With just over twenty days remaining of the summer transfer window, David Wagner is ensuring his squad is fully prepared as they head into their second season in the Premier League.
Following the announcement of Erik Durm, the wait for Town’s eighth signing of the summer has not been a long one. It was announced today that Huddersfield Town had signed French Under 21 international Adama Diakhaby for an undisclosed fee from French giants, AS Monaco.
As always, this piece looks to offer some insight into who Adama Diakhaby is and what we should expect.
Who is Adama Diakhaby?
The Early Years
Born in the city of Ajaccio, Adama Diakhaby’s early years were forged on the island of Corsica, a French commune in the midst of the Mediterranean sea.
In his early years, Diakhaby primarily played football on the island of Corsica for youth side A.J. Biguglia. It is this Corsican League side which we can pinpoint as the start of Diakhaby’s journey to becoming a professional footballer.
At just the age of nine, Diakhaby was brought to the French mainland as he spent a season playing for FC Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy.
After returning to Corsica, Adama Diakhaby made the bold decision to move to the French mainland on a permanent basis as a means of furthering his hopes of becoming a footballer.
This decision saw him play at FC Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray for another year before he attracted the attention of fellow Normandy side, CMS Oissel.
Whilst CMS Oissel was largely unheard of as a hub for youth development, they had produced Grégory Tafforeau, a defender who played for Lille and SM Caen as well as Matthieu Louis-Jean who played for Nottingham Forest and Norwich City.
Diakhaby’s dream was to follow in their footsteps.
In more ways than one, Adama Diakhaby would follow in Tafforeau’s footsteps as at the age of thirteen, Diakhaby joined Stade Malherbe Caen, a club richly renowned for its development of young players.
During the 2013/14 season was when many people began to take notice of Diakhaby as the teenager forced his way into contention in the SM Caen second side.
It was during this time that the French forward played in a side alongside Thomas Lemar and N’Golo Kante, two players who just under a week ago won the World Cup with France.
Yet at the time, it was Adama Diakhaby that was attracting attention from across Europe, including England.
Stade Rennais – emerging from the shadows
With Tottenham Hotspur and AS Roma both keen to add Diakhaby to their ranks, the Frenchman made the sensible decision of remaining in France as he joined Stade Rennais.
At the time, Adama Diakhaby was only switching from one reserve side to another.
However, having progressed through Stade Rennais’ academy system following the departure of Ousmane Dembele to Borussia Dortmund, he was given an opportunity at the senior level.
Emerging from the shadow of Ousmane Dembele, Diakhaby took the opportunity that Christian Gourcuff had presented him with and ran with it, described below was his senior debut away at OGC Nice:
“He was handed a 20 minute run out midway through the second half and although only given a relatively brief cameo, Diakhaby looked the most dangerous player for Rennes. He was full of energy, full of pace and provided the side with that no fear attitude that so many of their players seem to miss. There was no shortage of confidence either as in that short spell he mustered four shots, more than any other player on the pitch bar one”.
Dangerous and full of energy with a no fear attitude would become a fitting description of Diakhaby. In his breakthrough season in Ligue 1 he scored five goals and subsequently attracted interest from a plethora of clubs.
AS Monaco – a move too soon
Following his breakout season in Ligue 1, it seemed the French starlet was destined to leave Stade Rennais, the question was simply, where?
The answer would be Ligue 1 giants AS Monaco who moved quickest to sign Diakhaby from Stade Rennais for a fee in the region of €10 million.
Whilst Diakhaby’s talent was apparent, it was clear to see that the move to one of the most elite clubs, not only in France but in the entirety of Europe, was one that had come too quickly.
Despite featuring regularly for AS Monaco in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, the Frenchman struggled under the weight of new-found expectation to make an impression.
Having struggled to acclimatise to life with Les Monégasques, Diakhaby’s nightmare at the Stade Louis II lasted only a single season as we now know that David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town would be his next destination, a much-needed change of scenery and a second chance to rebuild himself on one of the biggest stages of them all, the Premier League.
After the news reports broke that Huddersfield Town were interested in signing Adama Diakhaby, I spoke to Rich Allen of the French Football Weekly podcast to discuss what Diakhaby’s favoured position is, his style of play and whether the move to Town is the right decision:
“I think his best position is out wide where he can cut in. At Monaco, he was used both up front and out wide. However, I’m not sure his finishing is up to the level needed to be an out and out striker yet.
He loves to run at players. He is very skillful but at the same time, he can also often make poor decisions resulting in missed opportunities and turn over of possession. He also has decent movement off the ball and has the capability to produce a moment of magic but he needs regular football to build consistency.
A move to Huddersfield could work well if they can offer him regular football. I’m unsure if the Premier League is right for him but it could be the steep learning curve he needs”.
Will Diakhaby be a success at Town?
We have seen since David Wagner has taken over the managerial reigns of our football club that he has had both the short-term and the long-term in mind and the signing of Adama Diakhaby reflects that.
At the age of twenty-two, whilst one eye will very much be on the future, Adama Diakhaby already has the ability and raw talent to be a success in the Premier League.
Arriving from Ligue 1, at the age of twenty two, parallels can easily be drawn with Steve Mounié.
Like Mounié, Diakhaby has all the physical attributes needed to be a success in the Premier League, a league which is dominated by some of the very best athletes in world football.
Whilst Diakhaby could’ve remained at AS Monaco where his confidence drains as his options and opportunities continuously lessen, at Huddersfield Town in the Premier League, he will have a new lease of life.
Interestingly, when I first heard the link, I thought we may see Adama Diakhaby arrive as an alternative option to Steve Mounié and Laurent Depoitre, as Diakhaby would offer more mobility as a lone centre-forward option.
However, it seems that if Diakhaby is to feature centrally for Town, it will be deeper in the central attacking midfield role which could see him rotate with Alex Pritchard or play alongside him, depending on the formation used.
Either way, the signing of Diakhaby addresses one of the main issues that Town faced last season which was a lack of bodies in the opposing penalty area.
Diakhaby, if used in this deeper role, will make late runs into the box as a natural forward which could see him become a significant goal threat for Town from midfield.
Due to his versatility, the other role that I can see him playing is out wide.
Diakhaby is comfortable playing on either flank and I can see him taking up an inside forward role, similar to the one that Elias Kachunga had so much success with during Town’s promotion-winning campaign from the Championship.
Again though, as part of this inside forward role, I would suspect that David Wagner would want Diakhaby to use his off the ball movement to take up goal-scoring positions in the box when the ball has gone wide.
This would be a means of almost playing more than one centre-forward, despite the fact that Wagner’s formational choices are either his traditional 4-2-3-1 or a variation of the 5-2-2-1, both of which focus on a single striker leading the line.
The signing of Diakhaby, therefore, is one that I view as an exciting but much-needed one as Town are in desperate need of multiple sources of goals.
How much he will feature for Town over the course of this season will depend on how quickly he integrates into the squad and how he acclimatises to life in England and the Premier League. There is also the question of how much Diakhaby can develop under David Wagner with just a short pre-season to work with.
Regardless, the signing brings about a tactical flexibility and a means of adding a much-needed secondary goal threat, in whatever formation is used going forward.