On the 29th of January 2023, a star-studded PSG team consisting of players like Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe, failed to defeat a mid-cap contingent in the outfit of Reims. This was the club’s second game against the Parisians this season, and the French outfit from the north of the country successfully denied the European giants a win on both occasions.
In the wake of this draw in the illustrious Parc Des Princes, much media attention was given to the club. The attention’s focal point was Reims’ head coach, 30-year-old Will Still.
English coach Will Still has had a remarkable impact at Stade de Reims since signing on as caretaker coach when Oscar Garcia was shown the door. With top scorer Folarin Balogun shining in Still’s counter-attacking set-up, the club are experiencing their best form in years.
Stade de Reims’ post-game huddle and debrief is becoming a regular feature in their Ligue 1 Uber Eats outings. Symbolic of the solidity, the unity that the Champagne club has found under Will Still, we are now ten huddles deep.
Still was covered heavily in the news for becoming the youngest top-flight manager in Belgium and also became quite popular when he filled in during the absence of Oscar Garcia in a match against PSG last season, which is also known as Messi’s debut game for Les Parisiens.
Reims drew both their matches to PSG in the 2022/23 season
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Who is Will Still?
Incredibly, Still cut his teeth in the game by playing Football Manager for years. He would spend many hours sat in front of his computer, alongside brother Ed, who is also a head coach in the Belgium top flight, learning about tactics. Still is studying for his UEFA Pro Licence – which is what is needed to take control of a Ligue 1 team. That means Reims have to take a £22,000-per-game hit every time they play.
While he may not boast the glittering playing career of his predecessor Garcia, Still has proven an excellent man-manager and motivator. Holding Paris Saint-Germain to a goalless draw in their first game under Still no doubt helped Reims’ players believe in their new coach’s ideas.
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William Still, the 30-year-old Belgian Manager, was asked to fill in for Oscar Garcia as interim manager and now manages Stade de Reims in the French Ligue 1 until the end of this season. From his first 15 games as manager, he has lost only once, losing his sole game in Coupe de France, showing early promise as a coach.
In the real world, Still began his coaching journey at Preston’s Myerscough College. There, he got the chance to coach North End’s U14 side, but he wanted more. So Still got in touch with all his contacts in Belgium football asking if there were any opportunities. Former club Sint-Truiden came up tumps – offering him work as an opposition analyst. He even turned to Football Manager again for tactical guidance – using the game’s database to scout players.
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Will Still’s tactics and style of play
Immediate changes were visible when he took over and didn’t change much of the team’s identity. He continued playing in a 4-2-3-1, which has been successful for them so far. During the build-up from the back, they look to go long from the keeper but, at times, they look to build from the back. When they do this, they tend to form a 4-1-2-3 formation.
Upon dragging in opponents, the centre-backs usually prefer to go long to find the striker and avoid going through the middle to reduce the risk of losing possession. But their frequent way of progression is through the flanks.
Reims look to push the full-backs high up the pitch, giving the attacking midfielders the flexibility to either cut inside or combine with the full-backs on the flanks. The defensive midfielders look to hold and balance the play while the full-back on the opposite flank stays low to prevent Les Rouges et Blancs from overcommitting players. This has given the team more options up the field to attack and cause possible confusion for the defending team.
Will Still’s Reims analysis
No team has seen less of the ball than Reims this term: they average just 42% possession per game. Yet the Champagne side’s setup, always ready to strike on the counter, has been working wonders of late!
Once into the final third, Still prefers his team to attack the box constantly either from the flanks or through the centre. He also wants his team to switch sides via long balls to constantly move the opponent’s defence and create space.
The youngest coach in France is implementing his tactics thanks to his linguistic talents – having mastered French, Dutch and English. Some may feel, however, that Reims are too heavily reliant on Still’s fellow native Anglophone and top-scorer Folarin Balogun, who has bagged more than half the club’s goals this term.
Committing a lot of players while attacking in the final third acts as an advantage during their to transition to defence. Upon losing possession, due to their numerical advantage, they look to crowd around the opponent ball possessor either trying to win the ball or to delay their attack.
Promoting William Still to the hot seat for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign while also being willing to pay £22,000 per game as a fine for the rest of the season because he still doesn’t have the UEFA Pro coaching license that he needs to have for coaching in Ligue 1, shows how confident the management of Reims is of him.
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