Why Tosin is a perfect fit for Maresca's philosophy at Chelsea

By Alex Keble 7 Jun 2024

Alex Keble analyses Blues' new centre-back as he moves across west London from Fulham

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As Chelsea confirmed the signing of Tosin Adarabioyo from Fulham, who will join on 1 July, Alex Keble looks at what the versatile defender will bring to Enzo Maresca's side.

Chelsea have fended off reported interest from Newcastle United and Manchester United to sign 26-year-old Tosin Adarabioyo on a free transfer from Fulham.

Ordinarily this might not make headlines, but as the first signing of the Enzo Maresca era - which promises slow and patient Pep Guardiola-inspired football - it tells us a lot about the summer ahead.

The most important thing to notice is that Guardiola link.

Tosin came through Manchester City’s academy and, although he left the club in the summer of 2020 just as Maresca was arriving to take charge of the Under-23s, Chelsea's new head coach will no doubt have met Tosin and spent a lot of time with those who brought him through.

One of those people was Maresca’s mentor, Guardiola.

“It's not done, but [Tosin] has all the quality,” Guardiola said way back in 2016, when Tosin was 19. “He is fast, strong in the air, and has the quality to look forward behind the line for the next pass. He definitely has a future in the first team.”

A future in the Man City first team never transpired, but the imprint of the City academy - built in Guardiola’s image - no doubt had an effect on Tosin, making him a good fit for the new regime at Chelsea.

Calm when being pressed

Teams built in the Guardiola style require centre-backs who are comfortable on the ball in tight spaces; who can stay calm under pressure when counter-attacking opponents put the squeeze on them.

Tosin is exactly the right kind of player for Maresca, then. He looks most impressive when skipping past a challenge, or wriggling through a crowd to recycle possession and get his team back on the front foot.

This quality is needed to ensure the high defensive line is not suddenly broken by a defender losing possession, but also to help break out of the opposition press when building out from the back.

The 2023/24 Chelsea crop were perhaps a little too error-prone for this, and liable to miscontrolling the ball in those high-pressure moments.

The numbers below tell us Tosin is better on the ball than most, if not all, of Chelsea’s centre-backs.

Errors on the ball: Chelsea defenders v Tosin 23/24
Player Miscontrols Errors leading to shot
Thiago Silva 7 4
Benoit Badiashile 6 2
Axel Disasi 16 2
Trevoh Chalobah 10 0
Tosin Adarabioyo 4 0
Aggression will be useful in both boxes

Out of possession, Tosin sticks out for his aggressive and assertive style, using his power to win aerial duels and jump out into challenges.

That willingness to get tight and stick out a leg is reflected in the numbers. He averaged 2.56 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season, higher than most Chelsea centre-backs.

Tackles and interceptions: Chelsea defenders v Tosin 23/24
Player Tackles and interceptions/90
Benoit Badiashile 2.62
Tosin Adarabioyo 2.56
Trevoh Chalobah 2.26
Thiago Silva 1.96
Axel Disasi 1.78

Again, this is a very useful attribute for a player who will be camped on the halfway line in a possession-hogging team like Maresca’s Chelsea.

It’s important to have players willing to engage quickly and shut things down, and as Thiago Silva departs, Tosin can fill the gap.

Tosin v Thiago Silva player_comparison radar - 16x9

He wins 3.12 aerial duels per 90 minutes, putting him in the 88th percentile among centre-backs in Europe’s "big five" leagues over the last 365 days, according to FBRef.

He also wins 66.7 per cent of his aerial duels, which is higher than Silva’s 66.2 per cent for Chelsea in the Premier League last season and better than all 2023/24 Chelsea defenders apart from Disasi, who averages 69.6 per cent.

This quality also makes Tosin a threat from attacking set-pieces, something Chelsea are set to work on this summer after bringing in Bernardo Cueva from Brentford to establish a set-piece department.

Like any modern progressive coach, Maresca signs centre-backs not just for their defending but for what they can do on the ball and the damage they can cause in the final third.

Tosin has the lot.

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