RC Lens – Match Report vs OGC Nice 23/08/2020

RC Lens were taught a harsh lesson in the importance of finishing your chances as they made their return to the French top flight against OGC Nice. Despite creating far more chances and playing the better football for long periods of this match, Lens failed to be clinical in front of goal and as a result fell to a 2-1 defeat as their opponents found the back of the net with their only two shots on target.

It was a dream start for the newly promoted side when they were awarded a penalty for a handball only ten minutes into the game, that was then converted expertly by Kakuta. They looked comfortable and played some good football, not showing any signs of nerves when confidently playing out from the back. They conceded the equaliser shortly after the penalty, as they switched off for a split second and allowed Gouiri too much space on the edge of the box, and Nice’s new signing made no mistake in finding the back of the net via the crossbar.

Even when on level terms, it has to be said that the newcomers looked the most dangerous, missing some guilt-edged chances. They were happy to sit back in the second half and hit Nice on the counter attack and they did this effectively, but once again all it took was one slight slip up in defence and Gouiri once more punished them with a finish that would be expected from a veteran goalscorer rather than that of a youngster who was yet to score a senior goal prior to this match.

Lens battled hard to find an equaliser but in the end lacked the required quality in front of goal and so fell to a disappointing defeat. Although his team were on the losing side, Lens manager Franck Haise should be very encouraged by large parts of his team’s performance, but he will know that in order to succeed in their return to the top tier they will need to take their chances in games like these.

Lens set up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Kakuta playing in behind the two strikers in Ganago and Sotoca. Doucoure and captain Cahuzac were asked to work very hard in midfield and had to cover a lot of ground, but did so effectively, whilst the back three behind them displayed some real quality both in and out of possession. They will feel hard done by to be on the losing side in this match, but if they can take more of their chances in future matches there is no reason why they can’t be competitive in Ligue 1 this season based off this performance.

Ratings

  • 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

Loïc Badé

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 11/04/2000
  • Current club: RC Lens
  • Career: Paris FC (Y), Le Havre, RC Lens
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Loïc Badé put in a performance beyond his years on his competitive debut for Lens. The young defender was deployed as the central defender of the back three and was primarily tasked with marking Nice’s top scorer last season, Kasper Dolberg. Up against a player who provides a formidable challenge for almost all defenders in the league, Badé gave the Danish marksman no room to operate and kept him quiet for the entirety of the match, an impressive feat for a player making only his 8th senior appearance.

At 6’3 and with a strong build, he is a physcial unit which immediately gave him an advantage in duels and allowed him to dominate the striker. He would almost lay a trap by giving the striker enough space to look for the ball to feet and when it became apparent that he was going to receive the pass, the defender would stick tight to his man and get a foot in to cut it out and win possession. The 20 year old was strong and aggressive yet fair when challenging for the ball, rarely committing a foul yet frequently winning the ball back. When his team were pressing higher up the pitch, he would stick tight to his man and allow him no space to turn, primarily as this allowed him to use his physicality, whereas on the one or two occasions that an attacker was dribbling at him, he looked less comfortable.

Due to his height and build, Badé dominated aerially, winning several aerial duels (3 – the joint most in the match) and gave little change when long balls were played towards the striker. Another reason why he is able to stick tight to his man is that he seems to have a decent turn of pace when running back towards his goal, whilst because he was playing in a back three, this gave him the freedom to challenge in duels in the knowledge that his teammates would be providing cover. Likewise, when his teammates were challenging in duels, he provided cover effectively, sweeping up loose balls and showing good awareness to either drop off or step up. Defensively you couldn’t have asked much more of Badé in this match, as he asserted his dominance at the heart of the back three.

In possession, the central defender once again showed maturity beyond his age. His close control was to a very high standard and allowed him to open up space when driving out from defence or retain possession comfortably after winning a tackle. He was composed with the ball at his feet and played some accurate passes into the midfield and channels behind the opposition defence. His clever quick feet allowed him to step out from defence with the ball, again granted some freedom in the knowledge that his centre back teammates would provide cover.

