Arsenal target Dayot Upamecano could be the next Van Dijk

The RB Leipzig defender has been targeted by clubs who hope he could make as big an impact as the Liverpool CB

11:00am on Wednesday 13th May 2020
Ronan Murphy

Every club looking for a new centre-back has one prototype in mind when assessing the transfer market.

They all want to find the next Virgil van Dijk.

Strong and fast defenders who read the game well and use their positioning to stop attacks rather than resorting to tackling are the order of the day. So when Bayern Munich were linked with a new centre-back, it's no surprise that the consensus was that the German champions wanted a Van Dijk-type of their own.

RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano has been heavily linked with Arsenal in the past year (check out Youtube for a whole host of "Welcome to Arsenal Dayout Upamecano Defensive Skills" compilations to see just how excited Gunners fans are), but will be one of the hottest properties on the market this summer.

"There are several clubs that want me," Upamecano confirmed earlier this month. "I will speak with my agents and my parents at the end of the season and we will make the right decision."

Upamecano's contract expires in 2021 and he has not accepted a new deal from Leipzig, meaning that there should be a queue of suitors knocking on the door of the Red Bull Arena once the transfer window re-opens.

Leipzig are just a point off league leaders Bayern in the Bundesliga currently, which is partly thanks to Upamecano's consistently excellent performances in the defence. They have not conceded a goal in three league games and held the Bavarians to a scoreless draw in Munich.

Those clean sheets are even more impressive when you consider that Upamecano is actually the only fit centre-back at the club, with Julian Nagelsmann forced to play full-backs alongside him in a makeshift defence.

21 yrs - D (C) - RB Leipzig
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
Played matches
Tackles Won P90
Interceptions P90
Aerials Won P90
Duels won P90
Clearances P90
Passes completed P90

Like Van Dijk, Upamecano avoids tackling where possible, and is averaging just 2.4 tackles attempted per game in 2019-20. He is also very comfortable with the ball at his feet and will look for a team-mate rather than clear the ball when under pressure (averaging 3.3 clearances per game, even less than Van Dijk's 4.2).

Upamecano's performances for Leipzig have gotten the vote of approval from all onlookers, including ex-Bayern defender Thomas Helmer, who lifted the Uefa Cup with the club in 1996.

"He would fit in at Bayern," Helmer told AZ. "Upamecano is a super player, physically very strong and incredibly fast, which is something you really want today. And he can still improve a lot."

One of the big stumbling blocks for Bayern Munich seems to be Upamecano's cost, with Leipzig refusing to let him leave unless teams can meet his €60 million release clause.

Bayern already have Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez on the books, while David Alaba has proven himself at centre-back in both the Bundesliga and Champions League this season.

That could make things easier for Arsenal's pursuit of the centre-back, with Mikel Arteta also looking for a strong, reliable option at centre-back as he looks to build his own team at the Emirates Stadium.

Bundesliga Centre-Backs
Highest FC Ratings this seasonFeb 28, 2020
  Name TeamAge Position
1Dayot UpamecanoRB Leipzig22D (C)92
2Benjamin PavardBayern24D (RC)90
3Sven BenderLeverkusen31D (C)89
4Nico ElvediM'gladbach24D (CL)89
5David AlabaBayern28D (LC)89

Having already proven himself in Germany, the 21-year-old defender should have no problem making the step to the Premier League and could be the player Arteta needs to stabilise his inconsistent back-line.

RB Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche is resigned to the fact that Upamecano will leave the team sooner or later, despite trying to get the French Under-21 international to sign a new contract.

"Dayot is currently one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga, so it would surprise me if no clubs came knocking for him," Krosche told Sport Bild. "He's certainly an attractive player for the big clubs in Europe. But he can still take a few steps forward and develop further with us."

Bayern Munich may believe €60m is too much to pay for Upamecano, but if he can be half as good as Liverpool's €83m-signing Van Dijk, he would be a bargain for Arsenal.

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