India is making its way up in world football. In order to climb the ladder, it is important to foster local talents and give them opportunities at the big stage. Mohamad Rakip is the embodiment of this idea. The 20-year-old has clocked over 2000 minutes in the Indian Super League. The boy from Manipur was in contention to represent India in the U-17 World Cup in 2017 but unfortunately didn’t make the cut. On the bright side, soon after that Kerala Blasters signed him in the same year. He got his breakthrough in the ISL and enjoyed a good run in 2018-2019 and became a regular under Eelco Schattorie last season. This is a tactical analysis of Mohamad Rakip’s performance in the ISL. The following analysis in this scout report will examine his role and what he adds to Mumbai City’s team in the forthcoming season.
Role at Kerala Blasters
The role of full-backs in football has evolved with time. Now, their responsibilities have a fair share of both defence and attack. Mohamad Rakip was able to perform this role at Kerala very well. Inconsistency in results and recurring injuries in the squad didn’t budge Eelco Schattorie to change his philosophy and style of play. Rakip’s performance complemented his style of possession-based attacking football. Rakip’s heat-map shows his ability to cover the lengths of the field. It reflects on his positional contribution in attack and defence.
The Blasters played out from the back; hence Rakip had an important role in the build-up. The pivots dropped between the defenders to help Rakip advance forward and provide width to the team in the build-up. He linked up with the centre-backs and central-midfielders to progress the ball forward. The ‘Yellow Army’ operated in a 4-4-2 in the majority of the matches. The two wingers often played close to the strikers Raphaël Messi Bouli and former PSG man Bartholomew Ogbeche. Hence the full-backs were tasked to maintain the width of the team. While in possession, Rakip stayed wide in the middle third of the pitch.
Last season, Rakip averaged 31.92 passes per game with 83.2% accuracy. His distribution was even in terms of playing backward passes to defenders, lateral passes to the midfielder and forward passes to wingers and strikers. This shows how reliable he was in maintaining possession and circulating the ball. His style in possession is stable and secured. Hence tactically he was well suited for the team.
In opposition’s half
Rakip’s passing abilities and position in mid-block make it easy for the forwards to link-up with him in support-play. The tucked in wingers left a lot of space near the touch-line in the final third. As Rakip progressed further, the wingers then exploited this space by receiving a through ball from him. This also helps in having a balanced number of players behind in defensive transitions.
In a similar scenario as above, if the winger dragged the defender outside then space was offered in the centre. Rakip was capable to dribble inside and then create chances for his two strikers himself. In the first game against Goa, he cuts inside to play a brilliant through ball for Bouli who fails to capitalise on it. Rakip created 10 chances in the season, unfortunately, none of them led to a goal. His key passes highlight his creative and visionary element of the game.
Playing with two strikers and inverted wingers gave immense opportunities to Kerala’s full-backs to overlap. Although the left-back Jessel Carneiro made the most of it, Rakip measured his chances to go forward. But when he did, he showed promising signs by delivering lethal crosses in the box. Rakip averaged 1.87 crosses per game last season. His progressive runs also averaged the same (1.87 per game). Against Goa, he showed his ability to deliver fine crosses right outside the 6-yard box on two occasions. Ogbeche and Bouli both got the opportunity to score. However, they couldn’t do so and it ended in a 3-2 loss.
Rakip is a versatile player. After the 10th game of the season, he played deeper than usual in order to enforce defensive stability and to compensate for Abdul Hakku’s red card in the game against Jamshedpur. This didn’t stop him from contributing offensively. This tactical shift allowed him to play more long balls to his strikers from the deep. As Kerala had two strikers and two wingers playing close to each other, it helped them win second balls. Rakip played a long ball to Ogbeche but it was won by ATK’s defenders. However, Narzary won the second ball since they outnumbered ATK’s defenders and scored a brilliant goal. Rakip’s long ball let to their second win against the champions. In the next game against Jamshedpur, Bouli headed Rakip’s long pass for Ogbeche to hit the shot. Hence Rakip showed his ability to adapt to a different style of the play as well.
He attempted 24 dribbles last season and maintained possession on 18 occasions. Rakip effectively kept possession nine times using his dribbles in both, his defensive and offensive half. He is a confident and expressive player on the ball. His idea to dribble is to only maintain possession and find the right support for progression.
Rakip is a composed defender and doesn’t dive into tackles. He is patient and well-disciplined off the ball. Last season he was cautioned only once and he has never got a red card in two seasons. He has a 73.83% of success rate in defensive duels. This makes it very difficult to beat him on the ground.
