Youssouf Sabaly can solve Fulham’s right-back conundrum
The 25-year-old, who was a part of Senegal’s squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, has caught the eye with his consistently impressive displays in the Ligue 1 over the last few seasons.
Born in France to parents of Senegalese descent, Sabaly played for France at all youth levels before making his senior international debut for Senegal. A youth product of Paris Saint Germain, Sabaly played for the reserve team of his boyhood club and spent time on loan at Evian Thonon, Nantes and Bordeaux before joining the latter permanently in 2017. He hasn’t looked back since then, establishing himself as regular in Bordeaux’s first team.
The 25-year-old accumulated 5 assists from 35 appearances in the Ligue 1, averaging 1 key pass, 0.9 crosses and 1.7 long balls per game. He averaged 44.5 passes per game with an accuracy percentage of 82.3, stats which are quite impressive for a full-back.
A modern offensive-minded full-back blessed with the rare versatility of being able to play on either side of the defence, Sabaly is known for his pace, power, skills and tackling. While he is a good crosser of the ball from the wide areas, the Senegalese ace also likes to link up the play and sets up his teammates with key passes.
To go with his versatility and attacking prowess, Sabaly has earned rave reviews for his ability to balance both the attacking and defensive aspects of his game. His pace, agility and sharpness allow him to track back and make recovery runs to cut out the attacks, while his ability to time his tackles to perfection makes him a valuable asset to the backline.
The 25-year-old has successfully completed 20 of his attempted 23 tackles in Ligue 1 this season, which amounts to a tackling success rate of over 90 per cent. Sabaly has been dribbled past only 3 occasions in 8 appearances this season, something which speaks volumes of his concentration and composure.
To put things into perspective, it would be a no-brainer for Claudio Ranieri to make a bid for the Senegalese international in January to shore up his leaky backline.
Fulham have the worst defensive record not only in the Premier League but also in the other top leagues in Europe. The Cottagers desperately need to add stability to their backline if they are El stem the flow of goals in the second half of the season.
Right-back has been one of the major areas of concern for Ranieri since he took over the reins from Slavisa Jokanovic.
Irishman Cyrus Christie has been ripped inside out and has been exposed far too often for Fulham’s liking while Manchester United loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been sent back to his parent club. The lack of options at right-back promoted Ranieri to use Denis Odoi in an unfamiliar position against Manchester United, a ploy that led to disastrous consequences.
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Someone like Youssouf Sabaly, who can play on either side of the backline, can definitely be the answer to Fulham’s defensive woes and the Cottagers should go all out to sign him in January.