Mohamed Diomande represents the type of transfer Nils Koppen was tasked with securing when appointed Director of Football recruitment in December.

The announcement of Rangers’ second summer arrival is expected imminently. As the Rangers Review reported yesterday, extreme weather conditions prevented the 22-year-old from travelling to Glasgow on Monday.

Rangers’ appointment of a recruitment expert is descriptive of their lack of success in this area recently. Both in terms of incomings and outgoing, the club have missed the mark too often. A key factor in Koppen’s appointment was his knowledge of markets Ranges are yet to tap into. To fit their new football board model, they intentionally appointed a recruitment specialist rather than an overarching Sporting Director. And, instead of looking for a figure with expertise in the British market, they've opted for someone with a wider of potential markets scope.

Of course, there are exceptions. Dujon Sterling, Jack Butland and Abdallah Sima all represent excellent acquisitions from this summer. Rangers’ issue, however, has been three-fold. When they’ve spent a big chunk of their budget they’ve tended to not spend it well, they’ve failed to keep consistent big-player sales through poor squad management and crucially, haven’t varied their search across markets.

READ MORE: Inside Nils Koppen's Rangers move: Beating competition, PSV buys and a new approach

Signing players like Diomande, should the move go through as expected, can help address all three of those areas.

So, who is Mohamed Diomande, what type of player is he and how could the midfielder fit in at Ibrox?

Who is he?

Mohamed Diomande is a 22-year-old midfielder hailing from the Ivory Coast. A graduate of the Right to Dream academy he’s been with FC Nordsjaelland, who Right to Dream own, since 2020 and a fairly consistent member of the first team ever since. Crescendoing in the 22/23 campaign, his best to date, where FCN finished runners-up in the Danish Superliga.

Diomande is a versatile midfielder who’s played most positions during a little over three years at the club, but we’re more interested in his profile. Neither an explicit No.10 or No.6, Diomande is capable of carrying out most midfield functions as a technical, press-resistant profile who covers space well on and off the ball. 

Standing at 6ft and left-footed, he possesses excellent close control and ability to manipulate the ball, taking ownership under pressure. While adventurous in his passing Diomande is also capable of retaining the ball playing in a high-possession team and occupying a deeper role. The midfielder can cover plenty of space in or out of possession, presses well and occupies a variety of zones on the left. Perhaps one of his best skills, as will be elaborated upon, is the midfielder's movement and ability to receive between the lines. 

Clement and co will likely see him as an exciting midfielder with plenty more potential and crucially, a profile who will offer versatility on the left. Diomande is as comfortable dropping into the left-back zone to receive from the centre-backs as he is running beyond the striker onto a long ball. That sums up the variation of his game.

FCN are a team who values possession and have the highest share of the ball in the Danish league this season with a 60.5 percent average. Largely during the current campaign, they’ve lined up in an asymmetrical 4-3-3, with an overload on the right and Diomande dropping to play on the left side of a midfield three.

Look at his heatmap from the previous three seasons. In the 20/21 campaign (left), he was only dropping to build on the left but also active on the right when attacking. In the 22/23 campaign (middle) his best to date, Diomande more exclusively played on the left. This season (right) his positioning has again become more varied. On the eye test, he’s clearly most comfortable when operating in the left half-space at various heights.

As will be elaborated upon, and as his own manager Johannes Hoff Thorup has caveated this season, a lack of goals shouldn’t cause too much concern, saying: “Instead of talking about his scoring statistics, why don't we look at the statistics about how many defensive tackles he makes? Then it would be turned into a positive story, Listen, Mohammed is one of the best midfielders in Denmark. He has been absolutely fantastic for us this season and I hope that most people can see that." 

Diomande is not an out-and-out No.10, in the team to only provide final third numbers. His best season in that regard was 22/23 when he averaged 0.4 goals or assists per game across all competitions - with six goals and four assists. 

Where could he fit in?

At the club’s recent AGM, Philippe Clement conceded the squad he inherited is ‘imbalanced’. No area of the pitch has shown that like the midfield. Rangers lack natural, out-and-out central midfielders to play in a double pivot. Kieran Dowell has filled in well but like Tom Lawrence hasn’t played most of his football in a midfield two. Jose Cifuentes has also spent his career in a midfield three, Ryan Jack has suffered further injury issues and Dujon Sterling, while excellent in his appearances, is still learning the role having converted from right-back.

Even if everyone is fit, Rangers lack a central midfielder who is at home on the left. Who moves naturally towards that side and can thrive across a range of instructions and zones. Diomande can run beyond onto long passes behind, receive with his back to goal or break lines with his passing ability. Versatility appears to be his strength. 

Looking at Clement’s current 4-2-3-1 a more advanced role in the double pivot or a higher starting role between the lines appears most likely - with the former position on the left the slot which appears suited to Diomande’s game. 

What does the data say?

