How Benjamin Henrichs will fit in at RB Leipzig 2019/20 – scout report
Benjamin Henrichs rose through the ranks at Bayer Leverkusen with much hype as a future star at right-back. The 23-year-old had a breakout campaign for the club in the Bundesliga in 2016/17 and followed that with another solid season, which prompted AS Monaco to part with £18m in the summer of 2018. His time in France has been difficult, to say the least after starting in the 2018/19 season under Leonardo Jardim before being dropped half-way throughout the season. In the current campaign, a foot injury at the beginning of the season cost of him game time. The arrival of Robert Moreno helped Henrichs as he was inserted back in the line-up for the rest of the shortened season.
Throughout these times, RB Leipzig have always had an eye on Henrichs and had two approaches for him turned down before they were able to secure a one year loan with an option to buy for around £15m. This tactical analysis will have a scout report on Henrichs and will also look at his role at Monaco before discussing how Julian Nagelsmann could deploy the German international at Leipzig.
Henrichs is a very versatile player and can play in all positions in the backline as well as in central midfield so he needs to be good defensively. His physical profile is quite good already and he still has some years to get into his prime. The right-back is just over 6’0, which is taller than most players in that position but it does allow him to play in a variety of positions. He does only weigh 70kg, which explains his relatively slim frame. The somewhat lack of weight for that height can be a negative sometimes before he can get outmuscled in some scenarios. This does also happen because Henrichs still has to improve on how to use his body to shield or block players off the ball. It can be a positive though since it does allow him to be quite agile at his height. His height does make have some downsides too as he is quite heavy on the feet for a full-back and is usually how he picks up his 1.07 fouls per game as well as how he gets beaten in 1vs1 scenario. His height also affects his speed and while he is not slow, against explosive wingers like Kylian Mbappé, he can be exposed in isolation against players of his speed. However, he can still hold his own and most players don’t possess the speed of Mbappé anyways.
Henrichs can use his length to make his patterned challenge, the lunging or slide tackle. His long legs become a huge asset to close down space in a 1vs1 scenario that most full-backs do not have. This example against Paris Saint-Germain shows this well. Here, he is coming up against Neymar who is one of the best players in the world and is a dribbling extraordinaire.
The first image shows Neymar has a slightly too large touch but the ball should still be comfortably in his possession. However, Henrichs is able to close the distance between himself and the ball in just a lunge. The German recognises that Neymar is about to try and pass him on his right so has shaped his body and tackle to stop this from happening, which the second image shows.
In the same game against the same player, Henrichs showcases his agility well and his anticipation for where the dribbler will go once again. This is one of the 23-year-old’s best traits defensively as this is a challenge that he produces regularly with success.
The first image showcases Henrichs trying to show Neymar on to his left, which is why he is side on to the ball, while Neymar is looking to drive into the middle to most likely look for a one-two with Mbappé. Neymar knows as he is pushing further inwards, Henrichs will have to shift his body and try and tackle him. This will allow the winger to switch direction and go outwards but Henrichs is very aware of this and reads the situation perfectly. The second image shows Henrichs’ tackle just when Neymar is trying to go on the outside. The German rotates his body well with his right leg now being his lead leg as opposed to his left in the previous image. This allows him to win the ball back with ease and diffuses a dangerous situation for Monaco.
An issue that needs to be addressed in his defending abilities is his defensive decision making and positioning. He is often advancing further forward as a right-back, which leaves him vulnerable on transitions. He does a good job of tracking back but he does get caught out sometimes and his lack of communication could also play a part in this. The example below against Reims highlights this issue.
Here, the Reims player alongside Henrichs is clearly looking to run into the space in front that was left behind by Kamil Glik who is marking the Reims wide player. Henrichs decides to go back into his right-back position that Glik already has covered instead of cutting the threat of a long pass in behind. This could have proved costly for Monaco but fortunately for them, the pass was poor which allowed Glik to cover for Henrichs’ poor decision making and positioning.
We have mentioned Henrichs’ height and how his length is an asset when tackling but it also is useful for interceptions. His physical profile and role under Moreno is a big reason as to why he averages 4.46 interceptions per game in Ligue 1 per Wyscout. It also is a like a get out of jail card for Henrichs as it does make up for his slight positional issues too.
