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Olympique Lyonnais have turned heads recently with their return to the upper reaches of the Ligue 1 table in the last few seasons. One of the most impressive characteristics of this turn-around has been the importance placed on the development of young players, many of them from Lyon or the surrounding area. Corentin Tolisso is the latest to make an impact for a team aptly nicknamed Les Gones (The Kids)

Corentin Tolisso Lyon 2016


Who is Corentin Tolisso?

Corentin Tolisso was born in Tarare, France, a suburb of Lyon. He played as a very young boy at a couple of small amateur sides before going to Lyon’s academy in 2007, at the age of 13. The son of  a lower level footballer, he rose through the ranks with the Rhone club making impressions at every level that he had the potential for first-team football in the future.

In the 2014-15 season, Lyon were hit with a injury crisis in midfield with Clement Grenier and Gueida Fofana both sustaining long-term injuries. With the established midfield struggling with these injuries, Hubert Fournier had no choice to look toward the academy, which had already produced many of the players making their mark on the first team. The player he turned to was the largely untested Tolisso who did not disappoint the gaffer.

Talent Radar Accolades

He went on to appear in every single Ligue 1 game that season, starting 31 of them, mainly on the left side of a narrow midfield diamond that Fournier prefers. During this spell, he provided 7 goals and although his assist count was relatively low for a midfielder with only 2, his contribution was more to the stability and possession by Lyon rather than playing the ball in to the strikers. When he did pop up with goals, it seemed like they were almost always important, with 3 of the 7 being game winners.

With Lyon coming so close to the title and not quite achieving it, the team could be seen as a disappointment but what they have gained from this run-in was experience in a title chase and Champions League football. This season, Tolisso has confirmed that he belongs in the team and has held on to his spot in the center of Lyon’s setup. In 9 appearances this season, he has 2 assists and a goal.


Style of Play, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Source: GSN Index SRC (Soccer related characteristics): Evaluation & characteristics (30+) which are essential for players +/- statistic: Based on performance data, players receive + and – scores for their actions on the field Potential: Modified economic and financial algorithms which show how a player will develop in the future Level of Play: The system rates and analyses every match a player has played in his entire career

Source: GSN Index SRC (Soccer related characteristics): Evaluation & characteristics (30+) which are essential for players +/- statistic: Based on performance data, players receive + and – scores for their actions on the field Potential: Modified economic and financial algorithms which show how a player will develop in the future Level of Play: The system rates and analyses every match a player has played in his entire career

Corentin Tolisso’s style of play could best be described in one word: control.  A huge strength of his is his assured, short passing style. Tolisso averages an 85% pass completion rate. His passes rarely miss the mark and he often keeps the momentum of attacks moving as Lyon transition from defense to attack. He makes about 60 passes per game, which shows that he is right in the center of that midfield engine of Lyon. He only plays about 4 long balls on average so generally his passes are meant to maintain that momentum as well as maintain possession of the ball. He will not necessarily unlock a defense with a single pass but he can be the beginning (and sometimes the end) of a quick, passing move that bears down on goal.

Keeping possession is a huge part of his style as he provides stability to an otherwise incredibly attack-minded team. He is dispossessed, on average, less than 1 time a game and has less than 1 bad control of the ball per game. This all demonstrates a vision and control of the game that teams need in midfield. He’s like the gears that keep a clock ticking right on time. He may not be the most visible or loud part of the clock, but it does not work with out him. If you are looking for an analogy to a better-known player, think Jordan Henderson or Ilkay Gundogan. They are integral parts of their teams and the sides do not function as well without them.

Tolisso fits into that narrow diamond employed by Lyon perfectly. His work rate and ability to mark allows him to provide cover for the back line when they need it, especially down the flanks where they do not have as much cover due to not using any wide midfielders. The system also lets him get involved in the attack and gives him some freedom when he does decide to get forward. When he is forward, he likes to sit just on the edge of the box. Once an attack gets spread out wide or loses impetus, he provides a late run or option for Alexandre Lacazette or Mathieu Valbuena to look for. Most of his goals come from the top left of the box as he can strike a ball really well.

Tolisso does have some weaknesses to his game but they are somewhat due to the system he plays in.  Defensively, he is not expected to do a lot so he only makes a couple tackles and averages 1 interception per game.  His defensive contribution could probably improve. Also, his incisive passing needs work. He is very assured in midfield, but he could certainly add to his number of assists, mainly to take the pressure off of Valbuena to be creative.


What Does the Future Hold?

Corentin Tolisso has already achieved the dream of most Lyon academy products, which is making the first team and keeping a place. Starting week in and week out for a team with the quality of Lyon is a goal in and of itself. The next goal, quite obviously, is to become a regular in the France squad. This is not an easy task, given the fact that the likes of Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi are currently occupying spots in France’s midfield. With Tolisso currently making appearances for France’s U21s, one could expect him to start for France in the future, and he still may. If he adds a little bit more dynamism and excitement to his game, he could force his way into the team but it is going to be an uphill battle, even for the exquisitely talented Tolisso.


Written by Phil Baki

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Philip Baki

Philip Baki

US Army football enthusiast. Liverpool FC and Dynamo Dresden supporter. Manchester United, Chelsea and MLS hater. Written for Get Football News, Into The Top Corner and a member of the Two Red Gringos Podcast tworedgringos.podbean.com
Philip Baki

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