Report & Analysis: Sebastien Le Toux Goes To Bolton

Osi for the Giants...

When the New York Giants take on the the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, it will be a battle of the defensive ends that is a key to determining the outcome, positively or negatively, for both teams.

For the Giants, a return of a healthy Osi Umenyori to support Jason Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul on the outside means that the Giants can consistently collapse the pocket from the flank, contain lateral runs, and basically wreak havoc….or at the very least the 49ers will have to try very hard to stop this.

Rushing, with speed, of the edge is critical to the Giants defense and as it opens up holes for further (and more dangerous) penetration internally.

The same can be said of the impact that a speedy winger has on the game. In the Premiership, the first names that come to mind with “speed” and “flank” are Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott. Notice, neither is a great crosser of the ball and both offer little on some days that merely challenging the fullback.

Their role, however, is vital in both cases to opening up the inside play and scoring opportunities for a trailing Rafael Van Der Vaart in Lennon’s case or the stealthy Robin Van Persie in Walcott’s case.

LeToux: Bolton

Fox Soccer and Ives Galarcep reporting this morning that the Philadelphia Union’s Sebastien Le Toux is headed to Bolton in the January transfer window. For LeToux it’s obviously a step up and a bigger payday.

Bolton has suffered tremendously this year from two things.

First, the lack of protector and attack diverter in Stu Holden playing ahead of the central defense–Bolton has leaked goals this year like Pat Onstad defending the near post. Ouch.

Second, when a team comes under such heavy fire and doesn’t have the ability to ping the ball through possession up the field, they desperately need to keep the backline of the opponent honest. If there is no speed option up top or off the corner the opponent can play a defensive highline and like a boa constrictor slowly and methodically work the ball into an advantageous situation until it’s curtains for the opposing goalkeeper.

For Bolton last year, it was the midseason loan of Daniel Sturridge–playing off the corner and up top–challenging the backline that both catapulted Bolton higher in the standings and showcased Sturridge’s ability. If you notice, Sturridge is playing that same speedy, off-center role at Chelsea that he did last year at Bolton.

Wanderers’ manager Owen Coyle didn’t have that option this year. Ivan Klasnic–all 31 spry years of him–is the leading scorer up top and Chris Eagles is probably the closest thing to any speed.

Bolton lost their only speed and flash guy in Lee Chung-yong to a broken leg in pre-season and thus lost that ability to draw a defense out of its compact cocoon and create scoring changes.

The Union’s LeToux in this case is an excellent pick-up at the Reebok. Le Toux is versatile enough to play out wide or up top or move seemlessly along the frontline of the attack. The to-be former Union forward has great straight ahead speed and is adept at moving off the ball. Le Toux is also a solid finisher.

For the Union–where Le Toux sometimes appeared to jostle with coach Piotr Nowak about his best position–the loss will most certainly be felt. While young striker Jack McInerny seems to be coming of age–at least on international duty with the US U-23′s–the loss of LeToux, Justin Mapp and at least the idea or potential of class with Freddy Adu will completely change the complexion of how the attack ended 2011. The departure also thrusts the somewhat egnimatic Danny Mwanga into the spotlight at the focal point of that attack, a role he may not be quite ready for. Will Mwanga pick up the slack? And if not, who will?

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Related:

Can the Prem’s George Clooney Keep Bolton from Being The Descendents? January 9th, 2012

If Tim Ream Goes Bolton… December 28th, 2011

Are Bolton Playing Attractive Football Under Owen Coyle This Season? May 24th, 2011

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34 responses to this post.

  1. Having watched Le Toux 70 times in the last two years (*sniffle*), I don’t think he’s comfortable enough as an outside mid to be effective in that role in the EPL. He drifted out of games in which he was deployed out wide, never quite getting on the ball in dangerous spots to the same degree. While he does possess great speed and a great work rate, those attributes were dampened greatly while he was in the midfield.

    He was a much different- and much more dangerous player- when allowed to push higher up the field in a more central role, a spot that also gave him greater liberties in his off-the-ball movement (which, as you said, is one of his greatest attributes).

    With that being said, I’m not familiar enough with Bolton’s usual tactics to know how he might be deployed (a winger with little defensive responsibility? a secondary striker? etc); ultimately, though, I think Coyle would be wise to keep him closer to goal where he’ll have the opportunity to take chances, keep the opposing back line pinned back, and get on the end of things. If adding speed on the wings is what Coyle wants out of him, then he should at least seek to minimize defensive responsibilities and provide opportunities for interchanging with central players.

