Stade Rennais – Match Report vs. Olympique de Marseille (20/1/2023)

The Coupe de France round of 32 saw two of Ligue Un’s top five teams meet at the home of Olympique de Marseille. Marseille entered the fixture on a run of seven consecutive victories, including wins against Monaco, Lorient, and Lyon. This test against the second place team in France was as tough as could be for Stade Rennais, given that they had already dispatched first place PSG the weekend before. The Rennes club are having a season to be proud of. Not only have the club gotten positive results this season, but many of their young players have worked their way into significant minutes. Ten players under 23 years old made appearances in this match, seven of them starting. Doğan Alemdar (20), Christopher Wooh (21), Arthur Theate (22), Lesley Ugochukwu (18), Adrien Truffert (21), Amine Gouiri (22), and Désiré Doué (17) were all chosen to face red hot Marseille from the outset. Marseille started the match completely dominant, eventually getting their lone goal through Matteo Guendouzi in the 59th minute. The match ended 1-0 to the hosts and Stade Rennais were knocked out of the Coupe de France.

Stade Rennais lined up in a 5-2-3 (or 3-4-3) formation, initially looking to force their opponents into mistakes by bringing coordinated pressure in the wide areas of Marseille’s defensive third. Marseille were extremely spread out in possession, overloading Rennais in those wide areas and forcing the opposing wing backs into more defensive responsibilities. In watching Stade Rennais for the first time this season, it was immediately evident that their attack is heavily reliant upon left wing back Adrien Truffert. The few moments Rennais looked remotely dangerous happened when Truffert made an underlapping run into midfield. Truffert was impressive going forward, but he was kept honest by the threat of Marseille’s wide numerical advantage. OM right midfielder Cengiz Ünder was always lurking near the sideline, making Truffert worried about leaving an unobstructed right channel in behind the high Rennais back line. As the game went on, Rennes moved their flat back five further into their own half.

Advertisements

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, re-watch
D – Below average in this match

Désiré Doué

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 17
  • Date of birth: 03/06/2005
  • Current club: Stade Rennais
  • Career: Stade Rennais
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Right

Doué is full of ideas and capable of executing any pass or dribble he chooses. He is a player with considerable panache, frequently using skills to beat defenders and draw fouls. Many times, Doué would shift the ball in an unexpected direction, catching multiple defenders flat-footed. Doué makes it look effortless carrying the ball forward, his masterful control allowing him to focus on the changing picture around him. In the buildup, Doué was given a free role, roaming between left wing, right wing, or any space he thought was dangerous. For the most part, Doué facilitated well. He was frequently making hopeful runs around the edges of the 18 yard box, usually opting to fire in cutbacks and crosses from short range. Désiré would sometimes lose the ball after holding on a second too long, but he typically demonstrated his forethought whenever he got a touch. Despite his identifiable threat, he always found himself unmarked for cutbacks that never came. He is a sneaky player, often wandering into dangerous areas inconspicuously thanks to his high football IQ.

In defense, Doué was pressing as part of a front three. He was a willing defender, showing excellent speed in pursuit. He would sometimes drop into central midfield to assist Lesley Ugochukwu and Lovro Majer, but he was needed more as an outlet for Rennes’ counter attacks. Doué was subbed off in the 78th minute for right back Lorenz Assignon after an impressive outing.

Rating – A1

Doué is among the most exciting young players I have ever seen. His composure and football IQ are supremely impressive. He is a solid Ligue Un starter at age 17 and Rennais have already allowed him creative freedom within their tactical setup. Désiré is deceptive, elusive, and unafraid on the ball, capable of explosive displays of flair and capable of delivering a calm presence in possession. Doué will likely be an important part of this Stade Rennais team for the rest of the year after the season-ending injury to Martin Terrier and I hope he sticks around for a while before inevitably making a move to a world-class team.

