Nîmes Olympique hosted Stade Rennais in this Ligue 1 clash as the French domestic campaign gets into full swing. In what was an eventful game full of twists and turns right up to the final whistle, Rennes ran out eventual 4-2 winners thanks to a first half brace from summer signing Serhou Guirassy, before second half goals from yet another new arrival Nayef Aguerd and substitute Benjamin Bourigeaud. Nîmes fought hard , and managed to equalise twice in the match despite falling behind, but in the end, their opposition’s third goal was a killer blow that seemed to stun the home team, with the fourth being scored with practically the last kick of the game. There was a small resurgence towards the end of the match, and Nîmes will feel aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty in added time when Lamine Fomba‘s effort on goal seemed to strike the hand of Rennes’ centre back Damien Da Silva.
The match was generally played at quite a high tempo and with good intensity despite the disrupted pre-season and hot conditions, but it was slightly marred by 30 fouls being committed in the game, 8 yellow cards being shown and several breaks for injury treatment, as well as drinks breaks taking place midway through both halves. Rennes were happy to let the Nîmes defence have the ball, put pressed heavily whenever the midfield were in possession, allowing little room for the likes of Benrahou to operate in the number 10 role. As a result, they were forced to go long quite often, which left lone striker Denkey isolated when challenging up against two central defenders.
However, Nîmes were able to find ways to break down the away side, with Meling providing an impressive attacking outlet from left back, and Ferhat providing an attacking threat from the right wing. Their first goal came from a piece of individual brilliance from Cubas, whilst their second came from Meling’s persistance down the left hand side to win possession and cut it back for Ferhat to fire home after a counter attack.
Defensively, Nîmes struggled with the physicality and movement of Guirassy and the quick feet of Raphinha and Tait in wide areas at times. The introduction of Bourigeaud for Camavinga proved important, as the former assisted Rennes’ third before scoring the fourth, whilst the latter had struggled to have an attacking impact on proceedings in the opening hour. The home side will be disappointed with the manner in which they conceded the goal that put them behind a third time, having worked so hard to be level up to that point, as it was a simple set piece delivery from a fairly deep area that was poked home by an unmarked central defender.
Nîmes lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system in this match, and they will be disappointed to have fallen to another defeat following a hard-to-swallow 2-1 loss to nine man FC Nantes in their previous game. They were able to avoid the drop last season thanks in part to the cancellation of the relegation play-off, and after getting off to a flying start this season with a 4-0 victory over Brest, they have began to stumble a bit once more as after these two defeats and their upcoming run of fixtures does not look get any easier.
- 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
- Nationality: Paraguayan
- Age: 24
- Date of birth: 22/05/1996
- Current Club: Nîmes
- Career: Boca Juniors, Pescara (L), Defensa y Justicia (L), Talleres, Nîmes
- Position: Defensive Midfield
- Secondary position: Centre Midfield
- Preferred foot: Right
Andrés Cubas had an impressive game at the heart of the Nîmes midfield – especially in the first half, offering a threat going forward whilst also bringing bite and aggression to his team. Defensively, he was up against a tough challenge in the shape of ‘wonderkid’ Eduardo Camavinga, but he showed no signs of being deterred, using a good burst of pace and intent to win possession whenever his midfield opponents received the ball. He was quick to get into the face of the forward and gave them little time to dwell on the ball or assess their options, hassling them and making his presence known by nipping at the heels of the man in possession.
Whenever he pressured the opposition it seemed as though he had a good chance of regaining possession with his bravery and intensity in the challenge, as a result he made life very difficult for Rennes when trying to play through central areas. The Paraguayan international was persistant even on the rare occasion where he was beaten and never gave up the challenge, constantly making himself a thorn in the side of the other team. Whilst he also displayed good reading of the game to cut out passes and set up counter attacks from midfield areas.
However, Cubas needed to be careful not to be too eager to chase down the ball, as occasionally his press would leave space in behind him and left the back four slightly exposed. Furthermore, despite showing good stamina levels to see out the full 90 minutes, when he pressed with such intensity and energy in the first half, the 24 year old struggled to match the same levels in the second period and consequently his impact on proceedings dropped off significantly towards the business end of the match. Furthermore, despite his aggression and energy, he does lack physicality as he is only 5’7 and has a slim to average build which means he does not provide an aerial presence and it can effect his ability to compete in ground duels.
