Le50 2016: Yann Bodiger – Toulouse FC
Yann Bodiger is a player making strong progress in the 12 months following the signing of his first professional contract with Toulouse FC. Nevertheless, the budding young midfielder was thrown into the deep end, forced to obtain some maturity as Le Tefece were threatened with relegation for much of the campaign.
Under Dominique Arribage, Bodiger enjoyed some favour, having been thrust into the side for the final eight games of the campaign. Having only made his Ligue 1 debut at the start of the season with previous coach Alain Casanova, he would have to wait a full 29 weeks before featuring in his second. Nevertheless, Arribage noticed the potential that the midfielder harboured, and with Colombian international Abel Aguilar off-form, it was time for the then 20-year-old to make his mark.
Playing 90 minutes in your second ever professional game, and the eight games that followed is some achievement for any youth product. But especially so, if your side is at the wrong end of the table. Bodiger’s contributions in the side helped Toulouse escape relegation, having started three points adrift of safety. They subsequently ended the season five clear of the drop and the young midfielder picked up an assist having helped his side win three of the first four games in this run.
Confidence was high then, coming into the summer. A season in which Bodiger featured prominently with the youth side, and then making superb progress for the first team capped off a remarkable season. The aim for the 2015-16 campaign was simple – maintain this trajectory. Easier said than done.
The familiarity did not continue heading into the new season. Perhaps it was due to the new signings, or Bodiger’s own ‘step-off-the-gas’ moment during the summer. But having ended the season as a favourite for being Toulouse’s anchorman in midfield, the new year commenced with precious little playing time.
Arribage’s preference to feature a mixture of Etienne Didot, Akpa-Akpro, new signing Somalia and Tongo Doumbia signalled that he had little idea about his best players in that position. Worse still, it condemned Bodiger to a bench role, with only four starts until November. Nevertheless, Arribage finally settled on his 11, allowing more regularity for his young protégé, who thrives when given the chance.
His tough-tackling yet calm demeanour on the ball helped Toulouse capture only their second and third wins of the season (against Nice & Troyes) with two clean sheets). In the process, it helped the side stem the alarming descent into the drop zone, having dropped to 19th (a spot they still occupy at the time of writing).
Despite the brief return to the starting eleven, it eventually proved shortlived – and Bodiger saw his progress stunted. As an act of desperation, the beleaguered manager shied away from trusting youth (as had worked wonders the season before) and Bodiger once again saw himself on the bench, and even out of the matchday squad, as a result of the club’s difficulties.
In a turbulent 12 months for the Garonne club, who twice are seeking to fight their way out of a relegation dogfight, it simply is not the best environment for a young player to grow.
The potential is there however, with the midfielder earning significant reviews for his performances at club level, helping him to break into the international fold with France’s youth squads, with whom he won the prestigious Toulon tournament with.
Bodiger is a player certainly on the rise with Toulouse, and his place in Le50 is well merited. But the next 12 months poses a lot of questions for the young player. Simply put, game time – and a significant run of it, is the only way to build up experience and turbocharge development. It will be interesting to see whether he can earn it at his boyhood club.