Analysis: Dominant Diop's outstanding display
Issa Diop’s burgeoning reputation continued to grow with another towering individual performance in West Ham United’s 1-0 Premier League defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.
While the French centre-back admitted he could take no joy from his display after the Hammers’ sixth defeat in nine Premier League matches, there is no doubt Diop has adapted quickly and effectively to the demands of English football following his summer switch from Toulouse.
On Saturday, the 6’4 defender was imperious, all but nullifying the threat posed by Spurs centre forward Harry Kane, blocking both of the England captain’s shots with well-timed interventions.
As an illustration of Diop’s immense all-round defensive contribution, the 21-year-old led his team in tackles, clearances and blocks made, while also regaining possession seven times – twice more than any other Hammer – and winning both aerial duels he contested.
While his centre-back partner Fabian Balbuena and deep-lying midfielder Declan Rice were also impressive, what set Diop apart were his pace, his timing and his reading of the game.
Seldom did the No23 have to go to ground to stop Spurs in their tracks, repeatedly sticking out a foot at just the right time to take the ball away from his opponent. Diop’s judgement was so good that he committed just one foul in nearly 100 minutes of football against one of the best centre forwards in world football.
And when he got the ball, Diop hardly ever lost it, completing 27 of the 28 passes he attempted, including eight out of nine in the Tottenham half, for a 96.3 per cent completion rate – not bad for a centre-back!
With a cool, calm head on his shoulders, technical ability in abundance and physical attributes that most defenders would love to possess, West Ham appear to have unearthed a player who will not only produce great performances now, but promises to get better and better.