Axel Disasi is currently going through a very important year in his young career. Trained at Paris FC, he moved to Reims in 2016 and turned professional a year later. He had very little playing time last season with only 156 minutes on the pitch, but this year, everything is different. After 28 Ligue 1 matches, the young central defender is David Guion’s second most-used player and already has 27 starts.
This is a true mark of confidence in the 22-year-old, already valued at 7.20 million euros according to Transfermarkt. Moreover, Reims is the best defence in the league with only 21 goals conceded and does better than PSG in this field. All these things make Disasi attractive to some of European’s big clubs, including Arsenal, who are reportedly showing great interest.
There is no question that Disasi is one of the biggest revelations of this 2019/20 Ligue 1 season. In this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, we will take a closer look at Disasi’s profile, its role in the Reims defence, and assess its margin for improvement.
Guion, the coach from Reims, mainly uses a 4-2-3-1 formation in his tactics. Disasi is paired with the excellent Yunis Abdelhamid, who is 32 years old and one of the best defenders in the league. It’s been a great opportunity for the young central defender to be associated with such an experienced defender. It allows him to be much calmer and to have more bearings on the pitch. As mentioned earlier, Reims are the best defence in Ligue 1 (21 goals conceded) and 3rd best performer in terms of xGA (expected goals against) with 26.47.
Disasi is right-footed and therefore plays as a right central defender. The young defender has an impressive physique with a 1m 90 height and 86 kilo weight. He is a player who puts up a real physical fight throughout the match and loves the duel. Disasi is not shy at all and shows certain confidence – he knows his abilities and leaves no room for doubt.
That sometimes causes him to make mistakes, but above all, it makes him dominant. This self-confidence is growing with each game along with the experience he is gaining at the highest level. He has only received three yellow cards and no red cards this season, which also shows control of his nerves.
Disasi is a complete defender, capable of both being very aggressive with the opponent as well as being patient and waiting for the right moment to act. This makes him unpredictable for attackers. The Franco-Congolese youngster is excellent at sliding tackles and has made several decisive interceptions this season. He makes an average of 4.6 interceptions per match and 12.2 recoveries.
Disasi is a defender with a very good ability to read the game. He can be lucid and intervenes most of the time in the right tempo. However, he has conceded two penalties this season due to uncontrolled interventions, but this looks more like youthful mistakes and linked to his lack of experience at the highest level.
The young player from Reims is also athletic and lively. With good acceleration and natural fitness, he can quickly change his running direction according to the movements of his opponent. All these interventions are above all possible thanks to a great positioning. Disasi knows when he has to stick to his opponent to intervene when the opponent receives the ball and knows when he has to be further away from his opponent to cover the depth. His athletic qualities would be nothing without a defensive intelligence both in placement and in reading the game.
We can see in the picture above his position in relation to Kylian Mbappé. Disasi avoids getting too close to the top scorer in Ligue 1 because he knows his speed and strength in the depth. He is at a good distance to handle Mbappé either in the depths or in the feet if the opportunity arises. Disasi is constantly adapting to the attacking profile in front of him.
For example, in front of a more physical and less mobile striker like Josh Maja, Disasi will be much closer to him as can be seen in the picture above. He knows he is fast enough to manage depth against the Nigerian and by being close, the young defender can intervene as soon as Maja receives the ball. This shows a good sense of anticipation and is essential for a central defender.
What he sometimes does fall susceptible to is the lack of concentration throughout the match, leading him to make mistakes. Sometimes it feels like he loses his focus for short periods, but he quickly recovers. In the picture below, again against Maja, he will not be paying enough attention to the Bordeaux striker’s movements.
Disasi is well placed at the start, keeping an eye on his opponent to follow his movements. But he will then focus on the ball carrier, forgetting to follow Maja. The latter moved away from the young defender and scored with a great volley. There is no doubt that Disasi will improve this over time and with experience.
Reading of the game
Disasi also has this ability to focus on several things at the same time, and he uses his game vision to see potential danger close to him. While marking his direct opponent, he doesn’t hesitate to seize opportunities to cut a pass line or intercept the ball. This kind of maturity is quite impressive for his age. That’s what makes the young defender from Reims a player with very high potential, it’s the fact that he combines a very athletic physique with a great intelligence of play.
