Edmond Tapsoba


Phil Costa

May 25, 2021

Who is Edmond Tapsoba?

Young players breaking through often feels significant based on novelty, but, in most cases, their journeys have been carefully crafted across several years. Elite coaching, nutrition and gym work consume everyday routines before compulsory education is even completed. However, Edmond Tapsoba enjoyed no such luxury. In fact, his rise from the streets of Burkina Faso to European football was extremely significant in every sense.

Born in the Burkinabé capital, Ouagadougou, Tapsoba was scouted by local side Salitas aged 16. He spent just one season with the second-tier outfit before joining US Ouagadougou the following summer, but failed to make a senior appearance for either club over three seasons. 

This profile was originally published in the sixth edition of the Scouted Football Handbook, available here.

This made an offer from Portuguese side Leixões in 2018 all the more surprising. Already a regular Burkina Faso international, Tapsoba joined the Matosinhos-based club and settled quickly, impressing for their under-19 outfit before Primeira Liga club Vitória Guimarães signed him a year later.

And it was there where the teenager began to turn heads. Promoted to the first team in July 2019, his Europa League performances – against Arsenal in particular – highlighted defensive attributes truly suited to modern football. His partnership with Pedro Henrique turned a mid-table side into consistent top-six

challengers, and six months was all Bayer Leverkusen needed to spend €18 million plus €7 million in further add-ons, for his signature.

It took the 21-year-old just four training sessions to earn a starting place in the frenetic 4-3 win against Borussia Dortmund, a game typical of the Bundesliga, which preceded a nine-game unbeaten run before the COVID-19-enforced break.

Edmond Tapsoba's Style of Play

Tapsoba’s distribution immediately stands out. Primarily stationed as a right-sided centre-back for Vitória, he was tasked with relaying the first phase of build-up, distributing the ball into midfield partners with accuracy and purpose. 

His passing is always well-intentioned and played with technical confidence which helps set a progressive tempo from deep areas. Before joining Leverkusen, 71 percent of his 868 passes were played forward at an 88 percent completion rate – highlighting quarter-back qualities usually found in those playing further upfield.

But there is also variety to his catalogue. Vitória usually built play through central areas but often deployed a joker card – which, during his time at the club, Tapsoba was pivotal to. His diagonal passing is hugely accomplished which afforded left-sided players Florent Hanin and Davidson license to push forward – easily exploiting half-hearted pressure from opposition midfielders. 

Only two Primeira Liga defenders – César Martins, 7.1, and Nehuén Pérez, 6.8 – completed more long balls per 90 minutes than Tapsoba’s 6.2 this season, while remaining comfortably clear of his Vitória team-mates.

The Burkina Faso international can also carry the ball if passing lanes are blocked. Defenders generally look clumsy in possession and are targeted as pressing triggers, but he has formed a unique technique of opening his body before side-stepping inwards, evading forwards who sell themselves too easily. 

His 0.8 dribbles per 90 seem standard at face value but 18 of those total 22 dribbles were successful this season – an 85 percent completion rate.

In terms of his defensive attributes, Tapsoba can be divided into two segments: instinct and education. The 21-year-old is far more comfortable when improvising off-script, using physical qualities to win individual battles as opposed to more calculated play. 

The defender practically glides across the ground, boasting a Raphaël Varane-esque gait which allows him to match forwards for pace. However, he is not a front-footed player that constantly seeks to initiate opposition turnovers – as shown by his 0.6 interceptions per 90 – but he is always decisive in the challenge, averaging 2.5 completed tackles per 90 minutes across both clubs he has played with this season.

Both Vitória and Leverkusen favour high defensive lines but arguably his best performances have originated from deep penalty box play when asked to deal with crosses. 

He is currently averaging 3.9 clearances per 90 across all competitions – again more than any other team-mate – but away from that mollycoddled structure, vulnerability can present itself. Tapsoba is guilty of ball-watching and frequently loses discipline within his defensive line, either stepping up too late or pushing up too early, making runners hard to track.

When sensing danger, his immediate thought is to directly intervene. The defender enjoys taking responsibility and backs himself to win defensive duels – which likely stemmed from him outgrowing Primeira Liga level – but can leave defensive partners exposed. 

Learning to manage those hot-headed moments would greatly improve his game. To his credit, he has looked more composed in a back three under Petr Bosz in the Bundesliga.

Forecasting Edmond Tapsoba's Future Prospects

Singling out criticism almost feels wrong when you consider his rise from the Burkinabé Premier League to the Bundesliga in just over four years, but this should only serve as greater motivation to improve. Premier League clubs, namely Leicester and Wolves, also enquired for the 21-year-old in January but Leverkusen presents a natural fit at this stage in his development.

Die Werkself have a promising young side and are known for moulding the careers of exciting talents in need of some polishing. German football will also provide a smooth transition into a top-five European league while remaining competitive, where the defender can adapt without feeling pressured by an instant demand to settle. His Europa League performances have also proven his credentials against higher calibre opponents as Leverkusen battle for Champions League places.

On current trajectory, it is easy to imagine that one day Tapsoba will be featuring regularly among the European elite. But having just earned his high-profile move there is no need to rush things, with consistent playing time likely to benefit both his current evolution and future.

Edmond Tapsoba is a wonderful distributor of the ball from defence, that is also confident carrying the ball forwards himself. Defensively, Tapsoba works instinctively, sensing danger and intervening as quickly as possible.

His willingness to play front-footed can at times lead to moments of vulnerability, with ball-watching and lapses of concentration creating issues along the defensive line.