However, he needed to be careful not to overcomplicate the play at times, losing the ball in midfield areas on a couple of occasions. Badé seemed reluctant to clear the ball and instead tried to find passes out from defence and again this was sometimes effective but also occasionally put his team under pressure if the pass was picked off. Meanwhile, his aerial ability also proved to be an attacking threat as he diverted a header towards goal in the closing minutes only to see it tipped over the crossbar by the Nice goalkeeper.

Overall, this was an incredibly promising debut from Badé who showed real physical and technical qualities which he will be looking to build upon as the season gets into full swing.

Rating: A1

Cheick Doucouré

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Malian
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 08/01/2000
  • Current club: RC Lens
  • Career: Real Bamako (Y), RC Lens
  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Secondary position: Centre Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

20 year old central midfielder Cheick Doucouré also put on a promising display, lining up in a midfield partnership alongside veteran captain Yannick Cahuzac. Doucouré was tasked with providing the legs from midfield, making good use of his athleticism and physicality throughout the match, whilst also putting his excellent passing range on display.

In possession, the young Mali international was very efficient, ending the game with a 93% pass completion rate, but it was the technique of his passing that was most impressive. His passes were consistently firm, smooth and accurate, an important ability for a midfield player that allowed him to find small gaps between opposition players and made it easy for his teammates to instantly control and look forward.

He was strong when protecting the ball and used good quick feet to break free of challenges before finding a pass. The 20 year old switched the play effectively on several occasions, stretching the opposition and creating 1 v 1’s in wide areas. Whilst he also played some inventive balls over the top of the defence to try and pick out the striker’s run. Doucouré was confident and capable on the ball, cutting a very assured figure in the centre of the park.

Standing at a fairly average height of 5’11 but with a large frame, he provides a physical presence in midfield, whilst being aggressive in the challenge. He battled well and covered a lot of ground for his team, displaying good anticipation to make three interceptions and break up Nice’s build up play. His aggression did cross the line once or twice and he was perhaps fortunate not to be booked after two late tackles from which he failed to win the ball, but left the opposition player in a heap on the floor. He could have also checked his shoulder more regularly in this match, failing to show a good level of awareness at times and allowing the striker behind him to receive the ball to feet, whereas if he had shifted across once or twice this wouldn’t have been a viable option for the attack.

Doucouré provided some steel and strength in midfield whilst being progressive and rarely giving the ball away when in possession, there were a couple of small areas for improvement but on the whole it was an impressive performance.

Rating: A2

Facundo Medina

Medina (right).

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Argentine
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 28/05/1999
  • Current club: RC Lens
  • Career: River Plate (Y), Talleres, RC Lens
  • Position: Left Back
  • Secondary position: Centre Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

Medina played as the left central defender for Lens in this match and performed well apart from one mistake that lead to Nice’s winning goal which somewhat tarnished his overall display.

Defensively, the Argentine is very aggressive and likes to get in the face of his opponent, allowing them little room to manoeuvre and trying to win the ball early. This worked effectively at stages as he won the ball back 6 times for his team, making 5 interceptions (the most in the match) by nipping in front of the attacking player. He showed good anticipation and reading of the game to cut out passes and predict the movement of the forward, but his aggression got the better of him on a few occasions, committing three late tackles that resulted in him receiving a yellow card before half time, consequently meaning he was walking a disciplinary tight rope for the entirety of the second half.

Furthermore, there are a couple of questions over his aerial ability as he is just 5’11 which is relatively small for a centre back and rarely challenged in aerial duels, being helped out greatly by playing next to Badé. Having said this, he did make one excellent last ditch headed clearance when under pressure at the back post to deny Nice a clear chance at a goal. Medina has a decent turn of pace and is adequately strong (this is accentuated by his aggression), and he covered well when his teammates were out of position, with the back three functioning competently as a unit.

