RC Strasbourg hosted Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1 in a match in which their seemed to be one clear favourite. Lyon went into the game with the higher pedigree of players and better form, and as expected they were able to defeat the home team, however, the struggling Strasbourg side did not make it easy for Lyon and the game finished 2-3 having been viciously contested. It was a thoroughly entertaining match to watch, with tackles flying in, plenty of chances and goals and a good competitive edge to the game which was boosted by the atmosphere that the few fans allowed in the stadium were able to create.
At stages in the first half it did not seem as though the game would be so tightly contested, with Lyon taking an early lead through winger Kadewere, before doubling their advantage shortly after thanks to Toko Ekambi and then in the 42nd minute the game looked to have been put beyond doubt thanks to Ekambi’s second of the match. However, buoyed by the support and missed chances that they had been able to create, Strasbourg rallied and were able to quickly pull one back before the break via first half substitute and new signing Habib Diallo. The home side came out firing after half time, and although they left themselves somewhat vulnerable to the counter attack, they were able to get another goal back through Aholou 10 minutes after the restart. Strasbourg dominated the remainder of the game, with Lyon threatening on the counter and having chances to put the game to bed, and though the hosts continued to push looking for an equaliser, in the end they just couldn’t supply the finishing touch and the game ended in defeat despite their valiant efforts.
Strasbourg started off the game in a 4-1-4-1 system, that looked to compact midfield areas and prevent the likes of Aouar from having too strong a creative influence in deeper areas. Simakan was deployed as the lone defensive midfielder whilst Bellegarde and Lienard were tasked with providing creativity from wider areas when going forward. The ideas behind pressing high were smart, but they relied too heavily on the organisation of a defence that has struggled to keep out the opposition so far this season, and they played a very high line, which left plenty of space in behind for the likes of Ekambi, Kadewere and Depay to exploit. Depay caused all sorts of problems on the counter attack, playing in the false nine kind of role where he could drop between the lines before spinning and finding passes to the onrunning wingers, and consequently he assisted all three Lyon goals.
Strasbourg manager Thierry Laurey decided he had seen enough after just 37 minutes and as a result he brought on his new striker Habib Diallo and changed the system to a narrow 4-4-2. This worked more effectively, and as Lyon sat back to protect their lead in the second half, Strasbourg were able to become increasignly dominant as well as providing a huge threat from set pieces, but they couldn’t find the equaliser and will be disappointed to have come away from the game with nothing despite battling incredibly hard.
- 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 / Guinean
- Age: 20
- Date of birth: 03/05/2000
- Current club: RC Strasbourg
- Career: RC Strasbourg
- Position: Centre Back
- Secondary position: Right Back / Defensive Midfield
- Preferred foot: Right
Mohamed Simakan started off in defensive midfield, a role which he has played a couple of times so far this season for Strasbourg, before the change in system that accompanied Diallo’s introduction to the game, saw the 20 year old move to right back. The defender had a very busy game and due to his positional changes, he saw a lot of the ball in different areas of the pitch and had the most touches of any player on either team.
In defensive midfield, he was able to provide a strong physical and aerial presence and was able to break up play effectively at times, but his lack of positional awareness and overeagerness to win back possession hindered his influence on the team at stages. He often pressed too high up the pitch, leaving room in behind him for the likes of Depay to drop into and receive the ball in front of the defence. So although Simakan was effective in duels and aerial challenges, he was not always in the right area to interfere with the opposition and found himself being passed around on a couple of occasions. He also committed a couple of clumsy fouls in midfield areas due to being late arriving to the ball or being turned by an agile attacker. Despite the faults in his own positional play, he could be seen communicating well with his teammates and instructing them in order to try and maintain defensive organisation, but generally he is more effective at doing this when playing in the back line as a centre or right back.
At 6’2 and with a slim but strong build, he can be very imposing physically as well as aerially and this allowed him to win 5 aerial duels in the game, the second most of any player whilst he was also able to make two tackles and showed an ability to ease opponents off the ball or use his body to protect or regain possession. His height and build can make him seem quite ungainly at times, as he has long legs and big strides, but Simakan seemed to have a good engine as well as a decent turn of pace when necessary. The ball can get stuck under his feet on occasion, but for a big man he is quite agile and is capable of dropping a shoulder to evade a challenge.
In possession, once again from defensive midfield, he showed decent control and passing, but looked a bit out of his comfort zone. The 20 year old performed a smart turn to trick the defender and buy a foul, and he was able to bring the ball under his spell comfortably on the whole. He also saw a decent effort from range go just wide, but he allowed a couple of loose touches to get away from him and be picked off whilst he overhit a few overambitious passes to lose possession. When moved to right back, Simakan played with a lot more freedom and he could frequently be found marauding down the right wing to provide width and create overloads as Strasbourg sought a way back into the game.
His final ball and efficiency at recycling possession were not great (finishing the game with a 69% pass accuracy), but in the end his persistance paid off for Strasbourg’s second goal as he cut the ball back across the edge of the area to the onrunning Aholou who slotted home. He linked up well with the midfielders down the wing and often looked to play one-two’s to allow hismelf to get in behind the opposition and deliver a cross, and he could have had another assist or two had it not been for some wonderful saves from Lyon goalkeeper Lopes. The full back displayed good pace and awareness to get beyond the opposition defence when going forward whilst he also showed a willingess to track back and regain possession in the final stages of the match when his team were chasing an equaliser. As the game reached it’s closing stages, it became clear that all the overlapping runs and midfield exploits had taken their toll on the youngster who appeared visibly exhuasted at stages.
