Habib Diallo 2019/20 – scout report
FC Metz has had a very profitable partnership with the Génération Foot academy since 2003. Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Ismaïla Sarr, Papiss Cissé, Diafra Sakho and many other Senegalese have discovered European football through this partnership and now play all over the continent. Habib Diallo is also one of them. Arriving in Metz in 2013, Diallo signed his first pro contract in the summer of 2015. After good performances on loan in Brest, he had a superb 2018/19 season with Metz in Ligue 2. The league’s second top scorer that season, he scored 26 goals and made a major contribution to his club’s promotion to Ligue 1.
The 25-year-old right-footed striker has confirmed his full potential this season in Ligue 1 and has played a big role in the relegation battle. With 12 goals, Diallo is the league’s fifth-biggest scorer and has attracted the interest of many clubs in Europe, particularly in Premier League (EPL). In this tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, we will look at Diallo’s striker profile and his impact on Metz’s attack.
Metz, so the coach is Vincent Hognon, has mainly played with 4-1-4-1 tactics this season, which could turn into 4-3-3 depending on the position of the players on the side. Diallo played as a striker, with two wingers at his side. Metz’s game plan was to play with a compact and low block on the pitch, in order to have more space on the counter-attack. Diallo’s team had an average ball possession of 45.2% as well as the second-highest PPDA (pass allowed per defensive action) in Ligue 1 with 13.82. Throughout the season, Metz struggled to create offensive action and were the team with the lowest total of xG in the league (24.65). We’ll see that later, but Diallo’s impact was decisive in keeping his team in the first division.
Although alone in attack, Diallo nevertheless had space to express himself and had a major role to play in keeping the ball. The 25-year-old’s imposing frame (186cm and 79kg) makes him perform well on ball protection. In particular, he can be used as a support in counter-attacking and saved precious time while his team-mates are going up in attack.
The Senegalese striker participates relatively little in the build-up and makes few passes per game (13.84 passes on average per 90). He shines more in finishing than in creation but is still very interesting on his one-touch passing and his back to goal play. Diallo can easily attract pressure on himself, resist with his physique and create space for his partners. He uses his body very well to physically resist his opponents and prevent them from recovering the ball.
Diallo is a striker in the purest sense of the word. He has been essential to his team this year and has been a constant threat to the Ligue 1 defences with his running speed, movement without the ball and quality in front of goal. If we take as a reference the percentage of his team’s goals that a player has scored, Diallo is the best in Ligue 1.
On the above graph, the top scorers of the 20 Ligue 1 clubs are represented according to their number of goals and the percentage of their team’s goals scored. Habib Diallo is clearly in the lead with 44.4% of his team’s goals scored. This shows how much influence he has had in this team and also that Metz has been very dependent on his goals to win games. 12 goals in a Ligue 1 that could not be finished due to the pandemic, and in a club that was in Ligue 2 the previous season, that’s quite remarkable.
If Diallo is now a priority for several European clubs, it is above all because of his qualities as a finisher. Indeed, the Metz striker is very effective in front of goal and guarantees his team a good number of goals each season. He’s naturally attracted to the goal and he combines that with incredible composure. All of his 12 Ligue 1 goals (including a penalty) were scored in the penalty area, where he is most clinical. Diallo shoots an average of 2.64 times (47.8% of shots on target) by 90 and has an xG/shot of 0.14, making him one of the best in Ligue 1 in this area. The 25-year-old striker is a great shooter and is able to score with all parts of his body, which makes him all the more versatile when it comes to finishing. This season, he has scored five goals with his right foot (strong foot), four with his left foot and three with his head. The Metz player is much better inside the penalty area than outside and has not scored a single goal in his 30 shots outside the box.
Within his team, Diallo is obviously the one who has had the most xGs this season with 9.17, compared to 2.51 for Opa Nguette, the second-best of the team. The gap is huge and it highlights Diallo’s impact in the Metz attack. On the graph above, we can see the distribution of Diallo’s shots and goals with their associated xG. One can see his ability to score despite low xGs (seven goals under 0.2 of xG). This is to be put in context with the fact that Diallo is playing in the worst Ligue 1 team in terms of xG, and that he could greatly increase his stats in a team that is better offensively.
The gap between Diallo’s xG number and his goals is 2.83, showing that the Senegalese striker is capable of scoring in complicated positions and situations. Having missed two penalties out of three this season, his gap between NPxG (not penalty expected goals) and goals scored without penalty is –4.11. This shows the quality of Diallo in the last 16 metres and his ability to score in any position.
In the picture above, Diallo takes advantage of an opposing defensive error to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The Metz attacker takes the information on the opposing goalkeeper and notices that he anticipates a shot on the right side of the goal. It is the orientation of the Dijon goalkeeper’s body, slightly bent, that gives him this important information.
