Needing urgent defensive reinforcement following Wesley Fofana’s latest devastating injury setback, Chelsea have turned to Axel Disasi to bolster their backline.
Considering the Blues had also recently waved goodbye to Kalidou Koulibaly and Cesar Azpilicueta, the arrival of the French international couldn’t come soon enough. Joining for a reported £39 million after establishing himself as one of the premier defenders in France in recent seasons with Reims and AS Monaco, his signing is a shrewd one and also sees him reunite with former ASM teammate Benoit Badiashile.
Coming off a brilliant season on an individual level even though Les Monegasques ended the season poorly as a collective to ultimately finish a disappointing sixth in Ligue 1, Disasi’s consistently excellent showings were a real highlight in a term where he also made his France debut at the World Cup in Qatar.
Mentally and physically strong, plus boasting impressive leadership qualities that are evident through his actions and words, the man who wasn’t a stranger to wearing the captain’s armband at Monaco should be very beneficial in terms of his organisation skills and setting the standard for his colleagues to follow.
Joining right near the prime of his career at 25, the multifaceted stopper, who can importantly play in a variety of roles within a central defensive back two or three, plus at right-back, appears destined to be a huge asset for Mauricio Pochettino.
“Axel has showcased his quality over several seasons in France and that has deservedly led to recognition on the international stage,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley told the club’s official website.
“He is ready to take the next step in his career and we are delighted that will be with Chelsea. We welcome him to the club and look forward to him joining up with Mauricio Pochettino and his new teammates in the days ahead.”
Ideally suited to the Premier League due to his athleticism, strength and hulking presence, expect the experienced defender to have little worry settling in after an inherent initial period of adaptation.
“I’m very happy to be part of this club, and I hope to see you soon at the Bridge. The pace, the impact and the aggressivity [of the Premier League], I think I’m ready for this and I’m confident about my game. I hope to achieve very big things here. To win titles. I will do everything I can to achieve those objectives. I am very ambitious,” he explained.
Possessing great speed and mobility, these aspects of his game will be ideal for the fast-paced Premier League, where he’ll be able to smartly deal with transitions, track runners and jet back or across to offer covering support for teammates.
In addition, his usually sound positioning and attentive reading of the play holds him in good stead to then execute his actions cleanly. Even though he has the odd lapse in judgement, he typically makes coherent decisions when to apply his interventions, step out, drop back, shift across or take on a marking assignment.
So effective at breaking up play, mopping up loose balls and clearing danger, this, in combination with how he constantly adjusts his position, enhances his worth.
Aggressive, proactive and eager to impose himself on his foes, this is especially evident when he gets touchtight to opponents dropping deep with their back to goal so they can’t enjoy any time or space to turn or cleanly use or control the ball. It’s also important to note how he uses his arms and upper body strength to impede runners and slow down their momentum so they can’t gain separation easily.
A huge weapon in aerial confrontations as well, how he times his leaps, outmuscles foes and picks up the ball’s flight path elevates his value. Dominant, commanding and a huge menace at attacking and defensive set-pieces, watch for him to excel in these situations to elevate Chelsea’s scoring threat and ability to nullify deliveries into the area.
Extremely confident and composed with the ball at his feet, this will have been another key factor in Chelsea wanting to bring him in. To start with his dribbling, and he relishes every chance he gets to drive upfield, where he swiftly gains territory, lures out opponents, withstands pressure powerfully and outfoxes challengers with finesse to destabilise opposition defensive shapes.
So good at accelerating attacking phases with his distribution as well, Disasi’s progressive passing is vital to break through the first line of the press, switch the angle of attacks, tee up colleagues between the lines, launch runners in behind and when engaging in tidy interplay.
Indeed, his prowess at the aforementioned should see him play an integral role in build-up and assist in breathing life into attacks against deep sitting rearguards.
By the numbers, upon comparing him to star Chelsea defender Thiago Silva as an interesting example last season using Wyscout data, Disasi admirably held the ascendancy in a host of metrics such as successful defensive actions per 90, defensive duels p90, defensive duels won percentage, aerials duels p90, shots blocked p90, passes to the final third p90, progressive passes p90, successful attacking actions p90, goals p90, XG p90, shots p90, dribbles p90, progressive runs p90, offensive duels p90 and touches inside the box p90.
Tactically flexible, fiercely competitive and so committed to honing his craft, there’s no doubting Disasi will be doing everything in his power to ensure he’s a hit at Stamford Bridge.
Having played under a host of different coaches and in a wide variety of roles, which has even seen him switch positions during matches, there’s every reason to suggest he’ll slot brilliantly into the Argentine coach’s plans.
Emphatically displaying his class at both club and international level, this next chapter of his career is definitely an exciting test to see if he can rise to the occasion just like he’s done in the past.
While it won’t be easy to fight off the likes of Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, Trevoh Chalobah and Badiashile, the assured and authoritative Disasi, who possesses so many of the desired traits a defender needs in the modern game, will back himself to carve out a place in Chelsea’s starting line-up.
A man not to be underestimated or taken lightly, Disasi won’t be content just making up numbers, for he’s coming in ready to stamp his mark from the off.