On the ball, Cubas was relatively tidy whilst also providing a useful platform from which to build attacks, demonstrating impressive vision to find teammates on occasion. He was able to link up effectively in tight areas, and he played one perfectly weighted pass over the top of the defence to the on-running striker who just couldn’t take it in his stride. Occasionally he displayed some complacency in possession, and gave the ball away in potentially dangerous midfield areas once or twice. Another aspect of his game that came to the fore in this match was the Paraguayan’s shooting from range. He had one sighter fairly early on that he dragged wide of the target from around 25 yards out, but then he drew his team level 10 minutes prior to half time with a fantastic strike. After a corner was headed clear to him on the edge of the penalty area, he brought it down nicely with his first touch before displaying great technique and composure to fire home on the half-volley into the top corner.
Overall, despite his influence fading in the second half, Cubas showed enough of his quality to illustrate his potential. The 24 year old midfielder was snappy, aggressive and energetic in his defending, whilst demonstrating composure and quality in possession at times. There were a few areas of his game that could be ironed out (based on this match), such as his defensive positioning and occasional complacency on the ball, but on the whole it was a good performance.
- Nationality: French / Moroccan
- Age: 21
- Date of birth: 24/01/1999
- Current Club: Nîmes
- Career: Bordeaux, Nîmes
- Position: Attacking Midfield
- Secondary position: Right Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
Yassine Benrahou showed glimpses of his creative ability and the influence he can have on his team when going forward, but also struggled at times to find that cutting edge in the final third. As mentioned previously, due to the system’s that both sides put into action, Benrahou often struggled to find space in advanced central areas and so was forced to drift wide or come deeper. However, even when he did get the ball, he was not the most impressive.
The 21 year old displayed good quick feet when driving at the opposition, but found it difficult to beat his opponents and was dispossessed on several occasions. Furthermore, he possibly thought too far ahead at times, allowing his first touch to get away from him rather than first focussing on getting the ball under control. The forward did manage to skip past one or two challenges, and found some progressive passes into decent areas (making three key passes in the match), rarely giving up possession when trying to find teammates, but he went sometimes over too easily and seemed to lack the strength to compete in shoulder to shoulder battles when dribbliing.
He was possibly most effective in open play when dropping deeper and he linked up well in the build up to Nîmes’ second goal which they scored on a counter attack. However, he seemed wary of dropping deep too often, perhaps for fear of leaving the striker isolated. Benrahou was the side’s designated set piece taker and was dangerous from corners, consistently finding threatening areas with his deliveries and giving his teammates an opportunity to attack the ball.
From open play, often his decision making and quality in the final third let him down. He shot when a pass would have been a better option on a couple of occasions and his efforts on goal were tame, never really posing a problem for Rennes’ goalkeeper. Whilst the 21 year old drifted wide at times and attempted to cut inside and cross, and although the ideas behind the deliveries were good, they lacked the required execution with little pace on the ball and he saw them either cleared or drift behind for goal kicks.
Benrahou showed what he is capable of and how he can be an important asset for his team this season, but he needed to have better decision making and quality in the final third and struggled to get into the game at times before being withdrawn for the final 10 minutes. I will be watching Benrahou again soon as in this game, and previous performances I have seen, he has shown glimpses of his potential, but is yet to really set the world alight.
- Nationality: Togolese
- Age: 19
- Date of birth: 30/11/2000
- Current Club: Nîmes
- Career: Nîmes, Béziers (L)
- Position: Striker
- Secondary position: Right Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
This was a tough game for Denkey who never really got going before being withdrawn 10 minutes into the second half. He only touched the ball on 11 occasions during his time on the pitch, and even in those brief spells on the ball, he mostly failed to impress. His first touch was heavy and allowed the opposition to nip in and win back the ball, whilst he didn’t make an effort to join in the build up play, only attempting three passes and completing two of those. He struggled with his back to goal when asked to hold the ball up or when trying to spin and get a shot off as he was too slow and predictable with the ball at his feet. The striker was hesitant when pressing, seeming unsure when to close down the man on the ball and committing two late tackles that resulted in him receiving a yellow card.
His saving grace was his movement in behind, as he did make some good runs off the shoulder of the last man and brought one pass down nicely before seeing his awkward effort on goal saved behind for a corner. He also made another run in behind that saw him get to the ball first before the keeper smothered his second touch. Denkey’s movement when the ball was outwide was poor and he failed to time his runs well enough to get across the defender, though at one stage it seemed he may score after his initial effort was blocked as he showed good quick thinking to drag the ball back and have a second effort that he saw saved by the keeper from close range. The 5’11 forward has a strong build and a decent burst of pace which he did use to try and get in behind, but he was caught off balance when trying to get a couple of his shots off and didn’t provide an aerial presence in this match.
Overall, despite his lack of involvement, Denkey did try to make something happen with his runs in behind but lacked that required extra degree of composure in front of goal. His replacement Koné was even less effective and at only 19 Denkey has a lot of time to improve. I’d be interested in watching him again in a match where he sees more of the ball but on the whole it was a fairly subdued display from the Togolese striker.