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Talking Tactics

New signings: How Koulibaly will replace Rudiger

Adrian Clarke 28 Jul 2022
Kalidou Koulibaly, Chelsea

Adrian Clarke says Chelsea defender's all-round game will pose problems to strikers in the top flight

Adrian Clarke looks at the impact of players who have joined new clubs in the 2022 summer transfer window. 

Kalidou Koulibaly (CHE)

When Antonio Rudiger moved to Real Madrid this summer it put Chelsea in the market for a left-sided central defender with experience, physical strength, and quality in possession.

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The signing of Koulibaly from Napoli certainly ticks all those boxes.

One of Serie A's most reliable centre-backs across the last eight seasons, the 31-year-old should have no issues filling the hole vacated by Chelsea's most impressive defender last term.

Koulibaly’s 1.93-metre frame makes him formidable in duels with opposing forwards.

Koulibaly's first training session

Powerful in the air and boasting strong recovery pace, he is rarely easy to bypass.

Across the last five campaigns in Italy, Koulibaly has featured inside the top 10 with the percentage of successful pressures.

Koulibaly successful pressures in Serie A
Season Successful pressures League rank
2018/19 34.8% 5th
2017/18 37.1% 7th
2019/20 35.9% 4th
2020/21 40.6% 2nd
2021/22 41.8% 2nd

During his final two seasons with Napoli, Koulibaly was at his best when applying pressure in duels.

Winning the ball back 41.8 per cent of the time within five seconds, the Senegal international was ranked second in Serie A.

Comfortable on the ball

Koulibaly’s qualities are not limited to defending or physicality, he is also accomplished on the ball and that will fit in with Thomas Tuchel's style of play.

He is accustomed to performing as a left-sided central defender in a back four, but should have no problems adapting to a three-man formation.

Naturally right-footed, he is a terrific and accurate passer with both feet, displaying variety in the type of deliveries too.

Koulibaly's passing range 2021/22
Pass type Total Success
Short 586 93.3%
Medium 695 92.5%
Long 315 67.9%

Travelling smoothly with the ball is another trait that befits a side who want to build possession from the back three.

Last season, Cesar Azpilicueta, Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Rudiger all caught the eye with positive surges into the opposition half for Chelsea from a wide centre-back position.

Koulibaly needs no encouragement to power forward with the ball.

Serie A successful dribbles 2021/22
Player Successful dribbles Total dribbles
Jerdy Schouten 89.7% 29
Kalidou Koulibaly 86.4% 22
Ismael Bennacer 84.8% 46
Gaetano Castrovilli 81% 21
Manuel Locatelli 80% 20

While he is selective around the right moments to stride forward, Koulibaly is difficult to stop whenever he does.

His confidence in this aspect of play should quickly impress Chelsea fans.

Only Jedry Schouten of Bologna could better his 86.4 per cent success rate for dribbles in Serie A last term, so you can expect Tuchel to encourage his new charge to repeat this tactic.

At 31, Koulibably has vast experience and defensive nous at the highest level.

He may need a short period of time to adapt to the Premier League, but Koulibaly has all the qualities required to shine for Chelsea.

Tomorrow: Palhinha can reinforce Fulham midfield

Also in this series

Part 1: How Haaland will take Premier League by storm
Part 2: How Nunez can fill Mane void
Part 3: Perisic a perfect fit for Conte's Spurs
Part 4: Jesus can propel Arsenal to success
Part 5: Awoniyi is ideal to lead Forest's line
Part 6: Richarlison's style can push Spurs on
Part 7: Botman has strength to lift Newcastle
Part 8: Sterling to give Chelsea a clinical edge
Part 9: Bella-Kotchap can shore up Saints' high line
Part 10: Aguerd can bring balance to West Ham
Part 11: Adams an ideal fit to replace Phillips

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