Stade de Reims – Match Report vs AS Monaco 23/08/2020

Monaco hosted Reims in both teams’ opening Ligue 1 encounter of the season. Both sides fielded youthful starting elevens, with Axel Disasi making his Monaco debut against the club they bought him from. Reims shocked the hosts by going 2-0 up after less than a quarter of the match had been played, but two set piece goals from Monaco drew them level. The first came from Disasi as he nodded home at the back post after a Tchouameni flick-on, and then the second was scored by his central defensive partner Badiashile who got round the back of the defence to slot home after a deep free kick.

Monaco dominated the ball, finishing the game with over 76% of the possession, but they struggled to break down the stubborn Reims defence that had the best defensive record in the league last season, whilst the likes of Ben-Yedder and Geubbels missed great chances to find the back of the net. Reims were happy to sit back and rely on their defensive solidity, before looking to break with directness and pace with their forward line of Dia, Touré, Cafaro and Kutesa, and this was very effective in the first half. However, their attacking threat dwindled in the second half due to the withdrawals of all of the aformentioned forwards at different points throughout the second period.

The away side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation on paper, but in fact it varied throughout the match. One of Touré or Dia would occasionally drop into a deeper number 10 role, whilst when counter attacking the wingers would bomb on to create a front four. Their defensive shape was also perhaps somewhat unorthodox, with Kutesa staying high on the right whilst Cafaro tucked in on the left, to create an almost asymmetrical 4-3-3. They looked very dangerous on the counter but it took some last ditch defending to ensure they got something out of this game, with Monaco starting incredibly slowly before gradually gaining confidence as the match wore on. In the end a draw was probably a fair result, with both sides missing good chances whilst adopting very different game plans.

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

El Bilal Touré

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Malian / Ivorian
  • Age: 18
  • Date of birth: 03/10/2001
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Reims
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary position: Right Wing
  • Preferred foot: Both

El Bilal Touré was given the nod from the start in Reims’ opening fixture of the Ligue 1 campaign and he took no time at all in making an impression on the match, setting up strike partner Dia to score the opener within five minutes, before scoring himself after just 20 minutes to double his team’s advantage. The 6’1 teenager has a robust build and a decent turn of pace that allows him to more than just compete physically. He is also capable of reaching great heights with his jumping capability and this, combined with his fearlessness and aggression when challenging for aerial balls, allowed him to win several aerial duels. This was particularly effective when he set up Dia, as he dropped just in front of the defence to leap and flick on a great header into the path of his onrunning strike partner.

His strength allowed him to hold up the ball well for his team and his two footed ability permitted him to link up effectively in midfield areas. It was a lively performance from the 18 year old who could be found dropping deep to challenge aerially or running into the channels. At times he was intelligent with his movement off the ball and made some good runs off his strike partner or towards the back post, however, despite scoring with his first chance after winning the ball back himself, he did have another great opportunity when the score was at 2-1 that he really should have buried having gone through one on one with the keeper.

Touré worked hard for his team, tracking back effectively and regaining possession in midfield areas. It was also his work rate that lead to his goal, as he closed down the defender high up the pitch to get a foot in and then drive at the central defenders and finish expertly into the bottom corner. He also showed good professionalism and awareness to score, as the Monaco players were still distacted by a penalty appeal in the Reims box moments earlier.

The striker was impressive and made the most of his start, getting a goal and an assist before being withdrawn after an hour had been played. If he could have finished that other big opportunity it would have been the perfect match from the striker who put both his technical and physical attributes on display.

Rating: A2

Dereck Kutesa

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Swiss
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 06/12/1997
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Servette, FC Basel, FC Luzern (L), St. Gallen, Reims
  • Position: Left Wing
  • Secondary position: Right Wing / Centre Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Kutesa was an exciting player to watch in possession, even if he did see very little of the ball in this match due to Reims sitting back and the winger being substituted 10 minutes into the second half. He has a huge amount of pace to burn which allows him to be a threat in behind and also to press effectively by quickly getting in the face of the opponent.

He has a stocky build which allows him to stand strong in shoulder to shoulder battles and this power allows him to drive directly at the defence with the ball, and beat defenders with ease. The 22 year old also possesses great ball control when taking on his man and delivered some dangerous crosses and cutbacks from wide areas. However, the Swiss winger did overrun the ball a couple of times, trying to take on too many players rather than passing.

His positional play when defending was interesting as he stayed high up the pitch to put immediate pressure on the full back, whereas Cafaro tucked into almost a central midfield role on the left hand side. He was able to compete in duels adequately but committed a late tackle just prior to half time that resulted in him being booked.

Kutesa was an exciting player to watch with the ball at his feet and was effective in counter attacking situations for his team. I am unsure of the reasoning behind his substitution – perhaps fitness related due to the strange pre-season schedule caused by the virus – but I will definitely be hoping to watch him again in the near future.

Rating: A2

Boulaye Dia

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French / Senegalese
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 16/11/1996
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Jura Sud, Reims
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary position: Right Wing
  • Preferred foot: Right

Boulaye Dia opened the scoring for Reims early on and on the whole put on a decent display that was let down slightly by his indecision and lack of precision in the final third apart from his goal. He made good runs in between the defenders and into the channels and this was how he scored as he latched onto Touré’s flick on before holding off the defender and slotting the ball past the goalkeeper. Dia showed good strength in shoulder to shoulder duels and a quick burst of acceleration to get away from defenders whilst his link up play was also impressive, teeing up his teammate well in the second half and bringing others into play in midfield areas.

