Le50 2017 – Thomas Didillon
Undoubtedly talented, Metz’s young goalkeeper Thomas Didillon has endured a rather savage season in terms of his confidence. Still just 21, the big youngster had been a regular for France’s various youth sides, and been integral to the club’s promotion in the previous season, conceding just two goals in the team’s first seven matches before a broken finger sidelined him for more than two months. He regained his starting spot upon his return and, though he didn’t hit the heights achieved before his injury, retained sufficient consistency and confidence as Metz’s promotion was earned by the narrowest of margins after a final-day defeat to Lens.
Promotion looked set to give Didillon a better challenge, and after recording fifteen clean sheets in 28 appearances in Ligue 2 he seemed in need of a sterner test. He received that, and more, this season. Metz started the season in decent form, but after Didillon conceded twelve goals in four matches against relegation rivals Lorient, Nancy, Bastia and Caen to themselves slip into the relegation zone, questions began to emerge over Didillon’s place, with the older, if less experienced, David Oberhauser and Japanese international Eiji Kawashima options for Philippe Hinschberger. Didillon returned with an impressive clean sheet in a scoreless draw against then-leaders Nice, but the season continued to have its ups and downs. Survival was eventually confirmed, but Didillon, having conceded an average of two goals per game, was dropped for the run-in, with Kawashima helping the team earn vital wins over Nancy and Lille to avoid the drop.
Kawashima is 34, Oberhauser has moved on to Greece and the club certainly views Didillon as its long-term option, provided he isn’t sold, but he will need to do some serious work to improve his stock. He clearly offers an ideal combination of size and reflex abilities, but his confidence will have been badly damaged by this season, even if an exceptionally poor defence had as much to do with les Grenats’ struggles as his own performances. Despite being a big, physical, player, Didillon can be guilty of too often punching rather than claiming, and his distribution and ability to play the ball with his feet are both somewhat lacking, although some of this is attributable to Metz’s lack of build-up play. These sorts of technical attributes are easy to improve upon, and what Didillon does lack in these regards could similarly be put down to the amount of pressure to which he is subjected, but an honest, holistic look at his play would certainly leave the impression of superb potential in need of polish.
Metz have already moved to improve their defence this summer, signing the French youth international Moussa Niakhaté from Valenciennes, but more will have to be done on Metz’s part to ensure another season in the top flight, but Didillon himself is also in need of improvement, having been somewhat found out by the pressures of Ligue 1. Still young, especially for his position, there is every chance he can improve and impress, but the season ahead looks a pivotal one indeed for Didillon. He has all of the attributes to be one of Ligue 1’s best, but will need to exhibit a high level mental fortitude and resilience in the months ahead to succeed.