    Towards the end of the 2011 season, the Union didn’t have great pace on the wings (good, not great), but Le Toux’s speed up top helped stretch the field and open things up in the attacking third, so Bolton could benefit from Le Toux’s speed without pushing him farther from goal.

    As a fan, I wish him nothing but the best. The first Union legend. Au revoir.

    -Matt, US Soccer Daily

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/01/18 at 11:48 AM

      I think at Bolton he’ll come off the corner, either as one forward in a two-forward set or as a winger pushed up high. I think he’d have difficulty in the Prem with his back to the basket.

      I think Coyle will use him out wide and allow him to drift centrally as long as he stay high enough to challenge that opponent backline.

      (thanks for the comments.)

      Reply

      • That’s a role I think he could succeed in (even though it might not be his preferred position).

        With Philly, he pushed high, but was never really a post-up man, instead running off of someone like Paunovic for second-ball opportunities and making the cutting runs on counterattacks. He was also quite adept at finding the pockets of space in between defenders, which eliminated much of the need to body up. Rarely did he venture outside the wide boundaries of the box.

        He’s a bigger help defensively when he’s higher up as well; as I’m sure you’ve seen, that tireless work rate helps him dog defenders and keepers on the ball and create turnovers. He’ll have to learn to be a little more disciplined with that at times, though; if he doesn’t have some supporting pressure behind him, he can’t simply chase and lose shape, or Bolton will be easier to break down in their attacking half.

        Still can’t quite believe this is happening. Gutting as a Union supporter, but can’t help but feel really happy for Seba: class act, great rise from obscurity, terrific player.

        Reply

      • Posted by Antonio H. on 2012/01/18 at 6:18 PM

        I’ve seen Le Toux play once or twice but never actually paid attention to his movement. I just remember him in behind some team’s back line all match long. But the way you refer to him makes me think of the Landon-CD9-Azteca play where Charlie starts a mini run from central to out wide then pirouettes and opens up to Landon, and makes that un from about 5 feet from the touchline towards the 18.

        Ahhh…good times.

        Reply

  2. Bit of funny but

    Stuart Holden corrected a Bolton fan on Le Toux not being American but being french.

    THIS JUST IN: Le Toux has a green card.

    “Of course I am proud to be French, but America has been very kind to me, and I would be proud to represent the US.”

    Technically he is a dual-citizen.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/01/18 at 12:48 PM

    Semi-related question:

    What does a team get when a player like LeToux moves on? Do they get to keep all the transfer funds? Some portion? An extra draft pick?

    Philly seems like they could be in trouble if they lose LeToux and Adu without getting something significant in return.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2012/01/18 at 4:00 PM

      I don’t remember what the exact rules are these days, but they get two-thirds of the transfer fee (bogus that you don’t get to keep 100%, but I digress) which they can either book as profit or use as allocation money.

      Reply

      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/01/18 at 7:31 PM

        I really hate the fact that we dont know the allocation money.

        Reply

      • Posted by Gregorio on 2012/01/19 at 9:19 AM

        I’m not sure of the newly MLS player bargin agreement but it used to be that some players ( maybe not foreigners) did not get anything of the transfer fee. Shameful! So I wonder how much if anything would Letoux get/

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2012/01/19 at 9:51 AM

          I think MLS used to play hardball with players to get them to give up their 10% cut (I think that’s the international standard). It’s pretty annoying, but ultimately the best ways for American MLS players to avoid that kind of treatment–and also stuff like MLS’s overly long Generation adidas contracts–is to become better and more valuable.

          Reply

  4. Posted by Berniebernier on 2012/01/18 at 12:52 PM

    Was I the only one that saw a Benhana ad at the the end of the post?

    I clicked on it figuring I would help TSG out. Now the ad seems to be gone. I have never seen an ad before and now am wondering if I am delusional, have a computer virus or what.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Crow on 2012/01/18 at 2:26 PM

    NOOOOO!!!! Le Toux can’t leave! Triple his salary!! Make him player-manager and get rid of Clown Prince Nowak. This is devastating news.