However, he needed to improve his awareness in and around the opposition penalty area, attempting to dummy a pass only for a defender to be stood behind him and then taking on a shot that was blocked rather than playing a simple pass to a teammate in a better position. Furthermore, the 23 year old could have had two more goals but mistimed his shot on both occasions, with his final chance being a glaring opportunity with the scores at 2-2.

Due to Reims’ tactics and Dia playing as a striker he didn’t see a lot of the ball, only having 25 touches in his 77 minutes on the pitch, but he displayed good movement in the final third and got a goal for his team even if he could have added a couple more later on. Defensively, his work rate was average, as he wasn’t tasked with pressing the centre backs but instead was instructed to try and prevent passes into the midfield by the defenders, but this was not particularly effective and Dia had little to no impact when his team didn’t have the ball.

Overall, Dia grabbed a goal and linked up well during counter attacks, but really could have had a hatrick and will have been disappointed to not have put the game to bed by taking at least one of his other chances.

Rating: B1

Predrag Rajkovic

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Serbian
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 31/10/1995
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Jagodina, Red Star Belgrade, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Reims
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Preferred foot: Right

Rajkovic looked competent in between the sticks, but could have maybe done a bit more to prevent the second goal. He looked confident collecting aerial balls, but generally preferred to stay on his line for crosses rather than regularly trying to claim them. Aside from the two goals, most of Monaco’s shots were tame efforts or were blocked by the defenders, and he was only really tested by one effort that he saved with his legs. For the second goal, he looked tentative about coming to claim the ball and stayed on his line, but was then slow to react as Badiashile had time to take a touch and slot home from the edge of the 6 yard box.

When sweeping up loose balls over the top, Rajkovic was quicker off his line and made some important interventions and was positive with the ball at his feet. Distribution wise, he has an excellent range within his reach and was confident using either foot, and found some shorter grounded passes into his teammates, but more often than not he went long and had mixed success. He was instrumental in Reims’ first goal as he found the head of Touré to flick on, and he tried to set off counter attacks by playing long balls into space and did so effectively on occasion. However, he massively overhit a couple, going straight through to the opposition keeper and saw another one or two skew out of play which he will have been disappointed with.

Overall, it was a strange game for Rajkovic who, despite conceding twice, and the opposition having 22 shots on goal, really didn’t have that much to do. He perhaps could have done better for one of the goals and his distribution lacked consistency, but he seemed comfortable in net for Reims.

Rating: B1

Wout Faes

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Belgian
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 03/04/1998
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Anderlecht, SC Heerenveen (L), Excelsior (L), Oostende, Reims
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Secondary position: Defensive Midfield, Right Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Wout Faes replaced Disasi at centre back for Reims and looked to have a good level of potential, but also illustrated some parts of his game that could be improved upon as he develops this season. The defender was strong and aggressive in the tackle, but received a yellow card for a particularly hard challenge. Whilst he was willing to put his body on the line to prevent shots, making several important blocks, none more so than in the final minute when he threw himself in the way of a strike on goal and then on another occasion where he made a goalline clearance to deny Monaco.

At 6’2 and with a sturdy build, Faes demonstrated a decent heading ability, but struggled when marking attackers, especially from set pieces. The Belgian won 6 aerial duels, the second most of any player, and attacked the ball well, however, his marking from set pieces was questionable and he was partially at fault for both goals, being outleaped or losing his man.

From an attacking perspective he got his head to one cross after attacking it well but then directed it well wide from a good area. With the ball at his feet, Faes was competent yet unspectacular, finishing the game with a 67% completion rate and overhitting a couple of simple passes to give away the ball.

Overall, it was an average debut from the young central defender, who could improve upon his marking and passing based on this match, though he also displayed some good defensive instincts and Reims will be hoping he can develop quickly to fill the gap left by Disasi’s departure.

Rating: B2

Mathieu Cafaro

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 25/03/1997
  • Current Club: Reims
  • Career: Toulouse, Reims
  • Position: Attacking Midfield
  • Secondary position: Right Wing / Left Wing
  • Preferred foot: Right

Mathieu Cafaro had a quiet game before being withdrawn after an hour. Especially in the final third, the winger had very little impact, displaying a decent burst of pace and putting one good cross in. Apart from that, he had a couple of attempted crosses that were easily blocked and lost the ball in a dangerous midfield area at one point. He showed good close control at stages and for the most part retained possession well, but didn’t have much of an impact going forward.

Defensively, Cafaro was slightly busier, as he would tuck into almost form a central midfield three when his team didn’t have the ball. This had mixed success, as he was beaten a couple of times by quick changes in direction and he also failed to track the full back which lead to overloads in wide areas. However, by moving into a more central zone, the Frenchman was able to pick off loose passes – making 5 interceptions – and made it harder for Monaco to play through the middle.

Overall, it was a quiet day at the office for Cafaro when going forward, but he worked hard defensively and followed the instructions well to tuck in and crowd central areas.

Rating: B2

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