On the whole, it was a hectic day at the office for Simakan who was heavily involved in proceedings. From defensive midfield, he was ok, but his positional awareness let him down, whilst from right back he was able to have a stronger influence in attack but his final ball lacked a bit of consistency. A good game from the defender who has been heavily linked with a move away from the club having burst onto the scene last season.
- Nationality: French
- Age: 22
- Date of birth: 27/06/1998
- Current club: RC Strasbourg
- Career: RC Lens, RC Strasbourg
- Position: Centre Midfield
- Secondary position: Defensive Midfield / Right Wing
- Preferred foot: Right
Bellegarde wa impressive for Strasbourg in this match, demonstrating his ball carrying ability, defensive work rate and quality in the final third. The Frenchman started out on the right wing, and displayed a good turn of pace and impressive close control to beat defenders and drive his team up the pitch or draw fouls. He was capable of executing smart turns with the ball at his feet to trick defenders and create space for himself to carry the ball into, whilst he was persistent in duels, never giving up battles and continuously hassling the opposition.
The midfielder did have a tendency to run down into dead ends, and could have shown better awareness when deciding when and where to run with the ball, losing possession on a few occasions after being crowded out. At 5’7 and with an average to slim build, Bellegarde is agile and has a good burst of acceleration, but is also quite lightweight and as a result he can be muscled off the ball easily on occasion. His ball control was superb for the majority of this match and allowed him to take defenders out of the game or to work some space in the final third to get a shot off or deliver a cross.
His final ball was also quite impressive as he made two key passes in the match to pick out teammates in dangerous areas and he also delivered some threatening crosses that his teammates weren’t quite able to get on the end of. The 22 year old had two efforts on goal in this match, one of which was a good attempt from the edge of the area that was struck with power but was slightly too central and therefore saved by the keeper, whilst his other shot was wayward but involved a tricky piece of technique to strike the ball on the volley under pressure.
Bellegarde’s passing needed to be more consistent, misplacing 8 of his attempted 26 passes before being withdrawn for the final 15 minutes. A couple of his passes were easily telegraphed by the opposition and he was incredibly fortunate not to have been at fault for what would have been a calamitous Lyon goal as his sloppy back pass was intercepted by Dembelé who then rounded the keeper but couldn’t quite supply the finishing touch, with his shot being cleared off the line. When Strasbourg changed their system, they shifted to a narrow midfield four which saw Bellegarde operate as the right sided central midfield player, where he came a lot more central than he had previously, but he still continued to show his ability when carrying the ball whilst his work rate added energy in the middle of the park.
Defensively, once again the 22 year old can be quite lightweight due to his size, but his energy levels and intensity in the tackle allowed him to be effective when pressing the opposition. He made sure to quickly get in the face of his opponent in order to hassle them into releasing the ball or making a mistake, and this worked on a couple of occasions when he retrieved possession for his team high up the pitch. The young midfielder’s reaction to losing the ball was vital, as he would spring into action and maintain the energy levels he had whilst in possession in order to try and make up for his mistake. Furthermore, he displayed a decent understanding of the game to cut out a couple of passes and put his team back on the front foot.
Overall, this was a promising performance from midfielder, despite his side slipping to a narrow defeat. He provided energy in and out of possession and demonstrated quality on the ball, he could improve upon his ball retention and situational awareness at times but on the whole a good game for the Frenchman. This was the first time I have watched Bellegarde from the start of a match and I thought he showed some promising signs, and he’s definitely a player I will be keeping an eye on to see if he can follow this performance up and continue to improve.
- Nationality: Senegalese
- Age: 24
- Date of birth: 21/10/1996
- Current club: RC Strasbourg
- Career: Tours, RC Strasbourg
- Position: Goalkeeper
- Preferred foot: Right
This was a disappointing display from Strasbourg keeper Bingourou Kamara. The 24 year old got off to a bad start, as what appeared to be a routine save for the keeper from Kadewere’s shot from a relatively tight angle was fumbled by the Senegalese goalkeeper who allowed the ball to ricochet over him and into the back of the net. Aside from that, his shot stopping in general was quite good, getting down well to make a couple of stops that would have been expected of him, although he did spill one and had to react quickly to pounce on the subsequent loose ball. He also made a decent save early on to deny Lyon, but the play was then brought back for offside. He stands at 6’4 and has a strong build which allows him to be a powerful presence between the sticks, but he failed to make the most of it in this match.
Kamara was hesitant off his line, never filling the defence with confidence when he came rushing out of goal to claim a loose ball. There were several moments of panic that seemed as though there might be a calamity in the making, whilst he was rounded with ease on a couple of occasions, once for Lyon’s third and then on another occasion where the ball was eventually cleared off the line by the defender. He was also lobbed having been caught in no man’s land in the first half but once again it was pulled back for offside. His hesistant play when coming out of goal made you unsure about whether he was going to commit to the challenge and he rarely seemed decisive when trying to claim anything.
The keeper’s kicking was mixed, yet probably the best part of his game. He finished the match with an 81% pass completion rate, and he was also able to generate a lot of distance on some of his kicks. One particular long pass that he played was the highlight of his match and he arrowed one out to the left wing straight to the target’s feet who didn’t have to break stride as he brought it under control. However, when rushed, Kamara again did not seem overly convincing and he got a lot of height and not much distance on a couple of his clearances.
Overall, goalkeeper can be one of the most unforgiving position’s in football and Kamara became well aware of that in this game, as his mistake lead to his team going behind and his confidence never really seemed to recover as he lacked decisiveness on several occasions in this match. At 24 he remains very young for a goalkeeper and he will improve as he gains more experience, and it is important that he learns from these kinds of performances. I will try to keep an eye on Kamara’s development this season to see whether he can be more decisive between the sticks.