The 23-year-old Frenchman nicknamed “Coco” has been called up for Didier Deschamps’ 23-man World Cup squad after his first season at Bayern Munich, following a transfer from Lyon. He will be in a midfield of talent that includes Steven N’Zonzi, Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, and N’Golo Kanté. Depending on the shape of Deschamps’ team, Corentin Tolisso could be the box-to-box center mid to create opportunities for France or sit next to a holding mid partner.
Tolisso came through the ranks of the Lyon academy and made his professional debut at the age of 19 in Ligue 1. The following four years from 2013 to 2017 proved promising for the young midfielder as he made 116 appearances, netting twenty-five goals, and assisting sixteen. In the summer of 2017, Coco secured his move to the most successful club in German football, Bayern Munich, for 41.5 million euros.
In his first season at Bayern, he scored ten goals and assisted six, making him Bayern’s third highest goal scorer in the most recent campaign. Only Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski scored more goals this past season than the Rhône-born midfielder.
Where Tolisso occasionally lacked this season was in his defensive contribution. He averaged 1 tackle per game and 1 foul per game in all competitions. This ratio could prove problematic in midfield if he is to be played in a deeper role. His strengths, though, outweigh his weaknesses on the pitch.
The timing of his runs into the box to exploit space were key in getting double digit goals. As pictured below, he comes from a deep position and puts the ball into the corner with pace to leave the keeper with no chance.
Out of the ten goals he scored, five of them were from headers. He is dangerous from set pieces and finishing crosses out of the air, not just along the ground. As shown in the image, David
Alaba sends in a cross from deep and Tolisso finds a lot of space after running in from outside the box to hammer a header away.
Not only can he get forward and put away goals, but he also has exceptional vision and passing quality to break defensive lines when in transition as the box-to-box mid. When he was deployed deeper as a holding mid for Bayern, he was easily able to switch play with weighted long diagonals to wingers on the touchline. In the image below, Tolisso turns with the ball and recognizes the space for Robben behind the left back that is out of position.
He uses his vision when in the box to set up teammates for easy chances as well. Tolisso is able to overlap the attacking midfielder, James Rodríguez, and sees that the two defenders are focused on him and not Lewandowski at the back post. Like his late run into the box to score, he identifies the space to overlap and makes the most of the situation.
Tolisso could very well be the dynamic midfielder that France need to link up play, play balls in behind, and then follow up into the box to be a threat. Him and Pogba having freedom in the center of the park with a true number six behind them could be a joy to watch. Tolisso has confidence from the Bundesliga season and is looking to relish the chance to be a part of the French National Team in Russia this June.
Writer: Alex Whetstone/@AlexWhetstone