30th April 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
When Pascal Dupraz took over the managerial reigns at Toulouse at the beginning of March, he knew he had his work cut out to save le Tefece from relegation.
With the club 19th on the table and a whopping 10 points from safety, Dupraz was eager to get stuck in and set about reversing the club's fortunes. Firstly, before he could even really get started, the 53-year-old had to overcome a major health scare that he suffered on just his second day in charge.
"The first moments with Toulouse were tough for me, I signed on a Wednesday then collapsed on the training pitch on the Thursday. It will be remembered as part of my time here with Toulouse," Dupraz explained to the Ligue 1 Show.
The signs were indeed ominous for the seemingly doomed club, but Dupraz's tenure has been an overwhelmingly positive one so far, especially considering the horrific rut Toulouse were in when he took over. Dupraz has overseen his side get to within just three points of safety now by taking a credible 11 points from his seven games at the helm, with the players clearly happy and willing to embrace their new boss's methods.
"I think he has brought us together and helped us focus. Tactically, he is always on point - we know what we have to do each weekend," explained the talented Alexis Blin.
With Dupraz adding some much needed clarity, direction and solidity to the squad, it's been fantastic to see Toulouse rally together and obtain some brilliant results, like the 4-0 demolitions of Bordeaux and Bastia, while also playing some entertaining yet well regimented football.
Ahead of their crunch home game against Lyon at the weekend, Dupraz urged the Toulouse supporters to come out in their droves to support their team in this massive clash.
"I call on the women of Toulouse to kick their husbands off the sofa and come and fill the stands at the Stadium against Lyon," encouraged Dupraz.
"It's not too bad to have seen three wins and ten goals in our last three home games. Now, I'm obsessed with picking up the three points against Lyon."
Despite putting in a performance full of fight and commitment, unfortunately Toulouse went down 3-2 in cruel fashion, succumbing to an 85th minute winner from Corentin Tolisso, which gave Les Gones their first win at the Stadium Municipal since November 2005.
Even though the home side didn't achieve the desired result, it was again heartening to see their attacking sensation of Tunisian descent, Wissam Ben Yedder, continue his magnificent form. The 25-year-old has been absolutely vital to their recent upturn in form, as he scored yet another goal in this contest to bring his tally to a remarkable eight goals and two assists in his last eight league matches.
From the outset, Ben Yedder put his multifaceted skillset to great use. He held the ball up beautifully, using his low centre of gravity and underrated strength to impressively hold off the attentions of Lyon's central defenders, Samuel Umtiti and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, before using his tidy range of passing to find a teammate. Moreover, his pace and quality on the dribble made life very uncomfortable for Les Gones. Arguably the most effective aspects of his outing, however, were his masterful movement and positioning.
Although he was flagged offside four times, his ability to make runs all over the attacking third ensured he was a constant menace throughout. Whether by exploiting the space in behind the onrushing fullbacks or embarking on runs in behind the defence, his capacity to identify openings and exploit them was a crucial component of his side's attacking armoury.
Fascinatingly, he'd always remember to give himself just enough room away from his opponent so he could embark on his forward forays unimpeded. He'd cleverly arc and angle his movements to provide a palpable sense of unpredictability for his adversaries, which only served to make life tougher for Umtiti and Yanga-Mbiwa.
Unsurprisingly, Ben Yedder's expertly taken 83nd minute finish following Martin Braithwaite's parried strike arose after one of his customary dangerous runs. Even though he wasn't initially used by his Norwegian teammate, his well executed run afforded him the chance to be in the perfect position to follow up Anthony Lopes' save. And the accomplished finisher made no mistake to draw his side level and equal Beto Marcico's record of most Ligue 1 goals for Toulouse on 62.
The goal would devastatingly only be a consolation, however, for just minutes later Tolisso bagged an 85th minute winner, in what was a savage blow for Toulouse's hopes of staying up.
While it's been frustrating for the Tefece faithful that he's taken so long to get going, for his form has been well below what he's currently producing for the majority of the campaign, they'll be nonetheless overjoyed that the man who's now added 16 goals and five assists this term is back to his best and doing all he can to help his side achieve safety.
With only three matches left for Toulouse against Saint Etienne, Angers and already relegated Troyes to overturn the four point deficit to Gazelec Ajaccio in 17th place, you get the feeling Ben Yedder will need to be at his goalscoring best if Toulouse have any chance of remaining in the top flight.
Judging on his current form, there's absolutely no reason to suggest he can't, in fact, keep on finding the back of the net to ensure his team end the season in the best way possible - with survival.
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Wissam Ben Yedder Excels Under the Tenure of Pascal Dupraz
30th April 2016. By Edward Stratmann.