PROFILE | Gedeon Kalulu: One of Ligue 1’s most complete full-backs

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While his brother Pierre may be gaining more plaudits at AC Milan, Gédéon Kalulu has slowly but surely seen his star rise in 2022, in concert with his instrumental roles in both Ajaccio’s promotion and Lorient’s brilliant start to the season. An industrious and powerful right-back who came through the academy at Lyon before decamping for Ajaccio, his play for Les Merlus has been key to their strong form to the season, offering a marked upgrade on Igor Silva.

At Ajaccio, his role was one that was more defensively-oriented. There’s no doubting the team’s stoic approach under Michel Panataloni was what earned them promotion, but he still evinced a good range of passing, and showed himself to be comfortable on either flank in a back four. Key especially for Ajaccio was his tackling and discipline, Kalulu was booked just seven times in nearly one hundred appearances for the Corsicans.

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Strong in the air and good with the ball at his feet as well, Kalulu’s physical gifts marked him out to be an ideal two-way player, showing the strength and dynamism that have been the hallmarks of some of the game’s best right-backs in recent years – think Manchester City’s Kyle Walker or Achraf Hakimi of PSG. Given the struggles of the talented but less imposing Silva and Houboulang Mendes’ lack of positional nous last year, it made sense for the club to add a more imposing player, and, with Kalulu available on a free, the price was right.

With Lorient playing a more attacking style, and having more capable attackers in the form of Terem Moffi and Ibrahima Koné, Kalulu has fit into the system perfectly. His energy and recovery pace allows the likes of Dango Ouattara and Théo Le Bris a longer leash going forward, while the defence, which has been improved by the arrivals of Yvon Mvogo in goal and centre-back Montassar Talbi, has also benefited from Kalulu’s arrival. His positional acumen is also allowing the slow-footed Julien Laporte to have more of an influence on the game.

Lorient are hardly a defensive powerhouse, but they are quite a bit more solid than last year, and much of that is down to Kalulu. Going forward, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league, and while the likes of Ouattara and Le Bris have caught the eye, the balance and ball recovery of Kalulu have aided in that regard as well, making him one of the most complete and influential right-backs in the league.

Eric Devin | GFFN