How does Kalidou Koulibaly compare to Chelsea stars and Big Six stalwarts?

It came as no surprise that Chelsea were looking to sign a new defender this summer, given the lack of options available to Thomas Tuchel. As has been the norm in the early days of Todd Boehly, they have moved quickly to recruit.

The Stamford Bridge club has wrapped up a move for Napoli stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly, with the deal worth £34million.

Koulibaly comes with a stellar reputation and had been linked with other top clubs in England in the past, with Chelsea fans now wondering what he’ll bring. 

Chelsea have signed Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly for £34m to strengthen their backline

Chelsea have signed Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly for £34m to strengthen their backline

His statistics from last season show that Chelsea have landed a formidable presence both on the ground and in the air – and they may not be done there when it comes to defensive reinforcements, either. 

After Nathan Ake decided to stay at Manchester City, Chelsea will reportedly revive their interest in Sevilla star Jules Kounde.

It has been essential for the Blues to recruit a handful of new faces at the back, given that Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have already left on free transfers. 

Tuchel was left short after their exits, although his ranks will be bolstered soon enough.

The centre back starred in Italy last season, and Sportsmail has taken a look at his statistics

The centre back starred in Italy last season, and Sportsmail has taken a look at his statistics

Cesar Azpilicueta, set to join Barcelona in a £7m move, has been told he cannot leave Stamford Bridge until defensive reinforcements have been signed. If he were to leave, Chelsea would enter the new season with a very different looking defence.

Koulibaly, alongside the seasoned veteran Thiago Silva, will undoubtedly be at the heart of this project. He was ever present for Napoli last term when fit, and possesses much more experience than those who would look to rival his position. 

Firstly, we will look at how his numbers stack up against the club’s current options – namely, Silva, Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr. The latter two players earned less game time last year, so it is worth bearing in mind that this will affect the findings.

In terms of appearances, Koulibaly made 34 across all competitions, less than Silva’s 48 but more than the 30 and 21 of Chalobah and Sarr respectively. Intriguingly, he also started each of these matches, underling his importance to the Serie A side. 

All club competitions 21/22   Koulibaly  Silva Chalobah  Sarr 
Appearances   34 48  30  21 
Starts    34 41  24  16 
Minutes    3036  3980  2247  1519 
Goals conceded    32  36  13  16 
Mins per goal conceded    94.9  110.6  172.8  94.9 
Clean sheets     12   18  12  6
Tackles    53   46  52 26
Tackle success (%)    56.6   69.6  71.2 57.7 
Aerial duels won    58   96  58 36 
Aerial success (%)    53   72  59 71
Blocks    29   38  11  9 
Interceptions    33   68   39 30 
Clearances    106   131  83 40
Dribbled past by opponent    17   13   12 12 
Passes    2088   3702  1868 1348
Passing accuracy (%)    87   92.7  89.8 88.7
Stats provided by Opta           

From the games he featured in, Napoli conceded 32 goals, four less than the 36 shipped by Chelsea with Silva in their side. Again, the difference in matches played comes into play, but the fact Koulibaly let in less than a goal every game is notable.

Chalobah and Sarr conceded 13 and 16, perhaps as a result of their limited minutes. 

For tackles, Koulibaly comes out on top with 53. Behind him are Chalobah on 52, Silva on 46 and Sarr with 26. The winner’s tackle success percentage stands at a respectable 56.6, but this is dwarfed by Silva’s 69.6 and Chalobah’s 71.2. 

As shown above, the Blues’ new arrival is also strong in the air, and is no stranger to throwing himself into blocks and interceptions. He has been beaten in both these areas, however, by Silva – whose numbers last season were outstanding.

Another aspect vital to the style of play under Tuchel is assuredness on the ball, and sharp decision-making. This, quite simply, revolves around when a player opts for a shorter option to build up from the back, or instead decides to smash it downfield.

Thiago Silva, despite his advancing age, has bettered his future team-mate in several metrics

Thiago Silva, despite his advancing age, has bettered his future team-mate in several metrics

Koulibaly recorded 106 clearances last season, with Silva registering 131. For passing, the former made 2088, a figure well below the 3702 of the latter. As a disclaimer, this metric is dictated heavily by how each of the teams uses the ball.

Finally, for passing accuracy, Koulibaly’s percentage comes in at 87, while Silva’s is 92.7. Chalobah and Sarr’s totals are 89.8 and and 88.7, demonstrating clearly that the defender poised to pull on the club’s famous jersey will have to remain composed.

