New Toulouse boss Pascal Dupraz has galvanized his side with tactical acumen and positive vibes, and the resurgent club’s recent results suggest that the TFC have every chance of beating the drop.
With Toulouse 19th, ten points adrift and going nowhere just six weeks ago, the club turned to Dupraz. After eight months out of the game, the former Evian boss was raring to go, but a heart problem halted progress.
“The first moments with Toulouse were tough for me, I signed on a Wednesday then collapsed on the training pitch on the Thursday. It will be remembered as part of my time here with Toulouse,” Dupraz told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. “I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. Everything I have done, I have done it for myself but of course I do them with the help of others. But I want to prove to myself that I can coach a team other than the one in my village.”
After 23 years spent coaching in the Alpine region of Haute-Savoie, the 53-year-old arrived in Toulouse full of humour and enthusiasm.
“Every game is massive. I have been imagining scenarios ever since I arrived, and in those tense, uncertain scenarios, the outcome is favourable,” said the former Evian TG FC coach. “My game is to win the ball as quickly as possible as high up the pitch as possible, and to do that, you have to play as a very compact unit. I watched every single match that Toulouse played since the start of the season and I noticed too much distance between each player. There is always a form of security when you play in threes; now we never play in twos. For me, there are only a few ways to beat that, but I won’t go into that or others will copy me.”
“I think he has brought us together and helped us focus. Tactically, he is always on point – we know what we have to do each weekend,” said Toulouse midfielder Alexis Blin, with veteran Pantxi Sirieix echoing his appreciation of their new-found tactical awareness. “Defenders are now defending! Our strikers are striking but also helping out the side. He makes us move forward in blocks, something we used not to do!”
With his message evidently getting across to his players and the results starting to come in, Dupraz is loving his new challenge.
“It’s fulfilling even if I knew that from the minute I put pen to paper here at Toulouse, it would be the start of my problems,” he said not without a hint of irony. “I was happy, living a relaxed life but void of any passion, bar that for the people I love.”
Roughly 48 hours before kick-off, Dupraz puts on a straight face and sits down for a video homework session on the weekend’s opposition.
“We absolutely have to be in a 30-35m zone at all times, even when we are high up the pitch,” he explained. “It’s important that the defenders respect their jobs distributing and redistributing to make sure we are always in a block.”
Come match day, Toulouse fight to maintain their top flight status, as they do every week – in this instance, against Bastia.
Goalless at half-time, Dupraz’s men make a breakthrough in the second half, then blitz the Corsicans with three more goals in the space of just 23 minutes. The coach’s instructions were clearly well heard as a high pressing compact block made way for Martin Braithwaite to net Toulouse’s second.
Yet another good night for Dupraz and his men, and now ten points from five games. The tactician’s imaginary scenarios are beginning to come true.
“If anyone is interested in scripts for the big screen, I’m available!” laughed Dupraz. “What I say to the players is that every last scene is positive!”
With five games still to play, Toulouse are beginning to win, and it could well be a happy ending!