Should Chelsea target Marseille defender Nicolas N'Koulou?

Squawka News
Modified 16 Nov 2020
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Nicolas N’Koulou

Nicolas N’Koulou has been on the radar of many a European club in recent years. At 23-years of age, the Marseille centre-half has gained a reputation as a commanding defender with boots full of pace and it was not long ago that he turned down Arsenal in favour of a move from Monaco to Marseille.

A regular in the Cameroon side with 36 caps, N’Koulou is now linked with a move to Chelsea and many claim that he will strengthen a defence consisting of John Terry,Gary Cahill and David Luiz; it is thought that the Marseille man will serve as backup to these three established defenders.

However, with a tackle completion rate of 92%, N’Koulou is likely to arrive at Stamford Bridge with no intention of keeping Chelsea’s bench toasty. Of his 37 attempted tackles in Ligue One this season, the Cameroonian has failed with just three of them; at the heart of the Marseille defence, N’Koulou has been a rock and without him it is likely that his side would have conceded more than the 15 goals which they have done thus far this season.

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N’Koulou’s superb duels

From the above graphic, it is evident that N’Koulou is dominant in the air as well as on the ground. He has won 78% of his attempted headers and is a huge presence when attacking the high ball; this percentage is higher than Cahill, Terry and Luiz (as is N’Koulou’s tackle percentage) and shows that it would maybe be a mistake for Jose Mourinho to bring the defender in to Stamford Bridge only for him to wear a sub’s coat more often than his playing kit.

N’Koulou’s pace and anticipation make him an excellent defender and he is often able to avoid making a tackle because of this. His reading of the game ensures that the Marseille man is usually in the best position to reach a loose ball, and this is evidenced by the 118 clearances and 32 interceptions which he has made this season. This intelligence is an extremely valuable asset and would boost Chelsea’s defence by some way.

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N’Koulou’s defensive actions in Ligue 1 2013/14

Lastly, the requirement that the modern centre-half be able to pass as well as defend is something which N’Koulou fulfils. His pass completion rate of 89% this season is bettered only by John Terry of Chelsea’s central defenders and indicates that the Cameroon international would slot comfortably into Mourinho’s system at Stamford Bridge. As seen in the graphic below from N’Koulou’s most recent game (against Lille), the defender’s range of passing is fantastic and makes him well suited to joining Chelsea in the upcoming transfer window.

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N’Koulou’s 96% pass accuracy vs. Lille

Undoubtedly N’Koulou, should he sign for Chelsea, would resent a slot on the bench rather than in the starting 11, and from the evidence above it is apparent that he is too good to be rewarded with only a cold backside. Whilst many claim that he should act as backup at Stamford Bridge, N’Koulou has matured as a footballer this season and can now be considered as a genuine top quality centre-half who would quickly surpass backup status at Chelsea.

Published 06 Dec 2013
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