Toulouse 2020/2021 analysis: counter-attacks in minutes 75-90

Toulouse ended the 2020/2021 season as 3rd in the Ligue 2 and this meant that they could try to qualify for Ligue 1 by play offs. Unfortunately, this didn’t go their way, but still they are one of the most interesting sides in Ligue. So, let’s take a closer look to their season.

In this analysis I will look more closely to the counter-attacks Toulouse had throughout the season, because I want analyse their pace, direct attacking style of play and composure, as a consequence of the counter-attacks. There have been over 600 counter-attackings during the season, so I narrowed it down to four zones on the pitch and a particular period in the game.

I have chosen to look at the position in the defensive and middle third where the ball often gets turned over and the transition starts. In doing so, I have looked at the 18 bin pitch lay-out to assess which zones i wanted to cover. You can find the pitch below:

You might have a lot about zone 14, but in this piece I’m concentrating on zone 5, 6, 8 and 9. Why those? Well, these are the zones were most of the counter-attacks on their own half have started and the ones where the most were conducted during the time I selected.

When talking about immediate impact of counter-attacks, the final 15 minutes of the game are very important. Teams are tired, the accuracy is becoming less and less – and as a consequence; more space opens on the pitch. That’s why I’m concentrating on this period of the game.

The data in this article comes from Wyscout, while the videos come from Instat. All data and video are retrieved at June 7th, 2021.

Compact defensive unit

Before we look into the counter-attacks, it’s important to know that Toulouse play in a rather compact defensive unit when they are defending in the defensive third. In doing so they create counter-attack opportunities, but also need to run more distance in order to get numbers into the attacking third. This will be reflected in the analysis below.

Zone 5

In the image above you see zone 5. In total there have been 72 counter-attacks during the season from here, but in the minutes from 75 until 90, there have been 15 counter-attacks that started from this particular zone. These counter-attacks took place in the games against Paris FC, Le Havre, Valenciennes, Guingamp, Pau, Chateauroux, Ajaccio, Dunkerque, Grenoble, Chambly and Clermont.

In the two videos below, I will illustrate what the pace and attacking play adds to the counter-attack, and which threat it poses to the opponent’s side.

In the video above we see Le Havre attacking in the last seconds of the game with their goalkeeper also in and around the box. The ball is won just outside the penalty area and immediately three players of Toulouse move forward against a rest defence of two players + backtracking goalkeeper and defender. In this case the ball is directly played to the left flank and Toulouse tries to score from inside the middle third – which wasn’t the best call, but the goalkeeper was away from goal – with the attempt going wide.

The ability of the player to go forward and overload the rest defence in this case, was what made it threatening and it could very well ended in scoring a goal, if they had some more patience in the attacking third.

In the video above, you see Valenciennes attacking to the left. Toulouse recover possession of the ball by playing deep and compact, in order to make sure the ball is theirs and from that recovery try to attack as voraciously as possible. As soon as they have the ball they play it out to the right flank and think how to get the ball forward as quick as possible. Now, they want it to do it as quick as possible, but they don’t want to lose the ball and that is why it is played lateral to the left flank – before going forward.

This is not the quickest nor most accurate counter-attack, but they want to get as many players in the six-yard box and penalty area, to overload the defence and create the greatest goalscoring threat.

Zone 6

In the image above you see zone 6. In total there have been 53 counter-attacks during the season from here, but in the minutes from 75 until 90, there have been 15 counter-attacks that started from this particular zone. These counter-attacks took place in the games against Paris FC, Rodez, Niort, Pau, Chateauroux, Ajaccio, Dunkerque, Grenoble, Chambly and Clermont.

In the two videos below, I will illustrate what the pace and attacking play adds to the counter-attack, and which threat it poses to the opponent’s side.

In the video above we see Chateuroux attacking to the left when Toulouse regain control of the ball. In earlier footage we saw that they pass their way out of the press before progressing, but in this example they do it slightly different. They spot the run on the right in the middle third and give a long ball into the space at the right flank for the player to go after.

The player holds the ball and waits for his teammates to come into the attacking third. This takes a while because Toulouse play very compact in defence and therefor need time to get into the right zones.

In the video above you see Chateauroux attack to the right, when Toulouse gets possession of the ball in their own penalty area, after which they try to progress as quickly as possible. The ball is cleared via a header and the attack goes immediately to the right flank, with two players accelerating on that particular flank.

Because the player on the ball is quick, he basically created a 3v3 situation with another defender coming in closer. He needs to be quick, because otherwise the rest defence will be assisted and they have a bigger chance of clearing the ball. The ball goes to the box – which was the right and direct idea – but after the ball isn’t played quickly, allowing the opposition to come back and close in.

Zone 8

In the image above you see zone 8. In total there have been 50 counter-attacks during the season from here, but in the minutes from 75 until 90, there have been 12 counter-attacks that started from this particular zone. These counter-attacks took place in the games against Nancy, Guingamp, Pau, Dunkerque, Grenoble, Chateauroux, Niort and Auxerre.

In the two videos below, I will illustrate what the pace and attacking play adds to the counter-attack, and which threat it poses to the opponent’s side.

In the video above you see Guingamp attack to the left, when Toulouse gets possession of the ball in the middle third of the pitch after three won aerial duels. They get the ball to the right flank after which they want to attack and go to the final third.

They get the ball to the flank near the corner post on the right and cross it low to the first post, to the movement the striker is making. Unfortunately the ball is cleared and the attack stops, but this counter-attack shows how pace and patience can give you an edge going forward, even so when you are not overloading.

In the video above you see Dunkerque attacking to the right when Toulouse regain possession of the ball. In the previous example you have seen how attacking combination passing can lead to goalscoring opportunities, but in this example we see how a direct long ball behind the defensive line can lead to threat.

The ball is played from the edge of the middle third and goes into the penalty area, where the striker has done a movement to lose his marker. In the end it takes too much time to produce some quality, but still a very quick transition.

Zone 9

In the image above you see zone 9. In total there have been 70 counter-attacks during the season from here, but in the minutes from 75 until 90, there have been 15 counter-attacks that started from this particular zone. These counter-attacks took place in the games against Paris FC, Troyes, Valenciennes, Caen, Chateauroux, Chambly, Sochaux, Ajaccio, Le Havre, Niort, Grenoble and Clermont.

In the two videos below, I will illustrate what the pace and attacking play adds to the counter-attack, and which threat it poses to the opponent’s side.

In the video above you see Troyes attacking to the left when Toulouse regain possession of the ball. Toulouse intercept a pass by Troyes and can build on a counter-attack. They again do this by getting a long ball into the attacking third.

The idea is that the striker will control the ball and hold it there so the midfield can move up the pitch to assist in the attack. But in this case, the aerial duel is won by Troyes and Toulouse have to try again.

In the video above we see Caen attacking to the left, when Toulouse recover the ball in the middle third and immediately change their attitude towards the ball. They want to progress is by making runs and movements forward. They are in a 5v6 situation, because Caen plays deep.

Thera two player playing wide in the penalty area who prove to be an option to get the ball too, but the striker attempts to go alone in this case, which is unsuccessful.

Final thoughts

Toulouse have been a great team last season and they surely will compete for the top spots in Ligue 2 in the 2021/2022 season. What my sentiment felt was that they were doing very well on the break with quick, direct passing style of football to beat the pressure of the opposition – and then create goalscoring chances.

After looking into counter-attacks starting in the defensive third and middle third, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is partly true. Yes, they do have that quick style of play with pace, but they also choose to play the ball long and get the player to move up on the pitch in numbers. This is also because of their compact defending nature and that they need time to get into the attacking third.

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