After securing a UEFA Champions League berth for the first time in the club’s history, it is important for Rennes to add more fuel to their squad so that they can maintain their recently elevated standards and compete on all fronts in the upcoming season. The Ligue 1 side took its first step towards that on July 7 when they announced the signing of Martin Terrier from Lyon for a reported fee of €15m that includes additional add-ons.
The attacker had scored 17 goals and provided two assists during his two-year stint with Les Gones. However, the talented youngster could never cement his position in the starting line-up, which might have had a significant influence on his decision to join the Brittany-based outfit.
Terrier is not someone who comes out as a flashy player like some of his counterparts. However, he is an exciting player who has the potential to play for a big club. Rennes have a rich history of developing young players and hence, the transfer seems to be a step in the right direction for the 23-year old.
In this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, we will do an analysis of the qualities of Terrier and what he can bring to his new club. We will also try to see how he can fit into Julien Stéphan’s tactics for the upcoming season.
Terrier is a versatile attacker who has played in a number of different positions during his time at Lyon. Primarily a right-footed player, he has spent most of his time playing as an inside forward from the left-wing position in a four-man defensive system of Les Gones. Alternatively, the 23-year-old has also been deployed as a centre-forward whenever Lyon played in a three-at-the-back formation. Besides, Terrier has also played as a right-winger or in the number 10 position on occasions. The following figure shows his heatmap.
A thing that instantly catches attention from the above figure is that while the left flank is where Terrier majorly operates, he has had an influence on almost all the parts of the field laterally which is due to his positional flexibility. Moreover, Terrier likes to influence the attacking play from the half-spaces when his team is in possession, as it is also evident from the heatmap.
The following touch-map of Terrier from Lyon’s 2-0 win against the Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in Champions League further solidifies our observation. Observe that most of his touches have been in the left half-space.
Standing at 184 cm tall, Terrier has a decent aerial presence. He engaged in 3.68 aerial duels per 90 minutes, winning 45.28% of them. As you can see in the following figure, he had competed in four aerial duels in his own half. It is not a significant number but his 100% success rate shows his effectiveness in this aspect.
Apart from his decent aerial presence, Terrier is also quick on his feet. He can quickly accelerate at a rapid speed that can outrun most of the defenders. This quality makes him a useful asset in making runs beyond the defensive line in an opposition medium or a high block and dangerous in counter-attacks. Moreover, he tends to recover the ball higher up as he made 2.43 counter-pressing recoveries per 90 minutes during the last season.
Terrier has a uniquely efficient pressing style which, along with his pace, allows him to make ball recoveries across the entire field. Although he is decent in pressing while facing an opponent, Terrier prefers to press an opposition from behind. While this kind of pressing style is slightly unconventional, it is an effective tactic since the opposition on the ball does not have an idea of what is happening behind him. Terrier, with his pace, can quickly close down to dispossess the opponent, as shown in the following figure.
While the Strasbourg attacker paused for a moment to look for options in the attacking third, Terrier quickly closed him down from the blindside and won the possession for his team, in turn, preventing a potential goal-scoring opportunity for the opposition.
How Terrier fits in at Stéphan’s Rennes
As we have already mentioned, Terrier is a positionally versatile player, which was also acknowledged by his new manager. This factor has played a key role in his signature. Stéphan likes his attacking players, especially wingers and centre-forwards, to be adept in playing at multiple positions. The French manager is known to intelligently alter his tactics for different oppositions and thus, he often changes the positions of these attackers during the course of a season.
In the 28 Ligue 1 games last season, Stéphan opted for four-at-the-back systems for 20 games while he used a 5-3-2 formation for the remaining eight games. Both the primary formations are shown in the figure above. For the four-at-the-back systems, Stéphan deploys his wingers in wide positions. However, most of the time, both the wide players play in an inside-forward role, which means a right-footed player plays on the left flank and a left-footed player plays on the right and they like to cut inside and attack the goal. Terrier fits into this system comfortably since he has played in a similar role at Lyon for a couple of years.
On the other end, when Rennes play in the 5-3-2 formation, the width is provided by the wing-backs, which means there is no need for wide attackers. Hence, one of the wide players, in this case, tends to play as a second striker alongside M’Baye Niang. For example, Flavien Tait, who is a left-winger, started 18 games last season out of which he played three times as a centre-forward and two times as a right-winger, which means that he started almost 28% of the times out of position. Similarly, Raphinha, who is a right-winger, had also played as a centre-forward at times.
Stéphan likes his full-backs to make wide runs and provide the width which is why he prefers the inside forwards and centre-forwards who can be effective in the central areas of the pitch. Once again, Terrier fits in nicely in the profile of wide players that the French manager prefers as we saw the youngster’s influence in the half-spaces during the earlier sections.
From the above observations, while we will most likely see the 23-year old play in the left-wing position next season, it will not be a surprise if he plays as a centre-forward or even as a right-winger in certain games.
