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, Rennes’ 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 slightly edged the possession stats but actually looked most dangerous on the counter attack, with the pace and skill of Raphinha and Tait in wide areas and Guirassy providing a focal point as the lone striker.
With the usually quality 17 year old Camavinga struggling to influence proceedings from midfield, Rennes sometimes encountered problems when trying to build up through central areas, especially with Cubas having a great game at the heart of the Nîmes team. However, two pieces of quality play from new striker Guirassy allowed Rennes to take the lead twice in the first half. The introduction of Benjamin Boureigeaud proved pivotal as he set up Rennes’ third with a good set piece delivery, before scoring their fourth after a quick break away in the final seconds of the match.
Rennes set up in a 4-3-3 formation and on the day they probably did just enough to warrant the three points. Nîmes provided a firm test but in the end the of quality of Guirassy in the first half, combined with the home side going through the motions a bit after they went behind for a third time meant that Rennes were able to get the win. Rennes manager Julien Stéphan may be slightly disappointed with how his side struggled to build up and control the tempo of the game, but he will be pleased with the victory as his team embark on a season in which they will play Champions League football as well as being expected to be competitive in the league.
- 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: French
- Age: 24
- Date of birth: 12/03/1996
- Current Club: Amiens SC
- Career: Laval, Lille, Auxerre (L), FC Köln, Amiens SC, Stade Rennais
- Position: Striker
- Secondary Position: Left Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
Serhou Guirassy will be delighted with his full league debut for his new club, having scored two very well taken goals on the way to a 4-2 win away from home. The 24 year old striker looked dangerous for his team and was very proactive in attack, and will be probably feel he should have had a hat-trick after missing a good opportunity to grab his third in the second half.
The 6’2 forward has a strong build and a big frame that allows him to hold off defenders effectively and retain possession before bringing teammates into play. His hold up play was for the most impressive and allowed his team to move up the pitch, and he showed good control to bring the ball under his spell even when under pressure. In the first half he did this faultlessly and provided everything you could want from a lone striker, though in the second half a little bit of sloppiness crept in as his misplaced a couple of lay-offs and was tackled when trying to turn.
Guirassy’s height allowed him to provide an aerial presence up front for Rennes, and he was happy to drop off the last man to try and win flick-ons for the likes of Raphinha and Tait to run onto beyond him. For his first goal, he demonstrated his control, passing range, movement and finishing to open the scoring brilliantly. As Rennes looked to break, Guirassy dropped deep and wide, receiving the ball on half-way, next to the touchline, before turning and firing a fantastic switch out to Raphinha who had made a run towards the penalty area down the left hand side, the Brazilian did well to hold up the play whilst Guirassy made a smart run to the edge of the box, where he was found by his teammate and casually stroked the ball into the top corner with his weaker left foot with a first time finish.
For the second goal, Tait showed excellent pace and persistence to get around the outside of the Nîmes full back before cutting it back to Guirassy who had timed his run excellently to the centre of the area before finishing with ease. The striker’s movement was a big part of his game, as by dropping deep he either created space in behind for the wingers to run onto, or he was left in space himself to pick up the ball and bring others into play.
The timing of his runs meant that he was often in the right place at the right time and rarely had to stutter before running onto the ball to get a shot off. This movement again came in useful when he pulled off the back of the defender at the far post before being found perfectly by the cross, only to see his header go wide from an excellent opportunity to grab his third goal for his new team on his first start. Prior to his substitution with ten minutes left to play, the Frenchman had one more opportunity to get his hat-trick as he twisted and turned with his back to goal on the edge of the box but found himself off balance when taking the shot on and seeing it fly well wide.
Defensively, Rennes were happy to allow the Nîmes central defenders to have the ball, but pressed aggressively when the midfield were in possession and Guirassy worked quite hard for his side, closing down passing lanes and hassling the opposition, although he himself didn’t regain possession for his team in this match. The 6’2 striker did provide an outball for his team when required though and was able to more than compete aerially and physically with the oppsoiton defenders.
Guirassy impressed with Amiens last season despite their relegation from Ligue 1, and as a result Rennes were persuaded to spend around £13 million to bring him to Roazhon Park this summer. I think he fits their system well and provides good competition for the likes of Hunou and Niang, and I’m looking forward to watching him develop this season in a much better team than he was in during the previous campaign, whilst also playing European football.