Medina offered an outlet when his team was in possession and was perhaps the most adventurous of the three defenders with the ball at his feet. He was capable of spraying long passes accurately into teammates in more advanced areas whilst he also played some firmly hit ground passes into the strikers’ feet, allowing them to get in behind the opposition midfield. He was able to link up tidily even when under pressure and provided an extra creative spark to the team during build up play.

However, he did hit a couple of stray passes that were cut out in midfield and was primarily at fault for the Nice winner. He drifted infield to collect the ball off the keeper, but his touch was loose and allowed Nice to pounce on it, Gouiri was then able to run at the other two centre halves and expertly curl home from the edge of the box. There was little need for Medina to drift so centrally and it was the first occasion he had done so, perhaps showing a lack of experience by taking the risk with just 15 minutes left to play.

Medina certainly showed some qualities both with and without the ball, but he also made some costly errors and it will be a big learning curve for him as it will for the rest of the Lens team. If he can iron out these issues as the season develops then he will be an even more valuable asset for his team, having joined the club from Argentina this summer for a fee in the region of £3.5 million.

Rating: B1

Ismaël Boura

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 14/08/2000
  • Current club: RC Lens
  • Career: RC Lens
  • Position: Left Back
  • Secondary position: Left Midfield / Left Wing Back
  • Preferred foot: Left

Academy product Boura operated as a left wing back in this match, tasked with providing width when attacking and dropping into a back 5 when defending. The youngster was positive with the ball and always looked to get forward or put a cross in if at all possible. He had a good burst of acceleration and used it to create space for himself in wide areas. He drove well and looked to get into attacking areas of the pitch quickly during transitions.

The 20 year old linked up effectively with his teammates but his final ball lacked consistent quality, overhitting several having been in decent positions, but also whipping some into dangerous areas, largely to no avail. He was happy to come short to receive a pass from the centre back and took the ball on the half turn in order to drive forward or find a first time pass into midfield. He worked hard in attack and showed some positive signs, but lacked the end product necessary to pose a significant creative threat.

In defence, Boura worked hard but looked fairly fragile at times. At just 5’8 and with an average to slim build, he is not a huge physical presence and can struggle in duels. However, his pace bailed him out on a couple of occasions as he pressed well and made one or two impressive recovery tackles. However, he was beaten with ease at times and and played the striker onside at one stage by dropping too deep when he tucked in and then not tracking the run. Whilst he also made a cynical foul that lead to him receiving a yellow card.

Boura has a decent turn of pace, and works hard in both attack and defence, but his lack of physicality and defensive awareness harmed his performance in defence whilst he lacked consistency in the final third before being withdrawn with just under 15 minutes to play.

Rating: B2

Ignatius Ganago

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Cameroonian
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 16/02/1999
  • Current club: RC Lens
  • Career: OGC Nice, RC Lens
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary position: Right Wing / Left Wing
  • Preferred foot: Right

Ignatius Ganago lined up in a two man strike force alongside Sotoca, with Kakuta playing in a number 10 role just behind them. The 5’9 striker has a strong build that allows him to hold up play effectively with his back to goal, using his body to shield the ball and bring others into play. Whilst he also possesses the pace to turn and run in behind the defence, causing problems with his intelligent movement that allows him to get free of defenders. He also displayed decent control and quick feet to evade challenges and open up space.

However, it was Ganago’s finishing that let him down hugely in this match, skewing wide a fantasic chance from just a few yards after a great team move that had involved the Cameroonian forward. He had another couple of attempts throughout the match, seeing one blocked and another go well wide whilst on another roccaision he found himself in a good position but looked indecisive, delaying too long and seeing the opening pass him by. Furthermore, he was easily muscled off in shoulder to shoulder to challenges once or twice and struggled to compete in the air.

The 21 year old looked to track back at times but wasn’t consistent with his defensive output and although he looked to put himself about he gave away at least one needless foul for a late challenge. Ganago’s movement, pace and control made him seem threatening at times, but he really failed to take his chances which cost his team dearly and he will be disappointed not to have put his name on the scoresheet before being withdrawn after an hour.

Rating: B2

Advertisements

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: