In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the football world. Next up is Bayer Leverkusen’s Burkinabé centre-back Edmond Tapsoba.

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While looking at him leading Bayer Leverkusen’s defence with absolute ease, it’s impressive to think that Edmond Tapsoba – born in 1999 – had never even played a single football match in Europe until three years ago.

Born in Ouagadougou – in Burkina Faso – Tapsoba literally played in the streets until he was 14, as he explained in a recent interview, before moving to a local team’s academy, Salitas FC, and starting his ascent to European football. First, he moved to Portugal, playing in Leixoes’ youth teams and then Guimarães, then, only in the very last days of January, he was signed by Bayer Leverkusen. Before becoming an untouchable starter of the German club, he had only played six months in a first team, at Vitoria Guimarães, in the first half of this season.

And yet it is not rhetorical to say that Tapsoba really seems born to play at this level. In fact, as he acknowledged himself, his main skill is his calm in managing ball possession when building-up the play, especially when under pressure. “I’m never upset. I like to play the ball from behind. I’m technical, quick, my reflexes are good and I think that my tactical awareness is continuously improving,” said Tapsoda. Bayer Leverkusen’s coach Peter Bosz also admitted he has never seen a player adapting so quickly.

Tapsoba has a quite minimal style with the ball at his feet: He never tries to force a pass, unless it is the very last chance given to him by the opponent. His choices are always very thoughtful and rational, but this doesn’t mean he keeps the ball too much. In fact, it is rare to see him cutting the opponent’s pressing lines with creative first-touch passes. Among Bundesliga centre-backs, he is by far the best performing one in terms of successful short passes p90 (81.9), almost 8 more than the second-best in this ranking, that would be Alaba with 75.

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Sometimes, Tapsoba can be too calm, too confident of his strengths. This can be seen especially when Bayer Leverkusen tries to defend up the pitch and Tapsoba is sometimes late in anticipating the opponents. Generally, he prefers to wait for the opponent, trying to push him to the sideline with his body, even if he’s not extremely fast when covering deep, especially because of his lower barycenter and long legs.

Sometimes, he’s not particularly reactive in 1v1s and has a tendency of being indolent when he has to change direction to follow the opponents’ dribble.

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Tapsoba seems way more comfortable when he’s the one in control. When he has possession and he has to decide how to move the ball – a situation in which he flaunts some dribbles that somehow reminds of Lucio – but also when he has the time to take a position against his marker for an aerial duel, another string to his bow. He still has a lot to improve, as he actually loses more aerial duels than he wins (2.1 p90 on 4 total attempts). So, Tapsoba can still improve a lot, especially from a defensive standpoint, but also in ‘less necessary’ aspects of his game, like goals, that seem to be in his wheelhouse (he scored 9 goals in all competitions during the 6 months he spent in Portugal).

On the other hand, he admitted that’s the reason why he joined Bayer Leverkusen. Even if he had important offers from the Premier League – like Wolves and Leicester – Tapsoba went to the Bundesliga to gain experience, even if it really seems he doesn’t need to. Even if he’s already one of the most interesting talents in the German league, we must remember his growth has just begun.

 

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