Borussia Mönchengladbach have had a critical summer transfer window. With the rise of Borussia Dortmund, the continued success of Peter Bosz at Bayer Leverkusen, and the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig, the fight for the top four places in the Bundesliga will be at its most competitive in years. The sale of Thorgan Hazard left Gladbach with a decent-sized transfer budget, but instead of replacing one key player with another, Marco Rose and co. opted to complete multiple transfers, including four potential starters, to add depth and energy to the squad. Ramy Bensebaini was one such transfer. This tactical analysis scout report will cover how the defender plays while highlighting how he could be utilised at Gladbach.
Despite being just 24 years old, Bensebaini has already had a well-travelled career. He has either played at or been on trial at clubs in Algeria, Portugal, England, Belgium, and France. After multiple years of searching for consistent playing time, Bensebaini finally found stability at Stade Rennais. While at the Ligue 1 club, Bensebaini made nearly 80 league appearances over the course of three seasons, including 29 last season. While he became a bright spot along the back line for The Red and Blacks, he also directly contributed offensively to multiple campaigns. He opened the scoring in a 3-1 Europa League victory over Real Betis and played admirably against Arsenal in the round of 16. His time at Stade Rennais culminated with a historic note: winning the Coupe de France Final in a thrilling victory over Paris Saint-Germain, scoring the fifth of six penalties for the club.
In mid-August, Bensebaini signed with Borussia Mönchengladbach. He will become the first player ever from the Algerian league to play in the Bundesliga.
Bensebaini primarily plays as a left-back, but has the positional flexibility to play centrally. He maintains his wide positioning often, keeping the defence from organising into a compact shape by forcing them to spread out wide. He also frequently pushes forward in attack down the left touch line.
At Gladbach, club veteran Oscar Wendt has consistently started at left-back since the 2011-12 season. Bensebaini may challenge the Swede for that spot in the starting eleven and could make it his own before long. It remains to be seen where exactly Rose will utilise Bensebaini, but Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl mentioned the value of his positional versatility at left-back or centre-back.
In defence, Bensebaini covers both the wide left areas as well as the left half-space at times. He is sound at getting in position to stop the opposing progression in attack.
He doesn’t follow the Maldini mantra “if I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”, but instead makes use of his excellent tackling technique. It isn’t uncommon to see him tracking back from a higher defensive position and execute a slide tackle.
Bensebaini ranked tied-11thof all defenders with Olympique Lyon defender Rafael for the most tackles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 last season with 2.88. Bensebaini also isn’t afraid to defend high. He will often press the opponent in the attacking areas, and quickly transition the action into an attack.
In the example above, Bensebaini presses his opponent when the pass is attempted. Again, he successfully gets between the ball and the attacker. This motion also allows him to seamlessly execute a high press transition from a defensive action to an attacking action.
Bensebaini, using his strong dribbling ability, moves past the opposing back line, which hasn’t had time to organise against an immediate high counter-attack. He then is able to make an accurate key pass into a dangerous area.
Bensebaini is a very energetic, active defender. His style of defending from higher up the pitch can lead to high-risk situations, but his defensive technique and recovery make him a valuable asset regardless.
Transitions and attacking
As previously stated, Bensebaini is a constant component in the transition from defence to attack. Once he gains possession, he instantly moves forward, whether it’s through dribbling or quick layoff passes with teammates.
He makes an emphasis on pushing attacks forward quickly, a trait which can be essential in the fast-paced German top tier. He habitually continues his off-the-ball run long after the pass-and-move sequences, both overlapping or underlapping his wide attacking teammate.
These types of runs are Bensebaini’s most common in attack. They are effective because they can often result in at least one of two outcomes: either the man making the run is in open space at the end of the run, or he has pulled a defender out of their defensive shape with him, opening up space for a teammate to receive the ball. Gladbach can use this movement in their 4-diamond-2 or 4-3-3 to progress attacks.
An area of attack which Bensebaini can improve upon is his decision-making. While quick, progressive passing can be very effective when executed properly, it can also lead to a loss of possession leaving ample space for the opponent behind the quick attack.
Bensebaini ball retention is less than stellar. Fortunately, his turnovers tend to happen farther up the pitch in areas where the loss of possession doesn’t necessarily lead to a major opportunity for the opposition. Against the more pressing sides of the Bundesliga however, Bensebaini may need to be more accurate and decisive on the ball to prevent any major mistakes in the defensive third.
Conversely, when the splitting, forward passes into the advanced areas are completed accurately, it can eliminate multiple defenders at once, and create highly effective attacking opportunities.
Lastly, at 1,86 meters tall- above average for a full-back- Bensebaini has proven his impressive aerial ability both defensively and offensively. His two club goals over the last year were both headed goals off corner kicks.
Algeria National Team
Bensebaini has made 25 appearances for the Algeria National Team. He was an integral part of Algeria’s successful 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign, tallying three clean sheets and adding an assist and a scored penalty in the quarterfinals against the Ivory Coast. Additionally, he averaged 1.29 interceptions per 90 minutes, good for seventh-best in the tournament for players with more than five appearances. As he develops his game at Gladbach, he is likely to continue to see increased playing time for the Desert Foxes.
Rose and his coaching staff have been tasked with making Gladbach a threat not just in Germany, but across Europe. The Foals have a very real chance of competing in the Europa League, with both quality and depth in many positions. After analysis, Ramy Bensebaini will no doubt play a considerable part in the club’s success.
Bensebaini’s defensive style of play along with his positional flexibility and attacking traits fit well with Rose’s tactics at Gladbach. As one of the most active defenders in Ligue 1 last season, his defensive and transition presence will certainly relate with the pressing, attacking style of the Bundesliga.
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