Ryad Hachem: SO Cholet’s exciting left-back who’s ‘felt a progression’ in 2021/22 – scout report
So far in this scout report series focusing on the brightest talents in France’s third tier, Championnat National 1, at present, we’ve analysed two very different types of midfielder in Florent Da Silva and Ahmad Allée, a winger in Godson Kyeremeh, a centre-back in Harold Voyer and a versatile centre-forward/wide forward in Walid Jarmouni. Today, in part six, our latest National 1 scout report looks at 23-year-old SO Cholet left-back Ryad Hachem (173cm/5’8”, 74kg/163lbs), who joined the club on a free transfer last summer after leaving EA Guingamp B.
In a February interview with his club’s media, the left-back discussed his season so far, at the time, explaining that he felt “satisfied” with what he was offering his team both offensively and defensively before going on to declare that he “felt a progression” in 2021/22, “especially at the defensive level”. Indeed, Hachem has performed impressively all over the pitch this season, but especially at the back, which we’ll discuss in some detail as we progress deeper into this scout report.
The 23-year-old former Paris FC academy member was born in the Livry-Gargan commune not far from the centre of Paris, a massive city, of course, which has become a hotbed of football talent, with Paris boasting the likes of PSG’s Kylian Mbappé and Presnel Kimpembe, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman on their list of recent football products, just to name a few.
This tactical analysis piece and scout report aims to provide in-depth analysis of another Paris native who’s been taking his own portion of the football world by storm this season, albeit restricted to the more low-key French third tier as opposed to the highest levels of the game as some of the aforementioned Parisian talents have done. We will inspect some of the key strengths, weaknesses and points of note with regard to Hachem’s game and role within Cholet’s tactics in this tactical analysis piece to highlight why we’ve decided to look at this particular player for this series, and why he may be the most exciting young full-back in National 1 this term.
In the final third
While Hachem has correctly identified the defensive side of his game as being perhaps the most impressive part this season. However, the full-back role is one of the most demanding and dynamic roles in modern football, with players in this position required to play a box-to-box role, and that remains true for Hachem in his current role at Cholet.
The 23-year-old has been an effective box-to-box presence for his side this term, meaning he’s performed this role quite effectively, and our first section of this tactical analysis piece focuses on Hachem’s performances going forward this term, specifically within the final third.
Hachem has created 2.47 xA this term, which ranks quite highly among National 1’s full-backs. His movement in the final third helps him to be such a valuable creative outlet for his team, leading to this relatively high xA number. In this team’s offensive strategy and tactics, it’s vital that Hachem provides the width inside the final third and he often does so while performing late overlapping runs to support his winger moving inside and double-up on the opposition’s full-back.
Figures 1-2 show an example of this kind of late overlapping run. In figure 1, we see Cholet’s winger carrying the ball inside while running at the opposition’s full-back — thus driving this player backwards, influencing them to move narrower and naturally creating more space out wide for Hachem to attack in the process. The full-back (circled in the image) manages to prove into the final third unmarked, in part thanks to his late run which allows play to develop ahead of him first before committing to driving forward himself, which can be safer but also more effective at finding space high on the wing.
It’s really common to see Hachem make this kind of run for Cholet and the team’s left-winger is well aware of the full-back’s preferences and tendencies by now. While the ball carrier was moving inside, he kept one eye on Hachem’s run. Eventually, after forcing the opposition’s full-back to move narrower, the winger was able to release Hachem in behind on the wing as the full-back reached the opposition’s defensive line, getting to a point where he was actually further forward than the winger.
As play moves on from here, we see Hachem get onto the end of this well-placed through ball and knock it towards the byline, getting into a better crossing position where he can look to drive the ball into the box for one of his teammates to hopefully benefit from. Hachem is a great option to have for a team that likes to create these opportunities for cutback crosses because of his off the ball movement which makes him so good at creating these opportunities to double-up on the opposition’s full-back and get in behind the defence.
Hachem hasn’t played a particularly high number of crosses this season, with his total sitting at a fairly average 2.31 per 90. However, his crossing accuracy sits at 37.5%, which is impressive when compared with other National 1 full-backs. Cholet likes to be precise with his crossing, favouring this precision over crossing volume and this then suits the kind of situations we’ve just mentioned where he gets played into a position to cut the ball back after finding space to attack on the wing and/or behind the opposition’s backline. His late runs are an important part of this, as is his impressive pace.
I’d definitely advocate for Hachem being played in a system that allows him to play like this and get into these positions frequently as his crossing from wider areas, where he must swing the ball into the box at a greater height, isn’t very consistent. However, he’s a threatening runner with capability to play a hard and precise cutback cross.
