Stade Brestois 29 vs Paris Saint Germain, 21st August 2021. Anxiety creeps in as the murmurs of an unsettled Frenchman began circulating the stadium. Clubs normally look to build their squad around their talisman, but the uncertainty over the player’s future leaves question marks on the club’s direction and immediate future. Not to mention the increasing doubts amongst supporters over their heavyweight’s future, as the transfer window is nearing its conclusion.
The perennial apprehension transposes for the ephemeral jubilation, as Romain Faivre’s two moments of ingenuity sets up two beautiful goals against the Parisians. Both goals cutting the deficit to 1, as Brest chase after the equalizer. Sadly, the story of David & Goliath wasn’t apparent, with PSG running out as 4-2 victors in the end.
Nonetheless, Romain Faivre once again reminded the fans of his vast potential, proving to be a capable player unlocking even the toughest of defenses in Paris Saint Germain. A player of his quality is sought after in Europe, especially with the current predicament of Ligue 1’s financial struggles. Many clubs would’ve been licking their teeth at the performance by Faivre over the weekend, but that is just merely scratching the surface of his quality.
The dashboard below shows why Faivre is highly regarded by many and the creativity he brings to Les Pirates when compared to other wingers in the league last season. This analysis will cover the Frenchman’s performance with his club last season. All figures below are based on performance per 90 minutes played, according to StatsBomb via FBref.
Romain Faivre spent the majority of the last season playing on the right wing in Dall’Oglio’s 4-4-2 system, though he also featured on the left and centrally as well. Naturally a left-footer, Faivre often drifts inwards to the half-spaces to utilize his stronger foot. The width, meanwhile, is provided by the marauding fullbacks.
The Frenchman is central to Brest’s attacking sequences and is provided the license to roam centrally to link-up play or to simply create chances. With the France U21 setup, he is also deployed as the winger with similar responsibilities assigned at Brest. This season, new manager Michel Der Zakarian has implemented a 4-2-3-1 formation. Faivre has been deployed as the team’s attacking midfielder, with a role to link up play from defence to attack.
More importantly, he is given the positional freedom to create opportunities around the pitch, facilitating build-up. That said, his favorite part of the pitch remains the right-half space where he can manipulate play and carve out chances with his wand of a left foot. The Frenchman would look to receive the ball in these areas before threading balls to his overlapping fullback, or more frequently, drive the ball centrally.
According to Faivre’s pass map with data accumulated from the start of the season, we can see that Faivre has featured heavily in the right half-spaces and the defensive third of the pitch, looking to set the tone from deep.
Faivre operates as the main ball progressor for Les Pirates and does so with brilliant technique and awareness. Last season, the Frenchman accumulated the 2nd highest distance covered while carrying the ball with 10004 yards, and 4th in progressive distance with 5900 yards. This is indicative of the responsibilities upheld by Faivre as Stade Brestois 29’s main ball carrier as they transition up the field.
Romain Faivre is amongst the most threatening wingers in the final third. When compared with other wingers last season, the 23-year-old has accomplished 3.8 Carries into the Final Third which is the highest bar Neymar (who let’s be honest, is in a league of his own), with 4.6 Carries into the Final Third. To provide further context, Ángel di María is the closest behind Faivre with 3.3.
When it comes to passing into the Final Third, the Frenchman accumulated more than the average with 2.3 Passes into the Final Third. Given Brest’s emphasis on having fullbacks cross into the penalty area, Faivre’s has been crucial in supplying the passes to the marauding fullbacks.
Last season’s 6 goals and 5 assist may indicate a player with more confidence in front of goal, as opposed to a side’s chief creator. But this could hardly be the truth as Brest’s style of play normally involves crossing the ball into the box for their strikers. Faivre’s main responsibility is to create opportunities for his team, but the emphasis on wing play under Dall’Oglio meant that Faivre would look to stretch the play with passes down the flanks.
That said, as the passes to the wide players are made, Faivre is normally positioned on the edge of the box. His main task then is to anticipate loose balls from either failed clearances or errors to pounce on. As illustrated with his goal against Marseille, Faivre carries the ball forward before releasing it to Cordona on the right. The cross comes into Gaëtan Charbonnier, but the ball had been tackled out of his feet by the defender. Faivre, who anticipates the loose ball at the edge of the area, opens up his left foot to plant it in the near post.
To carry the ball from one end to another is one thing, adding obstacles along the way to take the ball of u, would obviously require more skill to pull off. This is where Faivre gathers the most attention. The midfielder has drawn comparisons with many footballers in the past, but the one that he shares the most resemblance with, is his doppelganger in Hatem Ben Arfa. Besides the similarity in physical and facial features, the two share similarities in their style of play, and especially their dribbling.
Despite preferring to come infield, the Frenchman is brilliant at taking the direct route and take his man on, in 1v1 situations. His quick feet and agile movements make him such an asset on the wing, which defenders struggle to deal with.
He tends to keep the ball close to his feet, almost as if it is glued to his boots. Defenders can try but they often need to double or even triple up on him, just to get the ball off. Nevertheless, he can sometimes lose the ball by engaging too many defenders in a dribble, often beating the first and second, but hackled down by the third defender.
His dribble against Denmark in the U-21 Euro group stages is perhaps the perfect illustration of his eagerness to take on players. As he receives the ball on the right flank, he comes face to face with his marker and skips past him with ease, riding off a sliding challenge along the way. He then meets another defender who looked to stop him, but Faivre cleverly knocks it inwards, wrong footing the defender.
There was a small window of opportunity to pass the ball to Eduardo Camavinga, but Faivre’s eagerness and greed got the better of him as he looked to take on the third defender. But the Danish midfielder managed to knock the ball off him with a heavy sliding intervention.
