Said Benrahma, arguably the best player for Brentford, has been pivotal in their charge from mid-table obscurity in the Championship to promotion to the Premier League. The Bees are currently in 4th place, where they would go to the play-offs. However, only 10 points separate them and the direct qualification places. The Algerian winger has ten goals and five assists to his name and is involved heavily in the left-wing for his team.
His quality is famous throughout England, being linked to teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City in the Premier League, and has been touted as the ‘next Messi’. This comparison is a large one and carries a lot of weight, but does he lives up to the name with his technical quality and playstyle?
In this tactical analysis, I will attempt a scout report about Benrahma’s playing style and show his importance in Brentford’s tactics.
Brentford employs a 4-3-3 with Benrahma as the left-winger but drifts centrally between the defensive and midfield lines. Brentford play progressively and by pushing the ball through the lines of the opponent, which suits his style of play.
The heat map indicates his positioning as he is mostly on the left side or is in the centre when on the ball.
Thomas Frank’s usage of full-backs gives Brentford a front-line of five, which allows Benrahma to wreak havoc in the channels and allow them to make runs and distract the opposition defenders. This, in turn, allows Watkins to score goals.
On the Ball
Benrahma plays as a winger and has one of the most important traits for any winger to have: dribbling. He is relatively short, allowing him to have a low centre of gravity and can move quickly to elude defenders. He has 10.28 dribbles per 90 and has a success rate of 47.8%. This means that in any particular game, he attempts a lot of dribbles whenever he is on the ball.
In the example above, we see a routine that Benrahma undertakes multiple times in a game. Using his acceleration and low centre of gravity, he beats the defenders by pushing the ball in front of him and then catching up to the ball and then play a pass into the box. Another important skill of his is creating space after beating defenders. When he beats the defenders, there is an ample amount of space that allows him to cut inside or score.
He now has ample space and has gained a lot of time on the ball and can then proceed to make a decision.
This image illustrates the routine in another game. Benrahma puts the ball through the defender’s legs and passes the ball to Jensen, who can continue the play.
Benrahma is given creative freedom by Thomas Frank, who allows him to play deep and dribble with the ball. He is also allowed to roam between the channels and can receive the ball at any point in the opposition half. This means that Benrahma dribbles all over the pitch in the final third, and can quickly move the ball around the field to assist his team-mates. This behaviour across the pitch in all of his games is part of the reason as to why Brentford has the most goals in the league this season. A comparable role would be Lionel Messi at Barcelona this season.
An important link-up in the team is between Rico Henry (The left-back) and Said Benrahma.
Rico Henry plays as a quintessential full-back. He plays wide in the pitch and runs up and down the left-wing, looking to make crosses or to drag the opponent’s full-back away from the winger to create more space for Benrahma.
Henry creates confusion for the defenders as they don’t know whether to mark his run or cover Benrahma’s shot. Henry’s presence in the attacking phase of the plat allows Benrahma to be influential when attacking.
However, there are many problems that could arise with Henry playing at such an advanced position. Mainly, the team is prone to counter-attacks if the ball is lost higher up the pitch.
Benrahma’s passing ties in well with his role within the team as a winger that drifts in centrally. He makes penetrating passes to the right-winger or striker in an attempt to move the ball between the defensive lines and to play progressively.
Benrahma has attempted 39.57 passes per 90 with an accuracy of 75%. This puts him 7th in the league for attempted passes. He makes a large number of crosses as well, having attempted 91 crosses. The Algerian winger has 5.4 key passes per 90, meaning that his creative skills allow Brentford to score a lot of goals this season.
Benrahma acts like a trequarista, who occupies the space between the opponent’s midfield and attacking lines. He dictates the forward play and supplies chances to the strikers by playing perfectly placed passes or scores goals himself. An example of these passes has been highlighted below.
Here, against Hull, Benrahma plays a through ball to Watkins, who proceeds to hit the crossbar. This routine is something Benrahma specializes in, having made 6.61 progressive passes per 90.
Benrahma mostly plays passes to the far winger, who is either Sergio Canos or Bryan Mbeumo. This is because both wingers have the tendency to run on the touchline of the right-wing. So he plays diagonal passes to the right-wing.
Benrahma is especially talented at breaking tight defences that play a low block. Here, Hull City play deep from the back, and he floats the ball past 4 defenders to Mathias Jensen, who is unmarked and can play a pass to him, allowing Jensen to either cut inside and play short passes or cross the ball into the box.
Said Benrahma specializes in long shots, having scored 4 goals from outside the box. His prowess in cutting inside allows him to drift centrally from the left-wing and release a shot using the cannon of his right foot.
In one of his goals that comprises of a hat-trick against Hull City, Benrahma cuts inside after a short corner from Jensen and shoots from outside the box to score. Benrahma attempts most of his shots from inside the box and is exemplified by his xG of 6.60 inside the box.
Ash shown above, Benrahma shoots mostly from inside the box, as showing by the concentration of the shots. However, he also attempts a lot of shots from outside the box. This exemplifies his prowess at long shots.
His positioning for scoring goals is also vital in his high goal tally:
Benrahma signals Norgaard, who is on the free-kick, to play a ground pass into the box for him. He then makes a run from the left wing to the centre of the box, and scores with his right foot. This shows that he works well with his teammates in space to create goalscoring chances and to keep possession of the ball.
Benrahma takes a lot of shots compared to passes. So, there is a high probability that he shoots instead of passing, which is harmful to the team. The number of goalscoring chances reduces as a key pass may not be made. The team sets
Benrahma and his peers
Benrahma plays at a leading level for a Championship team and is very evident to see when compared with other players in the league. He takes the most shots in the league, with 126 shots, and makes the 7th most passes in the league with 39.57 passes per game. This shows his competence in playmaking and how well he plays at an advanced position for his team.
Benrahma attempts around 10.28 dribbles in a game and makes around 17.01 offensive duels, showing how he throws himself into defenders when he is on the ball and fits into the team as a progressor of the ball and allows the shift of play from the centre third of the pitch to the final third.
He is a goal-scoring machine and has scored 16% of Brentford’s goals this season.
He makes around 40 passes a game, which is more than most midfielders and winger in the Championship.
He is on the higher end in terms of dribbles attempted in the game and creates goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates by carrying the ball into the box.
He does not make a lot of assists for a winger but still ranks high in the league for the Championship.
The final metric is his XGChain and his xGBuildup. His xGChain is at 0.84, which suggests he is highly involved in attacking contributions in a game.This is higher than 99% of the rest of the league. His xGBuildup is at 0.27, which is higher than around 75% of the league. This value shows that Benrahma contributes a lot as a deep-lying playmaker towards buildup play.
Places to improve
Benrahma weakest point in his arsenal is his defensive contributions. He makes only 3.1 recoveries in a game, putting him lower than 25% of the league. This is something lacking for him in Thomas Frank’s side. Brentford employs a counter-pressing side that should be well-versed in winning the ball high up the field. With a total of only 8 interceptions and 69 counter-pressing recoveries, his defensive weakness is especially highlighted when placed in a system that emphasises on counter-pressing.
However, Benrahma has one weakness in the dribbling section: he overdoes these skills and tends to lose the ball in a very dangerous region, where the opponent can launch a counter-attack. Therefore, he needs to revamp his skills and decision making to ensure that he has more possession of the ball. This mainly takes place against teams that specialize in counter-pressing recoveries like QPR, as they press him at the centre of the pitch and thus dispossess him.
Benrahma is a star player for any Championship side and can walk into mid-table sides in the Premier League. He is especially talented at sides where he is given the authority to free roam.
In Arsenal, he would fit into Arteta’s possession-based side as an LW. This would allow Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang to move to his natural position as a ST, allowing Pepe to play as a RW. He can also drift towards the central part of the pitch and play as a CAM.
His main pros are his technical ability on the ball and his shooting ability. This means that he is a great dribbler and is very comfortable on the ball. He is also very talented at passing and can penetrate defences with ease. However, he needs to polish his defensive abilities and become more decisive in possession. If he improves upon these skills, he easily can become one of the greatest wingers of this era.