Nathan Staples writes a detailed scout report about Ramy Bensebaini, Rennes’ ball-playing defender
Who is Ramy Bensebaini?
Born on the 16th of April 1995, Amir Selamane Ramy Bensebaini started his young career at Algerian club Paradou AC at just 13, moving up to their first team in 2013. For the 2014/15 season, he was loaned out to Belgian side Lierse but he was unable to prevent their relegation from the first division.
The following year, he made his first move in Ligue 1 football to Montpellier. Under Roland Courbis, he started to grow next to French football veteran Hilton but with the club’s results taking a downturn, the manager got the boot and the new boss moved him to the bench.
Rumours were swirling that Courbis wanted to bring the youngster to Rennes with him, with Bensebaini eventually regaining his place in the first eleven.
While the move to Rennes did happen in the summer of 2016, it was not with his former manager. Courbis left in the summer to be replaced by Christian Gourcuff, the former coach of Bensebaini’s national side Algeria, although the Constantine-born man did not play under the French coach.
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Since then, he’s been a regular part of the set-up for Les Rouges et Noirs, playing across the defensive level whenever it was needed. While the defence he was a part of played reasonably well, apart from a hammering at the hands of Monaco and PSG, it was at the other end that the club suffered.
A desperately poor season, despite finishing in ninth, has left the club in a little bit of limbo. With a number of interesting young players, some of those that have been blessed with a little more cash have come sniffing around the Algerian, who also impressed during the winters’ African Cup of Nations.
What is his Style of Play?
A ball-playing centre-back, the 22-year-old has performed best alongside a ball-winning CB in Rennes’ flat back four. He’s tasked with being more of the sweeper, allowing Joris Gnagnon to be the aggressor when needed but both have a good partnership where the opposite can be true should the ball be in Bensebaini’s court.
In possession, he’s also the one that dictates the play from the back. Bensebaini keeps his head up at all times, looking for passing lanes to create quick attacks or switches of play when required, especially as the club’s attacking options began to dwindle after the January transfer window.
At left-back, he is more of a defensive-minded presence, occasionally offering his services further forward but is more tentative than the natural, modern day full-backs. He can also be caught in two minds, a little high when going back or a little deep when moving forward, so is best served being asked to be in a more reserved role or simply kept in the middle of the back line.
What are his Strengths?
As mentioned above, the Algerian excels as a defender with the ball at his feet. Able to play both short passes and long, cutting balls from the back to the strikers, his range means that Rennes could always get out of trouble if he was in possession.
Without much creativity in the midfield at Roahzon Park, Bensebaini’s ability to turn defence into attack gave them a little extra when they had so little in the final third. It also explains his 83.4% pass completion percentage, with an average of 2.5 long balls per game and the promise that with better teammates, it could be a more worthwhile weapon.
His recovery speed, an almost essential piece to any modern defender, is really impressive. When playing as a centre-back especially, forwards can’t simply beat him and believe that the job is done as Bensebaini will always be closing the space and times his tackles from behind reasonably well.
Positioning while at centre-back is also a positive. He makes 2.3 interceptions per game, tied for eighth in the entire league and that awareness of his place on the field also compliments the two other characteristics above.
Strong in the air, he’s not easily bullied at either set-pieces or open play. He has a good leap, a real incentive to attack the ball when it’s off the ground and if he could become more accurate with it in the opponent’s box, he could even be more of a threat there too.
There’s also no doubt that centre-back is where his future lies. He looks a lot more comfortable there, he also prefers the role and his skill set really lends himself to be a good compliment to the likes of his current defensive partner, Joris Gnagnon.
What are his Weaknesses?
While he does get a fair few tackles a game, 2.2 per outing in Ligue 1, a lot of those have been slide challenges. His timing with them is fairly good but often show that they are made in recovery, often when it is he who has misjudged either his positioning or the opponent’s pace.
Not only that, he has a tendency to dive in even when it’s unnecessary, which is again a positive and a negative. That rough and ready style is endearing to the fans and puts the fear in opponents but has led to his two red cards this season as well, that better judgement should come with time and training.
Despite having played a fair few games at left-back, it’s very clear that it isn’t his position for the future. He lacks positional awareness in that position, often caught too high up or diving into challenges against pacey wingers and has not got the crossing ability to be a threat going forward either.
His move to that position looked to be a combination of other solid centre backs and the fact he’s left footed. That’s not to say he can’t play there in emergencies, he’s at least aware of what’s required, but it would take some serious readjusting to make that his permanent home in the starting eleven. Having said that, those adjustments would make him into an excellent player.
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