Three little points. That’s all that was left for Rennes to replace Monaco at the start of August, fighting to qualify for the main stage of the Champions League. For the Breton club, this is a sign of confirmation, from the exploits in the Europa League under Julien Stéphan to the attractive team managed by Bruno Génésio last season. In this logical ascent, the next phase is clearly designated: C1. The SRFC had tasted it in 2020-2021 and its taste had been very bitter, with a lost race in the big wides and the end of the Stéphan cycle. But the arrival of Génésio, who had been greeted with skepticism for a while, has given new hope and a desire to see higher next to Roazhon Park.
For the first time, the former coach of Olympique Lyonnais begins an exercise in Ile-et-Vilaine with certainty. The collective qualities, especially offensively, seen last year have reason to continue. And the reasons to believe in progression, both in gameplay and results, are real. To make up for those famous three points that were missing a few months ago.
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This was probably the area where the axis of improvement was most evident. Since the departure of Edouard Mendy to Chelsea, Rennes is looking for a guardian angel. His Senegalese compatriot Alfred Gomis has been far from satisfactory over the past two seasons. Alternating between the right and the not-terrible, the old Dijonnais won’t hold back, even if suitors for his signature don’t panic. Behind the young Turk Dogan Alemdar is still a bit tender, and Romain Salin is not the size of a title holder of a cador championship.
So the Rennes club did not hesitate when the option of Steve Mandanda was presented. Even at 37, the former OM goalkeeper can still provide valuable services, such as his second half of the season with Marseille. The numbers speak for themselves: 7% more saves than Gomis and only 0.7 goals conceded per game to Gomis’ 1. Like the Marseille club, Rennes rarely expose their goalkeeper as both clubs conceded the fewest shots per game in Ligue 1 last season. All the more reason to be all the more decisive in the (rare) important moments.
“Yes, it’s the Champions League, don’t get carried away, but that’s what we’re here for“, assumed Mandanda upon his arrival. In a rear that had at times suffered from some communication problems in recent months, especially between Gomis and Nayef Aguerd, the character and experience of the French international meets many needs.
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Bourigeaud more central, and more influential?
Rennes’ most consistent player last season, Benjamin Bourigeaud was one of the most watched players in the Breton squad this summer. But the northerner is still there, and Bruno Génésio is certainly delighted. The 28-year-old is at the height of his career and is coming off a Ligue 1 double-double (11 goals, 13 assists) in an unusual midfield role, even on the right wing. With the departure of Jonas Martin, the former RC Lens player could return to a more central role, spearheading the creation alongside the incredible Lovro Majer.
This more axial position could offer him even more freedom, but also weight in the animation of the SRFC. The centre-backs play a crucial role in the animation of Bruno Génésio’s game (calls, spaces created), in particular with Martin Terrier who likes to transplant from the left flank into the interior of the field. This option with Bourigeaud at the heart of the game could also offer the Rennes manager more tactical options, like a 4-4-2 system seen in certain games last season and during the build-up. “We’ve made progress, it’s interesting, it’s a system we can use this season, or during the gamereceived Bruno Génésio after the victory against Augsburg on 23 July. It’s always good to see players adapting, integrating information and game principles into slightly different systems.“
Benjamin Bourigeaud celebrates his goal during the OL – Rennes match in Ligue 1
Credit: Getty Images
Doku – Sulemana, like the rookies
They were good in the Breton group last season. But Kamaldeen Sulemana and Jérémy Doku, among the most important investments in the club’s history, were not real factors in Rennes’ very good health. Health is all they lacked on both sides, between Sulemana’s back problems and the multiple problems (hamstring, calf, knee) of Doku, still affected by a contracture in preparation.
Without their two winger players, who played less than 1,500 minutes in Ligue 1 in 2021-22, Génésio had adapted brilliantly. But to be able to count on two dribblers like Sulemana and Doku, capable of taking depth due to their quality of percussion, offers additional advantages to an already very prolific attack. It’s no surprise then to see Rennes with only the 19th number of dribbles per game in Ligue 1 last season. “It is very important to be part of an ambitious and interesting sports project that develops year after year. We have just had a very good season… To continue, we need a quality group“, Bruno Génésio insisted in a press conference.
Continuity and more and more density, Rennes will need it to aim for the heights of Ligue 1, while securing their course in the Europa League. And summer isn’t over yet. “I think we still need two or even three playersthe coach of Rennes has waited. So we will be active in the market, I hope, very soon. In attack? That’s what I say, two or three players.“
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