This article is part of Football FanCast’s Transfer Focus series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent transfer news…
According to France Football, Arsenal are very interested in signing Borussia Dortmund centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou this summer despite there being a recognition that he could be out of the club’s price range.
The report claims Unai Emery’s side were left suitably impressed by Zagadou’s performances during the U20 World Cup in Poland and that they are keeping the 20-year-old on their list of targets.
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The Frenchman is under contract at Dortmund until 2022 having signed there from PSG two seasons ago and the Gunners are well aware that it could take an extraordinary amount of money to prise him away from Germany.
Standing at 6ft 5in tall, Zagadou immediately stands out on the football pitch. There aren’t many players in any position that are taller than him, and at centre-back he would automatically bring a commanding presence to the defence.
The Gunners have notoriously struggled with crosses into the box and strikers with a physical edge to their game – just ask Troy Deeney – and bringing in a man of Zagadou’s frame would almost act as a reassuring figure to the rest of the back-line.
There was a certain rawness to the defensive side of his game last season, recording particularly low numbers for both tackles and interceptions per game. But it’s his composure on the ball that could really intrigue Emery and his desire to play out from the bank.
Zagadou averaged 65.3 passes per game during the last campaign at a pass success rate of 88.6%. In contrast, the Gunners’ most consistent performer at the heart of defence Laurent Koscielny registered just 48.8 passes per game. The 20-year-old is incredibly comfortable on the ball and being left-footed would bring balance to the defence also.
Too often in Emery’s back three, the Gunners centre-half playing on the left-hand side would have to check back on to his right foot and drive directly into traffic. Having someone like Zagadou would open the game up more and free up space for the likes of Granit Xhaka to drop back in and cover the space.
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Indeed, after a particularly fine performance against Wolfsburg last year, Dortmund boss Lucien Favre remarked: “His development’s been fantastic. He’s now played eight games in a row and shows great anticipation. He’s outstanding.”
The key word for Arsenal and Emery? Development. With his physical height and surprising pace, Zagadou has all the raw ingredients to become a powerful presence at heart of Arsenal’s defence.