Arsenal are preparing to rival the interests of a host of European elites to sign Toulouse’s young centre-half, Issa Diop. The 21-year-old has broken into the first-team of the Ligue 1 outfit with 26 total appearances this season. Diop has been an inspiring presence ever since he made his debut for Toulouse back in 2015 along with 16-year-old Alphonse Areola.
The defensive pair successfully lifted the French side out of relegation on the very last day of the 2014/15 season. Diop is a product of the Toulouse youth ranks and has been with the side since he was just 9.
The coach of the academy, Fabrice Garrigues was quoted, “He is a very positive person who always takes things with a smile, he is a great man and he is a real leader of men. I remember a very important Under-17s match against Nantes. We were very poor in the first half and at the break, and although he was a year younger, he was the one who spoke up in the locker room, he took charge of the others, he revitalised everybody and we won 4-1.”
Diop leadership ability is one of his most redeeming qualities which has allowed him to make 70 senior appearances in Ligue 1 and 31 caps for the France U16, U17, U18, U19, U20 and U21 side.
Arsenal’s defence, on the other hand, has been one of their worst enemies this season with Wenger struggling to adapt to the back three formation. The entire backline has looked more vulnerable than ever in recent times and currently holds the worst record of 36 goals conceded, among the top 6 in the Premier League.
Laurent Koscielny is only a shadow of his former self and has struggled to find his feet at the heart of the Gunners defence. Shkodran Mustafi is the best option in the backline but has lacked the cutting edge to really lead the side defensively.
Calum Chambers and Rob Holding have been provided with an opportunity to prove themselves over the season but has looked vulnerable at times. The young duo is a huge part of the club’s future, but without consistency will have a tough time breaking into the starting XI.
Per Mertesacker’s retirement after this season will leave a gap in the club ranks in terms of leadership and experience and Wenger needs to bring in a competitive centre-half to take over the backline.
Diop is a prime candidate who not only a has a lot of top-flight experience but also has the leadership qualities that Mertesacker brings to the side. However, Wenger will have to contest with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea to bring in the French U21 international.