Once the team is out of possession, Rakip’s focus was to establish a defensive balance. As we can see from the recovery map, a cluster of recoveries came from the deeper areas of the first third. Most of his recoveries come from positional play and interceptions; this shows his quality of anticipation and reading the game. This image also shows that he has no recoveries in the final third. It means he doesn’t press high to win the ball but instead falls back for stability.
The defender stands 1.73 meters tall which is not unusual for a full-back. Hence the only place where Rakip falls short (pun intended) is in winning aerial duels. He lost eight of the ten aerial duels contested in the defensive third. It is important to realise the threat this can lead to in and around the box.
Contesting for an aerial duel is not just down to the height of an individual. Factors like positioning, vertical distance covered because of the jump and timing of it are important as well. On analysing opposition’s key chances and goals scored from Rakip’s side, it is a result of balls played over him and not losing an aerial duel. The momentary shift in focus from marking the man to watching the ball causes the problem for him. As a result, the opposition gets the opportunity in critical situations to play the ball over him. The goals against Jamshedpur and Goa are prime examples of this error. These situations were not a result of losing an aerial duel but simply being caught in an unfavourable defensive position. This can be worked upon with better co-ordination with the last line and a small positional tweak while defending to not lose his man.
Rakip’s electric pace helps him defend so well on the ground. Thus he is very difficult to beat in a 1v1. He stood as the last man in offensive set-pieces to stop the counters. He should his maturity in a counter from ATK where was asked to face Roy Krishna.
His hips turned while he moved backwards and he kept his eyes on the ball. He avoided moving closer and committing himself. Then waited for Krishna to put a heavy touch to which he can react. He showed him the outside and timed his tackle to perfection.
Rakip’s influence on Mumbai City
The chain created by City Football Group around the world with Manchester City being their face of the model has majority stakes in India’s Mumbai City as well. The club got to work in signing player with immediate effect after the end of the season. Rakip was snapped up by Mumbai City after his contract ended in the summer with Kerala Blasters.
Let’s examine how he can help the team better compared to last year’s players playing in the right-back position. We are going to compare three players with Rakip as they had featured as a right-back for Mumbai last year. Sarthak Golui, Mohammed Rafique and Souvik Chakrabarti are the three players we will look at. However, it is important to note that Rafique has joined East Bengal for the upcoming season and Chakrabarti is with Hyderabad after joining them mid-season. Also, the players have not played the same number of minutes so will consider stats per 90.
Defensively the duels contested by the players depend on the opposition and their style of play. Hence the number of duels is not as important as the win percentage of those duels. Rakip is the best amongst the group with a 73.83%, Golui is not so far with 69.15%. He already looks like an upgrade to what Mumbai had. When it comes to aerial duels, as we discussed before Rakip is far behind his peers. His win rate is 36.84% only better than Chakraborty’s.
Mumbai averaged only 247.8 accurate passes per game with 47% possession last season (ninth in the league). Rakip can definitely contribute to maintaining possession and moving the ball forward for the team. His overall passing is better than all the other players. His top accuracy in all short, medium and long passes makes him a dependable player.
Newly acquired Farukh Choudhary played as a right-winger for Hyderabad but he often manoeuvred in the centre as a second striker. If Choudhary plays a similar tactical role then it will leave a lot of space for Rakip to run into. The player has the desire to go forward and help the team. He made the most forward runs 1.87 and attempted 1.55 dribbles per 90. Although his crossing accuracy is poor that’s something he can ameliorate at the new club.
Boosting other’s game
Rakip’s introduction will not threaten Golui’s role in the team but will only make it better for him and the team. Golui has the qualities to play as centre-back and right-back. He has played more number of games as a centre-back in two seasons than as a right-back. His numbers suggest the same. Compared to Rakip’s 3.17 his interceptions per game are at 7.15. Golui’s shots blocked per 90 stands at 0.51. He is able to read the game from behind and strong player for the backline. He plays 7.51 long passes per 90 which can be dangerous from behind, something the modern centre-backs are tasked to do.
Rakip is a promising young player who has many years ahead of him to reach his full potential. He looks like a full-back who will contribute more in the attack next season. His playing style suggests he is a team player and has qualities to adapt to multiple tactics. He shows dominance using pace and strength in 1v1s. His improvement in defensive positioning to deal with balls in the air and crossing accuracy will make him a complete full-back.