Leverkusen’s new defender revolutionising their season

The new van Dijk who’s making waves in the Bundesliga

2020/03/14 17:20
By Connor Andrews
E0

Bayer Leverkusen’s recent history has been so inconsistent that even Gareth Bale would be telling them to get their act together.

A rare German club that’s been bankrolled, on this occasion by pharmaceutical giants Bayer, some of the team’s strategies to use their superior finances to step up from European challengers to genuine contenders has, at times, lacked any joined-up thinking.

A modern coaching history that’s included master of retirements, Jupp Heynckes was later followed up with a brief spell from the completely untested Sami Hyypia, to say Bayer’s strategy has lacked cohesion would be an understatement.

In recent years, they’ve plumped for young, attacking, hipster, but not particularly trophy laden coaches. Roger Schmit’s three year tenure showed glimpses of brilliance and regular Champions League football, but they never made the jump from being a B side.

Now with former Ajax and Borussia Dortmund coach, Peter Bosz, they’re looking more like the side that gave themselves an outside chance of doing something special, and that may be down to one under the radar January arrival.

©Getty / Jörg Schüler

Bosz, who helped start the recent revolution at Ajax, was shown up at Dortmund, a 12 point Bundesliga lead with all-out attacking football was dismantled to a humiliating extent by eventual title winners Bayern Munich, meaning he spent just six months in charge.

It looked like his career might be done at the top level, yet Leverkusen took a risk, and for one of Germany’s most inconsistent sides, a run of eight wins and a draw since February 8th is more than uncharacteristic, especially for Bosz.

Yet something special happened at the end of January that might gradually increase in importance as more sides take note of another Bayer gamble that appears to have paid off to an extraordinary extent.

©Getty / Jose M. Alvarez/JARSportimages.com

When Edmond Tapsoba stepped up from Vitória Guimarães’ youth side to the first team to start this season, there were few that had heard of the Burkina Faso native, even in Portugal, but game by game his rise into the public consciousness has been exponential.

Scoring six of six penalties for Vitória this season has helped put the centre back’s name in the spotlight, but seeing him live it’s little surprise scouts started to crowd around quickly.

During Vitória’s unlucky loss to Porto in the League Cup in January, not only did Tapsoba bag another perfect spot-kick, he was faced with a Portuguese outfit that play two giant bulks up front, in order to bully the 21-year-old.

Tapsoba’s gap management and tackle timing, alongside his superb ability to always get his foot on the ball, saw him make easy work of the 6ft 2 inch muscle men, and then, nearly as eye catching as his penalty ability, is his consistent skill in spraying inch perfect long passes out to fullbacks and wingers with ease.

His performances were so eye-catching he went from solid rumours of a transfer to Benfica in the summer, to links with Leicester and top-half Premier League sides.

Instead, Leverkusen swooped in from nowhere, and paid the £16 million premium to secure the next big thing in the dying hours of the January transfer window.

Tapsoba sat out his first two games before being eased in on February 8th, where he was almost laughably paired up against a Norweigian 19-year-old called Erling Braut Håland, fresh off of eight goals in his first four games in Germany.

Tapsoba became the first player in the country to blank the phenomenon, as his side came out winners in a 4-3 game of the season contender featuring an absolute stunner from Emre Can.

In his debut Tapsoba had the highest possession of the ball of any player on the pitch with 7.8% through the 90 minutes, while his extraordinary 93% passing accuracy was the highest of any Leverkusen player, despite some relentless pressing from the away side.

Since then it’s been eight wins and a draw as Leverkusen have gone from mid table to two points shy of the Champions League places in the Bundesliga.

Coupled with some completely dominant displays in the Europa League against Porto and Rangers, as well as progress in the German cup, the turnaround has been swift and comprehensive.

The plaudits, right now, are going to the sublime Kai Havertz and a revitalised Leon Bailey, but much like his time in Portugal, it won’t be long before people start cottoning on to the next big thing.

©Getty / DeFodi Images

Virgil van Dijk came to Liverpool and turned them from outsiders to winners of a first Champions League title in 14 years, and from then on everyone’s been pining for the next revolutionary centre back, with a combined £217 million spent on Harry Magurie, Lucas Hernandez and Matthijs De Ligt since the Dutchman’s arrival on Merseyside.

But when it comes to replicating van Dijk’s possession of every single modern defensive asset; from speed, to strength, to passing, to game intelligence, Tapsoba might be the closest thing on offer. 

Liverpool’s number four is often compared to a Rolls Royce for his all-round imperious ability, but with a more artistic style, Tapsoba might be more of a Jaguar, as Leverkusen’s propensity to do things differently might finally have paid off big time.

 

Burkina Faso
Edmond Tapsoba
NameEdmond Faycial Tapsoba
Born1999-02-02(21 -yrs-old)
Nationality
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
PositionDefender (Centre Back)

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