Montpellier‘s last appearance in a European cup was in 2012/2013 and it was in the UEFA Champions League. They are currently in eighth place in Ligue 1, just one point from fifth, and are looking to qualify for the Europa League.
Montpellier can rely on an excellent striker duo with Andy Delort (28 years old) and Gaëtan Laborde (25 years old). From last year alone, they had impressive statistics with 25 goals and 11 assists. This year is the year of confirmation for them with already 15 goals and seven assists in 28 games. Laborde and Delort form a duo with an estimated value of 18.5 million euros according to Transfermarkt, and that’s justified when you see their impact on the pitch.
They are inseparable on the pitch and both arrived in Montpellier in 2018. Laborde was trained in Bordeaux and signed in Montpellier for three million euros while Delort arrived from Toulouse for 4.5 million euros. A goalscoring duo that works is a duo that is versatile and above all complementary. And their complementarity has been able to develop over time.
Michel Der Zakarian is a fan of the three-man defence and plays mainly in 3-4-1-2 tactics. Gaëtan Laborde and Andy Delort play in the front line of the Montpellier attack, accompanied by Florent Mollet, a little further back. A goalscoring duo must be efficient in its movements, each player must move in relation to the other to offer different solutions to his partners. That’s the whole point of playing with two goalscorers.
At first glance, the two strikers seem to have the same profile. Delort is 1.81m tall and weighs 83kg, while Laborde is 1.82m tall and weighs 81kg. However, they do not have the same behaviour on the pitch. Delort is a very powerful player who likes depth, whereas Laborde prefers to get the ball in his feet. They are nevertheless very versatile and are both able to be either at the finish of the action or at the build-up. That’s what makes them unpredictable.
Striker duos are usually made up of a powerful striker who plays as a pivot, and a more mobile striker who moves around him. Czech Jan Koller (2m02) and Canadian Tomasz Radzinski (1m74) formed an incredible duo at Anderlecht, but their roles were clearly defined. One was excellent in the pivot, aerial play, and their back to goal, and the other was much more mobile and efficient in depth.
In the Montpellier duo, the roles are clearly less established, and that’s what makes it very complicated to defend on them. Defenders don’t necessarily have any reference points and have to be constantly focused at all times.
You can see from their heatmaps that both strikers are very active both in the centre and on the flanks. By being mobile, they create dilemmas for the defenders, who can either follow them or let them make themselves available. There is also a strong presence in the half-spaces. We will see this later, but both players love to position themselves on the wings and make inward movements.
There has already been a score tally of 15 goals for the French striker and the Algerian international this season. It is one of the most prolific duos in Ligue 1 as Delort has scored nine goals this season with 8.72 from xG and Laborde has scored six goals with 8.41 from xG. It is worth pointing out their expected goals are higher than their number of goals.
But first of all, it shows their ability to create action, and especially to put themselves in a striking position. Laborde is left-footed while his team-mate is right-footed. Delort has a more eccentric style of play than Laborde and can dribble past several defenders to get into striking position, and is capable of great volleys like the one against Bordeaux at the start of the season. That’s why he sometimes misses shots with high xGs, simply because they are preceded by long, intense runs.
We’ll see that a little later in this tactical analysis, but both strikers put a lot of intensity into their pressing and manage to recovery precious balls. But of course, after such efforts, the lucidity in front of goal is not the same. Nevertheless, they are still very good finishers, capable of scoring from all positions. Six headed goals for the former Toulouse striker and the former Bordeaux striker (each of them with three goals). The rest is made up of sudden shots, volleys, and shooting from close range. Their variety is wide and that’s what makes them unpredictable. Both can make a very good shot and are good at shooting outside the box.
In fact, they are among the players who make the most shots in Ligue 1, proof that they have a certain facility for creating action: 84 shots for Delort (39% shots on target) and 61 for Laborde (37% shots on target). When we look at the percentages of shots on target, we can still notice a large waste, and sometimes a lack of precision in the last thirty metres. For comparison, the top two scorers in the league, Kylian Mbappé (PSG) and Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco) have more than 55% of shots on target. The difference is quite noticeable.
