Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis

Having nurtured many young French talents including Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy and Dimitri Payet, Le Havre are famed in footballing circles for producing fine young footballers. The Normandy club take great pride in their academy, especially when those players make the club a tidy profit – such as the €10 million Le Havre received this year for 19-year-old Rafik Guitane from Stade Rennes.

The young starlet has greatly impressed with his performances for Le Havre in France’s second division, Ligue 2, where he contributed 2 goals and 2 assists in 18 games for Le club doyen during the 2017/18 season. Now the teenager will get his chance to shine in Ligue 1 at the same club a certain Ousmane Dembele made his name. We take a look at what makes the French U19 international special and why Rennes were willing to pay such a hefty fee for a teenager with so little experience.

Roaming Playmaker

A number 10 can have many different roles but what the best of them can always do is exploit space between the lines of an opposition’s defence and midfield. The term ‘free role’ is often given to an attacking midfielder who is charged with finding gaps in the opponent’s defensive structure, able to go where he wishes to make an impact on the game. But the word ‘free’ suggests that the player has no restrictions which is not the case, the opposition’s positioning will determine what area’s the ‘roaming playmaker’ can be effective in, as will the player’s attributes. Awareness is key to this role and is something Rafik Guitane has in abundance.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Guitane is being closely marked in his typical #10 position, just ahead of his own midfield. Knowing this he drops deep to collect the ball from his centre-back as there aren’t many options available to him. Doing this Guitane knows he has created space behind him and needs to exploit it quickly before the midfield can recover or the defence can push up.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
With only 3 touches of the ball Guitane has controlled a firm pass from his centre-back, turned away from his marker and burst into the very space his movement created. He now has options to pass forward and wide as well as space for himself to dribble.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
This time Guitane chooses to take on the oncoming defender, using his dribbling ability to skip past him into the box before firing a low driven shot past the keeper.

If the opposition’s defence is deep and compact than there is little space to play between the lines and a different approach is needed. This is where a playmaker’s passing range is tested most, unlocking a tight defence through deception and timing.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Being 1-0 up, the Paris FC defence is happy to have all but 1 man behind the ball, their formation leaving little room for advanced midfielders to operate in. Guitane chooses to drop deep to find space, his markers do not follow him as they know how quick he can turn and dribble.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
This leaves Guitane needing a different skill to unlock this defence, his passing ability. As soon as he received the ball deep he turned with his head up, looking for gaps in the defence. With only two touches he has bypassed an entire midfield and defensive block to send an on-running teammate through on goal.

Second Striker

If a team can get the ball into dangerous areas without the need of a figurative number 10 to drop deep and create then that same player has licence to become a second striker. This is where the timing of late runs can catch defenders unaware and Guitane has the timing and finishing ability to take advantage of such opportunities.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
This French U19 side has quickly taken control of this game, pushing their Turkish opponents back to their own box. Guitane pushes ahead of his advancing defensive midfielders and looks for space around the back 4 to exploit.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Having the awareness to remain unmarked and now receiving the ball from his teammate, Guitane explodes to life quickly taking the ball past the defensive line before firing it past the keeper.

Likeness

Watching Rafik Guitane I cannot help but be reminded of Bernardo Silva. A diminutive figure, quick acceleration over the first few yards, top class first touch and vision are all traits and attributes Guitane shares with the Manchester City and Portugal playmaker. Similarities to Silva can be seen in the way Guitane dribbles, often bypassing opposition midfields, particularly in transition moments.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Although he has defensive duties when his side are out of possession, Guitane springs into attack the second his side retrieve the ball. As the ball is played into the France striker, Guitane rushes to support, sprinting into open space near his forward teammate.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Always playing with his head up, Guitane has an excellent range of vision. Here he takes all of two touches to receive the ball form one forward before sending through another (#7 Diaby) on goal to finish. Rapid transition from the French U19 side with Guitane at its heart.

The ability to take the ball from your own defence and spring an attack is highly valued in today’s game where quick transitions are key and often deciding factors in top level games. Awareness, pace and dribbling ability are needed to be effective in a modern number 10 role.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Seeing his team struggle to progress the ball out of their own half, Guitane drops deep enticing the defensive midfielder marking him to push higher. This is Guitane’s awareness is on display as he knowingly creates space behind the midfield line.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
That awareness and dribbling ability allow Guitane to rapidly turn and advance into the space his previous movement created, though he now has two Spanish midfielders in hot pursuit.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Luckily Guitane also has the pace to get away from his challengers, eating up space behind the opposition midfield and advancing on the defensive line.

Like Silva, Guitane is most comfortable in a #10 role where his skill-set can help produce rapid counter-attacks as well as unlock stubborn defences. But he is also suited to a wide-role where his excellent 1v1 dribbling ability combined with his creativity make him a nightmare for full-backs, that versatility may be key to a future move should bigger clubs than Stade Rennes come knocking.

Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Having no luck in the centre Guitane moves wide right to try and get on the ball. The opposition defence will be happier to see him with the ball out there than in a central area.
Rafik Guitane Stade Rennais Tactical Analysis
Followed tightly by two defenders, Guitane turns and immediately uses that awareness and passing range to find a teammate in the box, a fantastic bit of creativity as there is very little space given to exploit.

Conclusion

It doesn’t take long watching Rafik Guitane to notice his qualities, he has superb ball control, excellent ability to dribble, awareness to both create and exploit space, pace to take advantage of it and can also finish well to boot. His attributes make him well suited to an attacking midfield role and to play with such maturity for a 19-year-old makes Guitane possibly one of the most exciting prospects in Ligue 1 this season.

The fee Rennes have paid for this 19-year-old of Algerian descent will not go unnoticed within French football, nor will the 4 goals in 12 appearances for the French U19 side Guitane has notched. He has talent in abundance and if he can establish himself in the Rennes first team within the next couple of seasons, expect to see the big boys of French and perhaps European football take a firm interest in the young playmaker. An exciting, flair-player by nature, Guitane will always impress an entertain onlookers whether or not he fulfils his undoubtedly large potential.