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers. Splitting Diomande's performance between midfield metrics and attacking midfield metrics provides us with further insight into the role he plays at FCN. Diomande may often start as the No.10 out of possession but the youngster is far more of a No.8 in possession, as shown in the below radar.

If you’re new to these radars, percentile ratings are averaged against other players from the same league in the same positions. The higher the percentile, the better.

What is this telling me?

Diomande’s underlying performance certainly backs up his manager’s claim of being “one of the best midfielders” in the Danish Superliga.

On the ball: He's heavily involved in his side’s build-up, as shown by xGBuildup and Deep Progressions (which measures passes and carries into the final third). Diomande is key in allowing his side to access the final third by receiving between lines, dropping to play through and taking the ball in tight areas. An 88 percent passing accuracy depicts a fine blend between risk and control.

Creativity: With one of the highest xGAssisted midfield totals in the league (direct shots created for other teammates) a tendency to win fouls and carry the ball beyond opponents intermittently, Diomande can create individually rather than only retaining the ball. The higher number of turnovers (losing the ball) shows he takes risks. 

Off the ball: A slightly lower pressure number shouldn’t be cause for concern given his team’s high possession share. In terms of ball-winning (tackles, interceptions and to a slightly lower extent given possession regains) Diomande ranks well.

Let’s now take a look at Diomande’s output in the attacking midfield radar - considering metrics more attuned to final third players.

Don’t think of this drop-off as inherently bad. Of course, the new arrival will have weaknesses and areas to develop but this radar is showing what type of player he profiles as. For FCN, Diomande is a player with attacking qualities but is not an exclusive No.10. He’s not in the box often or attempting many shots, the quality of his shot (xG/Shot) is low.

The data shows that most likely, Clement and Rangers view Diomande as a midfielder who’s attacking qualities are an additive given the variety of his game, rather than a no.10 only in the team to create in the final third.

Having set the context and looked at the data, let’s see Diomande in action.

Trademark style…

A modern press-resistant midfielder, Diomande will offer Clement attributes his current squad lacks. The 22-year-old has played across the midfield for good reason, he can use his excellent technique, frame and ball manipulation to build play deep or create chances around the box.

Here’s an example deep in the pitch from 2020. The midfielder receives the ball on the left with pressure arriving from both sides, but taking the ball on his back foot before quickly pushing off on his left, Diomande can carry out of pressure before outplaying two opponents and releasing the ball.

This goal scored against Hordens in 2022 shows a lot of the imminent arrival’s best qualities. 

Notice the midfielder’s starting position in the left half-space, too high for defenders to step out but out of reach of the midfield to cover.

The ball doesn’t come to him directly but that doesn’t matter. The midfielder receives as the third man, links with his striker and runs beyond where he can finish powerfully.

Receiving between the lines and running beyond…

Diomande can take the ball in tricky areas and outplay through busy patches of the pitch. Nico Raskin aside, Rangers sorely lack press-resistant profiles at the base of their midfield currently. 

This is also a useful tool higher up the pitch. Diomande is very capable of receiving between the lines and positioning himself in positions like this - too high for defenders to step out, and low enough to stay out of midfielders' shadows. Here, as is the case lower in the pitch, he’s able to receive on the half-turn, provide wall passes or try and pick the next pass.

What he’s always demonstrated during his time in Denmark is an ability to spring beyond and exploit the seam between full-back and centre-back. Think Joe Aribo’s purple patch under Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Just moments later in the same tie as above, a midfielder is dragged towards his threatening position, but this time Diomande instead runs behind latching onto a long pass. 


Splitting defences…

Diomande’s xGAssisted ranking shows he’s a player who can create a chance directly for his teammates. His time spent in a high-possession team shows. Diomande doesn’t always force the issue, but especially when there’s space to try a slide-rule pass on the left he’ll happily oblige.

READ MORE: Mohamed Diomande Rangers timescale revealed after Storm Isha weather delay

Here’s a couple of examples in video format that tie together plenty of the key themes discussed throughout this scout report.

Here, watch the player again positioning himself just right between defenders and midfielders, using his body to swivel out of pressure, run forward and find a forward pass instead of a shot. With a goal coming from the rebound.

Here’s another example. This time in a slightly deeper role, note the way Diomande receives on his back foot, demonstrating real technical ability to turn in his stride before picking a pass. 

While not shy of a shot, he’s only averaging 1.23 per game this season. Much like his pass selection, he seems to possess good decision-making. 

A move that makes sense?

Diomande is a rare example of Rangers signing a young player remaining on their upward trajectory, rather than trying to redirect a talent that once was.

There was expectation within Denmark, especially after the 22/23 season, that a move to the top five leagues would follow. It's the type of deal Koppen was tasked with securing. Now once confirmed as Clement's second January arrival, it's up to Diomande to make the desired impact at Ibrox.