Rennes analysis with European football expert Andy Brassell
Wed 15 September 2021, 11:30|Tottenham Hotspur
We've been tapping into the knowledge of European football expert Andy Brassell for four seasons now, and as we prepare to kick-off the group stage of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday evening (5.45pm UK), Andy has run the rule over our Matchday One opponents, Stade Rennais of Ligue 1 in France.
Andy is a regular contributor to The Guardian, talkSPORT and co-host of the Football Ramble podcast. You can also find him on BT Sport and BBC and the official Champions League radio show. @andybrassell
Andy: "When the French season was curtailed due to the pandemic in March, 2020, Ligue 1 was the only one of the major European leagues that didn’t resume. It was to Rennes’ advantage, because it meant they qualified for the Champions League. To be honest, I think Lille may well have reeled them in (Rennes were third, Lille fourth, the season was decided via points per game) and Lille went on to win the title the season after. Anyway, when Rennes did get into the Champions League, there was real excitement about it, and they threw a lot of money at it as well at the start of last season. For example, they signed Jeremy Doku (from Anderlecht), who had that good game for Belgium against Italy in the European Championships this summer. They spent 26 million Euros on him, and that allowed them to let Raphinha go to Leeds United. Rennes have a plan, looking to be young, and they’ve always had one of the best youth academies in France. It’s such a good academy, and they’ve produced so many great players over the years.
"I thought what was interesting - after not making a huge dent in the Champions League in 2020/21 (one draw, five losses in the group stage), and for most teams, it’s a massive step up first time around, and changing coach halfway through last season, getting rid of Julien Stephan, who was the coach when they beat Arsenal 3-1 in the Europa League Round of 16 first leg before losing 3-0 at the Emirates, appointing Bruno Genesio – is that they’ve gone for it again this summer."
Andy: "Rennes sold Eduardo Camavinga to Real Madrid for 30 million Euros, but they’ve spent something like 80 million Euros this summer. There is a mix of really reliable players like Baptiste Santamaria (from Freiburg), he had a lot of Premier League interest when he was at Angers, but then he went to Freiburg in Germany and he was very good last season, so that’s good business. They’ve also gone for Gaetan Laborde (Montpellier), again, the type of centre forward who you could see working well in the Premier League, an intelligent, hold-up player who scores goals, but the really interesting one is Kamaldeen Sulemana, who they got from Nordsjælland in Denmark. Nordsjælland are owned by a Ghanaian academy (Right To Dream) and they bring players over from Ghana, Ivory Coast, and it’s a really good development project. Michael Essien is a coach there now. A lot of clubs looked at Sulemana and he’s gone straight into the team and looked great straight away, scoring a brilliant goal in their opening Ligue 1 game (1-1 draw against Lens), where he cut in from the left and smashed it into the corner. All the parts are there for Rennes, but it's just not happened so far for them in the league (one win in five at the moment). So far they’ve played Brest, Angers, Nantes as well, teams who are geographically around them, so a tough start, but the biggest problem has been goalscoring. They have to find the right way to build around Laborde and find a partner for him. I don’t think he works as well in a 4-3-3, but I guess it all takes time."
21/22 so far...
Andy: "There has been a reasonable turnover at Rennes this season and because last season wasn’t a resounding success (sixth in Ligue 1), they have the pressure to perform, but at the same time, it’s clearly going to take time to get on an even keel. There is plenty of ability in the team, and if you had to pick a coach to work with those young players, you’d probably pick Bruno Genesio. He played a massive part at Lyon, where he performed a lot of different roles over a couple of decades, but when he was Head Coach, players like Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir, Corentin Tolisso were all close to him and really rate him, so he has a good record of bringing young players into the first team and making them into something special, players who can play at the very best European clubs. I would not be surprised to see a lot of these players, particularly those now in their late-teens, early-20s, arrive in the Premier League over the next two to three years.
"I do think it’s a good time for Spurs to play Rennes. If you look at that team, there are players with leadership potential in there, like Santamaria, Hamari Traore, the right-back who I think is brilliant, but it’s going to take time and to catch them now, rather than in three months’ time, is pretty good timing."