The young midfielder lighting up the Stade des Lumières
Position: Centre Midfield
Nationality: French (19 caps 6 goals for France U21’s)
Rising up through the Lyon youth system and now fully established in the first team, Corentin Tolisso has emerged as one of the most exciting young midfielders in Ligue 1. His development over previous years has in part been aided by Lyon having more famous players being touted for a move to the Premier League or La Liga. Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir are the names that stick out on paper and certainly get more column inches due to their goal scoring and creative feats. But Tolisso over time has become intrinsic to a Lyon system based on dynamic football. His influence over the team is underlined by the fact he took over the captaincy for four league games in September and October in place of suspended club captain Maxime Gonalons.
Tolisso has been used in two different roles over the course of the season depending on the shape of the team. Primarily he has contributed as a deep lying playmaker, demanding the ball off the two centre-backs. Here he can effectively push the play up the pitch and find team-mates in between the lines. In this more central position, he has the freedom to push forward and join attacks while his partner in central midfield sits deep. To a lesser extent he has been used as a number ten, with the aim to find space and provide a link to Lacazette or another striker in the final third. When he has been implemented in a more attacking position, he’s had a more clinical ratio in front of goal with four goals in six starts in that area compared with five in 25 in a more central role.
Tolisso’s assurance and composure in possession is his biggest strength as is his ability to play first time passes and through-balls. An example of this was Lyon’s equaliser in the first leg of their Europa League tie with Roma. He and Lacazette created space by exchanging three passes together in one move and Tolisso finished it off with a sharp finish from outside of the box. He has the habit of drifting through games and has spells where he finds it difficult to find room to best expose other sides, yet this is often due to the opposition dropping deep deep or man-marking.
His rise in prominence has been rewarded with a call up to the French squad by Didier Deschamps for the games against Luxembourg and Spain this month. Yet to be capped by his country, this is a sign of his career entering the next stage of development. While he has been less well known as some of his Lyon counterparts, a bid from Napoli in the summer signalled that he could be tempted away from the Stade des Lumières. Strong rumours circulate that a deal is getting close with Juventus and this could be his final season in France. Undoubtedly a central midfielder with great vision and huge potential, it will be fascinating to see whether he can compete with world class players in that position.
Sam Langan (Fooball Analyst)
All Player to Watch articles are formed on analyst’s opinion rather than in-house statistics.
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