Karim Rekik is a 25-year-old central defender who currently plays for Hertha BSC in the Bundesliga. He joined Hertha in the summer of 2017 from Ligue 1 side Marseille. Since joining, he has played 64 matches and has started in every single game BSC have been involved in.
Having also had spells at Manchester City and PSV Eindhoven, Rekik has gained valuable experience and played under many different managers. His title-winning campaign in the 2014/15 season for PSV Eindhoven is one of his main career highlights.
This tactical analysis scout report will delve into the role Rekik plays in the Hertha side to deploy their tactics. The analysis will then look to analyse his ability with the ball, and finally concluding by discussing his defending strengths to delay the opposition’s attack.
Role of Rekik out of possession
Rekik plays a huge role in the Hertha BSC out-of-possession tactics. There were many occasions during the thrilling 3-3 draw away at Fortuna Dusseldorf where Rekik would press the opposition player receiving the ball, to prevent them from receiving or receiving to then play forwards. Throughout this 2019/20 season, Rekik has applied pressure to an opposing player 132 times. Of these 132 pressure actions, 81 have been in the defensive third and 45 being in the midfield third.
During the early stages of the game against Dusseldorf, we see Rekik following the striker into the midfield third to apply pressure to prevent them from receiving the ball. His pressure would either enable a turnover of possession to occur or force the striker to play backwards. As Rekik is the first player to press, his teammates would become compact and narrow when out-of-possession to stop the opposition playing through.
As Hertha Berlin found themselves 2-0 down within the first 15 minutes of the game, Rekik’s pressing the opposition to stop them from playing forwards would also see him deploying a press in an advanced midfielders position.
This time, the Dusseldorf striker has dropped to receive the ball and is trying to penetrate the Hertha Berlin defensive line with a penetrative ball over the top. Even if Rekik fails to prevent the ball from being played over the top/forward, Hertha Berlin’s midfield and defensive shape are very compact and narrow which would make it hard for passes to be penetrative.
As Rekik’s central defensive counterpart Boyata is very successful in 1v1 defensive and aerial duels, this gives Rekik the license to press in advanced positions to try and regain possession and counter. If he is able to do this, as we can see above, it will create an attacking overload (3v2 in this case above) with half spaces free to exploit.
Although only 29.5% of the time this season Hertha Berlin regained possession 5 seconds after Rekik’s pressing actions, it was more apparent during the game that the main focus of his press out-of-possession was to stop the opposition from playing forwards, rather than to win the ball back quickly.
If Rekik could prevent a forward pass into the strikers’ feet which meant they play backwards/lateral passes instead, then Hertha Berlin could keep their out-of-possession shape and wait for a moment to counterattack. We saw this example in the second half against Dusseldorf when Hertha Berlin found themselves with a huge mountain to climb at 3-0 down.
One of Fortuna Dusseldorf’s main tactic when trying to progress the ball forwards was to play into the strikers’ feet who would look to receive in between the lines. Rekik’s role to prevent this from being successful would be to directly press the striker who is looking to receive in the half space. Rekik’s press then forced Dusseldorf to find other alternative ways to penetrate. As Berlin were very compact and narrow as a unit out of possession in other areas of the pitch, Dusseldorf on numerous occasions has no choice but to play backwards and find alternative routes.
There is no doubt that Hertha Berlin have huge confidence in Rekik performing this tactic out-of-possession. We see that Rekik recognises the correct time to go and press, and makes the right decision of when to follow the attacker before he receives.
In addition, Rekik has also shown he can provide the correct distance between himself and the opposition receiving player. If Rekik adopts a position that is too close to the player, then this will mean the ball can by-pass him with one touch. This will then cause the space he has left to be exploited by off the ball runners.
During the Dusseldorf game, Rekik made sure that he was the correct distance away from the receiving player, which forced them to either try and play around the compact lines or backwards to find another path in a different part of the pitch.
There is no doubt that Rekik is a key figure in the Berlin out-of-possession setup that prevents the opposition from carrying out their main attacking threats. Although Berlin did find themselves 3-0 down, there were gaps in other positions within the side that meant Dusseldorf could exploit to create goal-scoring opportunities.
