The metrics showing why Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu is as good as William Saliba, Virgil Van Dijk and co

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu has drawn direct statistical comparisons to Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate ad PSG's Danilo Pereira

STARS ABROAD The metrics showing why Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu is as good as William Saliba, Virgil Van Dijk and co

Mark Kinyanjui 10:00 - 20.02.2024

The metrics that indicate how Joseph Okumu is stylistically similar to some of the world's best defenders, such as Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate and PSG's Danilo Pereirra.

Joseph Okumu has quickly established himself as an indispensable member of every backline he has been part of since the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

It was a tournament that effectively opened doors for him, as he became one of the standout players although Kenya were dumped out of the group stage, having finished third on three points, but to be fair, they were in a tough group that included Senegal and Algeria, the two eventual finalists.

He would earn a move to Sweden’s IF Elfsborg, where he was so brilliant, he had managed to get into the team of the season by his second season there, before he earned a move to Belgium’s AA Gent.

At Gent, he performed equally well, helping his side reach the quarter finals of the Europa Conference league, while also making SofaScore’s Belgian team of the season.

His remarkable rise would only mean a move to a traditional top five European league was inevitable, and so he joined Will Still’s Stade de Reims in the summer.

At Reims, he is continuing to show that the Sky is not the limit and before too long, could even move to a bigger club that plays Champions League football on a regular basis, and the metrics are there to suggest it.

You see, the 26-year–old has hit strides he himself would never have imagined back in 2017, when he had to take a year’s sabbatical from the game after failing to make it at South Africa’s Free State Stars during his stint there, having joined them in 2016.

However, his attributes are indicative of a man who is destined for the stars.

According to Football statistics site FB Ref, Okumu is in the 88th percentile for progressive passes per 90 in a Reims shirt, and in the 81st for both successful take ons and passes attempted, showing his willingness to want to play out from the back at will.

His carrying numbers are not as impressive, but they are decent, as he is in the 69th percentile. His defensive numbers are even more impressive. He is in the 93rd percentile for tackles and interceptions (4.21 combined), indicating that he is one of the best defenders in League 1.

FB Ref has categorised him as stylistically similar to 10 other defenders in Europe, including Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate, Paris St Germain’s Danilo Perreira - a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal- and AC Milan’s Malik Thiaw.

To be honest, Konate’s numbers in those specific metrics are not as good as Okumu’s. He is in the 86th percentile for passes attempted, in the 62nd for carries and in the 82nd for take ons. His reading of the game is not even as good as Okumu’s as he is in the 62nd percentile for interceptions and in the 81st for tackles, but in areal duels, he is in the 93rd percentile, with Okumu in the 84th.

Danilo on the other hand is a midfielder-cum center back, so no surprises that most of his good metrics are in ball possession. He is in the 88th percentile for progressive carries and passes, and in the 97th and 99th respectively for pass attempts and completion ratio.

He is in the 30th percentile for tackles and in the 52nd for interceptions, with just a combined 2.35 per 90.

Konate is known for his speed and that is why Jurgen Klopp likes playing him alongside Van Dijk especially against big teams because his pace is fundamental enough for applying an aggressive high line. Konate has clocked a speed of upto 36.2 kilometers per hour.

Indeed, Okumu is simply one of the fastest central defenders in Europe, having clocked  36 km/h according to his new club’ website.

So, how does Okumu compare to actually some of the best defenders in the world such as Virgil Van Dijk and William Saliba? 

For a start, William Saliba’s metrics indicate he is only elite at passes attempted and completed, and considering Arsenal is ball oriented under Mikel Arteta, it makes so much sense. 

His metrics in terms of tackles and interceptions are a mediocre 15th and 12th percentile, but that could also be explained in the fact Arsenal’s high defensive shape means teams will barely penetrate. 

But since Arsenal are an in-posession team most times, how does Saliba’s progressive passes and carries show? He is only in the 65th and 36th percentile for both metrics respectively.

What about Virgil Van Dijk, well, the Dutchman is considered the best center back of his generation for a reason, as his numbers both in attack and in posession are super elite, although Okumu does beat him at progressive passes and carries. Van Dijk is in the 80th and 45th percentile respectively for this metric. 

But what is even more impressive, Okumu’s tackles and interceptions are better, although in terms of areal duels, Van Dijk is one of the best, being in the 98th percentile for duels won.

Infact, Okumu has elevated Reims from mid-table mediocrity to a team challenging for European places, underpinning his game-changing quality from the back.

Should Okumu continue with his trajectory, a move to a bigger team, maybe within France itself, or the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A will definitely be on the cards.

Follow our Pulse Sports WhatsApp channel for more updates.