At the age of 21, Dayot Upamecano is one of RB Leipzig‘s first-choice central defenders, alongside Lukas Klostermann. Dayot Upamecano joined RB Leipzig from RB Salzburg in January 2017 for a fee of around 9 million pounds. He is a huge part of the French U21 national side, having earned himself 21 caps in the process. This tactical analysis will analyse his performance in and out of possession.
He has recently heavily been linked with a move to the Premier League, with Arsenal and Bayern Munich battling for his signature. Since playing in the Bundesliga, Dayot Upamecano has played 1852 minutes and gained a pass success of 88.8%. At such a young age, it is no surprise that he has been making a name for himself across the footballing world.
This scout report is an analysis of the central defender during the 3-1 win against Union Berlin. It will first look to examine his performance and the strengths in which he possessed during the game. The analysis will then explore why most of RB Leipzig’s play was played through his area of the pitch, and lastly identify the skills he has that makes RB Leipzig one of the hardest teams to break down in the Bundesliga.
Upamecano’s Confidence in Possession in Defensive/Middle Thirds
Within the first few minutes of the game, Upamecano highlighted one of the strongest traits of his game – confidence in possession. In the defensive third, his composure and bravery with the ball in this dangerous part of the pitch are clearly noticed as he has the ability to start counterattacks from any of these situations. In the image above, we can clearly see a scenario where Upamecano regains possession of the ball in the defensive third. Despite having pressure from 3 opposition players, he recognises the space in front of him by looking up before/moment he receives the ball and executes a perfect weight of pass into his forward attacking player to start an attack.
Many defenders in this situation would panic and play a long pass upfield to their strikers to clear the danger in this area of the pitch. His composure and ability to start transitions from deep highlights the many reasons why he is an upcoming rising talent.
As well as the ability to start counterattacks and keep possession in the defensive third, Upamecano has the technical traits to perform key and penetrating passes when in the midfield third, as seen above. Again, recognising that there is space in behind the Union Berlin’s defensive shape, he executes a penetrating pass to try and exploit the space in behind for Werner to capitalise and attack the goal.
This example shows the confidence Upamecano has with the ball, able to recognise the space and execute a pass to break down the opposition’s defensive line. Other central defenders would either perform a lateral pass to keep possession or go back to the goalkeeper. However, this shows his bravery in possession in the midfield third and shows why he is one of the best ball-playing central defenders currently in the Bundesliga.
Not only does Upamecano have the ability to keep possession or counterattack in the defensive and midfield thirds by passing to his teammates who are in forward positions, but he also has the ability to apply pressure from the midfield third by identifying space to dribble into after regaining possession of the ball. Nagelsmann’s side is known for being direct and playing forward whenever they regain possession of the ball and, with the quality Upamecano has with the ball with and without pressure, it is no doubt that he is the perfect fit for RB Leipzig.
Throughout this game, Upamecano proved that one of his main strengths is his ‘passing’. The above image sees him executing a ‘split pass’ into his midfield teammates, who then turns and plays into the advancing right full-back on the right-wing. The fact that Upamecano can play many types of forward passes from defensive/midfield thirds such as short, lofted or split passes, as well as having the technical ability to identify and exploit space from these areas also, only proves how important he is in terms of keeping possession and advancing RB Leipzig into the attacking third.
Ability to Regain Possession
Not only does Upamecano hold strong technical traits with the ball, but he also proves he has the strength to win the ball back and regain possession for his team. The best defenders in the world aren’t those who are only good on the ball, they also need to have the ability to win the ball back for their team in crucial areas on the pitch and Upamecano does this with huge success.
On many occasions during the game, Upamecano used his upper body strength to regain possession for RB Leipzig and carried the ball forwards to either create a counterattack or start an overload in the midfield/attacking third. Not only did Upamecano successfully regain possession from behind the opposition player, but he was also able to get his body in between the defender and the ball, protecting and shielding whilst waiting for an opportunity to share possession with teammates who are in good positions to receive.
Upamecano has positioned himself in between the opposition player and the ball. This means that he is using his body as a barrier to protect the ball from the opposition. By doing this, it allows his team to regain possession and limit any threat posed by the oncoming player.
Not only does he use his upper body, but he also uses his arm as the first point of protection. The distance he has created between the player and the ball means the opposition player will try and get in front of him, but more often than not the player will foul the protecting defender. In defending terms, this can be seen as the ‘perfect’ way of using your body to protect and regain/keep possession of the ball.
Advancing RB Leipzig into Attacking Areas
Due to Upamecano’s ability to pick out a player in an advanced position and execute any form of pass, it isn’t any wonder that Upamecano can advance RB Leipzig into the attacking third with one killer pass.
Once Upamecano claimed possession of the ball just above the halfway line, he performed a disguised pass to his central defensive partner, Klostermann (black arrow). This movement off-balanced the Union Berlin’s centre-forward, creating space in front of Upamecano to either dribble forward or play a direct pass into his attacking teammates. Recognising that there was no teammate directly in front of him (red triangle) to pass too, he decided the best option was to play a long, lofted pass towards his strikers.
The length, timing and power of the pass enabled Schick to latch onto the pass and nod it down for Werner, who smashed the ball into the top corner, to make it 1-1. The disguise, recognition, execution and timing of the pass highlights why RB Leipzig can advance into dangerous areas and capitalise on the opposition being out of position.
Throughout the second half, it was visible that Upamecano was told to play more direct. As we can see above, he has 3 different passing options to teammates (red lines), however, he decides to play the more direct long, lofted pass into his attacking teammates (black arrow). Due to this way of playing leading to their opener, it was no doubt that they will keep trying this in order to get ahead in the game.
Dictating/Instructing Team-Mates Out of Possession
Out of possession, Upamecano still shows his understanding and leadership qualities by encouraging and dictating where his teammates should play their next pass.
Klostermann has the ball unopposed and we can see Upamecano encouraging him to play more direct even though he has midfield options. We can also see that the full-backs are very narrow and in the midfield half spaces, therefore proving that Nagelsmann’s tactics to the two centre-halves were to play more direct to try and take the lead in the game. Upamecano is not only the deepest defender because his teammate is advancing, but he is also leading from the back-dictating information to the player on the ball, enforcing RB Leipzig’s tactics on the pitch.
During his playing time in the Bundesliga this season, Upamecano has gained an average pass rating of 72.7 with a pass success percentage of 88.8%. These numbers clearly support this analysis of the defender, proving that he is comfortable in possession and is highly successful in executing the technical traits with the ball. Upamecano has also achieved a 6.2 average rating for his long balls per game, supporting this tactical analysis that he likes to play long balls from defence into his attacking teammates.
This tactical analysis has delved into the strengths that Upamecano possesses during the game and the reasons why he is a key player for RB Leipzig. Not only has it analysed him with the ball, but it has also touched on his qualities off the ball and how he leads the backline for his team. There is no doubt that Upamecano is a rising star with the strengths he possesses on and off the ball and will continue to grow into a mature, solid central defender.