AS Monaco – Olympique Lyonnais: Jardim Goes Back To Basics As Monaco Turn Their Season Around (2-0)
Sometimes in football, all you need is a bit of luck. For AS Monaco, earlier this season, it seemed that luck had completely abandoned them: injuries and a complete lack of form all contributed to an unexpected relegation dogfight. However, since Monaco turned back the clock and reappointed Leonardo Jardim as manager, nothing can seemingly go wrong, their win over Lyon being the latest of a remarkable story of their brilliant recovery.
Tactical analysis and match report by Carl Carpenter.
While this match was no doubt important for Olympique Lyonnais, following a hard-fought draw in their midweeks Champions League match against Barcelona, Lyon came into the game with many players in the red zone, physically. Because of this, manager Bruno Génésio left out a number of first-team regulars and slightly altered his 4-2-3-1 shape into more of a 4-3-3 formation. Memphis Depay and Ferland Mendy were both rested. Nabil Fekir, so often the key linchpin occupying the number ten role in Lyon’s set-up, was also absent.
Instead, Lyon Génésio fielded a midfield three of Tanguy Ndombele, Houssem Aouar and Lucas Tousart. Martin Terrier and Bertrand Traoré would provide important width to the attack. Génésio’s football is built around being strong in the game’s transitional moments, so this attacking trident would be key for Lyon.
As mentioned previously, Monaco’s season has been filled with instability, however Jardim has brought some of that back formation-wise and stylistically. Matching Lyon’s shape in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Monaco were able to do something they have not had the ability to do so many times this season: select an almost full-strength starting eleven. Since Jardim last managed the club, players such as Cesc Fàbregas, Adrien Silva, and Gelson Martins were added to the squad and they have quickly become key for the Portuguese manager. Experienced Colombian striker Radamel Falcao started up front, and Russian playmaker Aleksandr Golovin was deployed in the hole underneath.
Under Monaco in recent seasons, Jardim has transformed the team into a swashbuckling attacking one, which is one of the reasons so many players have left the club for big money. However, Jardim has recently moved back to finding more of a balance in the team. Silva provides a strong platform in a double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. in midfield, juxtaposed with the width and skill the attacking players provide. Monaco are still a club in relative crisis, if they can avoid relegation, the ends justify the means.
Monaco utilize their extra energy to stifle Lyon going forward
It was evident from the first minute that Monaco sought to impose their tempo and intensity on the match immediately. As Lyon looked to build out and play from the back, Monaco pressed them from the front relentlessly. Using a high very high line, sometimes setting it just inside their own half, Monaco attempted to disrupt Lyon’s rhythm. Fullbacks Djibril Sidibé and Fodé Ballo-Touré often fired out onto the wide players of the opposition, and as a result, Lyon started playing into the channels to avoid losing possession cheaply.
In terms of shape, Monaco set themselves up in a clear 4-4-2 formation, with Golovin joining Falcao in pressing Lyon. In this shape, the two forwards were able to pivot and cut off supply to the deep-lying player of Lyon, which was often Tousart. While Lyon were able to comfortably use possession at times, the ball often did not stick up front, which was their biggest problem in terms of attacking.
Going the other way, Monaco moved the ball much more urgently to disorganize Lyon. Because the center of the park was often filled with bodies, Monaco flexed out its wide players to the touch line: they simply went around the pressure put in place by Lyon, which is detailed below.
The way Lyon tried to press Monaco, and how Monaco reacted, by placing their wide players on the touchline.
It was through these defensive and attacking strategies that Monaco opened the scoring. The home side heavily pressed Lyon in the middle of the park to regain possession, then found fullback Ballo-Touré on the left. Ballo-Touré found Gelson Martins at the far post, and the winger expertly smashed home past Anthony Lopes in the Lyon goal.
Just a few minutes later, a high pressure situation made it 2-0. Rony Lopes nicking the ball off of Léo Dubois before driving at Lyon’s defense and putting the ball into the back of the net. For Lyon, things could not have gone much worse. They had shown little creativity thus far in terms of final third play, The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. and getting back into the match would require a significant change in attacking mentality, on heavy legs from their Champions League clash. After going up by two, Monaco often chose to remain compact and look to counterattack quickly when needed, a strategy they utilized until the halftime interval.
Lyon’s passmap shows how difficult is was for them to reach their attacking players.
Monaco remain resolute, Lyon frustrated
For Lyon, the second half was marked with the arrival of Memphis Depay. Lyon’s attack, as previously mentioned, had mostly been characterized by the forwards’inability to make inroads towards Monaco’s penalty area. The arrival of the Dutch player indicated Bruno Génésio’s team with more threat in central areas, in regards to creativity.
Whenever Depay roamed infield and linked up play with the midfield, it created openings for Lyon’s wide players to get forward and go at players one-versus-one or put in crosses from wide. This is opposite to the first half, where Dembélé was often left heavily isolated against Monaco’s center-backs Kamil Glik and Benoît Badiashile. Despite this major change in tactics, the pattern that was set following Monaco’s two goals remained: Lyon plodding away to break down Monaco, and Monaco threatening on the break.
In the 69th minute, for the first time in the match, Monaco’s high line was left exposed. Lyon center-back Marcelo – after getting heavily pressed – lumped the ball in behind the defense to which Dembélé latched onto. Kamil Glik, in a desperate bid to deny the striker a shot on goal, fouled the Lyon player and gave away a penalty.
In other parts of the season, a setback like that would have likely spelled a death sentence for Monaco. However, Memphis Depay’s spot kick was saved by Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subašić. If any moment summed up the different kind of momentum that Leonardo Jardim and his team had gotten the past month, this was it. Depay’s miss, a potential life line for the away side, also proved to be the true end of Lyon’s hopes to turn a defeat into a draw or win. Génésio still desperately made two more changes to his team to try and increase the sides tempo (most notably the arrival of Maxwel Cornet to the field), but it was to no avail. The vast majority of big chances that would come were at the hands of Monaco players, such was the drabness of Lyon’s attacking combinations, which meant overall Monaco very deservedly took all three points.
Defensively, Monaco have all the hallmarks of a Jardim side in his early days at the club: committed, high energy, and incredibly disrupted. A tough nut to crack. Going forward with the ball at their feet, they are quick, direct and capitalize on the opposition’s mistakes. On Sunday, against a team whose mind (and legs) were focused elsewhere, these two things combined to lethal effect.
For Lyon, the inability of this team to put together complete performances against clubs of all levels week in week out continues to baffle. There is no doubting that Bruno Génésio has worked wonders with his young squad, and when they are on form there are few teams in Europe’s top leagues more exciting to watch. However, if truly competing in Ligue 1 is what they desire, then the same level of effort and consistency needs to happen against teams from the top half all the way to the bottom. Lyon’s brand of football requires strength in transition and quick, incisive, play around the penalty area. None of this was on display on Sunday, as they plodded around the Stade Louis II seemingly without rhyme or reason.
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