Intelligent off the ball movements in the attacking third
Besides versatility, another striking feature of Terrier’s play is his intelligence. The 23-year old has an excellent ability to read the game which allows him to make smart off the ball movements in and around the box. While he initially positions himself along the lines of his forward player(s) during the buildup, Terrier starts dropping into the pockets around the ball to provide passing support for the teammate in possession as the ball progresses into the middle third.
These movements, however, are not limited to only a specific area on the field. The Frenchman has this pattern of constantly scanning around the field to find the available spaces which he can occupy. Hence, the movement can be into an outside space, inside space, or even between the lines in half-spaces/centre. In the following figure, Terrier, who was initially positioned on the left-flank, makes an inside move into the space between the lines to provide passing support for the left-back who is currently receiving possession from a centre-back.
A couple of minutes later, Terrier, who is now positioned in the left half-space, spots the space available on the left-flank and hence makes an outside movement into space in the wide channel.
Similar passing combinations but different movements within a span of few seconds exemplifies Terrier’s movement in the attacking space.
These kinds of intelligent movements not only help his team to retain possession but also to create spaces in the attacking third for other teammates to occupy. In either case, the movements assist in creating goal-scoring opportunities for his team.
Ability to play in tight spaces
We have mentioned previously that versatility played a key role in Rennes’ acquisition of Terrier. Another quality of the youngster that impressed the Brittany-based outfit is his ability to play in tight spaces. This quality, perhaps, is tactically significant for the current Rennes setup.
One of the tactical principles of Stéphan is to overload the flanks in the middle third during the buildup. The ball-sided central midfielder, full-back, winger, or even centre forward drop deep to create wide triangles and form diamonds that are followed by short touches to allow combinations at a high pace. The following figure exemplifies the principle.
As you can see in the figure, Tait, who is a left-winger, has dropped deep in the middle third along with the ball-sided players. After receiving the pass from the full-back, the 27-year old winger is monitored by the opposition full-back and hence he quickly lays off the ball with a first-time pass back to the full-back in the space ahead of him.
An opposition full-back generally stays closer to close the Rennes winger down quickly and hence it is pivotal for the latter to have an effective ball-control and first-touch to swiftly carry out short combination plays in wide areas.
Although not perfect, Terrier’s first-touch and ball-control are sharp and crisp which allows him to progress the play from tight spaces efficiently without losing possession. Combine these qualities with his ability to smartly drop into spaces (as discussed in the previous section) and the Frenchman becomes a perfect fit for Rennes.
In the figure above, Terrier drops in an available half-space pocket between the lines while receiving possession from Thiago Mendes. It is natural that with not a lot of speed in the incoming pass, the surrounding players could easily close Terrier down if he tries to make a turn. The 23-year old realises this and consequently lays off a one-time pass back to Mendes during the Brazilian’s follow-through that begins the one-touch short passing combinations for Lyon in the centre of the field. Mendes to Rayan Cherki followed by Cherki to Terrier. Terrier then lays it across to Amine Gouiri near the box and immediately makes a run inside the box between the centre-backs. However, Gouiri’s first-touch was slightly heavy which sent the ball away from Terrier.
Although the attack failed, and the fact that this was an example of a play in the central area, it shows the ability of Terrier to play in short combination plays at a fast speed which he will be tasked to do on the flanks at Rennes.
Getting behind defensive lines
Terrier started his career as a centre-forward, playing most of the games in that position for Lille and Strasbourg during the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons respectively. It is because of those two stints that the youngster has developed a knack of getting behind the defensive lines.
The 23-year old likes to stay in the forward line during his team’s buildup. Hence, whenever there is a long ball from one of his defenders, he tends to make a run beyond the last line of the opposition. He accelerates quickly at a rapid pace which gives him an advantage over most of the defenders.
In Stéphan’s Rennes, Niang, who is a centre-forward, is seen to constantly drop deep to support the wing-play as we have already mentioned earlier. This movement pushes the opposition defensive line higher which then allows the two wide players to push forward to become the centre-forwards and make runs beyond the defensive line, as shown in the following figure.
As you can see in the image, Niang has dropped on the right flank and since Rennes have created numbers on the flank, a switch of play allows Tait to make a run behind the last defender of Nice. Terrier can be really handy in such situations. In fact, with his pace, he can be an upgrade over the current right-wingers of Rennes.
Terrier’s intelligent movements into the spaces in the attacking third were already highlighted in an earlier section. He not only uses this ability to provide himself as passing support but also to expose the spaces between the defenders to make runs beyond them, as shown in the following figure.
Houssem Aouar has dropped slightly deep during a Lyon throw-in which has created a gap between the Leipzig center-backs. Terrier quickly spots the gap and makes a run to expose the space beyond the defenders.
