Fulham have signed a fourth centre-back. After the addition of Shane Duffy last week, Issa Diop has finally put pen to paper joining from West Ham for £15 million, signing a five-year contract. In this article, his strengths and weaknesses, before getting a West Ham fan’s perspective and giving his conclusion on the deal.
Issa Diop started his footballing career at Balma SC before joining the Toulouse academy in 2006 at the age of 9. Having played some games for Toulouse B in the season prior, Diop made his Ligue 1 debut aged 18 against Nice. He was made captain for his final season for Toulouse, making 95 appearances, before leaving for West Ham in 2018 for what was then a record £22.5 million fee. Diop coincidently scored his first West Ham goal against Fulham and leaves with 119 appearances to his name. At international level, Diop has played for France in every age group, from U16s to U21s. He was a part of the side that won the 2016 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, being named in the Team of the Tournament.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Issa Diop’s strengths and weaknesses depend on which version we are getting. In his first season at West Ham his strengths were clear. He was a 6’4 imposing centre half who was great in the air and very strong. He also read the game well and was relatively fast, covering his fullback if they were caught out up the pitch. One of his strengths that has carried over to now is his ability to block the ball. He is a very committed player and is willing to put his body on the line to stop a shot. This can be seen through his 1.85 blocks per 90 average in the last year.
Since his first season, his performances have dwindled, in part, due to the arrival of David Moyes. He changed the West ham defensive line from playing on the front foot to sitting in a low-block. This has had a detrimental effect on Diop; last season, he only featured in 13 games. In these games, he didn’t impress, averaging just 1.14 tackles, 3.47 clearances and 2.03 aerials won per 90. However, these statistics could be skewed by the tactics employed by Moyes.
The West Ham Perspective (Jack Elderton)
“Issa Diop impressed in his first season at West Ham. He showed glimmers of the kind of aggression and confidence anyone would look for in a young centre-back, and when coupled with his physical profile, he looked like a hugely promising player. Jose Mourinho even went as far as to congratulate the scout that found him while calling Diop a ‘monster’ after his Manchester United side were beaten 3-1 at the London Stadium in 2018. As with much of the early promise of the Pellegrini era, that positivity slowly faded. Diop’s spidery legs launching into sliding tackles went from a positive on recovery in an offside trap system to a liability in a low-block system. He has not been well-suited to Moyes’ defensive approach at all and has regularly erred thanks to lapses in concentration that have undermined otherwise positive team performances. To his credit, he has always been a good option in possession, and his passing ability has been shown on counter-attacks numerous times – check out Bowen’s goal against Leicester last season. Ultimately, at just 25, Diop is still a player with lots of potential. Whether he can realise that as part of a Fulham defence that will undoubtedly come under a lot of pressure over the course of the season is another question entirely.”
Issa Diop signing for Fulham is a move that could go one of two ways. On the one hand, he could carry on his recent form for West Ham and be a liability at the back when we can’t afford to have one. On the other hand, he is still a relatively young player, and if we continue playing a mid-block as we did against Liverpool, his game will suit it better than the low-block deployed by Moyes. Like Duffy, he also is another player whose height and build will help us defend and attack set pieces and also has Premier League experience. I am going to stay pretty on the fence and say Issa decent signing for Fulham, but with a £15 million fee involved, it is a slight risk.
Sam’s Verdict: 7/10