In matchweek 13 of Ligue 1, we will analyze LOSC Lille versus AS Monaco as the title race is still wide open, with PSG struggling to dominate the league as they have become known for in recent times. In this tactical analysis, we will cover the defensive tactics used by Lille to prevent Monaco from creating chances centrally, the attacking tactics from Monaco to work around this, and the areas in which Lille need to improve if they are to be considered serious Ligue 1 title challengers.
Up first is LOSC Lille. Starting in a 4-4-2 formation that never changed. On the ball, Lille still kept this shape, with Jonathan David dropping deeper to help his midfield teammates in possession. Notable absentees are Luiz Araujo, former Bayern Munich man Renato Sanches and Mehmet Zeki Celik. These three are arguably Lille’s best players this season. To beat title challengers Monaco with such little firepower is not easy to do. After analysis, we will see how Lille coped with their absence.
AS Monaco started the game in a 4-4-2 formation but were almost always seen in a 4-2-3-1 in and out of possession. Notable absentees are Arsenal legend Cesc Fàbregas and Djibril Sidibé, otherwise, a standard Monaco lineup. That being said, the lack of midfield creativity from Monaco will prove to be detrimental as we will see in our analysis.
Stopping access to the Monaco midfield
Lille are capable of outplaying teams they believe to be better than, but against equal or better opposition, they look to deploy more counter-attacking tactics. Below we see forwards Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David close down their closest defenders, Badiashile and Disasi when Monaco pass it back to goalkeeper Vito Mannone. Midfielders Boubakary Soumaré and Benjamin André press the two Monaco pivots, Youssouf Fofana and Aurélien Tchouaméni to prevent Monaco from beginning an attack from defence. This forces Mannone to kick the ball long, as the Monaco full-backs are too far away to be considered passing options.
When Monaco beat the Lille press, David and Yilmaz drop into deeper positions, to mark Fofana and Tchouaméni, the midfield pair that Sourmaré and André marked when Lille were higher up the pitch. Below we see just that. Badiashile carries the ball forward, but the Monaco double pivot is once again blocked off for the Lille players, ensuring that the ball does not make it into central midfield.
Monaco on the attack
When Monaco could not beat the press, they would move the ball to the wide areas, to use the width provided by full-backs Ruben Aguilar or Caio. Below, Aguilar carries the ball forward. Lille do not break shape and keep their 4-4-2 shape. However, Monaco also deploy Sofiane Diop, Kevin Volland, and Gelson Martins to play between the midfield and defensive lines. This, combined with central forward Wissam Ben Yedder, can lead to overloading the Lille central defenders.
When Monaco did beat the Lille press and were able to play through the middle of the field, they looked to attack with pace and width. Below we see Aguilar and Caio running high and wide. Tchouaméni has time and space to decide which full-back he prefers to use. Alternatively, he could continue to carry the ball higher up the pitch as he is joined by Fofana in midfield. David and Yilmaz rarely let Monaco play through them like shown below, but when they did, Monaco were deadly.
Once Fàbregas was brought on, the game heavily favored Monaco, and Lille were fortunate to not be punished. Fàbregas was given the freedom to play any role he wanted. He played as a deep-lying playmaker, an attacking midfielder, and even assisted on the wing. Once he came on, Monaco were able to try more ambitious attacking tactics. Below, we see Monaco attacking the left-side of the pitch, overloading the Lille players. This causes the Lille shape to shift to that side of the field, leaving space for right full-back Aguilar to run into and cause havoc. Monaco, unfortunately, used this tactic too late, as it had proved to be effective in disrupting a disciplined Lille defense.
Lille in possession
Without Renato Sanches, Lille rarely look capable of playing through the middle of the pitch. To work around this, they would encourage their central defenders to carry the ball forward with the full-backs supporting them. Below we see an example of this. José Fonte moves into midfield and Tiago Djaló looks to move up into the space. Monaco defended narrowly in this game, often packing five players into midfield to stop any sort of access to the midfield.
On a different day, maybe Lille could have taken advantage of the recently in-form David. He would often drop from his starting centre-forward position into midfield for multiple reasons. One being that it ensured his side kept possession of the ball in the central areas of the final third. Most notable being that he often dragged one or more man-markers with him, creating space in behind Monaco for potential attacking teammates to run into. This type of off-the-ball movement is what makes David special. After a rocky start to life in Ligue 1, he looks to be finally settling in and showing what he did best at Genk.
Lille can only be considered title challengers when they improve their off the ball movement. The absence of Sanches is clear in the example below. We see that Djalo is choosing to kick the ball far and wide. Not good enough for potential champions. Instead, midfielders Soumaré and André should look to occupy the space left behind Monaco players during the Monaco press. This would offer more central passing options to the right full-back, as well as lower the chance of losing possession, as they would ideally be able to hold on to the ball better if they play centrally.
Like stated above, once Fàbregas came on for Monaco, it was game-changing. Lille struggled to cope with their opposition’s most creative player. Below Xeka is shown having to mark Fofana and Fàbregas, an impossible task. Xeka came on as a substitute to see that the game ended smoothly but was overworked from the moment he stepped onto the field. Fàbregas was given a role to play wherever he wanted. To prevent Xeka from being overworked like this, Lille should have instructed someone to man-mark Fàbregas specifically. If Lille are to be considered title contenders, head coach Christophe Galtier must make more balanced substitutions.
In the closest Ligue 1 title race we have seen in recent years, AS Monaco and LOSC Lille are refreshing additions to the competition. With just five points separating first and sixth place, the league is up for grabs. Monaco will regret having to rely so heavily on Fàbregas, as the 34 year0old gets up in age, it is not clear how much longer he can play at this level. Lille will be happy to have taken three points off their title competitors, especially when with the absence of key players like Sanches, Celik, and Araujo.