Passing to penetrate
In addition to Rekik’s role in the team when out-of-possession, he also holds many strong individual technical traits. Throughout the game against Dusseldorf, Rekik’s ability to perform penetrative passes should not go unnoticed. There were many times where Rekik would try and advance his team into attacking areas by performing passes to break lines or passes in behind the Dusseldorf defensive units. This season, Rekik has attempted 697 passes, of which, 621 were completed. This means 89.1% of his total passes this season have been successful.
Rekik has shown that he is not just a typical central defender. As well as being able to defend, he has proven that he can play higher up the pitch and carry out passes that penetrate the opposition. Our first example below is Rekik executing a split pass.
In the very early stages of the game, we can clearly see one of Rekik’s passes that he is able to perform to advance his team into the oppositions half. Under pressure on the halfway line, he notices Matheus Cunha has performed a movement to get away from the defender to receive in between the lines. Proving what a good passer of the ball he is, Rekik is able to perform a split pass in between the oppositions right winger and right midfielder.
This split pass has taken two of the Dusseldorf’s players out of the game, creating space in the central areas for Cunha to exploit when he receives he ball from Rekik. As this action came very early in the game, it was very clear that Rekik was very confident in his own ability going into this game.
Rekik performed a total of 68 passes in the game, claiming an 80% pass success rate over the 90 minutes. 24 of these 68 passes were forward, with 19 forward passes being successful receiving a 79% forward pass completion percentage. Not only did Rekik produce accurate split passes, but he was also able to identify passes which advanced his team into the final third.
We again see Rekik on the left-touchline, with the ball, under pressure from the Dusseldorf attacker. Instead of playing a short pass into the midfield, Rekik recognizes the space to exploit in behind the oppositions right full-back. Piatek, Berlin’s striker, is seen as the trigger in this scenario. He makes a run across the central defender into the left half space, where Rekik’s pass will be played into.
Not only do we see Rekik being able to perform split passes to break opposition lines, but we also see him producing longer passes which can bypass the midfield and advance his team directly into the final third. At 2-0 down, being able to play direct passes into these attacking areas is key for his side to get back into the game.
As well as showing how accurate he can be performing different types of passes, he also gained a 50% success rate in passing the ball into the final third. Out of 6 total passes into the final third, 4 of these came in the second half when his side was desperate to erase the deficit.
Rekik can also be seen in a midfielders’ role when trying to advance his team forward. When in these positions, he still looks for space to put the ball into, to either enable his teammates to receive in these areas or to create an attacking overload situation.
Here we see Rekik on the halfway line under pressure by the two Dusseldorf strikers. As he looks to offload the ball whilst trying to keep possession, he recognizes space on the right-hand side of the pitch. As Rekik plays this pass, it creates his right full-back teammate with an opportunity to advance forwards into the space unopposed.
Rekik’s vision to identify space to overload or to exploit space to gain an attacking advantage in the opposing half is another strength to his game. His ability to identify space to exploit, along with his accurate passes into these areas demonstrates what an important player he is within the Hertha Berlin side.
Whilst we have seen Rekik in-possession around the half-way line to advance his team into the Dusseldorf’s half, it is also important to analyse his passes into the box.
As Hertha were trailing for a large proportion of the game, they did manage to restore the lead and bring the score back to 3-3 after finding themselves 3-0 down. At 3-2 down with 20 minutes to go, we saw Rekik produce his only key pass of the game, at a time when Berlin needed it the most.
Obtaining an advanced position on the left-hand side, the ball has been regressed back to Rekik who now has the opportunity to put the ball into a dangerous area. On his favoured left foot, he executes a fantastic key pass which is placed directly in between the goalkeeper and Dusseldorf defensive line.
Although Hertha Berlin didn’t score from this key pass, it does show us that Rekik can perform key passes into the box when his team need them the most. To produce a pin-point pass into an area like this from the middle of the oppositions half highlights that this is one of his main traits when in possession of the ball.