    If it is true, and Le Toux wants to move on, then good for him. My 2nd favorite soccer player after Deuce. I still can’t believe he played EVERY MINUTE of last year (at the level he does) and did not get a yellow card. He defines class act. I doubt the Union can replace his talent and they definitely will not be able to replace his character. I like Bolton but the Union better get a king’s ransom for Le Toux.

    I agree with the sentiments above that if you play Le Toux too deep or too wide, he can either drift out of games or be marked out of them. Otherwise, he has enough talent to succeed at Bolton. Some people ONLY mark him as a high work rate player- that is a mistake.

    Reply

  6. Posted by EFG on 2012/01/19 at 6:54 AM

    Owen Coyle has said that Le Toux is coming for a trial. Is this just manager speak and it actually is a transfer or is it that Bolton is in such dire need of help that anyone would impress on a trial and it’ll end up being a full transfer?

    Reply

  7. [...] The Shin Guardian looks at a Le Toux move from the perspectives of Bolton and the Union. For Bolton, it is all positives: “The Union’s LeToux in this case is an excellent pick-up at the Reebok. Le Toux is versatile enough to play out wide or up top or move seemlessly along the frontline of the attack. The to-be former Union forward has great straight ahead speed and is adept at moving off the ball. Le Toux is also a solid finisher.” [...]

    Reply

  8. Posted by Union on 2012/01/19 at 11:19 AM

    Off topic, but Matt, in defiance of SOPA, any chance we can got a topic about this http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/news/_/columnist/carlisle_jeff/id/7459350/the-top-10-us-players-21-jeff-carlisle?

    Interesting inclusions and omissions, and, well. I currently have nothing better to do at work.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Union on 2012/01/19 at 1:09 PM

    Awesome news, you always offer a solid perspective on this.

    I’d argue that 6-10 are pretty big head scratchers. I dunno if the ESPN editors pushed for the inclusion of MLS players , but I have to think that Brooks, Bobby Wood, Jann George and maybe Conor Doyle deserve consideration. And I have no bias against listing MLS players, but I’d have to think that Salgado and Gil, at least in terms of pure, raw talent, would be shoo ins for the top 20 U-21.

    Jared Jeffrey and Morales are both 21, so I guess they don’t qualify. But they are players to consider as well.

    Reply

    • Posted by Union on 2012/01/19 at 1:10 PM

      top 10* u-21.

      Reply

    • Posted by Ufficio on 2012/01/19 at 1:34 PM

      Yeah, I find the omission of Gil and Salgado quite puzzling as well.

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2012/01/19 at 1:47 PM

      I also think Gyau and Gatt are too highly-rated. It’s a case of flash overpowering a more nuanced appreciation of a player’s game.

      Okugo should be above Kitchen.

      Sheanon Williams, as a ’90, should’ve snuck on the list. He’s better than Zarek Valentin (who I like as a player). Not sure how I’d rank them, but those are some of my other critiques.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Union on 2012/01/20 at 10:28 AM

    I think the hype for Gyau, who just broke into the gameday 18 for Hoffenheim (at the age of 19), is justified. Will he produce? I’m not sure. But when was the last time a U-20 american cracked into the 1st team of a top flight club in one of the top 3 leagues?

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2012/01/20 at 4:28 PM

      I think Gyau and Gatt are the real deal and are that missing something that the USA needs. I don’t think they are too highly-rated although that perception is really relative.

      I do think Amobi Okugo is possibly the most underrated player in the entire U-23 pool. If Nowak can’t comprehend his value I hope Okugo gets out of Philly even though it will make me sad.

      Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2012/01/20 at 9:17 PM

      Maybe Jon Spector?

      I’m basing my muted evaluation of Gyau on seeing him play a few times. He has natural aggression, speed, and dribbling technique to his credit. That said, his shooting, passing, and vision are important problems, while his defensive effort is perhaps a more minor one. I just think people let the dribbling go to their head.

      I agree with Crow–personally I think Okugo is one of the top five u-21 American players.

      Reply

      • Posted by Crow on 2012/01/21 at 1:16 PM

        Yeah I’ve only seen each like one time, and I’m actually higher on Gatt than Gyau. I’ve been evangelizing about Gatt for almost two years now. I guess I just like what I read about Gyau more than anything. Hopefully, we can see these guys in action soon.

        I’m concerned about the Olympic qualifiers- I want to watch them very badly but I cannot get that Universal Sports Network. The 2000 Olympic Qualifiers in Hershey, PA is what really got me into soccer.

        Reply

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