- Nationality: Brazilian
- Age: 23
- Date of birth: 14/12/1996
- Current Club: Stade Rennais
- Career: Avaí (Y), Vitoria Guimarães, Sporting CP, Stade Rennais
- Position: Right Wing
- Secondary position: Left Wing
- Preferred foot: Left
Raphinha had a mixed game against Nîmes, trying, and sometimes succeeding, to be a creative force for his team, but also frequently giving up possession and failing to provide a consistent threat. He has great close control and his greatest strength is his dribbling and ability to drive with the ball and beat opponents using his pace, agility and skill. However, he tried to take on too many defenders and didn’t seem to know when to release the ball in this match. As a result, he was only able to complete 2 of his 8 attempted dribbles due to overrunning the ball or trying to do too much whilst in possession rather than picking out a teammate.
The Brazilian is capable of beating defenders, and his reputation probably precedes him when going into games as defenders seem wary of diving into the tackle and instead opt to give him some room. Though due to his ability on the ball, he was often doubled up against in this game and so was crowded out on a few occasions. Often this can happen to players that the opposition identify as key players, but Raphinha needs to learn how to cope with this based on this performance – as maybe instead of constantly trying to beat the defender, he can find teammates in the space that has been vacated by the opposition players that have come to close him down. He can be very dangerous when running at defenders in 1 v 1 situations and was perhaps unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after Meling seemed to clumsily bring him down inside the box.
The 23 year old is direct and likes to try and go forward whenever he has the ball at his feet, but sometimes he needed to take care of his passing in this game, as after beating his man or making a good run, he misplaced a couple of simple passes to give away the ball. Having said that, his final ball in this encounter was consistently to a good standard and he showed good composure and understanding to just roll the ball to Guirassy on the edge of the box for the first goal (see earlier embedded Tweet). Raphinha has a quick burst of acceleration up his sleeve and made some impressive supporting runs when his team were counter attacking, and he made two key passes in the match (one of which was to set up the first goal).
Defensively, Raphinha does not track back that often, but is aggressive when tackling and can be effective when pressing high against the defender and forcing them backwards. He can be quite an aggressive and snappy player in the challenge who does the dirty parts of defending well by letting the opposition player know he’s there with little kicks and nipping at the opponent’s heels.
Overall, Raphinha is an entertaining player to watch with the ball at his feet, as he always seems as though he is capable of injecting pace and excitement into the game. His ability to beat players and wriggle his way past challenges makes him a real asset for Rennes, but based on this performance he needs to improve upon his decision making and do the simple things better. I will be keeping an eye on Raphinha’s development over the course of the season, and he is capable of turning a few heads on the European stage.
- Nationality: French
- Age: 22
- Date of birth: 06/07/1998
- Current Club: Stade Rennais
- Career: Nancy, Stade Rennais, Nîmes (L)
- Position: Left Back
- Secondary position: Left Wing
- Preferred foot: Left
Faitout Maouassa had a fairly quiet game, but was disappointing for me compared to when I watched him last season. The left back struggled a bit defensively in this match, but was able to provide an attacking option for his side – especially in the second half where he was able to get forward more. During ground duels, he used his body well to get in between man and ball and was able to shield possession from the opponent effectively, whilst he displayed a good burst of pace when running either forward or back towards his own goal.
However, his defensive positioning was questionable at times as he overcommitted when trying to make interceptions and left space in behind for the winger to run into. Yet his main issues came when the ball was in the air. At 5’7, the defender can struggle in aerial duels and was unable to find a way to cope with Nîmes winger Ferhat (who won 5 aerial duels in the match). In the early stages of the game Maouassa let the ball bounce which immediately put him under pressure and then he was weak in the challenge and lost possession, whilst on a couple of other occasions the Frenchman headed the ball straight to an opponent in front of his team’s box and put his side on the back foot.
Going forward, he sometimes struggled with progressing the ball from deeper areas, delaying too long and getting caught by a late challenge and then also overhitting one or two long passes aimed towards the striker. However, in more advanced areas, the left back came into his own, linking up effectively with teammates and displaying good movement to make overlapping runs. His final ball was mixed, as he whipped in a couple of very dangerous crosses (one of which should have resulted in a goal), but also played a poor cut back after getting to the by-line well.
Maouassa was exposed defensively at points during this match, failing to deal with aerial balls and showing weakness in shoulder to shoulder duels, whilst on the ball he failed to play out from the back effectively but offered an impressive attacking outlet in advanced areas in the second half. I have previously been impressed by Maouassa, and his performances from left back for Rennes have resulted in him being linked with big moves away, but this was an underwhelming display from the 22 year old who will be hoping for better as the season progresses.