Read more about how a change of manager and continuity in the side, as well as the form of Arnaud Kalimuendo is boosting the play of Stade Rennais.
Of the teams jostling for a place in Europe next season, the current period is set to be challenging. Between the Africa Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup, some five dozen players have joined their respective countries for international competition. Even top teams, with deep squads, will be affected as teams like Stade de Reims, AS Monaco and Olympique de Marseille are missing five or more players, making balancing a busy month that also includes the Coupe de France, but one side stands out as being well-positioned to make a move this month.
One team that’s relatively unaffected by the two tournaments, though, is Stade Rennais. The Breton side made a big splash in the summer, bringing in Enzo Le Fée and Ludovic Blas from rivals FC Lorient and FC Nantes, respectively, but despite some strong moments in Europe, their domestic play has been uneven as they even endured a lengthy winless run. This dip in form saw the club replace the veteran manager Bruno Génésio with Julien Stéphan, who has returned for a second spell in charge at the club.
It’s taken some time, but Stéphan appears to be taking advantage of other side’s absences, as evidenced by recent wins over OGC Nice and EA Guingamp in the Coupe de France. With only defender Christopher Wooh unavailable, he has been able to name a consistent side, while also giving more playing time to youngsters like Guela Doué and Januël Belocian.
Development of young players has long been a hallmark of Rennes’ strategy, and the success of the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Jérémy Doku offer a strong testament to this in recent seasons. Along with Doué and Belocian, though, another player who’s been finding form is Arnaud Kalimuendo.
Arnaud Kalimuendo is on FIRE 🔴⚫— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) January 13, 2024
🔝 Rennes' top goalscorer
🔥 3 consecutive matches scoring pic.twitter.com/2K4jlGN6m7
An academy product at Paris Saint-Germain, he impressed on successive seasons on loan at Lens, but hasn’t been able to replicate that form as consistently at Roazhon Park. After seven goals last season, he had just two by mid-December, and with Martin Terrier coming back from a long-term injury, the team’s struggles seemed largely in attack. In the last three matches, however, Kalimuendo, who is still just 22, has sprung to life, scoring four goals and helping his side to wins in each of those encounters, and winning Stéphan’s confidence, despite interest from abroad.
“I’m counting on him,” said Stéphan following the win after Nice. “I think he’s an important player. Arnaud is part of the project… he will remain here and he will bring us a lot.” While Rennes remain seven points off the European places, the form of Kalimuendo, continuity in the side while other sides struggle in that regard and a growing sense of confidence could yet see their rise continue.