Last season the inspired signing of Jannik Vestergaard from Hoffenheim in the January transfer window added the defensive steel that Werder Bremen desperately needed. The Grün-Weißen became instantly harder to score against and the resurgence that saw them almost qualify for the Europa League began.
This season’s Hinrunde however saw the return of serious defensive weaknesses and Viktor Skripnik’s side conceded 32 goals (only VfB Stuttgart were worse). The North German side have therefore moved once again in the winter transfer window to add some defensive steel in the form of centre-back Papy Djilobodji on a loan deal from Chelsea.
So will the Senegalese international be the answer to Werder’s problem?
Well the reigning Premier League champions obviously saw something in the former Nantes defender signing him for a fee in the region of €3.5 million in the summer, although some observers saw the signing as nothing more than a last-minute alternative following the Blues failure to sign John Stones from Everton.
In a way the accusation has been backed up by the fact that Djilobodji has failed to make a single Premier League appearance (he’s been limited to just one League Cup outing). Having said that, he won’t be the only player to fail to make an impression at Stamford Bridge only to go on to succeed in the Bundesliga (Kevin De Bruyne, Andreas Christensen).
Converted from a defensive midfielder while at Nantes, the 6’4″defender upset those in power at the French club, by forcing a move away from les Canaris believing he was better than the French league and deserving of a big European club. Granted he did impress during his five-year stint at the Stade de la Beaujoire, but his move to Chelsea did take many people by surprise.
His size and physicality are an obvious strength, also making him a threat at set-pieces. He can dominate in the air, but his versatility is also a plus point. Pushing into a defensive midfield position, Djilobodji is capable of holding up the ball, is combative and deceptively pacey for his size. His also possesses a thunderous left-foot as his stunning goal against Toulouse in December 2013 demonstrated.
He ranked fourth in Ligue 1 for clearances in 2014/15 (8.3 per game) and in the top 10 for interceptions (3.3 per game). Only 16 players won more aerial duels per game than his 3.1 average. Nantes boasted the fifth-best defensive record with Djilobodji playing a key role, with the team conceding just 40 times in 38 games.
Whatever the level Djilobodji should be playing at, he now has the opportunity to prove the doubters at Chelsea wrong, confirm his own belief in his ability is not unfounded, while also plugging a much-needed gap for Werder Bremen.
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