Despite being 32 and entering the twilight of his career, Reims’ defensive rock and captain, Yunis Abdelhamid, continues to prove why he’s one of the standout defenders in Ligue 1.
An integral component of David Guion’s impressive outfit, who currently sit in an amazing fifth in the standings, Abdelhamid’s been crucial towards their success. As part of Ligue 1’s best defence, with Reims only conceding 21 goals in 28 games, their experienced leader’s been a driving force behind their solidity at the back.
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Organising and helping his teammates all the time to keep their shape, plus when to step up, drop back or shift across, his presence has given a real sense of security and calm to his fellow defenders. Developing a brilliant understanding with his stopping comrades, and especially with highly rated Axel Disasi, who’s reportedly interesting Arsenal, this has seen them all be on the same page as they adhere to Guion’s structure.
So composed and alert to nearby threats due to his frequent scanning, reading of the play and positioning, Abdelhamid rarely gets caught out. Constantly adjusting his position depending on the ball’s location and surrounding threats, he recognises what actions to take. Whether it be responding to a pressing trigger, supporting a colleague, dropping deeper or pushing to the ball near side, his decisions are usually spot on.
The fact he’s so concentrated and awake means he immediately picks up when his man bursts in behind or drops deep. This definitely helps him make up for any deficiencies in speed he has, even though he gets done for pace on the odd occasion. It’s also notable how he’ll assist colleagues by helping cover runs into the channels or from midfield, as he’s excellent at seeing the danger.
His judgement admirably transfers over to dealing with crosses and cutbacks into the box, plus during aerial duels. Getting into quality body positions so he can be well situated to deal with threats or make adjustments depending on the ball trajectory allows him to snuff out danger readily. In addition, how he uses his towering 190 cm frame and strength only compounds issues for adversaries both in open play and set pieces, as he wins 3.09 headers per game at 63.1%.
Timing his tackles and interventions smoothly and using his long legs wisely, this sees him nip in to cut out many an attack and be a tough obstacle to beat in 1v1s.
Holding his own in just about all areas and getting the stopping fundamentals spot on, his statistics punctuate his class, for he’s completed 4.89 interceptions pg, 2.77 clearances pg, 5.38 overall defensive duels pg at 74.6% and only committed 0.73 fouls pg.
His immense contribution to the team from the Champagne Country doesn’t stop there, however, as he’s heavily involved in possession too.
While not a super progressive passer and one who doesn’t try too many expansive deliveries, he plays his role during build up to perfection. Connecting moves coherently with his measured passing, the Moroccan international passes the ball cleanly. Mostly finding the target with passes to his fellow centre back, nearby midfielders and fullbacks, he’s accurate and concise hitting his targets.
It’s key to note that he can break the lines with some penetrative vertical ground passes and work some good angles with his left foot. If a quality opportunity to strike a searing switch of play or a through ball over the top arises, he’ll notably take it and can execute it crisply.
A decent ball carrier too, if he identifies an opening, Abdelhamid will look to drive into it and hope to lure out defenders to make room for a third man runner or find a free man up-field.
By the offensive numbers, his 42.24 passes pg at 88.5%, 2.90 accurate long balls pg, 1.02 progressive runs pg, 3.03 accurate passes into the final third pg at 70.3% and 15.58 forward pg at 80.8 depicts his impact.
Having recently renewed his contract despite interest from other top Ligue 1 clubs, Abdelhamid’s decision to stay put has only strengthened his relationship with Reims and the fans. “Yunis is proof that you can always keep making progress. He’s a real role model for the club’s young players and a true leader in the dressing room. With his contract up in six months, and with performances like he has been giving, he was not short of offers,” insisted Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot.
“What made the difference is the bond of trust built up with Yunis, who feels good at Reims. That can be seen both on and off the pitch. His extension shows that we are building the future with players and men who embody our values. Yunis’ experience and his profile as a demanding competitor will still be invaluable to us in the coming seasons.”
Durable, reliable and setting an outstanding example for his colleagues to follow, the value of Abdelhamid’s been absolutely huge as Reims are well placed to earn a coveted European qualification place.
Once the season resumes, you can guarantee the man that’s recently clocked up 60 consecutive games in Ligue 1 will be doing all he can to propel his team to great things this term. Just as he always does.