Lille – AS Monaco: Monaco extend Ligue 1 unbeaten streak with late winner (0-1)
It could be argued that Lille were the better team for substantial parts of the match with their fluid attacking game. This was especially true in the first half, where they almost certainly should have gone ahead. As the game approached its end, it seemed as if the teams would end up goalless despite chances on either end, before Carlos Vinícius broke the deadlock late on.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Lille came into this game in an impressive second place position in the league. Manager Christophe Galtier started the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with their usual talented front four of Nicholas Pépé, Jonathan Ikone, Jonathan Bamba and Rafael Leão.
Monaco, now seemingly on the road to safety from relegation under Leonardo Jardim, started in a 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation, with Kamil Glik returning from suspension to partner Jemerson at center-back. Striker Radamel Falcao was serving a suspension of his own though, meaning a start up front for Carlos Vinícius.
Lille’s positive possession game
Monaco defended in a zonal 4-4-2 medium block. A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. Apart from occasional bursts of higher pressure, Lille were relatively passive, in part because of Lille’s own structure which was formed from their starting point of a 4-2-3-1 formation.
From this shape, the two central midfielders would create a diamond structure between themselves and the center-backs. This was usually achieved by Mendes dropping to the right side of José Fonte, effectively creating back three in possession, with Xeka remaining central in front of them.
Meanwhile, the fullbacks had license to push up high, which was the trigger for the wingers in their original 4-2-3-1 shape to move into the halfspaces. If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. Accordingly, Lille had quite a high presence in advanced areas, which partly pinned Monaco back in their defensive shape.
It did mean that sometimes their low presence in central midfield areas with so many players high up could leave Xeka slightly isolated at times, but Ikone could help rectify this with his occasional dropping movements to pick up the ball in midfield.
Lille’s loose 4-2-3-1 formation in possession against Monaco’s 4-4-2 shape in defense.
Lille’s big strength though, is the speed and movement of their front four. They pose a constant threat to the opposition defense, being adept at receiving between lines and turning, or making runs in behind the defense.
In this game, some of their best moments tended to come from the former. With the numbers they had within Monaco’s defensive shape, it was difficult for the away side to cover all the passing options Lille had between the lines.
With Lille’s forwards positioning themselves between Monaco’s midfielders, Monaco were then in trouble when they got turned and started dribbling at the defense. This dribbling, combined with simultaneous runs in behind from the other forwards proved difficult to deal with.
Nevertheless, Lille remained unable to break the deadlock despite a solid attacking plan. They had chances, with Bamba and Mendes in particular missing good chances from inside the box.
Monaco focus on transitions and wing-play
Monaco had a fairly low share of the possession throughout the game. When they did, they were usually more direct and played through the wings. Often, they would play long to collect second balls in front of the Lille defense, or play directly to the wingers to use their dribbling against the fullback.
Their nominal 4-4-2 shape could sometimes also turn into a 4-3-3 in possession, as Adrien Silva would drop as number six to collect the ball from the defense to try and build up play. Aleksandr Golovin would then drop into a right central-midfield position, but still positioned slightly higher than Jean-Eudes Aholou on the left. As mentioned though, Monaco did not attempt to build through central areas that often.
Monaco found success on the counterattack, again using the dribbling of their wingers. Lille were also vulnerable to this due to the aforementioned fact that they committed quite a high number of players ahead of the ball, leaving their fullback spaces for Monaco to exploit.
After half-time Lille seemed to lose some attacking momentum, resulting in a less enjoyable game overall. The game appeared to be at a permanent stalemate until Vinícius’ close range finish decided the game.
Lille will regret missing their best chances in the first half, where they looked like the team that their league position would suggest. In the second half, they were somewhat flat. This result would allow Lyon to close the gap behind Lille to four points if they were to win their game.
The win lifts Monaco further from the relegation zone, even if they were slightly fortunate in the first half.
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