Even though last year Lille came second and had an amazing campaign, they struggled more this year. They had to sell some important players such as Nicolas Pépé, but managed to get other signings to strengthen the squad. Benjamin André is one of those players. In this tactical analysis, we will see how André provides Lille with a box-to-box player characteristic.
Lille finished fourth this season and André is an important part of this final position. In this scout report, we will see how André complements himself well with his teammates and gives balance to the team.
Lille usually plays in a 4-4-2 formation. Here, Christophe Galtier likes having a midfielder who can control the play better and one who is more defensive-minded. André fills the second role as he is a physical player who helps more in defence than his midfield partner.
This is due to him excelling in defensive tasks, and that he is not the best player in terms of technical and passing ability, as we will see later on. With his defensive support, he provides balance to the team as one centre midfielder focuses more on playing the ball and André focuses more on the defensive shape.
André supports the defensive line well as he makes 12.58 recoveries per game which is a high number compared to other Ligue 1 players. Galtier’s tactics allow him to stay deeper which then allows him to make all these tackles and help his team.
To prove how André is more defensive-minded, in Figure one we can see how André is in the box defending a cross from the opposite side. Seeing as it is from the opposite side, generally, the left-sided centre midfielder should be helping out. However, in Lille’s system, it is André who has to cover.
One of the defensive abilities André is good at is his pressing. In this analysis it is clear that Lille likes to press high up the pitch, meaning the centre midfielders have to accompany this pressing system.
When they do this, André marks the opponent centre midfielder to hinder the opponent playing out from the back. In Figure two, in the UEFA Champions League, we see how André is in charge of marking Valencia’s playmaker, Daniel Parejo.
This shows how much Galtier recognises André’s pressing contribution. Even though he is a more defensive player, when pressing, he is allowed higher up than his midfield partner.
He returns this confidence as he makes 2.18 recoveries in the final third per game, which is one of the highest in Ligue 1. This shows how aggressive he is in this area of the pitch as Lille want to make sure the opponents do not play out from the back.
An example of him winning the ball back in the final third is against the same Valencia player he was marking the whole time. In this situation, the Valencia player has just controlled the ball badly and is now facing his own goal as we see in Figure three.
André sees this and takes advantage and in Figure four he moves quickly and does a slide tackle to recover the ball.
When Lille lose the ball, they like to recover the ball as quickly as they can, so they don’t go back. This benefits André who is an aggressive and physically dominant player because he presses the ball with intensity.
This is proven by his 7.28 counter-pressing recoveries per game, that help Lille regain control of the ball quickly after having lost it. André can then start a counter-attack as the opponents were in attacking transition, or conserve the ball and keep possession.
For example, in Figure five, Lille had lost the ball and the opponents had started the counterattack. This time the initial counter-pressing did not work as opponent got through it. However, Lille still recovers with the same intensity.
When the opponent’s striker gets hold of the ball in the counter-attack, André comes from behind in a swift and serious manner to recover the ball.
Being successful in aerial duels is important for any defensive-minded midfielder as many balls get to the midfield area in the air. It is their job to clear the ball from danger. André does this well as he makes 6.91 aerial duels per game with a 51.79% success rate.
Even though this statistic has the chance to improve so André becomes more solid, Galtier recognises his aerial threat. This is true as they even have a corner tactic specifically for him where he makes a run to the near post.
The example is in Figure six where we can know it was prepared beforehand as they did it twice in the same match.
On the ball strengths
André is part of a midfield pairing where he is not the man responsible for playing the ball. However, he still has to be competent in his technical and passing ability, which he is. However, he does not excel in this which we will see in his weaknesses further on.
But for his strengths on the ball, when he is in possession, he likes to pass the ball forward in order to get the ball into the dangerous attacking players. With Lille playing a 4-4-2, one of the strikers usually drops in more which creates a great passing lane exploited by André as seen in Figure seven.
In fact, he makes 16.03 forward passes per game which is higher than average. For a midfielder whose main role is not playmaking, this statistic is decent.
Connected to this, André makes 8.76 passes to the final third per game. This relates to the previous point because it shows that most of these forward passes André makes go deep into the enemy’s half. This allows Lille to be able to produce more danger from a deeper position such as the midfield.
On the ball weaknesses
As mentioned before, André specialises more in defence than in his playmaking ability. This is due to the fact that he has factors to improve on. One of them is his decision making when pressured and the accuracy in his passes.
Concerning his decision making, he makes 10.28 losses per game which is higher than average in Ligue 1. This is a bad statistic to have which hurts Lille substantially, as losing the ball in midfield is dangerous. These losses can potentially start counter-attacks for the opposing team in a delicate position which can decide a game.
In fact, in a game against Monaco this year, one of his losses led to Monaco levelling the game, which they went on to win 5-1.
Another statistic that is worrying for a midfielder in a high-level team such as Lille is André’s 82.62% pass accuracy. For a midfielder, these numbers are unsatisfactory and can hinder Lille’s options of creating efficient plays.
With André being the right centre midfielder, he makes an interesting movement which takes opponents by surprise. When the ball is on the right side, instead of supporting from behind, André actually goes up to give his teammate another passing option in the attack. This is seen in Figure eight.
Additionally, when the right-back has the ball, André makes a run in behind. This is uncommon for a central midfielder so the defenders do not expect it.
As you can see in Figure nine, André is running into the area behind the left-back and the left centre-back. The opponent’s defenders are completely unaware of this surprising movement and André then receives the ball alone with time to control the ball.
Lille should use this tactic more often as it is an unusual movement and can potentially leave André alone in a dangerous position, which is what happens in Figure 10.
Overall, André excels in his defensive abilities but does not dominate the technical and passing ability. For a high-level team such as Lille, he needs to improve on his decision making as a loss in midfield can be crucial in a game. However, he has found his spot in the team with him creating a balance thus benefitting the team. Galtier appreciates his defensive abilities but if he wants to help Lille reach the next level to compete against PSG in Ligue 1, he has to improve some aspects of his game.