This Saturday afternoon encounter saw newly promoted RC Lens take on Bordeaux in what promised to be an intriguing affair given the form of the two sides going into the game. Bordeaux went into the match unbeaten and having yet to concede a goal in Ligue 1 this season following consecutive clean sheets in their previous three matches, two of which they drew 0-0 either side of a 2-0 victory. However, although they were yet to concede, they had struggled to score with just the two goals in their opening three games of the season. The way in which they played in the opening few games was not that of a team filled with confidence and attacking ability, but rather a team that had stumbled through matches and relied heavily on their defensive experience. By contrast, Lens had played some fantastic football over the first few games of their return to the top flight, losing to Nice on the opening day despite dominating, before beating champions PSG 1-0 and fellow newcomers to the league Lorient by three goals to two.
In the end, it was Lens who were able to secure the three points, as after coming close in the first half but failing to find the back of the net (thanks in part to some fantastic saves by Bordeaux keeper Costil), they broke the deadlock 2 minutes into the second period as Ganago pounced on a loose back pass before finishing into an empty net. Just over ten minutes later, things went from bad to worse for Bordeaux, who conceded a penalty courtesy of VAR, which also resulted in the dismissal of experienced centre defender Paul Baysse for a second yellow card. Kakuta slotted the penalty home for Lens who then went on to look comfortable right up until the final touch of the game when Kalu grabbed a consolation goal for the away side, with the match ending 2-1. On the balance of play, Lens thoroughly deserved to win the match, playing the better football, showing more urgency and creativity and having the best chances. Meanwhile, Bordeaux seemed devoid of ideas going forward and lacked concentration and intensity at the back, sloppily conceding possession and not taking enough care with their play.
Lens set up in their tried and tested 3-4-2-1 formation which all the players seem to understand well, and therefore they are able to commit numbers to attack sbut also have men behind the ball when defending, and this is a big reason for their succes of late. The understanding that the players have of one another and the system allows them to be effective both going forward and defensively. The front three were particularly effectiuve in this match, with their movement and link up play causing all sorts of problems for the Bordeaux back line. Doucouré and Cahuzac provided a well balanced central midfield partnership, whilst Fortés did a good job to fill the hole at the centre of the defence that had been left by the suspended Badé. Lens had just under 60% of the possession, dominating the ball for long periods, especially after Baysse’s red card, whilst they often won the ball back in midfield areas and didn’t allow Bordeaux to gain any momentum going forward. As mentioned earlier, Lens were the better side and deserved the three points, and they will be delighted with their start to the season upon their return to Ligue 1.
- 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: 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
Cheick Doucouré had a positive impact on his team’s performance before being substituted with half an hour to go when his side were 2-0 up and against 10 men. The Malian international played firm and accurate passes the majority of the time and had a pass accuracy of 89% when he was withdrawn, he was able to link up in midfield areas to keep the play ticking along nicely or he could inject some directness into the attack by coming deep to receive the ball before turning and firing a progressive pass into the feet of one of the front three. He further demonstrated his passing range by playing one or two very accurate long switches to the wing back who had made a run down the line, and he was composed when put under pressure, happy to trust his ability to pick a pass even when being challenged.
However, he did show some complacency on occasion to misplace simple passes during build up, and he also delayed too long in possession on one specific occasion that lead to him being caught out and losing the ball in transition in midfield. The 5’11 midfielder has a strong build which he utilsies well both in and out of possession. The 20 year old uses his body well to protect the ball or roll his man, it allows him to ride challenges and drive with the ball at his feet from deep areas as he completed all three of his attempted dribbles to beat his opponents and create space for teammates whilst pushing his team up the pitch.
He used his strength when defending as well, and was able to muscle off opponents on a couple of occasions to win back possession and prevent Bordeaux from building up through central midfield areas. Whilst Doucouré also read the game well to make three interceptions to keep his team on the front foot. He covered a lot of ground and worked hard for his team, and his reaction to a loss in possession was very positive as he immediately displayed a desire to get back into position and make up for his or his teammates’ error. Though he did get a little carried away when he made a reckless challenge from behind that resulted in his being booked after just 21 minutes.
