger. Diaby gave a timely reminder of his quality on Monday evening, assisting Kai Havertz and Mitchell Weiser’s goals in Bayer’s 4-1 in over rivals Werder Bremen.
If Havertz was the window dressing, Diaby was the goods out the back.
Diaby gave glimpses of what he could do with Paris Saint-Germain. But when competing with Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, Julian Draxler and Ángel Di María for minutes, he was fighting a losing battle. The fact Pablo Sarabia signed shortly after his departure further vindicated his decision to leave.
The 2018/19 season was Diaby’s breakthrough campaign. Under Tuchel, the jet-heeled winger made 34 appearances in all competitions, scoring four times. But he was considered expendable as PSG attempted to balance the books.
PSG’s loss has been Bayer’s gain. Diaby has made good on his potential in North-Rhine Westphalia, and his 0.67 Big Chances created rank fourth in the entire Bundesliga. That puts the Parisian ahead of team-mate Havertz (0.69), Jadon Sancho (0.69) and former PSG team-mate Nkunku (0.65).
Diaby’s return of 0.38 assists per 90 places him 15th in Germany’s top-flight against an expected goals assisted (xA) average of 0.39. That’s the fourth-best forecast in the Bundesliga. As he doesn’t take Bayer’s set-pieces, those are all from open play too.
Incredible speed and dribbling ability are his stand-out traits. Comfortable on either flank, going down the line or coming inside, Diaby is a tireless threat.
This is evidenced by the fact he attempts the fourth-most take-ons (6.02) per 90. However, no-one completes more than Diaby who is currently succeeding at a rate of 4.14 per 90. His nearest rival in that metric is Bayern Munich flyer Kingsley Coman (3.81) while Sancho is way down in eighth on 2.92 – despite attempting 5.6.
Diaby isn’t a show pony – his dribbles are purposeful, calculated and regularly yield chances for Bayer. Given his speed and acceleration, it’s no surprise he also ranks highly for fast breaks. These are attempts created after the defensive team quickly turn defence into attacking, winning the ball in their own half.
While this all sounds very encouraging for Arsenal supporters, the elephant in the room is this: do the Gunners need another attacker?
Last summer they splashed a club-record £72million on Lille’s Nicolás Pépé. The Ivorian has shown brilliance in fits and starts but he hasn’t had the impact his price-tag demands. Pépé turns 25 at the end of the month and won’t be considered a ‘young player’ much longer.
In mitigation, the 2019/20 season has been one to forget for the Gunners and with greater stability provided by Arteta, he could flourish. Still, fitting all Arsenal’s attacking talent into the same side has been a problem for Arteta and predecessor Unai Emery.
Much will hinge on the futures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Both have been linked with exits this summer and Aubameyang is out of contract in 2021. The next transfer window will be the Gunners’ last chance to get a fee for their captain.
Arsenal have almost exclusively played 4-2-3-1 since Arteta succeeded Emery in late December which means there are two winger spots open. If Aubameyang leaves – he has Internazionale, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG chasing – a place would open up for Diaby.
Even if Lacazette departs – Atlético Madrid is his most-likely destination – Aubameyang could take the central striking role, leaving Diaby free to play with Pépé.
It’s an exciting prospect but it’s hard to shake the feeling Arsenal have parts of the side which are in greater need of attention. Much like PSG a year ago.