Comparison of ISL’s new defensive walls
The signings of Fallou Diagne from Chennaiyin FC and Florentine Pogba from ATK Mohun Bagan were two of the biggest decisions made by ISL clubs in the current transfer window. Both are centre-backs coming from European leagues to Indian football and both bring with them a wealth of experience.
Here is an attempt to compile some data on the two defenders before the season:
Like the figure above from football data website Soccer shows, Pogba outperforms Diagne physically and in traditional defense, but the Chennaiyin man offers more threat when his side are on the attack.
Game role, threat of attack
Although primarily a central defender, Diagne can also play at right-back or even as a defensive midfielder. He is known to be effective with the ball at his feet. He completes around 76% of his passes which is slightly lower than Slavko Damjanovic last season. He also likes to develop the game from the back, both with short passes and long balls.
Although with less success, as the data indicates, Pogba also enjoys having the ball at his feet. He has a habit of stepping deep into the opposing half and dribbling past players. He can play left-back if needed. The 31-year-old’s breakdown is both varied and precise. He likes to throw high passes up the field to help his forwards. He can even take set pieces and has a vile delivery to the box.
However, the biggest advantage Diagne will bring to the defense of Marina Machans is his aerial ability. His strength, stability and the physique he offers in the box will be crucial for Chennaiyin FC from set pieces. Last season, Chennaiyin FC struggled in this area.
Pogba is also a strong and imposing presence in the box, but his defensive style is more alert and aggressive. He enjoys making crucial interceptions, jumping into challenges and constantly harassing attackers. He is very good at winning crucial duels, both on the ground and in the air.
Former teams, notable opponents
Diagne spent most of his 14-year career with FC Metz in France and Freiburg in the Bundesliga. With Freiburg, he finished fifth in the Bundesliga in 2012-13 and also played in the Europa League as a result. His journeyman career also included spells at Werder Bremen and Rennais. He eventually moved to Vllaznia Shkoder in Albania, where he worked with current Chennaiyin FC coach Thomas Brdaric. Diagne was a key member of Brdaric’s side which dominated the Albanian Cup last season.
Diagne has three caps for the Senegalese national team. In a CAN qualifier against Namibia, he played alongside captain Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane. In total, Diagne made over 270 appearances and played in top leagues against the best players in the game.
Pogba might not be the most famous footballer in his family, but the 31-year-old has been playing professionally for over 11 years. Florentin Pogba came through Celta Vigo’s youth system before moving to France with Sedan and Saint-Etienne. In Ligue 1, he made almost 100 appearances. Pogba was a mainstay for Saint-Etienne in the 2015/16 season as he conceded just 37 goals in 38 games. He also featured in the UEFA Europa League against the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
In the 2019/20 season, he joined MLS club Atlanta United. With the American team, Pogba won the only trophies of his career. In 2019, the centre-back helped them win the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup. After a stint in the Atlanta United reserve, he returned to France in 2020, joining Sochaux-Montbéliard.