One of this season's early revelations in Ligue 1 has been Toulouse's French-born Tunisian wonderkid Wissam Ben Yedder, who made a flying start to the season. Expected to play second fiddle to fellow French youth international Emmanuel Riviere, the 22-year-old striker has ousted his more senior teammate from Alain Casanova's starting lineup and seized his early opportunities with aplomb.
Nine goals in 13 starts with one assist is an impressive record for someone who had previously only made 10 substitute appearances, scoring one goal last season. There is plenty more to come from this raw young talent, and he is one of the reasons that le Tefece enjoyed a superb start to the season and, rather than confirm preseason predictions of a difficult campaign, sit in 11th position so far.
Europe could be the next stop for the boys from the Pink City if they can sort out their consistency. TFC also count France international and Premier League target Etienne Capoue amongst their considerable wealth of young talent.
Crucially, Ben Yedder's goals have come in eight different games where Toulouse have won four and drawn four, Ben Yedder helping to contribute 16 points. The stats are all the more impressive considering that last season he only made 10 substitute appearances despite TFC's woes up front. His assist was for the astounding last minute equaliser against Rennes scored by goalkeeper Ali Ahamada.
Now having usurped Riviere up front, the former Saint-Etienne man has only made four starts in 14 appearances despite being one of France's most promising talents just a year ago.
The reason Ben Yedder is keeping him out of the team now is the fact that boss Casanova has recognised that Ben Yedder is a more reliable attacking threat than Riviere and so has adapted his team to suit the fast front man. His pace is his biggest asset, but following this summer’s transfer departures, Casanova’s re-deployment of Etienne Didot in a more defensive role alongside Moussa Sissoko have given new French international star Capoue licence to roam forward.
The passing skills of Sissoko and Didot with the presence of Capoue further up the pitch give Ben Yedder the sort of service he thrives on, and with Franck Tabanou also on the left WBY forms part of one of the league’s most exciting attacking thirds. Picked up from futsal similarly to Youssef El Arabi of Caen, who made his breakthrough two years ago in Ligue 1 and now finds himself in Spain with Granada, Ben Yedder displays fantastic technical ability and all-round ball skills rare in a striker.
Involved in unsavoury incident with Yann M'Vila earlier in the season when several members of France's under-21 team went to a Parisian nightclub on an ill-advised night out days before the vital second leg of the Under-21 European Championship qualifying playoff against Norway, a game the French lost 5-3, losing the tie 5-4 on aggregate (despite topping their qualification group).
The result cost coach Erick Mombaerts his job and the U21 squad have been replaced by the Under-20s for the friendly matches scheduled for the rest of the season. Ben Yedder received a ban until the New Year for his part.
That hasn't tarnished his reputation or his confidence though; three of those goals, including a double against league leaders Lyon, have been scored since the incident. The most impressive player so far this season by virtue of his unknown status pre-campaign rather than his actual on-field exploits, although he is the league's third top goalscorer at present (behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic—who else?—and Bafetimbi Gomis).
Ben Yedder is in the right place for nurturing talent even if Toulouse are currently suffering a dip in form, and if Casanova’s men can replicate some of their early season showings they will be knocking on the door for European football come the end of the season.
Given TFC’s tendency to sell their best talent once it has come to fruition, expect WBY to be playing European football regardless of whether or not he remains in the Pink City next year.