Le50 2017 – Mouctar Diakhaby
What’s this? Another Olympique Lyonnais youth graduate making the step up to the first team and impressing? Wait a minute, he’s effectively stepped into the breach to replace fellow graduate Samuel Umtiti? Hang on, he’s also been a near ever-present at centre back despite Lyon possessing more experienced options in Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Nicolas Nkoulou?
Who is this young man? The dashingly effective Mouctar Diakhaby of course. At 20 years old the Lyon central defender has effectively established himself as one of Lyon’s first choice defenders. A pathway was somewhat cleared for him when the likes of Bakary Koné, Milan Biševac, Lindsay Rose and Samuel Umtiti departed OL but he still had to contend with Yanga-Mbiwa, the versatile Jérémy Morel, Nkoulou and Emanuel Mammana.
It’s been quite the journey making his league debut against Bordeaux and following that up by making history against Juventus by becoming the youngest ever centre back to start in the Champions League at the tender age of 19 years and 10 months. That Diakhaby was entrusted to start against one of Europe’s strongest sides is a testament to the trust that Bruno Génésio has invested in the young defender.
Indeed Diakhaby has played a total of 33 times in all competitions across the season: quite an impressive total considering that he only truly became a regular from October onwards and had a spell out in January as a result of injury. In that time he has developed a taste for goals, scoring five including strikes home and away against Roma in the Europa League.
Standing at 6ft3 he’s the tallest amongst Lyon’s backline. The young defender is blessed with pace and is a sharp passer of the ball who also makes his fair share of clearances though given Lyon’s cavalier approach to defending perhaps that last trait should not come as any surprise. In fact this season has been a steep learning curve for Diakhaby given Lyon’s inconsistent form over the campaign but for the Vendôme-born defender it is invaluable experience which should benefit him in the seasons to come.
What will be interesting to see is who he could partner with in the 2017/18 campaign. Lyon have Emanuel Mammana on their books but is it too much of a risk fielding the 20-year-old Diakhaby with the 21-year old Argentina international? On the other hand, if the Lyon number 5 could benefit from a reassuring presence playing next to him, Jérémy Morel can’t really guide the French under-21 international from fullback whilst Yanga-Mbiwa has been facing his own issues with form.
Thus far, being thrown in at the deep end hasn’t fazed the player. However whether it be on the pitch or in training it is imperative that he’s schooled in the finer points of defending; an art that Lyon on numerous occasions this season have failed to appreciate.
Given Lyon’s record with youth development it won’t be a surprise if Diakhaby goes on to bigger and better things. What is already true today, though, is that he has been a relatively assured presence in the maelstrom that is the OL back line. If anything he has put forward an argument that the defence should be built around him from next season onwards.