Advertisements

Lesley Ugochukwu

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 18
  • Date of birth: 26/03/2004
  • Current club: Stade Rennais
  • Career: Stade Rennais
  • Position: Defensive Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Right

Rennes lined up with two holding midfielders, Ugochukwu and Lovro Majer. Others, notably Doué, would offer support when the situation called for it. In possession, Ugochukwu was not expected to drive forward or create chances. He offered an outlet for the back five and did not hold the ball for long, often moving it laterally. Majer, who had a poor showing on the day, was the central midfielder responsible for advancing play. Out of possession, Ugochukwu was responsible for protecting the back line. He was often needed out wide to help left wing back Adrien Truffert, who was frequently outnumbered. Lesley is a presence in midfield. He is listed at 191 cm (6’3) and has a lot of strength for his age. He uses his long, powerful legs to tackle and control balls in the air. Ugochukwu did look fairly comfortable with the ball at his feet, but he was not targeted in tight spaces. He made a nice first time left-footed pass into the path of Amine Gouiri and demonstrated a generally positive passing weight throughout the match. I found his ability to pass accurately from flicks and odd angles to be impressive.

There were instances where I thought Ugochukwu’s positioning was not ideal for cutting off passing lanes and denying service. Proficiency in reading play and thinking steps ahead were not on display as multiple times Ugochukwu was reactive in his positioning. As Rennes’ back line was defending deeper to the point where most of the personnel were inside their own 18, I felt at times he would continue to mark space when it could have been more helpful to mark a man or pressure the ball-carrier. Occasionally, Lesley was slow to diagnose danger and I felt he was not processing the changing situations as quickly as his teammates. That’s not surprising for an 18 year old, but the cerebral side of the game is his biggest area of development going forward.

Rating – B2

Ugochukwu did not look entirely convincing as a starter for a top five team in Ligue Un, but I expect him to show more of his game against weaker Ligue Un teams. Lesley had a lot of Champions League quality players and clever movement to deal with against Igor Tudor’s well-organized system. The potential for Ugochukwu is high given his physical profile, but in this match, I didn’t see him dominate his area or demonstrate the mental prowess that stood out with Doué. If all goes well with his development, we could be seeing an imposing defensive midfielder in the mold of Denis Zakaria.

Advertisements

Christopher Wooh

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Cameroonian
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 18/09/2001
  • Current club: Stade Rennais
  • Career: AS Nancy, RC Lens, Stade Rennais
  • Position: Center Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Christopher Wooh was Stade Rennais’ right sided central defender in a back five, having to deal with Matteo Guendouzi, Alexis Sanchez, and a rampant Nuno Tavares. The back five would shift left and right as a flat unit, but were still vulnerable to attacks from the Marseille wings. Alexis Sanchez was running riot in the first quarter of the match, being played balls over the back line and getting on the end of crosses. Wooh had a few moments of hesitation which nearly led to a penalty conceded and a 1v1 chance. He looked like he was not expecting the young goalkeeper Doğan Alemdar’s decision to stay on his line. Alemdar is not the usual goalkeeper and the first 30 minutes presented multiple moments where Wooh presumed the keeper would come deal with a ball heading toward goal, leaving him scrambling to clear when the keeper elected to stay close to goal. Christopher picked up a yellow card in the 7th minute and did well choosing the right moments to be physical the rest of the match. He was caught being aggressive too high up the pitch and nearly allowed a Marseille break because of his desire to thwart a potential counter at midfield. He needs to make smart decisions consistently before moving to a higher league.

In possession, Wooh was positive. He moved wide right in possession, occupying the space you’re used to seeing a right back in a back four. He completed eight passes into the attacking third on the day, repeatedly firing a line-breaking pass into the right attacking midfield pocket just in front of Marseille’s 18 yard box. I was impressed by his ability to complete an accurate pass despite the window being very small. Wooh was comfortable carrying the ball forward and caught opposing players with a disguised pass on a few occasions. I don’t remember him playing a ball in the air all game, but he did what was asked of him in this match. He performed well in possession, eventually substituted in the 70th minute at 0-1 as Rennes brought on more attacking options.

Rating – B2

I believe in the young Cameroon international’s potential, despite a couple moments of naivete in this match. Wooh is physically ready for the level and his positioning was solid. His sharpness in decision-making for defensive actions needs to improve, but he will win most duels he decides to take on. Within a couple of years, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear Christopher Wooh regarded as one of the league’s better defenders.

Advertisements

1 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 )

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: