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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Christophe Galtier

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Tottenham stole Lille’s coaching staff 18 months ago. This time, why not steal their manager?

Olympique Lyonnais v Lille OSC - Ligue 1 Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

The Basics

Name: Christophe Galtier
Age: 54
Team: LOSC Lille
Nationality: French
Cumulative ELO rating:

The Specifics

Trophies:

  • French League Cup (1): 2012/13 (AS Saint-Étienne)

Christophe Galtier might be overlooked as he works in, arguably, the weakest of the top 5 leagues in Europe, but his work at Lille has been nothing short of tremendous for the last three years. Unlike other giants in Ligue 1 - and similar to the majority of French teams - Lille are no strangers to financial trouble, necessitating a shrewd approach to the transfer market. In a short amount of time, Galtier has been able to turn a club around from near-definite relegation in 18/19 to leaders in the race for the Ligue 1 title in the 2020/21 season. This was due in no small part to Luis Ocampos, a name that inspires reverence across the footballing world. The man simply knows how to make transfers work.

In the last year, Lille lost the likes of Osimshen to Napoli, Gabriel to Arsenal, and Nico Gaitan to Braga in Portugal. They filled the gaps left open by these departures with Jonathan David, Sven Botman, Isaac Lihadji, and Burak Yilmaz - all of whom have been integral in Lille’s title run so far. It’s one thing to identify and acquire the talent that a team needs, its another entirely to ensure what quality may be seen on paper also shows on the pitch. So how does Galtier have his team play?

Tactics

Lille typically set up in a 4-4-2, but can move to a 4-2-3-1 if the opposition calls for it. In possession, Lille move to a 3-6-1 to create passing triangles across all three banks of their players. They like to build out from the back, with the two centerbacks, Botman and Fonte, starting wide and deep while the wingbacks push up to pin the opposition wingers back and look for long switches of play. Two midfielders will drop - Benjamin André has been incredible at progressing the ball from deep - to shuttle the ball from the defensive third into the middle third, and interplay with the ball near winger while the ball far winger stays long and wide.

Alternatively, Lille can go route one as Maignan is great with the ball at this feet, and Burak Yilmaz is a strong centerforward option for holding up the play.

More often than not, however, Lille move the ball forward methodically and rely on heavy wing play in order to create attacking chances. Yusuf Yazici has been an excellent acquisition, providing 7 goals from midfield, whereas both strikers Jonathan David and Yilmaz have been excellent in front of goal as well. The man who really pulls the strings however is Jonathan Bamba. He’s got the most assists in the team by far (9). He’s the main reason that Galtier’s Lille play through the left for the majority of their attacks.

Offensively, they’re a very vertical side that doesn’t rely as much on counterattacks as they do transitions.

Defensively, they can keep a compact low or mid block, but this is not something they immediately revert to when they lose the ball.

Galtier has his team press as much as possible with the striker harrying the goalkeeper or centerback, and the second striker (in a 4-4-2) pinches in and covers the inside midfield option, all in a bid to move the ball towards the flanks and use the sidelines as an extra defender. When a fullback receives the ball, Lille’s wingers pounce to force a transition. They are currently 5th in possessions won in the final third - but the most intriguing thing is that they transition to a compact block so well. They have the fewest number of goals conceded per match at .6, and highest number of clean sheets.

All in all, Galtier has built an excellent defensive side, but even that language might have some less than favorable connotations - they average 4.9 shots on target per match, which should dispel notions that they are a strictly defensive side.

Strengths

Galtier has managed to turn a side destined for relegation into a title contender. That’s no small feat, and a huge part of that has been the defense that he’s been able to build at Lille. Being able to do it on a relatively shoestring budget will perk Levy’s ears.

Some aspects of Galtier’s play would be well received at Tottenham Hotspur. His focus on wing play can create some real ‘off your seats’ moments, and I’ve yet to meet a Spurs fan who does not want to see pressing football make a return in the stadium.

Moreover, there’s something to be said about the mentality he would bring to the club. It takes more than a tactical understanding of the game to flip a club so to speak, and the fact that he’s got Lille players feeling extremely confident in a league with PSG speaks volumes.

Weaknesses

I can’t help but feel that as Galtier is exactly what Lille needed to turn the club around, Lille was exactly what Galtier needed for his career. Here’s what I mean - it’s extremely hard to tell how much of Lille’s success should be attributed to Galtier, much less predict if he can replicate is elsewhere.

If there were fears that Erik Ten Hag was a pure Ajax boy that was just there to keep the engine running, surely the same could be said about Galtier. To put it more bluntly, the success that Lille have seen has a lot to do with Luis Campos’ ludicrous success in the transfer market. I’m not privy to the relationship between the two, but I wonder how Galtier gets on without a massively successful man like Campos backing him.

Indeed, I wonder if he’d find success at a club like Tottenham where there’s a 50% chance a transfer won’t work out at all.

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

I’m a fan of outsiders. Galtier’s work is nothing short of fantastic, but I don’t think he’s a totally realistic option for Levy. How many times have we heard that Spurs are reluctant to consistently turn to France for transfers because there’s a fear that it’s too big of a jump? Apply that same logic to a manager.

Grade if Hired: C

It’d be cool to see some fresh blood come through the managerial turn-tiles in the Premier League. But Galtier doesn’t have a ton of historical success, and that’s going to inspire some hesitation on whether his 20/21 is a flash in the pan. He’s shown that his team can play with the big boys in France, but has he shown it enough? Moreover, what are the chances that if he changes his environment his success will also?