The figure above shows a similar instance where Terrier has spotted a gap between the centre-backs of Toulouse. The 23-year old starts to make a run and positions himself in the opposition backline which can allow him to make a run beyond the defenders if he can receive a pass. Unfortunately, in this case, the pass never came, but it once again shows his ability to make runs beyond the defensive lines of opposition by exposing available spaces.
Besides, the Frenchman also tends to make runs inside the box when his team is in the process of creating a crossing opportunity from a wide-channel. As shown in the following figure, Lyon is on a counter-attack from the left half-space. Observe how Terrier is making a blind-side diagonal run inside the box beyond the last Toulouse defender.
Hence, while the youngster tends to drop towards the ball when he is positioned on the ball side, he has the propensity of making runs inside the box while the ball is on the other side.
Because he likes to make runs beyond the last defender and make runs inside the box, Terrier seldom takes a shot on goal from outside the penalty area. The following figure shows that most of the shots from Terrier come from inside the 18-yard box.
Every manager relishes an attacker who works to track back for his team during the defensive phases. Having said that, there are not many attacking players who like to make deep runs on a regular basis for his team. Terrier, though, is a player who likes to make an active involvement in the defensive phase for his team.
The 23-year old makes 3.68 recoveries per 90 minutes, which is a decent number considering the fact that he is an attacking player. The following figure is the 19/20 season’s recoveries map of Terrier that showcases that almost half of the recoveries that he had made are in his own half, which epitomises his defensive contribution. Terrier’s involvement in his own half can also be seen in his heatmap shown previously.
Terrier’s intelligent off the ball movements, as discussed earlier, assists him in reading the game and anticipate potentially dangerous attacks from the opposition early, which allows him to make important ball recoveries for his team. The following figure of Lyon’s game against RB Leipzig in Champions League shows an instance of that.
As you can see, Leipzig is currently building their play from the crowded right half-space. Konrad Laimer is attempting a pass to Yussuf Poulsen in a tight space. Poulsen follows it with a first-time pass to Yvon Mvogo who then attempts to lay off the ball to Marcelo Saracchi in the other half-space. The Uruguayan full-back would have a free run on the goal if he could receive the pass since such a quick passing interchange between Leipzig players would not give Lyon defenders enough time to adjust their line horizontally.
Terrier quickly recognises this movement from Leipzig and hence he starts to make his run in the empty left half-space as early as Laimer’s pass to Poulsen is deployed. Eventually, the Frenchman successfully intercepts the ball in his own half, denying any chance to Saracchi and breaking a potential goal-threatening offensive move from Leipzig.
Besides, he was tasked to man-mark Saracchi in this particular game against Leipzig and the youngster did not disappoint. He followed his marker throughout the game and did not allow the Leipzig left-back to have any influence on the game. One such instance where Terrier followed Saracchi into his own box during a crossing opportunity for Leipzig is shown in the figure below.
Saracchi was the weakest performer in the game and Whoscored seconds that with a 6.2 rating (lowest rating of the match) for the Uruguayan. This game further solidifies Terrier’s defensive case as he also possesses the quality to man-mark an opposition player which is a pretty rare ability to find in attackers.
Room for improvement
Terrier is a talented youngster with lots of qualities. However, he is not without flaws. One of the things that the 23-year old can improve on is his decision-making. In the following figure, Terrier received the ball on his left foot and he tried to attempt a line breaking through ball in the outside space after spotting the run from his wing-back. A quick touch on his strong right-foot followed by the delivery from the same foot would have still given him the space to manoeuvre the ball between the opposition players easily.
However, the youngster chose to quickly pass the ball with his left-foot which resulted in a pass that did not have enough pace on it. Thus, the opposition defender was able to reach it n time to regain possession for his team and prevent a possible goal-scoring opportunity for Lyon.
Another instance of his decision-making that denied a clear-cut opportunity for the Frenchman to score a goal for his team is shown in the following figure.
Terrier received the ball on the high Leipzig defensive line while he was facing the opposition goal. If he had have attempted a run beyond the defender, he could have beaten him with his pace and potentially be in a one versus one situation against the goalkeeper. However, the 23-year old stopped his run and tried to dribble the centre-back using a cut-back. Consequently, the defender was able to successfully tackle to ball out to stop the Lyon attack.
Terrier is only 23 years old hence it is only natural for him to make decision errors. With age and more playing time, the youngster will certainly improve on this attribute which can make him even more dangerous.
“He is intelligent, gives his all, versatile, and plays for the team. He’ll give us the ability to get behind the defences and has a lot of quality.”, said Stéphan in an interview after Rennes signed Terrier. This statement from the Rennes manager epitomises the qualities of Terrier that we analysed in this piece.
The youngster’s qualities make him a perfect fit for Stéphan’s tactics. It is not a surprise that the French side was tracking the youngster for over a year. After spending most of his time on the Les Gones bench, Terrier would be certainly hoping for regular starts for his team in the upcoming season. If Rennes continue to showcase a similar level of performances as they showed last season, the new recruit will be one of the players to keep an eye on.