AS Monaco – Olympique Lyonnais: Set Pieces Do The Trick For Monaco (2-1)

Monaco’s high pressing presented an interesting problem for Lyon in the opening stages, although the game eventually began to open up for Lyon’s midfield rotations. However, two set piece goals in the second half were enough to win this for Monaco, although Lyon were close to equalizing late on. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.

AS Monaco were fairly impressive against PSG a couple of weeks ago as their pressing game helped them earn a draw. As they did in that game, Monaco lined up against Lyon with a back three. Axel Disasi, Guillermo Maripán and Benoît Badiashile were the central defenders , flanked by Vanderson and Caio Henrique as wing-backs. Youssouf Fofana and Mohamed Camara partnered in central midfield behind a front three of Krépin Diatta, Aleksandr Golovin and Breel Embolo in their nominal 3-4-3 shape. 

Peter Bosz’ Olympique Lyonnais side had enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season until last week’s defeat to Lorient. Bosz started this match with the front three of Tetê, Alexandre Lacazette and Karl Toko Ekambi that has impressed so far in the season, while in midfield there was the trio of Johann Lepenant, Maxence Caqueret and Corentin Tolisso. The back four of their 4-3-3 formation was comprised of Malo Gusto, Thiago Mendes, Castello Lukeba and Nicolás Tagliafico. 

Monaco start with high pressing

Like they did against PSG, Monaco tried to establish themselves in this game with a high press early on. Although Golovin played more from the left halfspace when Monaco had the ball, without the ball in their high press he would usually move more central in order to mark the Lyon number six Lepenant.

Monaco’s pressed high early in the game.

Monaco were then essentially in a 5-2-1-2 shape and their central midfielders could man-mark the central midfielders of Lyon. The aggression of the Monaco center-backs in following forwards who drop deep was also repeated in this game, this time it was mostly from Maripán who went with Lacazette when the striker tried to facilitate third man combinations to break the Monaco pressure. 

Lyon’s midfield consistently tried to rotate positions in order to get free against Monaco’s press. For example, Lepenant would drift diagonally into the right halfspace in order to open up the number six position for Tolisso to drop into, while Caqueret moved up higher. 

In the early stages of the game, these rotations were not that successful, as the intensity of Monaco’s pressing was high, and even with decent rotations, Lyon could not create enough space to play through midfield. Instead, they often ended up going for long balls, which was still able to do the job of getting them into the Monaco half fairly often as they were able to pick up the second ball. 

As the game went on, Monaco’s pressing intensity dropped and Lyon began to see more success in progression through their central midfielders in order to force Monaco’s defensive line deeper. When they were defending deeper, Golovin tended to return to the left of the midfield, forming a 5-4-1 defensive shape. 

Set pieces are enough for Monaco

These deeper defending situations were still not that bad for Monaco as it gave them space to counterattack into, and they created some dangerous situations in this manner with the help of Embolo’s endeavours. 

The main threat for them when defending against Lyon was Tetê down the right with his skilful dribbling. Gusto was also a marauding force from right back on occasion, and Caqueret tended towards the right halfspace and picked up some good positions between the lines. 

In Monaco’s own possession phase, they started from a 3-4-2-1 shape, with Golovin and Diatta in the attacking halfspaces. Often the central midfielders in this arrangement were at different heights, as Fofana actually tended to push forward and leave Camara as the sole number six. 

Lyon tended to defend in their own half.

Lyon defended mostly in a 4-1-4-1 shape without the ball, without too many high pressing attempts. Monaco actually could generate some decent positional advantages in the halfspaces behind the Lyon central midfielders with the presence of Diatta and Golovin plus Fofana moving forward slightly to help create overloads. These advantages were not used as much as they probably could have been though, as they often chose to play more over the wings instead. 

In the end, this did not matter too much for Monaco, as it was set pieces that earned them a two-goal lead around the hour mark. Both deliveries were from the left foot of Henrique, the first for Badiashile who put Monaco ahead from a corner, then the second for Maripán from a free-kick to make it 2-0. 

Lyon run out of time

The first change for Bosz to try and turn things around was just after the hour, as Moussa Dembélé replaced Caqueret. Lyon now had a 4-4-2 shape, with Lacazette playing slightly deeper as a supporting striker to Dembélé.

This alone did not do much for Lyon though. The changes that helped them pile the pressure on Monaco arrived with around fifteen minutes remaining. Rayan Cherki and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde replaced Mendes and Lepenant. 

Chasing goals, Lyon now essentially played a 3-3-4 shape. Gusto, Lukeba and Tagliafico were the makeshift back three, while Reine-Adélaïde played behind Cherki and Tolisso in midfield. Tolisso would shortly afterwards be replaced by Romain Faivre. The front four then consisted of Tetê and Toko Ekambi out wide, and Dembélé partnering Lacazette centrally. 

Assisted by Cherki, Toko Ekambi got a goal back to make it 2-1 with just under ten minutes left for Lyon. Going into the final few minutes of the game plus stoppage time, Lyon were able to really put the pressure on with their numbers in attack and some good crosses being delivered into the box. 

They could have very well equalized with the chances they created late on, but in the end Monaco were grateful to hear the final whistle as the game finished 2-1. 


Monaco’s pressing and transition game looked fairly good here. They could potentially have achieved more in possession too. They were perhaps slightly fortunate not to concede again late on though. 

Lyon’s rotations in midfield were interesting although it took a while for them to see them result in ball progression. The defending for the two set piece goals was poor, and they struggled sometimes to deal with long balls from open play as well.

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Josh Manley (21) is a student and aspiring coach. Heavily interested in tactics and strategy in football. Watching teams from all top European leagues, but especially Manchester United and Barcelona. [ View all posts ]


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