Here, the 23-year-old had just gotten into his right-back position after Monaco were caught out in transition. He does very well to stay in line with the defensive line when he gets back into his position but is immediately let down by the left-back who plays every PSG attacker onside. Ángel di María waits for just a tad before releasing a line-breaking pass into Mbappé but Henrichs’ long legs prevent the pass going to its intended target. This likely has saved a goal and makes up for the German being caught out in transition.
Build-up and attack
Now that we have looked at Henrichs’ ability on the defensive end, we are now going to analyse his impact offensively as well as in build-up play. The German is decent technically but does have a limited skillset in the more attacking department albeit he does perform these well. His passing is solid for a full-back as he completes 81% of his passes per game with 5 passes into the final third per game. His passing numbers have definite room for improvement and so does his progressive run making. The full-back only averages around 1.62 progressive runs per game, which, combined with his passing numbers, points to him being a poor threat in progressing play during the build-up phase. A positive on his end is that his dribbling numbers are quite good. Per Wyscout, he attempts 1.62 dribbles per game and completes them 52% of the time. The completion percentage is quite good and the number of attempts is high for a full-back.
A crucial asset for a modern-day full-back is the ability to deliver quality balls into the box. Looking at the statistics, this seems to be a weapon in Henrichs’ arsenal that needs to be worked on as he only attempts 1.31 crosses per game with an accuracy of 24%. The accuracy is not too bad as the benchmark for great crossers are around at 30% but the conversion rate with such few crosses does come across as an issue. When you look at some of the footage though, there does seem to be glimpses of quality in his delivery.
The image above is only able to show this slightly. Henrichs is able to whip a ball into the box into Keita Baldé who is trying to make a run into the middle. The ball lands onto his feet as the cross was perfectly weighted. This forced the defender to foul him in the box, which meant a penalty was awarded – one that was tucked in by Wissam Ben Yedder. Henrichs did have ample time to cross the ball, but with practice, he should be able to be a crossing threat consistently in the future.
We have touched on Henrichs’ passing numbers and how they can be improved but he is good at passing under pressure and interchanging short passes with his teammates. This example against Reims is a prime example of this and showcases how Henrichs can be useful in wide areas when building up or attacking.
Henrichs receives the ball before dribbling with the ball forward. He spots Ben Yedder who makes himself available and they play a one-two with some crisp passing and movement. The second picture showcases the second action in which Henrichs is running to receive the pass from Ben Yedder. The German plays a great backheel to his teammate but Reims were able to tackle Ben Yedder after he received the pass. This kind of link-up is common when Henrichs plays and is a real strong point in his play when in possession despite it not working out in this scenario.
There are instances where he does leave some value on the table in terms of his passing which if he had taken, could help progress the ball much better. The example below, once again against Reims, is a perfect example of this.
The German receives the ball with his body facing the middle of the pitch, which is his first mistake that is also crucial. Had he opened his body when receiving the ball, he would have spotted Ben Yedder’s run in behind the full-back. The white dotted line represents the pass Henrichs should have played but the 23-year-old opted to make the easy pass into the middle. While the pass into Islam Slimani is still a good option, the pass to Ben Yedder could have set Monaco onto a quick attack.
Role at Monaco
We have already discussed how versatile Henrichs is in terms of the positions he plays. He has exclusively featured as a right-back for Monaco under Moreno. Under Jardim, he only featured at central midfield, albeit only five times with four of them being starts. First, we are going to look at how he is featured in the full-back role.
Monaco’s tactics include building up from their defence as so many teams do in modern-day football. Full-backs Henrichs and Fodé Ballo-Toure are high and wide, with Youssouf Fofana dropping into defence from central midfield. This helps have better build-up from the back as Fofana is now an extra passing option and makes it easier to have the ball move to Henrichs in the wide right area.
If the ball does go to Henrichs, it’s his job to link-up with the right midfielder and striker, usually Ben Yedder, with those short interchanges that we touched upon earlier. This positioning also allows him to push forward into dangerous crossing positions when Monaco decide to build-up through the middle.
Monaco are also a team that does like to press too, another staple in most teams in modern-day football. The full-backs are an important part in the pressing as they come very high and put pressure on the winger or the opposing full-back. This can be seen very clearly below. They only like to press when teams are building-up from the back or play a short goal kick.