Last season, the winger is amongst Ligue 1’s mercurial dribblers with 2.8 Successful Dribbles per90, whilst dribbling past 3 players in a game. Only 10 other wingers completed more successful dribblers than Faivre, but the 23-year-old has a higher dribble success rate with 66.4%.
In fact, only Nathanaël Mbuku achieved a higher success rate of 72%, but that is with 1.5 Successful Dribbles per90. Considering Brest isn’t the most expressive in the attacking phase, Faivre’s numbers certainly backs him as one of the most efficient dribblers in Europe.
Other than his close control, the winger possesses a strong core which provides him a greater center of gravity than others. Players can surround him to nick the ball off him, but he could hold them up no matter the size. In the example below, Faivre receives the ball and is immediately closed down by 4 players.
He knocks the ball in between the two defenders but was immediately pressed intensively by Papa Gueye (who is 6ft2). Faivre, under immense pressure still manages to gain control of the ball by shielding it with his core and manages to spin away from Gueye to make a forward ball.
Romain Faivre was amongst the 3 names that came up when So Foot interviewed Thierry Henry back in March. “Sofiane Diop, Benoît Badiashile, Romain Faivre … The success of these players does not mean that I was right or wrong. These are elements that I helped to ripen as best I could and I’m happy for that, because you tell yourself that you saw something that was not wrong.”
“Romain Faivre has something few players have – he breaks lines.” said the legendary French forward, and that in itself was a recognition beyond imagination for the former Monaco player. A further acknowledgment of the immense potential and ability Faivre possesses.
And he wasn’t kidding. Faivre’s technical abilities rivals some of the better playmakers in the league. Last season, the Frenchman registered 1.9 Key Passes per90 and 0.18 Expected Assists per90. His numbers rank up along the likes of Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin. Both produced better numbers than Faivre, but who’s to say he won’t exceed the levels of both players with greater company and better-quality players?
Faivre’s ability to break lines have aided Brest so much in their attacking play and it is apparent in his two recent assists against PSG. For his first assist, he managed to produce a no-look backheel pass that fooled everybody just outside the penalty area. Honorat was unmarked, yet nobody expected the pass to come through the way it did, which is a credit to the playmaker’s awareness and technique.
His second assist may not be as glamorous but certainly effective. Faivre picks up the ball from the middle of the pitch and carries it forward to the final third before lobbing through a splendid diagonal from the half-space to Mounie who chests it down in the box and scores.
Another quality of Faivre is his ability in dead-ball situations. Last season, Romain Faivre ranks amongst Ligue 1’s most efficient set-piece takers, generating 1.1 Shot-Creating Actions per90, which is only bettered by 9 other players in the league last season.
If we are talking solely about Shot-Creating Actions, the 23-year-old accumulated 4.7 Shot-Creating Actions. When compared with other wingers in the league, only Metz’s Farid Boulaya and PSG’s creative duo, Di María and Neymar bettered him.
The Frenchman accumulated 5 assists in total, but 4 of which are from set-pieces. Faivre’s technique in set-pieces has seen him scored a freekick and a penalty as well, but it’s his deliveries that has caught the eye. Credit must also be given to Brest’s coaching department, as the set-piece routines implemented has seen many set-piece headers won uncontested, largely due to the movement of players in the box.
Ben Arfa symbolises an artist in motion, painting his canvas against all notion. The solo goal against Bolton epitomizes the artistry by one of France’s mavericks in recent times. And now the shadow of which, is weighed heavily on Faivre’s shoulders. But for much of the comparisons go, his defensive attributes leave much to be desired. The common preconceived idea on creative players is their unwillingness to defend, but that could hardly be the truth for Romain Faivre.
As Brest is not a ball-dominant team, Faivre is required to help out defensively despite being his team’s creativity hub. Faivre remains committed to his defensive duties and is amongst the better defenders when compared to other wingers in Ligue 1 last term.
Faivre regularly tracks back to press, attempting 16.2 Pressures per90. From which, the Frenchman accumulated 5.4 Successful Pressures per90. The high number is a telling theme of Brest’s defensive setup. As a team, they committed the most pressures in their own defensive third last season with 56.8 per90.
The 23-year-old is also a rather proactive defender with 2.5 Tackles + Interceptions per90. When compared to other wingers in the league last season, only 5 other wingers accumulated more. With such numbers, this is perhaps indicative of a player fully committed to the defensive setup of the team. Faivre’s numbers can be a credit to his anticipation which he developed under Dall’Oglio.
In a game against Marseille, the French midfielder spotted Dimitri Payet running into space. He anticipates the pass and makes the step towards the player. As Payet receives the pass from Thauvin between the lines, Faivre had already made up ground and intervened, winning back possession.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In this case, the pirates have surely struck gold with the signing of Faivre from Monaco for €650,000 back in 2020. Brest has longed for a winger like Franck Ribéry since he departed in 2004. A player capable of getting fans out of their seat yet sacrifice part of his game for the betterment of the club. After a long 17 years, Faivre looks to be the player capable of assuming the mantle. This time, Brest fans might wish Faivre would stay longer than his predecessor did.
Despite being contracted to 2025, it is hard to see a player of his quality fulfill his tenure, especially with the financial instabilities surrounding Ligue 1 clubs. With a rumored selling price of €15m – €20m, it stands to reason Faivre could prove to be a bargain of the summer if a move does occur in the coming days. That said, Faivre could easily remain with Les Pirates for a few more seasons as they look to build under Der Zakarian in this new era. Besides, what’s a pirate ship without their conductor.
By: Lee Chunhang / @chunhang7
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Johnny Fidelin – Icon Sport