This season, 186 out of 238 of Rekik’s attempted long passes have been accurate, gaining a 78.2% long pass completion on passes that are longer than 25 yards. He has also gained a 95.9% medium pass completion for passes between 5 and 25 yards.
There is no doubt that Rekik can perform different types of passes and he is very accurate and successful when doing so. For a central defender, it is also great to see that he has the traits to perform penetrative and key passes which give his side the best option to threaten the opposition’s goal.
Although we have seen that Rekik is one of the main players in the Hertha starting line-up that can install the teams’ tactics, as well as being able to perform a range of different passes to penetrate the opposition, his defending capabilities are just as efficient. During the 14 games he has played this season, he has made 17 tackles. 11 out of these 17 times his team has gained possession of the ball. 10 out of the 17 tackles he has made have been in the defensive third.
In this scenario, shortly after half-time, Dusseldorf are trying to attack quickly to penetrate Berlin being out of their positions defensively. Rekik adopts a body position which enables him to slow down the speed of the Dusseldorf attack, enabling his teammates to cover the spaces in behind. Rekik hasn’t gone to close down the player with the ball too quickly, meaning the position he has placed himself in is perfect in delaying the penetrative passes and passing lines.
If Rekik was to go and rush towards the player with the ball at speed, he could easily play the ball around or through into the space Rekik has vacated. However, in keeping a short distance between himself and the ball, the Dusseldorf player now has to make a rushed decision of what his next action could be. In the meantime, this delays the attack and allows his teammates to get back into a position to defend as units.
If Hertha players are in their correct positions when out-of-possession, Rekik can also prevent opposition players from breaking through the last line of defence.
Hertha have players behind the ball which makes it difficult for Dusseldorf to break through into the box or create space to get a shot at goal. As the ball is played to Karaman on the edge of the box, Rekik adopts a touch-tight position this time. This will allow Rekik to prevent Karaman from receiving the ball to turn and attempt a shot. By doing so, Rekik is forcing the receiving player to play backwards.
As most of his tackles have led to his team regaining possession this season, if Rekik can tackle Karaman as soon as he receives, then Hertha have a great opportunity to counterattack. Throughout the 2019/20 campaign, Rekik has prevented an opposition player from receiving in the defensive third 81 times.
Rekik has prevented an opposition player from receiving the ball in the midfield third 45 times this season, and he showed us this in action against Dusseldorf.
As mentioned earlier in this analysis, one of the main ways Dusseldorf like to advance up the pitch is to play into their striker – Karaman. As seen above, Rekik denies him the opportunity to receive the ball by being tight and attempting to win the ball.
If Rekik’s tackle on the half-way line can allow his teammates to gain possession, then they have different avenues to attack the space on the left side or through the right middle of the pitch. At 3-0 down, Rekik is preventing Dusseldorf the chance to attack by challenging the receiving player high up the pitch.
As Hertha managed to restore the deficit by scoring 3 goals in quick succession around the 70th-minute mark, Rekik kept his defending abilities consistent even in the final stages to make sure his side came away with at least a point.
As Dusseldorf look to snatch a winner from the game, Rekik is showing his defensive duties and passion by placing himself in a right-back role to prevent the cross into the box from happening. He notices that his right back teammate is out of position so makes him the first player to close down. His body position means that the Dusseldorf player is unable to get the ball into the main areas that would create a chance to shoot at goal.
He blocks off the ball into the near post space where the attacker can run onto and attempt a strike at goal. His body position also blocks off the reverse ball into the player on the edge of the box.
The decisions he makes throughout different stages of the game to prevent the opposition from creating chances to score shows us why his defending duties should not go unnoticed.
Karim Rekik is a solid defender who holds many different traits to his game. He can adapt his playing style to fit the current situation of the game and is one of the main players in the Hertha Berlin side who drives his team forward.
This tactical analysis scout report has delved into how Rekik carries out the teams’ tactics, as well as analyzing his ability on the ball. Not only does his bravery and confidence show when he is trying to progress the ball forwards, but he also proves this when defending to prevent the opposition from attacking.