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Analysis: Salisu an astute capture to bolster AS Monaco’s backline

Mohammed Salisu s'est engagé avec l'AS Monaco jusqu'en 2028 (Photo © AS Monaco)

AS Monaco have completed their second piece of transfer business this summer by signing imposing defender Mohammed Salisu from Southampton.

With the Saints having been relegated from the Premier League last term and Salisu ready for a fresh start, joining Adi Hutter’s Monaco is a great option for the Ghanaian international, who featured 80 times for Southampton since arriving from Real Valladolid in 2020.


“It’s a very great club and I am happy to be here. It is a big step for my career,” he explained to the club’s official website. “I am looking forward to the journey, to win games and to be the best team we can be. I am very happy to be here. I arrived yesterday evening and I enjoy it here.”

Coming off a below-par season on an individual level within a struggling Southampton outfit, which culminated in him even being left out of the squad towards the end of the crusade due to questions surrounding his injury return, he’s ready for a reset.

Proving he’s an elite stopper in the Premier League when at the peak of the powers, Salisu’s certainly eager to get back to a level resembling his best. Playing under Hutter should help him achieve just this, for the tactically versatile Salisu should have little worry adapting to the Austrian’s front-footed framework in and out of possession.

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Former manager Ralph Hasenhuttl once even stated “I think against the ball he’s one of the best defenders in the league”, thus illustrating what a force to be reckoned with he is when in the right environment to thrive.

Tenacious, energetic and full of intensity, the 24-year-old relishes the physical side of the game. Always keen to engage in duels and never one to take a backwards step, the forceful, combative stopper poses as an intimidating foe to face off with.

Even though he can be a bit overzealous in the challenge and rash in his decision making, more often than not, he makes sound judgement calls when to chime in with vital interventions, as the positives outweigh the negatives.

An expert at breaking up play with his tackling, interceptions and shot blocking prowess, this, in combination with his desire to get touchtight to opponents when they drop deep, ensures he forces many turnovers in ideal areas for his team to then rapidly hit on the counter.

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Moreover, his desire to press intensely also means his foes are typically afforded minimal time and space to turn or execute their actions cleanly, which duly means they commit mistakes and lose the ball.

Possessing superb pace and able to cover the ground impressively with his long strides, this is crucial in terms of him tracking runners, jetting back or across to stop or slow down transitions and providing covering support for colleagues.

Powerful and explosive, Salisu’s strength and athleticism also helps him handle 1v1s admirably, where he reacts smartly, plus uses his long legs to reach in and his body to outmuscle opponents.

Standing a towering 191 cm and great at picking up the ball’s flight path, there’s much to like about his heading too, for he commands the box robustly, wisely adjusts his positioning and leaps fearsomely to deal with deliveries into the area.

By the numbers compared to Axel Disasi from last season using Wyscout, and it was interesting to see that he held the ascendancy in terms of defensive duels per 90, aerial duels p90, interceptions p90 and shots blocked p90.

Salisu vs. Disasi defensive comparison

The fact he ranked sixth in the Premier League for recoveries p90, eighth for defensive duels p90, 16th for aerial duels and 18th for counterpressing p90 among players in his position last term serves as a further testament to his stopping skills.

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Quality defensive numbers

The disruptive dynamo also holds his own when his team have the ball, for his classy passing and ball carrying elevate his worth.

Set to be an asset when Hutter’s team build out from the back with his polished left foot, the way he can beat the press with incisive ground passes, switch the angle of attacks coolly and launch precise through balls over the top should be crucial.

A major weapon with his nifty ball carrying as well, expect Salisu to enjoy every chance he gets to attack spaces and gain territory, which has the added byproduct of drawing out opponents to create space for teammates to exploit while unbalancing opposition blocks.

Awake to gaps to penetrate both through his classy distribution and damaging dribbling, the figures below from last season underline his aptitude here, with his ambition to take advantage of openings very important. It’s also worth noting how he stacks up against Disasi offensively, which further depicts how far he’s improved in the last couple of years with the ball at his feet. While not as effective as Disasi overall, the graphics nicely showcase that he still holds his own in an attacking sense, with his progressive passing an area that he particularly stands out in.

Salisu vs. Disasi key passing comparison
Salisu vs. Disasi passing comparison
Salisu vs. Disasi attacking comparison
Salisu’s top passing numbers

Boasting so many of the ingredients needed to excel in the modern game and thrilled at the challenge of succeeding in Ligue 1 following his stints in Spain and England, it’ll be intriguing seeing how he fares with Monaco.

Ready to come in and impact from the outset, it shouldn’t be long before he fully settles into his groove and starts showing the fans why he’s such a talented operator.

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With his best years ahead of him and with still plenty of scope for improvement, Monaco’s recruitment department deserve immense credit for not only identifying him but also for getting the deal over the line for the in-demand Ghanaian, who’s primed to shine in this exciting next chapter of his career.