With great calm and lucidity, Diallo dribbles the goal from the left and scores into the empty goal. This action shows, in addition to the quality of the finish, Diallo’s composure in an important moment. The Metz striker takes the time to observe before acting and gives himself every chance to succeed in his one-on-one.
Diallo also has this ability to always put himself in good conditions to strike. Even when he receives the ball with his back to goal, he is able to turn around and hit the ball on a pivot with a good speed of execution. Also, his ball control in the penalty area and the orientation of his body allow him to keep the opponent at a distance and prevent him from intervening before he shoots. That is why Diallo is a real danger to the opposing defences when he is in the penalty area. The mental aspect of the Metz player should not be neglected either. He has that striker’s instinct, that perpetual desire to score, which makes him efficient and determined in his choices. His composure and calm also allow him to be very lucid and fair in his choices in front of goal.
On the above action, Diallo receives the ball with his back to goal, with a Saint-Etienne player very close to him. The most logical and simple solution would be to pass the ball to his team-mate in the back, but Diallo will surprise everyone.
With superb oriented control, Diallo eliminates the player behind him and finds himself in a perfect position to shoot. The opposing goalkeeper closes the angle of the shot close to the right-hand post very well, and the position of the opposing defenders prevents the Metz striker from being able to shoot to the left of the goal. Diallo finally opted for a curved shot from a very tight angle to the right of the goal. The shot, estimated at 0.07 xG by Understat, ends in a goal. The sequence of oriented control and then shot is done with great fluidity and surprises all the opposing defence. Diallo only has 2.99 touches in the penalty area by 90 but uses his touches wisely. By way of comparison, Wissam Ben Yedder, who scored 18 goals this season, touches 6.58 balls in the penalty area per 90.
As said before, Diallo is not a player who excels in creating the game and roams little from his position to help with the build-up. But he remains a very interesting support for his teammates, both for his ability to keep the ball with good use of his physique, but also because he performs well in one-touch passing. Although he has a low percentage of aerial duels won (35%), he is the third in the list of players who plays the most aerial duels in Ligue 1 with 10.88 duels per 90. The 25-year-old striker is a long pass solution, and even if he doesn’t always win his duel, he allows his team to high up the pitch and recover the possible second ball. He is not afraid of physical commitment and does not run away from the duel. Diallo constantly progresses in his one-touch passing and takes advantage of the fact that he attracts pressure from his opponents to give goal balls to his partners (three assists this season).
On the above action, Diallo wins an aerial duel on a long pass from one of his partners and is on the run with two Saint-Etienne players to get the ball back. The two opposing players are attracted by the ball and forget about the Metz player’s move behind their backs. At no time does Diallo look at the positioning of his teammate but feels his presence.
With a superb backheel pass, Diallo gives the ball to his teammate, who runs into the space left free by his movement. This brilliant inspiration gives his partner time and space to make a cross that brings Metz’s third goal. This flair that you notice when he’s at the finishing, we find it on certain actions, where he surprises the defences with great gestures.
On the above action, Diallo was once again inspired and performed well with his back to goal. Surrounded by opposing players, the Metz striker received a lobbed pass between the opposing lines. Diallo will make an excellent aerial control and will put himself in a striking position. It is noticeable by their body attitude that all the Dijon defenders were expecting a pivot shot from the Metz player. But Diallo noticed Habib Maïga’s good movement and gave him a perfect pass in-depth after he made a fake shot. This allowed Maïga to go and score the equalising goal in the last minutes of the game, and in a very important match for the relegation battle.
In a team that defends quite low and doesn’t really try to counter-press, it makes sense that Diallo doesn’t have excellent defensive stats. The Senegal striker only made 1.61 recoveries by 90, including 0.61 in the final third. This is explained by the fact that Metz is the third team that recovers on average the fewest balls by 90 in the third final.
So Diallo’s defensive role will be mainly to press and try to hinder the opponent’s build-up. His defensive work-rate is quite interesting with a lot of pressure by 90. The “pressure” stat calculates the pressure made by a player towards an opponent who possesses the ball or is about to possess it. Diallo averages 19.1 pressure per 90, with 19.4% of successful pressure (a pressure is successful if the ball is recovered within 5 seconds). Diallo’s low percentage of successful pressure is due to the fact that he is more interested in delaying the opponent’s progression, allowing his teammates to retreat defensively, rather than retrieving the ball high on the pitch.
As we’ve seen in this tactical analysis, the interest that several European clubs have shown in Diallo is quite logical in view of his very good season. In a promoted team that is struggling offensively, Diallo scored 12 goals and made three assists (present on 55.5% of his team’s goals). In addition, the Senegalese striker is making steady progress in several aspects of his game, particularly his pivot play. To have a striker who guarantees you such good efficiency in the penalty area is very much in demand and it would be interesting to see him play in a team that plays at the top half of the table in its championship, to see how he performs.