In summary for the first table, the results show that Koulibaly is primed to equip himself well to the rigours of the Premier League, even if Silva does often trump him.

Handily, for further context, Sportsmail has also compared Koulibaly to the best of the rest; the standout defenders from the other Big Six clubs in the top-flight.

Ruben Dias is one of the Premier League's best defenders, and will go toe-to-toe with Koulibaly

Ruben Dias is one of the Premier League’s best defenders, and will go toe-to-toe with Koulibaly

For this, we have picked out Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip of Liverpool, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City, Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes, Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.

Again, the amount of minutes played by each of the names above must be taken into consideration, with Van Dijk in particular ever present for his club last season.

This also skews the minutes per goal conceded metric, but there are still plenty of notable findings. Koulibaly, as explained above, averages 94.9 minutes between goals, an average of over one whole match, and ranks highly in the below table.

He is better by Van Dijk’s 140 minutes, while Laporte (113), Matip (123.5) and Dias (99.7) also top his efforts. Manchester City and Liverpool tend to attack more than they defend, though, while Napoli typically came under more pressure last year.

All club competitions 21/22 Koulibaly Van Dijk  Laporte  Matip  Dias Magalhaes Maguire Romero Varane
Appearances 34 51  44  43  40  38  37  30  29 
Starts   34  51  43  42  37  37  35  29  26 
Minutes   3036  4620  3757  3706  3291  3265  3168  2552  2362
Goals conceded  32  33  33  30  33  39  50  33  29 
Mins per goal conceded   94.9  140  113.8  123.5  99.7  83.7  63.4  77.3  81.4
Clean sheets   12  28  17 19  13  13 
Tackles   53  24  48  59  38  52  44  81 33
Tackle success (%)  56.6  58.3  52.1  72.9  57.9  61.5  63.6  59.3  63.6
Aerial duels won   58  185  69  140  61  57  94  61  74
Aerial success (%)  53  78  63  71  56  58  72  63  76 
Blocks   29  17  12  17  20  27 31  24 13
Interceptions  33  49  31  51  31  15   42  54  28 
Clearances   106  161  86  115  86 117  114  90  98
Dribbled past by opponent   17  5  8  13  10  11 12  14  13 
Passes   2088  4024  3743  3095  2959  2124  2028  1847  1538
Passing accuracy (%)   87  89.6  94.5  88.8  93  89.2  86.6  88  88.2
Stats provided by Opta                  

In the clean sheet column, Koulibaly’s 12 is again middle of the road. Van Dijk has 28, while Matip on 19, Laporte on 17 and Dias on 13 put them ahead of him. Chelsea’s new man does comfortably beat the remaining four contenders, however. 

Koulibaly’s 53 tackles last season is the second highest in the table, behind the 59 made by the combative Matip. Again, this could be affected by the way that Napoli set out their stall, but this is an achievement that will certainly please Tuchel.

It is worth pointing out, though, that Koulibaly’s tackle success rate, 56.6 per cent, is the second lowest – with everyone bar Laporte bettering his figure last year.

For aerial duels won, while Koulibaly’s tally is not one for his new manager to turn his nose up at, his number is beaten by several of his top-flight rivals. Van Dijk won 185 in the air and Matip finished with 140, with both of these numbers bettering 58.

Virgil van Dijk boasts the best numbers from last year, but Koulibaly's statistics are impressive

Virgil van Dijk boasts the best numbers from last year, but Koulibaly’s statistics are impressive

A scan down the blocks and interceptions columns shows that, in both areas, Koulibaly has plenty to bring to his new team. He ranks second for the first category, and fourth for the second – again indicating he has an all-round game in his arsenal. 

One area needing improvement is being dribbled past by an opponent. That happened to Koulibaly 17 times last season, roughly once every two games, and, while that doesn’t sound poor, others in the Premier League have stood firmer.

By way of comparison, Van Dijk was dribbled past just five times, with the second highest amount, behind that of Koulibaly, coming from Romero’s 13. Maguire, who was much maligned by United supporters for his mobility, was deceived 12 times. 

Finally, there are no major concerns in the passing department. As explained above, Koulibaly has demonstrated that he is adept in possession, as is necessary in the modern era of the top-flight, and his numbers sit nicely alongside his peers.

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