Scout's Notebook: Modibo Diakité

Modibo Diakite of Lazio - Paolo Bruno

In the first of an occasional series, we will be taking a look at Sunderland's rumoured transfer targets and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. First up is Lazio's Modibo Diakité.

We told you recently how Diakité had been linked with Sunderland in the Italian press and the North East press have claimed that now we are safe, we will step up our efforts to sign the defender. So what kind of player is Diakité and how would he fit into the Sunderland side?

Before we get into his style of play, we'll tell you a bit more about him. Modibo Diakité is a French defender of Senegalese descent, who started his career with Italian side Pescara but only played one game for the Biancazzurri before he was snapped up by Lazio in a €300,000 transfer. Diakité then made sporadic appearances for Lazio between 2006 and 2009 until he started to establish himself in the 09/10 season. Despite missing most of 10/11 due to injury, Diakité was becoming a more important part of the Lazio side until a shin injury at the beginning of 12/13 season.

When he returned from injury the defender was frozen out of Lazio's first team plans after turning down a new contract, at which point two of his cars were torched, seemingly by Lazio 'Ultras' angry at the defender for his contract dispute. With his contract almost up and Sunderland hoping to sign him on a Bosman transfer, it's time to look at the player's strengths and weaknesses.

Diakité is an imposing physical presence, standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 13 stone, the defender would go a long way to solving one of Paolo Di Canio's problem areas. Di Canio said after the Southampton game;

It is obvious that physically, any side that we faced under me, we are very small side compared to the others. They are incredible athletes compared with us.

He reiterated his point after the last game of the season, away to Tottenham;

We are very light in the middle and we need to add physical presence.

Diakité's frame would certainly help Sunderland stand up to more physical opponents but that's not the only attribute that the defender has that is currently missing from the Sunderland squad. One of the biggest issues with this Sunderland side has been the lack of pace, an accusation that cannot be levelled at Diakité, who has pace in abundance. The centre-back is also noted as being a threat from set-pieces.

Although he is the type of 'incredible athlete' that Di Canio would be looking for, his biggest attribute is his reading of the game. Which, when coupled with his pace, means he can bail his team out of trouble when a goal looks certain and allows his team to play higher up the pitch.

Strong in one-on-ones and imposing in the air, he is the just the kind of central defender the Sunderland defence have been crying out for but there are downsides to Diakité's game.

Although he will make the occasional lung-bursting run out of defence, à la Sol Campbell, Diakité is not at his best with the ball at his feet. Uncomfortable on the ball would be an overstatement but he won't be expected to spray passes about or to do anything more than playing the ball simply to the closest team-mate.

The biggest downside to Diakité is his appearance record. We all know centre-backs tend to mature later than the other outfield positions but if we are successful in our pursuit of Diakité we will be signing a player who, at 26-years-old, only has 89 senior appearances, of which 65 came in Serie A.

He did take some time establishing himself in the Lazio side, missed a large part of the 10/11 season with injury and has not been picked this season due to the aforementioned contract dispute but whatever the reason for his lack of games, it has to be a worry that a player in his mid-twenties has yet to break the 100 appearances mark.

To sum up;

Strengths:

  • Imposing physical presence
  • Abundance of pace
  • Good in the air
  • Reads the game well

Weaknesses:

  • Suspect on the ball.
  • Lack of experience considering his age

It looks as if Diakité would be a good signing, despite his weaknesses, and should be an upgrade on both Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble. The fact he is available on a Bosman transfer should be a big plus for Sunderland in a summer where a big turnover of the playing staff is expected.

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