Hachem loves to link up with more central players from the left-wing to make his way into a more advantageous position further upfield as well — not just getting in behind via overlapping runs, but also forging his own path in behind by dribbling until he’s attracted the full-back towards him before then getting around that player with a one-two that Hachem would hope to perform with a slightly more central teammate in support, such as, perhaps, the winger on that side. Wide overloads are key to Cholet’s tactics inside the final third and Hachem plays a very big part in this element of the team’s game very well on the left.
When Cholet are in the progression phase, as we see in figure 3, it’s common to find Hachem sitting high and wide, aiming to stretch the opposition’s defensive shape with his positioning. If the opposition push wider on that wing to cover him more securely, this can lead to space opening up centrally, and should the opposition remain tight and compact to focus more on protecting the centre, this can allow Hachem to enjoy a lot of space on the wing, which we’ve seen Cholet aim to take advantage of on several occasions this term via switched long passes from the back such as the one seen in figure 3.
Cholet is great at receiving such passes with the inside of his stronger left foot while gently knocking it into the space ahead of him and attacking that space. He generally has demonstrated a very solid first touch this season with solid ability to control difficult passes like this one and make it look easier than it really is.
Hachem’s dribbling is an important part of his game, as this helps him to offer something to his side in terms of ball progression. The full-back hasn’t performed very impressively as a progressive passer but has done well as a progressive runner — pulling off 1.51 progressive runs per 90 this term, a decent number when compared with other National 1 full-backs in 2021/22.
Figure 4 provides a typical example of this ball-carrying part of Hachem’s game in action. Just before this image, the full-back picked up the ball from his team’s goalkeeper on the edge of the penalty box before driving forward with the ball, attracting pressure from an opposition player in the process. As the image above shows, however, the full-back was able to speed past the defensive player, knocking the ball beyond him on the outside and chasing it down.
Just as with the one-twos discussed in the previous section, Hachem loves to attract opposition players very close before making his move to get past them. This is a high-risk, high-reward manoeuvre because on one hand, the left-back can leave the defensive player for dust by attracting them close before bursting past them but on the other hand, a move like this could backfire and lead to the ball carrier getting caught in possession, which would be especially dangerous so close to Cholet’s goal. However, that’s where the player’s technical and physical abilities come into play — Hachem is pacey, as we mentioned in the previous section, and has solid ball control which helps him to retain possession while driving beyond the opposition player. On top of that, the left-back has impressive strength to hold off challengers while driving past them in the event they want to get physical with him so all in all, Hachem has plenty of attributes that lend themselves to succeeding with this type of manoeuvre to drive his team upfield.
We can examine the key attributes related to dribbling within Hachem’s game further as we progress into figures 5-7. Starting with figure 5, above, here we see Hachem in possession just inside his own half, having just received the ball from one of his team’s centre-backs. As he received this pass, the left-back opened his body well, turning to face the direction he intends to attack while getting the ball under control with his left foot.
The 23-year-old began running directly at the opposition’s wing-back, who opted to hold his ground rather than charging down the ball carrier even more. The wing-back did a great job of protecting the outside, where Hachem typically thrives, instead forcing the full-back to move inside, where it’d be more natural for him to use his weaker right foot. This was some solid defending from the opposition player but also note how fluidly Hachem turns inside here — the full-back isn’t thrown off by getting forced inside, rather he turns really sharply while retaining control of the ball and keeping a high level of pace.
This impressive balance and agility are often evident within the 23-year-old’s game when dribbling and these attributes help Hachem when charging forward from the back or when playing in tight spaces surrounded by opposition shirts in more advanced positions.
As the player got away on the inside of the defender, he turned back in the other direction a little bit to get the ball in control on his stronger left foot again. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old held off the opposition wing-back’s challenge with a shoulder and held his own in the battle for strength as he continued to drive forward, passing the wing-back.
This passage of play is a really impressive showcase of Hachem’s physical and technical abilities, for me. Both strength and an explosive burst of pace are on display, as are excellent ball control, balance and agility. Again, as mentioned before, these skills often help Hachem to thrive both as a ball carrier driving forward from deep and as a dribbler further upfield, surrounded by opposition shirts. If he doesn’t create chances and/or leave the ball in a more advantageous position than where it started for his side via these types of movements, Hachem often wins free kicks for his side thanks to his dribbling quality, ability to evade challenges and protect the ball from the opposition while moving at pace with the ability to turn sharply and effectively.
