It's time for Said Benrahma to move – twice
To this day it beggars belief that a 22-year-old with nine goals and five assists on loan in Ligue 2, who had already played a full international for one of Africa's top footballing nations, then moved from a top Ligue 1 side to the EFL Championship for a mere €1.7m. Yet Brentford is as Brentford does, and they saw that the young Algerian forward from Nice with his best years still far ahead would be one of the bargains of the decade. Since then, Said Benrahma has had two blazing seasons in England and Wales's second tier. He's ready to move to a higher level – and also to move back to the middle of the pitch.
Here's a comparison of Benrahma's stats at LW this season and at CAM/SS last season at a Premier League standard:
At 24 years old, Benrahma has already been an outstanding attacker by the standards of Premier League attacking midfielders for two seasons, and he's above average both ways in ground duels. In 2018-19 at CAM/SS, he had higher attacking output and better ball retention. Apart from that, his style of play was almost identical.
This season, Brentford have been using Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen centrally, so Benrahma and his opposite number Bryan Mbeumo have been pushed further out to the wings. Here are Benrahma's smartermaps from the same positions and seasons:
Clearly Benrahma still wants to get back into central areas this season, but he's not able to dribble through the channels quite as often.
This shift seems to have affected Benrahma's attacking output in at least three ways. The average quality of his shots has fallen, and he's had a harder time finishing as well. And his involvement stats show that despite being involved in 62% of Brentford's shots in both seasons, his touches may have been quite a bit less telling in 2019-20. Here he is at CAM/SS in 2018-19:
And here he is this season at LW:
So it's no surprise that Benrahma's shot maps show that from LW, he's been taking more low-quality shots from wide areas where he has trouble scoring:
By now it should be pretty clear that Benrahma is more effective when he can play centrally, and he's ready to do so for a Premier League club. It also looks like he takes way too many shots from deep positions outside the box. In fact, when it comes to dead ball situations, he's the guy who loves a potshot from outside the area – the kind of thing that can drive coaches mad:
But that's a tiny flaw when you consider all the positives in Benrahma's game, which is notably similar to that of Josip Ilicic, who's been tearing things up for Atalanta. Clubs looking for a new spark to operate in the left channel and centrally should be all over him. The only question is how big a profit Brentford will bank this time!
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