Here is an example in the picture below with the away game against PSG at the beginning of the season. It was a reference match for Disasi and Reims with a superb 2-0 win. In the additional time of the match, PSG pushes to equalise. Disasi is at the mark on Marquinhos. The Brazilian international tries to help his team with his aerial abilities. The Franco-Congolese notices the free space in which Neymar is advancing, who is about to receive the ball from Ángel Di María. Disasi stands out from his position and cuts Di María’s pass line to Neymar.
The central defender is also dominant in the air. This season, he played 150 aerial duels in Ligue 1 and won 89 of them, approximately 59% of duels won. It’s a really interesting stat and it makes him even more complete.
The young defender also scored one goal this season with his right foot and is at 2.39 of xG. By comparison, Bordeaux defender Pablo has scored four goals this season in Ligue 1 and he’s the most decisive defender in the league in terms of goals. However, he has only 1.80 of xG, which is less than the player from Reims. According to Understat, Disasi is the defender with the second-highest xG behind Bafodé Diakité of Toulouse (2.45 xG). This shows that the Franco-Congolese youngster knows how to be dangerous in the offensive phase (especially corners and set-pieces). He has to be better at finishing but this can become a real strength for him and his team.
Passing and forward runs
Disasi has a modern defensive profile, with an interesting quality in the build-up play. He tries to be constantly available for his partners. The young defender makes an average of 46.8 passes per game with a success rate of 85%. Disasi has a 93% success rate on passes in his half of the field and 66% in the opponent’s half. He knows how to be vigilant in his half of the pitch (very effective in short passes).
Disasi exudes a lot of serenity and calm when he passes the ball, even under pressure. However, he still has a lot of failures on long passes, as he only has a 50% success rate with them. He still has to work on this area to bring more danger on his passes in case of counter-attack, for example. Disasi is much more comfortable on short passes than long passes.
We often see him giving laser passes to break the lines, putting his partners in good dispositions. Disasi makes an average of 0.2 key passes per game, which is relatively correct for his position. In comparison, Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille) is one of the best in key passing at his position and makes an average of 0.3 key passes per game. It is therefore quite honourable for the Reims player who constantly shows a willingness to play forward.
As mentioned earlier in this tactical analysis, Disasi is a daring player, which has the risk for him to make mistakes, but it is also what makes him attractive and valuable.
As soon as his keeper or Abdelhamid has the ball, Disasi goes off to the right side of the pitch to break the pressure and make himself available. He is not afraid to receive the ball and even asks for it very regularly. He’s not a player who’s going to hide, quite the contrary. Despite his young age, he knows how to take responsibility when he has to. In the picture above, he steps away from his keeper to make himself available again and to make the opposing striker’s pressing difficult. His lateral movement also allows his right-back to move forward.
Disasi also masters “conducción”, a term that characterises a player’s ability to drive the ball when not under attack. By advancing with the ball, the player will thus attract pressure from an opposing player and creates free spaces for his partners. The idea is to go beyond his function as a centre-back to break the opponent’s lines and create spaces. This is something essential in football, but not all defenders do it or are capable of it. Disasi is so good at it that you could imagine him playing as a midfielder as he has the ability to break the opposition lines with his ball control.
He drives the ball well and sometimes surprises with his dribbling. This symbolises the audacity of this very promising youngster. In the picture below, Disasi gets the ball in his feet and notices the free zone left by the disorganised PSG block. The Franco-Congolese player doesn’t hesitate and drives his ball forward with a lot of serenity, attracting pressure from several opposing players. He waits until the last moment to pass the ball to his partner on the left side who has all the space in front of him.
His contract ends in 2021 and it is already clear that many clubs will be interested in Disasi. He is a very promising and modern central defender who will continue to grow over the years. Let’s not forget that this is his first season at the highest level. The level he already displays in the Reims defence is impressive.
There are many rumours about a transfer to Arsenal and his profile would be very suitable for the Premier League. Arsenal have already recruited a really promising player last year with William Saliba, and Disasi would be another good pick for the Gunners. This analysis in the form of a scout report showed the full extent of Disasi’s talent and potential.