As the player himself identified, Hachem has shone in the defensive department this season. He has managed to pull off 13.13 successful defensive actions per 90 this term, which impressively ranks him second among all National 1 full-backs to have played at least 600 minutes this season in this particular metric.
Hachem has managed to put together a solid record in both defensive duels and interceptions this term to achieve this, as opposed to just one or the other, and we’ll break down the important attributes that have contributed to this in our last section of analysis.
Starting with defensive duels and the passage of play shown in figures 8-9, Hachem is extremely comfortable with defending aggressively on the front foot, engaging attackers high and closing them down before they have a chance to inflict any punishment at all on his team. We see an example of this proactive attitude to defending in this passage of play, with figure 8 showing Hachem on his toes, ready to close down the intended receiver as soon as the ball leaves the passer’s foot.
Hachem is constantly quick to get off the mark in situations like this, he loves to charge down players and close off all of the space in front of them before they have a chance to run at him or, if possible, even get the ball under control. We’ve seen this become a staple of the 23-year-old’s game in 2021/22.
As figure 9 shows, the defender’s proactiveness was rewarded in this particular example, as he was in a position to thwart the receiver’s attempt to drive forward with the ball as soon as he made his first touch. We’ve seen Hachem engage in a high number of defensive duels (9.59 per 90) this season with a very high success rate (69.92% — fourth among all National 1 full-backs to have played at least 600 minutes this season — and I’d say a large part of that is because he and his team have been so good at manufacturing these kinds of defensive scenarios in which he thrives. He’s been good at entering the engagement when and how he wants more often than not, as opposed to getting dragged into duels that he’d prefer not to be in, such as the one we see in figures 8-9. This requires good anticipation, pace and technical tackling ability, all of which the 23-year-old has demonstrated plenty of in 2021/22.
Hachem provides excellent energy up and down the wing without the ball just as he does with the ball, which makes him a good asset in transition to defence as well. Should the opposition spring a counter-attack and begin attacking his wing, you’ll find Hachem charging back to get back into his position and contribute to his side’s attempts to stop the counter-attack. Again, his pace is a crucial attribute for such situations, as is his mentality.
Lastly, we’ll use figures 10-11 to highlight Hachem’s good mental anticipation and defensive positioning to a greater extent, though we did though on them in the previous section too. These skills are crucial for Hachem’s interception making ability as well as his defensive duels and we see how his intelligent defensive positioning helps his team to regain possession in a less aggressive way than the previous example shown here.
Firstly, figure 10 shows Hachem after just getting in position, occupying the passing lane that he anticipates the opposition ball carrier is most likely to target within his zone. The defender demonstrates good spatial awareness here to keep aware of how and where the runner behind him is moving while, at the same time, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the ball carrier.
Additionally, Hachem’s body positioning is excellent here. The 23-year-old has gotten into a slightly side-on body position in the relevant passing lane which prevents the ball carrier from passing to the runner as he’d like to and makes running directly at Hachem to beat him 1v1 a difficult task in and of itself.
However, the latter task is the one that the 23-year-old ultimately took on and unfortunately for the ball carrier, the defender was well able to deal with the 1v1 to regain possession for Cholet. As the dribbler began running at the defender, he remained calm, trusted in his positioning and body position, as well as his technical defensive quality to pull off the challenge. The defender didn’t jump in, instead biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to sweep the ball away from the attacker’s feet to begin a counter-attack for Cholet.
Hachem can be guilty of jumping in prematurely and/or going to ground unnecessarily at times but that wasn’t the case in this example, which may highlight that the 23-year-old is working to improve on that particular issue. It may still be something for opposition teams to try and exploit for the moment but awareness of your faults always needs to be the first step in solving them and it appears as though Hachem is, both from his game and from reading interviews with the player. He dealt with the above situation excellently, in any event, so it’s clear that the Cholet man has fantastic defensive performances in him and once he can nail down consistency in that department, which he’s done a fairly good job of this term, then he could be a full-back that teams playing at a higher level should consider making a move for.
To conclude this tactical analysis and scout report, I feel that Hachem is a very well-rounded player which makes him suited to the very well-rounded role that he has to play within his team’s tactics. He’s a great box-to-box presence for his side with good energy, excellent off-the-ball movement, pace, strength, impressive dribbling qualities (both physical and technical) and excellent defensive qualities, such as anticipation, technique and physicality.
For areas to improve, I feel Hachem isn’t the best crosser from deep and/or wide positions, so perhaps could improve that area of his game to make himself more well-rounded though it may not be a big issue with the right team role, and he can sometimes be guilty of diving in or going to ground too early in defence. In general, however, the player is very well-rounded and a great full-back option for National 1 level.