Nayef Aguerd at Rennes 2019/20 – scout report
Rennes made history last season by qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time by finishing third in Ligue 1, with PSG winning the title. They managed this under the order of Julien Stéphan and with an exciting team who will try to compete the best they can next season. To undergo this transition to the elite tournament, they needed reinforcements for more quality and more depth in the team. That is where Nayef Aguerd comes in.
Aguerd played for Dijon last season who were in the relegation battle. This means he is going from the bottom of Ligue 1 to playing in Europe’s most prestigious tournament. He will have to be mentally ready for this sudden change. However, he is a player that has the qualities to do well in a better team than Dijon. In this scout report, we will provide an analysis of his traits and attempt to determine how they will help Rennes this season.
Aguerd is 24 years old and possesses the physical and technical attributes to do well at a higher level. He had to lead the Dijon defensive line last season and played at a good level despite the team’s final position. In this tactical analysis, we will observe how Aguerd will fit into Rennes’ tactics and what he will contribute.
The centre-backs at Dijon last season were not in charge of conducting much playmaking from the back. The most typical pass that Aguerd did was a wide pass to the left-back. Once the left-back received the ball, the midfielder would drop down to ask for the ball and that is when the play would really start.
This was done to leave the midfielder with more space to play out with. When the left-back controlled the ball out wide, the opponent’s right-midfielder would go press him and so stretch out the opponents. This opens more space in the middle for the midfielder to have more time on the ball.
The example is in the figure below. Aguerd is making the pass to the left-back and the opponent right-midfielder is already going to him. At the same time, the Dijon midfielder is getting closer and will take advantage of this as he will have time to turn and think.
Aguerd plays simple when in possession as he usually makes these short passes and rarely does long passes himself. Even though at Dijon, his passing abilities were not shown entirely, it is clear that he handles himself well on the ball and is composed.
At Dijon, he could not prove his passing ability further in part due to the fact that they ended the season in 15th place in terms of the total number of passes completed last term (375.93 passes per game). This is added to the fact that they made the fourth-highest number of long passes (45.10 long passes per game) but they were typically either made by the midfielders or the full-backs.
Furthermore, Dijon striker Júlio Tavares was the player with the most aerial duels per game in Ligue 1 last season, making 15.01 per game. All these statistics prove that Dijon is not a team who encourage a passing game to control the ball and thus, Aguerd could not show his full potential on his passing.
This potential is being shown in this new season, with Aguerd being the fifth centre-back who makes the most passes in the first two games (64.74 passes per game with a 94.33% accuracy)
As a defender, you need to help the other players in your defensive line. This help is made by covering your teammate’s position if they are out of position to maintain the balance. Aguerd does this well as he can read the situations when this is needed.
Occasionally, he covers for the other centre-back if the ball is played over him or if a striker is making a run in behind him. Aguerd has the ability to know when to do so and this helps the team immensely because if he did not it, there would be big gaps in the defence and no one to fill them.
In the image below, the ball is played over the other centre-back and there is a striker going behind him. Thankfully, Aguerd understood this and went over to help. Now he is covering the centre-back and is right behind the striker, not letting him control the ball.
Moreover, the players he covers for the most is his left-back. Dijon have an attacking left-back who normally goes up. This means that he leaves a big defensive space behind. Aguerd knows this and is very attentive to when he needs to go to that area and defend.
If he did not cover in this position, it would mean that the whole left channel would be open for opposing attacks and that could be very dangerous. In the image below, we see how the opponent right-winger has gone into the area the left-back has left and so Aguerd has shifted there to defend against him.
Intercepting is a great way to stop an attack because you completely disrupt the opponents and if you have control of the ball, you can quickly start a counter-attack. This is what Aguerd tries to do in games. Since he is an intelligent player who can read the game well, he tries to anticipate passes.
For this, he steps up from his defensive line. He does this especially when the passes are made through the middle because these are the most dangerous passes for a team. If the player who receives a pass through the middle can turn around, it is a very dangerous situation, and this is what Aguerd tries to cut out.
In the example below, we see how while the pass is being made, Aguerd is already moving towards the attacker as he has anticipated that the pass would happen.
If he does not intercept, he will make sure that the attacker cannot turn around and create danger. This is essential because Aguerd has to make sure that the only option he has is to play it backwards and so slow down the attack.
However, there is a danger to this movement Aguerd makes. When he advances to the attacker, he leaves a big gap in the defensive line which the opponents could take advantage of. If the opponents do get into that area left behind, their attack could be very dangerous as it would distort the whole Dijon defence.
In the image below, Aguerd has stepped up to mark the striker and has left space behind him. That striker then does a one-two with the winger and breaks into the space left behind.
This is why Aguerd needs to be very decisive and aggressive in these movements because if defended badly, it could cause serious problems.
Nonetheless, the Dijon teammates are very aware of Aguerd stepping out of the defence and try to cover for him. The same covering that he does for his teammates, they do for him this time because when such a big gap is created in the defence, it needs to be filled.
We see an example of this covering for Aguerd in the image below. Aguerd has gone up thinking it would go to the player in front of him but he was wrong. It was played in behind him and we can see how the other centre-back and the left-back are already moving to this area to clear the ball.
This shows that Dijon has mechanisms to combat the dangers of Aguerd leaving his zone but they still need to be very careful. Rennes could use Aguerd’s reading of the game to intercept against attackers and to step up whenever needed, while always having some security behind to protect.
In connection with his ability to read the game is his defensive awareness. It is clear that he is always aware of where the opponents are and what runs they are making. This is crucial for a centre-back so that no attacker catches them by surprise.
Also, this defensive awareness makes his ability to cover for his teammates easier. This awareness is mixed with his speed because he knows what runs the attackers are making and is quick enough to counter them.
In the image below, there is a striker making a run in behind Aguerd. However, Aguerd is fully aware of this and is running to block the pass being made, which he does successfully. This was done thanks to him seeing the run early and having the speed to then block the pass.
In conclusion, Aguerd has the capabilities to play at a higher level than at Dijon. However, he will have to prove himself at the highest stage of European football. We have seen that with his covering, reading of the game and awareness, he can provide Rennes with a solid option for a centre-back. It is now up to him to show that he is ready for the next level in his playing career.