This Sunday, PSG will host Olympique Lyon at Le Parc des Princes. PSG currently sit in first place with 28 points and will be aiming to extend their lead at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Lyon is currently tied for the second spot with Lille on 26 points. Lyon will be feeling as if they have the upper hand in this fixture as they will not have a mid-week match, unlike PSG who host Istanbul Basaksehir in the UEFA Champions League this Tuesday. Lyon will also be looking to win this match as it would see them go top of Ligue 1 with an away win. That being said, Lyon has not won at PSG in the league for a long time, but they did manage to beat them in the cup this past July.
This preview will provide a tactical analysis into how the two teams will look to play, where PSG will be vulnerable, and statistically how Lyon will need to be more clinical in front of the goal.
To begin with the home team, PSG will look to bring their strongest 11 to the match barring any injuries from their mid-week Champions League match. Under Thomas Tuchel this season PSG have set up predominantly in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation. When defending, PSG will set up a 4-4-2 to provide defensive structure.
They don’t mind dropping back and soaking up pressure and will look to win the ball back centrally and quickly get the ball forward. When PSG look to attack, they attack quickly with pace and have scored many of their goals in Ligue 1 this season from counter-attacks. Kylian Mbappé is currently averaging 1.5 goals per game, with 10 in nine so far this season and will be looking to add more to his tally.
Meanwhile, Rudi Garcia’s side have set up a 4-3-3 formation but will switch to a 4-1-4-1 without the ball. They will defend deep and patiently wait to regain possession and attack quickly. The use of Maxwell Cornet as a left-back provides Lyon with a pace and ball-carrying ability from the left.
Bruno Guimarães acts as the anchor for midfield, while Houssem Aouar and Maxence Caqueret provide creativity in the middle, but they will also attend to their defensive responsibilities.
The front three for Lyon is fluid and each player enjoys moving out of their position, stretching the opposition’s backline. Memphis Depay will drop deep to provide passing options, as well as freeing up space for his fellow forwards. Lyon will understand that in this match they will have to defend and take the opportunities that come to them. They will need to be defensively disciplined and press PSG into mistakes.
PSG’s defensive inefficiencies
PSG this season have shown that they lack in defensive discipline. The tactics used by Tuchel’s side have been extremely passive without the ball. Off the ball, PSG have defended very narrowly and without much pressure on the opposition unless it is their own half. Their passiveness defensively has cost them a few times this season and will need to change if they are wanting to win this match this weekend. Here we will analyse the lack of defences without the ball as well as when they lose the ball against the press.
To begin, the picture above is from PSG’s match against Bordeaux. In this phase of play, Bordeaux had regained possession and had recycled the ball back to the centre-back Laurent Koscielny. PSG are defending off the ball in their 4-4-2 formation as highlighted in red. PSG, while in this formation are defending far two narrow and passive. They have left huge gaps out wide as well as between the midfield and defence. The white circles represent the space in which the Bordeaux players remain unmarked. The worst part about this play for PSG is the pass that Koscielny elects to play.
Koscielny can pass the ball directly through the middle of the field to Bordeaux’s centre-forward Josh Maja. From one pass alone, two of PSG’s defensive lines were broken. Bordeaux did not score from this phase of play, but they did show a weakness of PSG that was openly seen within this match.
Another inefficiency that Bordeaux was able to expose was PSG’s inability to handle opposition pressing. PSG’s loss against AS Monaco proved their frailties against the press and it would eventually cost them a defeat from a 2-0 lead in the first half. Teams understand that PSG are extremely dangerous from counter-attacks.
They possess pace and extreme efficiency in front of goal from their forwards, but they first must get the ball forward to their strikers to score against them. Monaco had proven that denying a pass out of the back stopped them from advancing quickly. Bordeaux picked up on this and tried their best to expose PSG in pressing them aggressively. Below we can see an example of PSG being susceptible to the opposition press.
In this match, Bordeaux looked to press very aggressively high up the pitch to catch out PSG. In this phase of play, PSG regained possession and the ball has been passed to their central midfielder Marco Verratti (Highlighted within the red circle). However, he has become surrounded by three opposing Bordeaux players.
With the rest of the PSG team upfield he has no passing options as he has been closed down. He would eventually lose the ball and Bordeaux would act in a three on three against PSG’s defence. While the counter did not lead to a goal, it showed where PSG are most vulnerable. PSG do score from opportunities like this, but they have to be cautious when they look to counter and not get caught out with too many players upfield.
Lyon’s counter attack
Lyon will be aware that they will not be the team with the most amount of possession in this match and this will suit them. They have never lost a match this season where they have had less possession than their opponent. Their 4-1 win against Monaco came with only having 35% possession, a 1-1 draw away at Lille with 40% possession, and a 3-2 away at Strasbourg with 48% possession.
Going back even further into last season, Lyon won the UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City 3–1 with only 29% possession. Lyon, based on these percentages alone, prove that they are comfortable playing a match where they do not lead in possession.
When Rudi Garcia’s side don’t have possession will press when needed, be disciplined in keeping their defensive shape, mark zonally, and attack quickly with their forwards. An example of this effective counter can be seen below in their match against Strasbourg earlier this season.
Lyon have regained possession just outside their penalty area thanks to a misplaced pass by a Strasbourg player. Lucas Paquetá has intercepted the ball and is going to try and progress the ball forward quickly. The Lyon players in front of him recognize this and begin sprinting forward as soon as he receives the ball.
Paquetá plays the ball forward to Depay, who has dropped deep to collect the ball. He then chooses to carry the ball forward out wide down the right-hand side. Meanwhile, Tino Kadewere runs into the space that was recently occupied by Depay.
Thanks to Depay’s speed, he was able to run down the right side all the way into the penalty box to eventually cross into the middle for a goal. For this attack, Lyon had committed five men forward to create an overload of four on five in the Strasbourg penalty area. The pace at which Lyon can transition gives them the ability to sit deep and soak up pressure and create counter-attacks. While this is similar to the style of play of PSG, the Parisians will more than likely have a lot of the possession. This will then leave Lyon with the task of creating opportunities on the counter.
We will now inspect the attacking aspects of Lyon in comparison to PSG and where they must improve to be successful this weekend. So far this season, both PSG and Lyon have been league leaders for shooting metrics. The table below compares their shooting statistics through the season so far and their rank for each statistic.
An analysis of the numbers show PSG are unsurprisingly very dominant. They are first for every metric except shots and shots per 90. Interestingly these are the only metrics that Lyon are first in the league for. Lyon may lead the league for most shots and shots per 90 minutes, but they are extremely wasteful as they have the lowest shots on target percentage in the league.
Looking at Memphis Depay’s shot map, this further emphasizes the wastefulness in front of the goal. Depay has scored six goals so far this season from 31 shots with only nine shots on target. This is due to his tendency to shoot from a distance as seen above. His shot consistency is also affected by his average shot distance being from 22 yards.
Lyon have clearly has been creating chances, as their expected goals of 29.9 ranks second in the league. You could argue that they have been unlucky as they haven’t scored as many goals as expected, but they must try and create more positive goals scoring opportunities rather than wasteful long-distance attempts. In doing so, this will decrease the number of shots taken, but increase the quality of their goal-scoring chances.
Lyon will come to Le Parc des Princes in hopes of a victory away that has evaded them for some time. They will feel confident going into the match understanding PSG’s weakness within defence and Lyon will look to counter-press when they lose possession. That being said, Lyon will need to turn around their own inefficiency in front of goal and try and create more high percentage chances. The match on Sunday will provide a clash between two high scoring teams that may present a new Ligue 1 leader going into match week 15.