If teams do manage to play from the back successfully, Henrichs is quick to drop off the winger or full-back and return to his position. Whilst we have noted that he has some problems in his positioning at times, he can be reliable in dropping into the back four. Monaco drop into a mid-block with a narrow back four when the opposition are in possession in the midfield and this is shown in the image below.
In the couple of games he has played in midfield, all under Jardim, he has played in a double pivot in a 3-5-2 formation with two wing-backs and an attacking midfielder. He either played in the double pivot with Adrien Silva or Tiémoué Bakayoko. He was usually deployed as the box-to-box type midfielder in the double pivot with the other a deep-lying playmaker. In the build-up, the double pivots are staggered to provide better circulation of the ball. It’s a concept that RB Leipzig use extremely well, which would benefit Henrichs if he does play in midfield there. In this example, Henrichs is further forward with Silva deeper. The reason for why they are staggered is that if Henrichs were to drop back to onto the same plane as Silva, it becomes much easier for the opposition to cut the passing lanes and mark both of them at the same time. Here, there are plenty of players covering the two central midfielders but this gives Monaco the opportunity to build-up through the wide areas as the wing-backs are extremely open.
As Henrichs is the one pushing forward, his role is to press high up the field if the opposition has the ball and win the ball back early using his defensive prowess. He also offers his quick incisive passing combinations that could help launch the attack. The German is also a player that likes to take shots from distance, which adds a different dimension to Monaco’s attack albeit one that is low in value.
Role at Leipzig
Despite Henrichs’ superb versatility, he is most likely going to feature at full-back or wing-back. He could make appearances at central midfield or even centre-back if Nagelsmann is short on options. Henrichs joins the likes of Tyler Adams, Nordi Mukiele, Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann as players who can play in multiple and similar positions to ones that were mentioned.
The idea of rotation is huge for Leipzig and is a key principle for how they play. The full-backs or wing-backs, depending on the formation, will tend to move relatively high in the early moments of the build-up phase to provide width but to also force the opposition to defend in a wider block to cover this threat. This creates space centrally that Leipzig can exploit to progress the ball using their idea of verticality.
In the build-up phase, the wide defenders push up and one of the attacking midfielders or a striker drops back into the half-space to create numerical overloads. The double-pivot that Nagelsmann uses also tend to push up to support their teammates, which help create a bigger overload and allows them to move the ball quickly between them. This suits Henrichs well since, at Monaco, he plays very high up and is very adept at making quick and short passes. A feature in Leipzig’s attacking play is that they like to use lay-offs, especially with strikers. These lay-off’s from strikers who occupy the half-space draws defenders in and that gives Leipzig space for the wing-backs to attack down the touchline and put a cross in.
However, the more likely scenario is that because of the overload on one side, the defence shifts to the side where it is overloaded. This allows Leipzig to quickly switch the ball to the other wing-back who will be in open space making the run up the touchline.
They then overload the box with attackers for the wing-back to cross and they also have the option of cutting the ball back to onrushing midfielders. This set up is one that would work well for Henrichs. Leipzig tend to have one side where the majority of crosses come from and in this last season, Angelino was pumping in crosses from the left-hand side thanks to some good interchanging play on the right from Nordi Mukiele. If Leipzig were to keep that trend going, which they could considering that Halstenberg is a good crosser, it would suit Henrichs well.
When defending, Leipzig like to press very high like Monaco. However, depending on the opponent, Nagelsmann’s team will either let the opposition build through the centre or force them wide. When the opposition have a numerical advantage in the middle of the pitch, the front three press high and cover the centre-backs to force the ball wide. It’s the job of the wide defenders to push high up the pitch, using the touchline as an added defensive barrier, to prevent progression and try and force a turnover. Again, this is something that Henrichs is used to given that he performed a similar role under Moreno. While there are some different nuances, the action is pretty similar so the German will be able to transition to his new side quite well.
Hopefully, this analysis will have highlighted that Henrichs is a good overall player that is decent going forward and slightly better on the defensive end but does have room for improvement in a lot of areas. Having been unable to showcase his full talents at Monaco, he will be working under one of the best managers in the world and playing for a team that is very suited to his style of play and is similar to how he played in France. A loan deal is a best-case scenario for all three parties involved and a £15m option to buy could look to be a steal if the German makes the necessary improvements.
With the quality of coaching and teammates alongside him as well as only being 23, Henrichs could be one to watch in the upcoming Bundesliga season and could live up to the hype he had garnered as a youth at Leverkusen.