Laurent Bessière is RC Lens Head of Performance currently 5th in Ligue 1 and in the race for the second spot behind PSG. His team showed an incredible display against the likes of Messi and Mbappé last Saturday. Laurent could not be happier with the intensity the players put on the pitch and the distance covered of 114 kilometers, only frustrated by Wijnaldum’s late equalizer (1-1).
Hello Laurent, after a game against PSG which data are you looking for as a priority?
Laurent Bessière : I rather look at how the players move on the pitch, if they had strenght, if they put intensity until the last kick of the game and if they replied in a proper manner to the manager’s (Franck Haise) plan of game.
Which they definitely did…
How many kilometers did your guys run a as team?
114… In my opinion the team’s performance has nothing to do with the distance covered though. We have to take into consideration the dynamic of the game, the score, our game plan and the rival’s one.
Is it the season’s record?
Almost. This season we reached the 117 kilometers against Troyes (a 4-0 win in November) and 125 kilometers against Rennes last season if I remember well.
Which player did run the most against PSG?
Both Frankowski and Clauss, our full backs (Lens usually play with a 3-5-2). They each reached the 12 kilometers milestone. What is the most interesting in this is the speed: they overall had 1 km over 20 km/h and 500 meters over 25 km/h which is quite impressive.
May you explain how the Performance cell is organized and what are the main targets?
I manage a team of 20 persons (physios, dietitans, doctors, data analysts) and we want the players to have everything available on site, to make their life easier. In France it is a still recent concept, the first Performance cells were created back in 2014.
Basically the manager decides which style of play he wants to implement and we are here to adapt all the fitness work to it. During the training sessions we adjust the pitch dimensions depending on what we want to work on. If we want to develop the pressing skills for instance we will have a smaller space. Big spaces are used to strenghten the stamina and repeat long runs. Everything we do at training is part of a game, we don’t do old school cardio tests anymore. The plan is to train maximum 90 minutes per sessions with some intensity.
This is a quite demanding method, does it work on a 3 games week as well?
The manager has always to do some players rotations, this is needed to keep the dressing room happy, but I would say this method would limit the rotations so that players can keep their habits and the team’s performance would not be altered. On a 3 games week we just have to reduce the training sessions to 30-45 minutes where we will focus on football skills mainly as the cardio is supposed to be high already.
In the end it’s all in the players’ hands, we are just here to help them but they need to eat properly, sleep properly while they are home… We make sure they all play a big part in the club and feel important.
Since Lens came back to the first division (one year and a half ago) the style of play has been quite similar to Atalanta: 3 defenders, very offensive full backs, plenty of runs in midfield… Is it an inspiration for you?
We are big fans of what they do and this is true that we play the same tactic as them. That said and from a fitness point of view we can play an attractive football whatever the tactic is. Our job is to have the players fitting any tactic and all the manager’s needs. It is not unusual to change strategy 2-3 times during a single game.