Matchweek seven of Ligue 1 was rounded off by the Sunday night clash between Lyon and Monaco. When two teams with a combined 15 league titles lock horns, there are big expectations for both performance and entertainment. That said, the match probably had it all: five goals, two penalties, and a straight red card.
Both Lyon and Monaco have underperformed to their own standards so far this season. The home team reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League last season where they were knocked out by eventual winners Bayern Munich. Despite this good performance in the UCL, they disappointed in the league and were in seventh place when the current viral outbreak hit. As the French FA decided to end the season there, Lyon are not in European competitions this season.
The previous three seasons have been three very different ones for Monaco. Second, seventeenth, and ninth are the league positions at closing and this season they have continued in the same tracks like the last one, results-wise. Poor performances and results against bottom-half clubs and only winning by one-goal leads do not go hand in hand with competing for the European spots in the league.
This tactical analysis will take a closer look at the tactics of both teams. Then an analysis will be conducted on the performances of both teams with a focus the difference between a successful and unsuccessful attack.
Both teams had a full squad to choose from except for Jason Denayer for Lyon, while Aleksandr Golovin and Fodé Ballo-Touré were missing for Monaco.
First team line-ups to be examined are the home team and Rudi Garcia’s 4-4-1-1. Anthony Lopes continued as the man between the sticks. Ahead of him a back four of Léo Dubios on the right, Marcelo and Sinaly Diomandé as the centre-back pairing, and Maxwel Cornet on the left.
The midfield had Tino Kadewere and Karl Toko Ekambi on the right and left wings. The midfield duo this night was the Brazilian pair of Lucas Paquetà and Thiago Mendes. Houssem Aouar started in the number ten position behind striker Memphis Depay.
Nico Kovač continued with his favoured 4-3-3 system with Benjamin Lecomte in goal. In the right and left full-back positions, Djibril Sidibé and Ruben Aguilar started respectively. Axel Disasi and Benoît Badiashile were the centre-back pairing as expected.
In the number six position, Florentino Luís continued from the last match. His partners centrally were Aurélien Tchouaméni and Youssouf Fofana. Up front, the trio was, from right to left, Stevan Jovetić, Wissam Ben Yedder, and Gelson Martins.
With Monaco enjoying 62% of the possession in this match, Lyon had to be more effective with the ball when they first had it. Looking a little deeper in the number backs up a more direct approach than Monaco had. Lyon had an average possession length of ten seconds compared to Monaco’s 16, and 13 counterattacks compared to Monaco’s zero.
Lyon often did not press actively to regain possession, but rather pushed a player out of structure to deny access to priorities areas. The number six area and half-spaces were areas that often was shielded from progress from the Monaco players. This was done through covering the number six and pushing the ball-near winger further ahead as seen above.
Despite the low amount of possession, Lyon did not resort to staying in a low block as many might guess when only having 38% in total. They most often stayed in a medium block and using specific cues to break out from the block and try to win the ball back.
These moments often resulted in dangerous situations for Monaco when Lyon won the ball. The home team were adept at leaving attackers in high positions to take advantage of recoveries from the medium block. Whenever they won the ball, the usually had an easy way to find an option forward and thus could launch quick counterattacks.
The image above shows how Lyon uses this advantage when moving players out some moments after a corner. While Monaco yet hasn’t had the time to reorganise, Depay has stayed high in the field and is free to receive.
Runs from different starting positions happen at the same time as Depay receives and turns. The former ball carrier continues his run after passing to Depay, and two far-side deep runs start simultaneously. In the striped area, Lyon are 4 v 4 against the Monaco defence.
This was the same also in positional attacks for Lyon. They used the same methods for punishing Monaco and using the spaces they left open in the first half. When the match reached half-time and the second half, it was almost already sealed with a 4-1 lead for Lyon.
Possession and little reward
Once again, Monaco was unable to live up to the chances they create. When looking at the xG numbers alone, it paints a different story than the score-line: 2.60 for Lyon versus 2.20 for Monaco. Both Ben Yedder and Jovetic had chances to score in the first half but did not have their best day in front of goal.
Monaco’s structure with the ball saw the full-backs push high up and the midfield trio offer themselves as options through deeper positioning. Rotations in and out of structure were methods they used to find the central midfielders.
The narrow positioning of the wingers who stayed in the space between the midfield and defence forced the Lyon full-backs closer to their respective centre-backs. The questions for the full-backs would then be to stay closer to the wide Monaco full-backs or help their centre-backs and midfield in the centre of the pitch.
The centre-backs would dribble the ball forwards which invites the pressure of the Lyon attackers. Dribbling out, as shown in the same image, passing to the partner or a player further ahead would hopefully lead to an imbalance with the opponents.
Here, the centre-back has already dribbled the ball out and has bypassed the press. The advantage of the centre-back dribbling is clear as he has invited the pressure of both the marked players. This has opened the receiving Monaco player for a pass and would not have been possible without the initial dribbling action.
Monaco’s formation change
After half time, Monaco did a series of personnel changes and changed their formation to a back three. This provided them with a better foothold in the game and saw a decrease in the Lyon chances in the second half.
We can see how they set up in this new shape in the image above. The full-backs, now turned wing-backs, still kept the width and positioned themselves high up the field, stretching the field of play and providing their side with wide passing options.
The three centre-backs, as opposed to two, gave them better access to the half-spaces against the two Lyon strikers who they now outnumbered.
This had a significant impact for them in terms of their build-up as it was now easier for them to bypass the opponent’s first line of pressure and they could set up players in better positions for progressing the play further.
This was a match with a good strategy from Lyon. They came up with a better game plan compared to Monaco and used it to take advantage of the spaces the opponents left open. When the game reached half-time it was already 4-1 to Lyon and they had the match under control. The formation change from Monaco gave them a better footing in the match, but not enough to get the upper hand and score much-needed goals.