In these images above, Delort leaves his position to get the ball further down on the field. He’s not followed and is about 20 metres from the goal. He does not hesitate and makes a sudden and very powerful shot that goes under the bar.
Passing and off the ball movements
One thing that also makes them unpredictable is their creativity with the ball. They have a good vision and always know where the other is positioned. Their off-the-ball movements also allow them to create space for the other and vice versa. Delort makes an average of 1.5 key passes per game, making him one of the best in his position. His attacking teammate averages 0.9 key passes. Just like the modern striker, they are capable of giving good passes and participating fully in the build-up play. The simplest way is to study the phases of the game to better understand their movements.
In the picture above, Laborde comes through the opponent lines to get the ball. He knows where Delort is and manages to find him with a one-touch pass.
The two strikers will then cross their movements and Delort will attack the space left free by Laborde’s action. The pressure is on him and he can make a run in the free area.
Delort can make a perfect pass thanks to Laborde’s movement, and the latter scores. Between them, they managed to get rid of Toulouse’s six defenders. It’s remarkable and it shows the coordination and intelligence of their movements.
The former Bordeaux player is excellent with his back to the goal and very good at one-touch passing. He has excellent timing and a good jumping reach in the aerial game. He plays an average of 8.66 aerial duels per match with 46% of his duels won. This is quite impressive in relation to his physique, and it brings even more variety to his game.
As can be seen in the picture above, the French striker possesses an excellent jumping reach, attracting pressure from defenders on him, and allowing Delort to take on depth. It is very useful to have a player with such aerial ability on long throws to break the opponent’s pressure or to counter.
On the action shown above, Laborde drops low on the field to make himself available. He is not followed by the defenders and is therefore free.
His run towards the free zone attracts the attention of the defence to him.
Delort is careful throughout the action to be well aligned with the opposing defence to avoid offside. Laborde gives him a perfect pass and the Algerian player can go and challenge the goalkeeper. Their movements are intelligent because both strikers always avoid making the same runs, to destabilise the defence and facilitate the passes of their partners.
On a counter-attack from Montpellier, the two strikers rush to the opposing box to make their presence felt. Mollet has the ball on the left-wing.
Laborde makes a run and a call at the near post, while Delort moves towards the far post.
The defence is focused on Laborde’s sharp movement, leaving the Algerian international striker alone to score.
In the following images, we’ll look at a move that Delort likes to lose one’s marker.
Delort moves to the left side of the pitch, while Laborde asks for the ball back towards the goal.
Laborde receives the ball and gives a one-touch pass to his partner, before starting a run in the half-space. Meanwhile, Delort redirects his run inward to get closer to the opponent’s goal and be an interesting passing solution.
Laborde received the ball in the half-space and gives a perfect cross to his attacking teammate, who concludes the action with an acrobatic volley.
Both players are very active on the attacking front and constantly harass the defences at the loss of the ball. They do not spare their efforts and regularly retrieve very interesting balls close to the opponent’s goal.
The two goalscorers are lined up well and cut the pass lines back for the Strasbourg player.
With a lot of risks, the opposing right-back manages to pass the ball to his centre-back. Delort goes to harass him and Laborde positions himself so that he cannot pass the ball to his partner on the right. He has no choice but to try to dribble past Delort, which he will not succeed in doing. The former Toulouse striker gets a very good ball back but fails to score despite an 0.45 xG.
Their pressure is mostly on the centre-backs thanks to the fact that there are two strikers. This makes it easier to press the ball when it is lost. Der Zakarian asks the involvement of his entire team in the defensive phase and the two strikers do not escape their defensive duties.
This analysis shows that Delort and Laborde form a surprising and effective duo, who are proving themselves in the Ligue 1 for the second year running. Their complementarity and their energy have a major impact on opposing defences. The level of Laborde for more than a year now is well above the level he had at Bordeaux. They are fully developed on the pitch and their good understanding is reflected in the statistics. It’s a duo we’ll definitely have to follow in the coming seasons.