Kalidou Koulibaly is currently having his Chelsea medical and should be confirmed this week. This will be a key signing in our race to become Premier League title contenders and could be the Chelsea signing of the summer. He provides solid tackling, can contribute in attacking situations, helps advance play forward and could help resolve some of the leadership void after the possible departure of Cesar Azpilicueta, and the low price makes this a great deal. As well he should complement the play style of the recent re-acquisition Nathan Ake effectively.
Koulibaly had 2.37 tackles per 90 last season which would have been top among Chelsea defenders who played at least 1,000 minutes and in the 87th percentile overall among center backs in Europe’s top five leagues. He also had 1.61 tackles per 90 in the defensive third when no Chelsea CB who played 1000 minutes even reached 1.00 per 90 and no Chelsea player at any position had more than 1.19.
Contributes In Attack
Not an extreme strength of his but he still helps contribute in this area. Koulibaly is above average among center backs in goal scoring with 0.09 goals per 90 which is in the 81st percentile for center backs and were the same goals per 90 as the departed Antonio Rudiger had last season. He also made the most of his opportunities as he only had 0.39 shots per 90 which were just 37th percentile for CB’s. He contributes in terms of passing as well with his 0.03 assists per 90 (68th percentile) and his 0.77 shot-creating actions per 90 (78th percentile).
Advances Play Forward
Koulibaly is well above average in several important components of advancing play forward. He averages 3.35 progressive passes per 90 which is in the 77th percentile. He is also above average in progressive carries with 2.46 per 90 (57th percentile). His best attribute is dribbling as he completes 0.74 dribbles per 90 which is in the 98th percentile. This is significantly better than the departed Christensen (0.36) and Rudiger (0.30) and can help us move the ball up the pitch especially when combined with his above-average rate of progressive passes per 90. Also has an 87.6% pass completion rate (67th percentile).
His leadership is a major intangible that can help us contribute. During our most successful era, we had several leaders on the pitch at one time. He has captained his country (Senegal) to a win at the African Cup of Nations (with Edouard Mendy so that is an added chemistry boost). Koulibaly could be a future captain in a few seasons who could contribute to the great legacy of center backs to serve as Chelsea captain including John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta.
He only cost £34 million ($40 million) which is a bargain for an elite center-back like Koulibaly. He easily could have cost 50 or 60 million pounds (which he was rumored to have cost last year) even at the age of 31. That money could easily be spent on a solid rotational defender to help strengthen our depth in what will be a very condensed season.
He does have some struggles in defense, however. He only gets 1.63 interceptions per 90 which is only in the 23rd percentile among center-backs which could lead to opponents having a few more scoring chances than we would like. He also only has 3.26 clearances per 90 (19th percentile) which could come back to bite us as this leads to good shots for opponents. This is made worse because we have several other defenders who do not make many clearances. He also wins just 1.93 aerial duels per 90 which is only in the 20th percentile although this is mitigated because we have many players who are good in the air.
A major downside for him is durability as he has not reached 30 Serie A appearances in any of the past three seasons. We had just three outfield players make 30 Premier League appearances (one of whom is gone) and this is especially concerning with the added matches and intensity that the World Cup and subsequent condensed season provide.
Where This Leaves Us
This is a very good signing which should help us win a couple more points which could prove to be crucial if we are in a title race. However, this signing still leaves us around 12-15 points back of Man City and 8-10 points back of Liverpool so we still have work to do in the market.
main image credits: