The Championship is slowly becoming a great platform for signing cheap talents, with the likes of James Maddison, Daniel James, Jack Grealish plus many more all proving they can make the step above into the Premier League after some stand out displays. However, it has to be taken into account the many failed players who haven’t been able to make the step up and how the Championship to the Premier League is still a relatively big gap. Nevertheless, the ability between the tiers is closing in as more players are able to strive in the Premier League. With every season there are notable players who stand out and Brentford‘s star, Saīd Benrahma is one of those players who can make the move.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, will use the combination of tactics from the selected teams in the Premier League that require a left-winger, along with footage to see Benrahma playstyle and see where he would suit best, as statistics can only tell us so much. Before we get into the analysis, we will undertake the profiling which the player needs to meet.
Benrahma player profile
Benrahma was fairly unheard of when he moved from Nice in 2018 after being in the reserves side. He previously played as a right-winger but he has made the transition to the left and this has brought out his creative flair. He also has the ability to cut inside onto his preferred right foot to get a shot at goal or find an open teammate. In his heat map below, we can see the movement from the wide areas into the central part of the pitch.
Currently, under Thomas Frank, he plays in a 4-3-3 system. They like to build up play through the thirds as they are averaging 80.04 progressive passes per 90. Benrahma will be involved to receive possession as he is trusted to get on the ball, currently, he ranks sixth in the league for received passes (30.32 per 90) and this is the first highest for Brentford. After receiving the ball, he will then either use his immense dribbling to beat players, this season this is shown in his 10.28 per 90 along with a high 47.79%. In the image below, he uses an excellent body faint to open up the space and allow him to drive past the opponent.
One downfall to his game which relates to this is overdoing it at times and losing possession in dangerous areas, nearly half of the losses of possession (49%) were lost in his own third and middle third. This is shown in the image below. It is only a minor downfall but his tactical freedom makes him one of the best in the league.
However, he isn’t one dimensional as he has a high amount of passes with 39.57 per 90 with a notable 75.48%, even though he is predominately playing forward and intricate passes. Below we can see his passes in the key areas and the direction of where they went.
To sum Benrahma up, he is an excellent player who has emerged as a great player for many top sides. His ability on the ball and passing range allows him to keep the opponents unaware of his next move, due to him having a box full of tricks. Now I will look into some of the factors that will determine his move.
The possible destinations require a few factors.
- Firstly, Benrahma needs to meet the team’s playstyle so it is a smooth transition into the squad. Benrahma plays with freedom and flair and his defensive contribution isn’t high as he only makes 3.1 recoveries per 90 which is lower than 25% of the league. So he can’t be in a team where the winger is suffocated by getting dragged back, he needs his freedom of staying forward at times.
- Benrahma also needs to be fitted into a system where the full-back has the freedom to come forward and attack, he has a great connection with Rico Henry who is a typical modern-day full-back. Henry’s width allows Benrahma to occupy the middle section unmarked due to the opponent full-back following Henry out wide, if Benrahma does get pressed then he uses his excellent passing range but he mainly picks up the ball in the central dangerous position.
- Following onto the last factor that will be taken into account is the seeing if the team actually need him due to a lack of strength in this position or even players departing the club so they need a replacement.
The four shortlisted clubs I have come up with are:
- Aston Villa
- Crystal Palace
I have left out Chelsea due to the Timo Werner deal closing in but he reminds me of Eden Hazard at Chelsea and new signing Hakim Ziyech will fill the role of dropping into the half-spaces which Benrahma does.
I will now go into detail on each club and why they could line up a bid for Benrahma in the summer transfer window.
Firstly, Arsenal, their squad depth in this position have the best out of the selected teams. They currently have club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang filling this role but there are numerous rumours of him leaving. Even with him staying he could be moved into the number nine role. However, there are a couple of breakthrough youngsters as Gabriel Martinelli is breaking through at the club after he tallied three goals in the league but he had an impressive Europa League campaign with three goals and two assists in seven appearances.
It could be ideal to rotate both players to keep healthy competition and with Bukayo Saka proving in his new role as a left-back, they would complement each other nicely, as Saka keeps his width as we can see him in the positional map below (number 77). Martinelli could become Aubameyang’s successor as the striker then Benrahma could be the star man on the left, who floats inside and Saka stretches the opponents.
Additionally, Mesut Özil is 31 years old and other than Emile Smith Rowe there are no other central attacking midfield players. A move into centre attacking midfield could be the next position change and Arsenals progressive style under Mikel Arteta is like Brentford’s so this could also be on the cards. We have seen him accustomed to a position change and this could also be trialled as he is familiar to this central position, this is just an option to his versatility.
Ranking this move, I would give it a solid 7.5/10 for Arsenal because he is valued relatively cheap at the region of £15m and it could be a low price after this global pandemic but for Benrahma it may not be his first choice due to limited minutes, I would give it a 4/10 move for him as he won’t be straight into the starting line-up. However, there are possible avenues for him to take if he does go down this route and it won’t be a be-all and end-all.
Aston Villa are currently sitting in the relegation zone but they are only two points behind 16th place West Ham. They spent big last summer (£126m) but Benrahma could help ease Jack Grealish’s burden in attack. As we can see they mainly set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation but they have also deployed a 4-3-3 this season.
As we highlighted above, Grealish plays on the left but in-game he likes to drop in the middle and pick up the ball from deep at times due to his great ball-carrying ability. In his last five games before the pandemic, he took a massive 113 duels and he won 58 of them which is a high (51%).
This could tactically work well with Benrahma playing on the left and Grealish starting in a central midfield spot as he floats inside anyway. Below we can see Grealish against Bournemouth, where he has started left-wing but he has drifted inside. This does create space as the full-back will drag across but Grealish often comes deep so there isn’t always penetration and Benrahma could offer this.
Ranking this move for Aston Villa I would give it a high 8.5 for them as it could bolster their lacklustre attack if they go down it is very highly unlikely that he could make the move as Brentford are on the brink of a promotion battle. For Benrahma I feel this isn’t a step up in club stature unless Brentford stay in the Championship and Aston Villa stay in the Premier League, I would rank this as a 3.5 move only because he could thrive in the system if Grealish started in central midfield.
With Wilfried Zaha’s continued looming uncertainty at the club, Benrahma could be an ideal replacement as they are very much similar with their fancy skills to get out of tricky situations. In Zaha’s last five games he has taken 24 dribbles with a 52.2% success rate, plus, eight shots after them dribbles. Below, we can see dribbling is defiantly his strong point and this is something we highlighted that Benrahma excelled in.
Another benefit is that Crystal Palace set up regularly in a 4-3-3 formation, something which Brentford deploy with Benrahma. Unlike the other two clubs earlier, this would be a like for like replacement, this could suit Benrahma more as he would fit straight in. Plus, they’re comfortably sitting in 11th with 39 points.
However, this move would only likely go ahead if Zaha leaves or there is a potential for Zaha to switch onto the right and be a high winger who looks to beat his man and Benrahma to play inside centrally. In the image below, we can see this via the pass map that they often play through the wings and Benrahma is playing inside the half-spaces (red circle) and the opposite winger, Byran Mbeumo (yellow circle) will keep his width on the right-hand side. This allows Brentford to allow Benrahma to play inside and keep the opponent’s defence stretched to create holes.
Ranking this move for Crystal Palace, if they do sell Zaha they can use the funds to invest into Benrahma, I would give it a high 9/10 as he has all the qualities that Zaha possess and his ability to come inside and link up the play would be vital for Crystal Palace. For Benrahma I would rank this at 7.5 as it is still dependant on Brentford’s situation. However, Crystal Palace are in a great position to develop and try to push on higher in the league.
Overall, Arsenal finished on 11.5 out of 20, Aston Villa tallied a score of 12 Aston Villa and Crystal Palace finished with the highest score of 16.5. From my evaluations, Crystal Palace would be the ideal move dependant on different factors that I stated at the start.
Interestingly enough, Zaha is heavily linked with a move to Arsenal so this could open up a spot at Crystal Palace for Benrahma. However, you can tell he is enjoying his football at Brentford and a move will only occur if they are looking to make to sell, plus, Benrahma might feel another club could be a bigger step up. Ideally, these are possible options and they might not go through but he certainly has a bright future no matter where he ends up.