As stated in the latest Athletic article, until recently Rennes were considered a club for losers as they had always been so close yet so far to achieving something. But there has been change in the water in Brittany. In 2019, after 2 final defeats to rivals Guingamp in 2009 and 2014, they won the Coupe De France beating PSG on penalties. The club used that as a stepping stone, and after a strong performance against Arsenal in the Europa League where they only just lost in the 2nd leg, this season they have made it into the Champions League and are one of the most exciting teams to watch.
The most notable player at Rennes is Eduardo Camavinga. The centre midfielder is only 18 and has already been making a scene in France. His big break came early on last season when he started against PSG and was key in Rennes winning 2-1. From that game he has been a mainstay of the team, and the signing of Steven Nzonzi has allowed Camavinga to venture forward more and show off his outstanding technical ability. With Camavinga staying for another season, he will have his chance to be the star of the team and increase his value even more, before likely moving on in the coming seasons. It will also give him a chance to form a deadly partnership with Jeremy Doku.
Doku is one of the biggest prospects in Belgium right now, along with Yari Verschaeren. So it was a surprise to say the least when he was sold by Anderlecht this summer. With him rumoured to moving to Liverpool and seen as a backup to Sadio Mane, it is safe to say his move to Rennes will best suit his development. Having only played 4 matches in Ligue 1, and coming off the in the Champions League, he has looked lively and seems to change the game in Rennes’ favour so the future with these 2 looks bright as long as they can keep hold of both of them.
Rennes’ recruitment has been one of the best in France in recent years. Along with Doku, this summer they have brought in Daniele Rugani from Juventus who will sure up the defence while also adding European experience to their team, additionally Dalbert adds experience to the left back position. But the route that Rennes has taken is one where they invest in youth. The average age of the players they brought in this summer gone was 23.7 so they are adopting the route of other Ligue 1 clubs of developing players then selling them on for profit. This summer alone they made 38 million from the sale of Edouard Mendy to Chelsea and Raphinha to Leeds. In the past they have also made notable sales, such as Ousmane Dembele to Dortmund in 2016 for 13.5 million. The sales of Ismail Sarr, Remy Bensebaini for profit have also shown their ability to strike a deal for their players.
To go along with their young team, Rennes have a relatively young manager in Julian Stephen. He rose through the ranks of Rennes’ academy before becoming permanent manager in December 2018. Stephen is constantly tinkering with his system, preferring a 442 or 4231 last season but in the early stages of this season which, had taken Rennes to the top of Ligue 1, he has favoured a 451 or 433. Within the 5 in midfield, Steven Nzonzi is used to help screen the defence while allowing the attacking talents of Camavinga and Benjamin Bourigeaud. The way Rennes play, will depend on the formation they use, but it seems to be they will always resort to a 433, with Nzonzi at the base and Camavinga and Bourigeaud as the 8s. Rennes are a high pressing team, when in a 433, the alone striker will block a pass between the 2 centre backs, while the 2 midfielders will then man mark the necessary options, while Nzonzi will cover from behind. The energy that Camavinga, as well as the pace of their forwards allows them to be so aggressive. Rennes will operate in a high block and with compactness, which will allow the squeezing of the opposition to press, while also allowing them to win the ball back as quickly as possible when they begin their press.
Rennes also emphasis build up play. Nzonzi would drop between the centre-backs which would allow more spaces to be create for Camavinga to then drop into and create from deep. Then when one of the 2 8s receive the ball, they will then quickly spray the ball out wide to the facing full back which will avoid any press, and help create an attack out of nothing.
As they are making their debut in the Champions League and in the same group as Sevilla, Chelsea and Krasnodar. Rennes have the ability to cause and upset and possibly sneak into the top 2 if they can beat one of the bigger teams in the group, but a slow start has hindered them. They have also been top of the league in Ligue 1 this season, until recently a poor run of form has seen the drop down to 3rd. As long as Camavinga stays and can form a formidable partnership with Jeremy Doku, Rennes will be an exciting team to watch this season.