Overall, Doucouré was once again impressive in central midfield, and his ability on the ball and energy levels compliment the aggression and leadership of the veteran Lens captain Yannick Cahuzac, who has been his main midfield partner so far this season. The 20 year old does allow some complacency to slip into his play but this will likely improve with age and experience, whilst defensively he uses his physciality well but also showed some naivety to be booked early on for a needless tackle.
- 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 was heavily involved in this match, having the most touches of any player (102 – the second most had 79), and he displayed confidence and composure on the ball from left centre back, happy to step out of the defensive line with the ball and pick out a forward pass. His passing was accurate, finishing the game having completed 89 passes out of 97b attempted, and he was the most influential of the defenders during build up play. The 21 year old is not afraid to show for the ball and always offers himself as an option to either the other defenders or goalkeeper when going forward, or as an option for the wing back or central midfielders to relive any pressure they may be under.
He is happy take a few touches with the ball to step out, but he never overplayed and avoided trying to take the ball past opposition players. His first touch was quality and immediately allowed him to look up for an option ot pass to, whilst he also demonstarted good levels of vision to pick out ground passes into the midfielders or strikers or balls over the top of the defence into the channel. He did go up for set pieces although he is not the tallest of central defenders, and he showed good aggression to attakc the ball although he mistimed his best headed opportunity in the match and saw the ball sail wide of the target.
Out of possession, Medina takes a very aggressive approach to defending, as he looks to get into the face of the opponent and give them as little time as possible on the ball. He also takes this aggression into his reading of the game as he is very proactive when looking to pick off opposition passes, and did this effectively. He did get carried away on one occasion and was yellow carded for an off the ball body check of the on running forward as the ball went out wide. He has a good turn of pace to get round on the cover, and has a sturdy build, but standing at under six foot he can be exposed aerially at times. He did win some good duels, but only won a third of his aerial battles in this match, which was acceptable given he was playing in a back three, but this would be exposed if he was playing as a central defender in a back four.
A solid display from Medina, who rarely looked flustered defensively, and who was able to be an important asset and heavily involved in build up play when Lens were playing out from the back. The 21 year old works well in this system and provides a good level of aggression and tenacity to the team, whilst also being comfortable on the ball.
- 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
Contrary to Medina., Ganago had the least touches of any Lens player to start the match, yet his performance proved to be pivotal to his side collecting the three points. His movement, energy and pace made him a real thorn in the side of the Bordeaux defence, and he posed an almost constant threat to the opposition goal. He battled away against the central defenders, and was able to threaten getting in behind by making well timed runs off the shoulder off the defender or running the channels in order to create space for the likes of Sotoca and Kakuta and stretch the opposition back line.
Ganago’s willingness to put in the hard yards and work tirelessly for his team was impressive and this was where his goal came from as he latched onto a loose back pass having pressed effectively and then finished tidily after rounding the keeper. He was also able to drop into deeper areas to pick up the ball, making him harder to mark, as he could drop into the half spaces before picking up the ball and driving at the defenders with it – completing all four of his attempted dribbles. The 21 year old’s pace, strength and control when driving with the ball made him a real threat and also allowed him to draw fouls or create space for his teammates around him. He did let a few touches and loose passes get away from him, but his end product was generally to a good standard and he completed three key passes in the match – the second most of any player.
He linked up effectively in and around the penalty area with his teammates, and his movement got him into some good areas, also leading to him winning the penalty after he was brought down whilst trying to get across his man. In reality, despite getting a goal and winning a penalty, Ganago could have had 2 or 3 in this match, seeing a great chance from close range saved by Costil and then dragging another good chance wide of the mark. Ganago was a hanful for the defenders in thsi gamne with his movement and directness, and although he could maybe have a bit more of a killer instinct, on the whole it was a good performance from the Cameroonian.