PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Denis Genreau?
Slightly built and short in stature, Denis Genreau is a versatile midfielder set to continue his steep trend of improvement. Tenacious and hard-working, the French-born Australian is the newest of a wave of technical virtuosos developed by Melbourne City in their football academy and has been earmarked as a prodigious talent since making his professional debut at the age of 17.
Having struggled for match minutes with last season’s Australian Champions, Genreau had his first taste of European football on loan at PEC Zwolle before trading the sky blue of Melbourne City for the white and black of the newly established Macarthur FC. A breakout season saw Genreau start 22 of 23 available matches for the Bulls as he starred at the base of midfield alongside Basque maestro Beñat Etxebarria.
The 22-year-old’s consistency saw him named Macarthur’s Player of the Season and was rewarded with a maiden Socceroos cap before starting all three of Australia’s matches at the Olympics. Stellar performances in a historic victory against Argentina and a narrow loss against eventual runners-up Spain caught the eye of Ligue 2 club Toulouse who agreed an undisclosed fee to sign the technical midfielder.
Genreau’s work rate combined with his fluency in French has allowed him to quickly adapt to his new surroundings and has impressed for Les Violets since establishing himself as a member of the team’s starting XI.
Denis Genreau's style of play
Tidy on the ball and accompanied by a beautiful first touch, Genreau began his career as an advanced midfielder and was typically deployed in a number 10 role which brought his creativity to the fore. More recently, however, Macarthur FC manager Ante Milicic developed the youngster into more of a deep-lying playmaker who could control games from the base of midfield in a double pivot – both in a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 shape.
Despite continuing in this role at the Olympics and in World Cup qualifying for Socceroos and then Olyroos manager Graham Arnold, Genreau’s move to Toulouse has resulted in him being reinstated as a creative midfielder, often finding himself at the tip of the diamond in Philippe Montanier’s 4-4-2 diamond system.
This versatility is an asset for the 22-year-old according to the aforementioned Australian national team manager Graham Arnold who was recently quizzed on the youngster’s best position.
“He’s half number ten and half number six, we would probably call him a number eight,” explained the Socceroos manager. “He can do six and he can do ten but he would be very comfortable playing with one six and two eights. Denis is a creative player who can control the game as a double six but he has got that extra ability in him that he can create as well so it’s a great attribute to have.”
Genreau’s versatility is largely explained by the fact that he is proficient in many traits required of midfielders of any ilk. At 1.75m tall, the French-born Aussie has a low centre of gravity that allows him to effectively manoeuvre his body through tight spaces to keep possession of the ball. When used at the base of midfield, this strength allows him to bypass the first line of pressure and make accurate passes. Genreau’s tidiness on the ball is represented by his passing accuracy of 83% last season in the A-League.
However, the rarity with which Genreau misplaces passes can largely be explained by his lack of verticality in passing which often makes him seem like a conservative and safe passer. The youngster often prefers to play short sideways passes instead of risky passes between the lines, perhaps because he is afraid of losing the ball. Additionally, Genreau is hesitant to attempt long passes, having averaged just 5.82 per 90 last season.
By deploying him in a more advanced midfield role, Toulouse have disguised this weakness and instead highlighted his unique ability in tight spaces. Genreau will often look to position himself between the lines for Montanier’s team as the 22-year-old Aussie looks to use his creative ability in the final third to his advantage. Despite recording just one assist in his four starts thus far, Genreau has created three big chances, suggesting that he has been deprived of more assists due to his team-mates’ inaccurate finishing.
This ability to create scoring opportunities in the final third is catalysed by his fantastic vision and technical ability on the ball which allows him to engage in one-touch passing sequences with his team-mates. Genreau prefers to use his vision to play short and incisive passes rather than cross the ball and play through balls to create opportunities as is more common among traditional number tens.
Despite these strengths, Genreau will have to adopt better finishing and a more consistent goal threat from outside the box should he wish to continue playing as a number ten in the top European leagues. Genreau often struggles to generate sufficient power on his shots due to an awkward shooting technique, however, this could easily be developed and altered by top-level coaches in the future.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Genreau is his work rate and stamina. The Melbourne City youth product is hard-working and will always make runs to support his teammates, both in attack and defence. His fitness allows him to make numerous defensive pressures and explains why he averaged 5.02 interceptions per 90 last season, a number which placed him in the 90th percentile of A-League midfielders (according to Wyscout).
This ability to accurately read passing lanes is most pertinent when Genreau engages in counter-pressing. By deploying Genreau higher up the pitch, Toulouse have sought to use this strength by tasking him to immediately pressure the opposition’s defenders after losing the ball. His fitness and ability to intercept the ball is often crucial for winning the ball higher up the pitch in counter-pressing situations which can launch scoring opportunities.
This ability to effectively counter-press his opponents combined with his lack of composure when pressed from his blind side explains why Toulouse have opted to play Genreau in a freer role in midfield.
When deployed as a number 6, Genreau tends to be dispossessed quite often when placed under pressure due to his over-reliance on technical ability to bypass defenders. He will often try to dribble past the first line of pressure rather than protect the ball using his body due to his physical weakness.
Specifically, Genreau ranked in the 50th percentile among A-League midfielders last season for ball retention – defined as the amount of times a player successfully retains possession of the ball when an opponent tries to dispossess the player.
In order to cement a future as a deep-lying playmaker, Genreau will need to develop his physical strength so he can hold off opponents who look to pressure him when deep in midfield and he will need to alter his body positioning so that he can get his body between the ball and his opponent and, therefore, reduce the possibility of being dispossessed.
Even for the most casual observers, Genreau’s strength and physicality remain his most glaring weaknesses. Weighing in at just 65kg, the youngster is not too strong in the upper body and often loses defensive duels simply by virtue of being less physically imposing than his opponent. Additionally, A-League teams often sought to expose this weakness by launching long balls towards him as he won just 34.21 per cent of aerial duels last season (23rd percentile in the league).
Forecasting Denis Genreau's Future Prospects
Genreau remains a key member of Toulouse’s first-team squad and has nailed down a position in their starting XI due to his work rate, vision in the final third and ability to effectively counter-press. The French-born Australian will look to play a vital role in Toulouse’s push towards promotion to Ligue 1 as they currently sit top of Ligue 2 with just one loss in their first 11 matches.
At just 22 years of age, Genreau is still in the dawn of his career and will look to use the next 12 months as a launchpad to solidify his place in Australia’s national team before the 2022 World Cup where the country is well-placed to qualify. With this in mind, Genreau is likely to stay at Toulouse even if they do not get promoted due to his desire to continue playing consistent football to further his development.
While the Olympian finds himself playing as an advanced midfielder for Toulouse, his future likely lies as a number eight or a number six where he can be tasked with controlling the game from deep. However, until he irons out the deficiencies in his game and develops physically, the more creative midfield role is probably the best fit for his development.
Ultimately, Genreau is an promising talent with strong technical ability who has developed exponentially as a player in the last year. Should the 22-year-old continue this upward trend of improvement, there is no reason as to why Genreau cannot find himself playing consistently in one of Europe’s top five leagues in the near future.
Genreau is a midfield player with superb technical ability on the ball and a brilliant work rate on the pitch. He rarely misplaces passes, is great at manoeuvring through tight spaces and is an asset for teams wishing to both counter-press and press high up the pitch.
Genreau’s biggest weakness is his lack of physical strength which often means he relies on his technical ability to progress the ball from deep. Until this weakness is rectified, he is unlikely to play in a deep-lying midfield position. Additionally, Genreau can often be seen as a safe passer who also lacks a goal threat in the final third.