Nantes – AS Monaco: Ben Yedder’s Goal Separates Teams In Tight Encounter (0-1)
Monaco’s 3-5-2 system at times proved relatively effective in manipulating Nantes’ defense and creating forward passing routes to the strikers and attacking midfielders. They earned themselves a first half goal, which would end up being the winner. This was not for lack of effort from Nantes, who increasingly imposed themselves on the game with some dangerous wing-play but were ultimately unable to find the finishing touch.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
With ten games gone in this Ligue 1 season, one of the main surprises to be found when looking at the standings is Nantes’ position. They currently occupy second place, trailing PSG by five points. Most would find this quite unexpected from a team that finished mid table last season.
Nantes have achieved this position primarily by grinding out 1-0 wins – five out of their six wins this season have ended in that scoreline. They came into this game with the third best defensive record in Ligue 1 with six goals conceded, albeit on the back of some defensive overperformance with 9.0 expected goals The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. conceded. Their attacking record meanwhile is fairly average, as they are yet to break double figures for goals scored.
Coach Christian Gourcuff’s side lined up in a 4-4-1-1 system. On the left side of midfield was Levante loanee Moses Simon, while Kader Bamba lined up on the right. Leading the line as striker was Kalifa Coulibaly, Nantes’ top scorer so far in the season. Behind him at number ten was Ludovic Blas.
As established, Nantes’ season so far has been characterised by low scoring at both ends of the pitch. The same cannot be said for Monaco, who have the second highest goals scored total in Ligue 1, at the same time as having conceded more than any other team.
Leonardo Jardim’s side found themselves in the bottom half of the table coming into this game, mostly due to their early season results, as their first six Ligue 1 games of the season consisted of three draws and three defeats. Recently, things have improved somewhat, with three wins in their last four games prior to this one.
Against Nantes Jardim’s side opted for a 3-5-2 shape. Cesc Fàbregas started on the bench, as Adrien Silva took up the deep midfield role, flanked by Tiémoué Bakayoko and Aleksandr Golovin as number eights. Up front, Islam Slimani partnered Wissam Ben Yedder, who had seven goals in his last five appearances coming into this match.
Monaco’s possession phase.
Monaco find advantages with 3-5-2 formation
From the early proceedings, Monaco were able to put together some promising passages of play in their 3-5-2 possession structure. The role of the advanced number eights Bakayoko and Golovin helped to open up forward passing routes for Monaco. Golovin in particular looked to link up with the strikers in combination play wherever possible.
Nantes started out with a fairly standard zonal 4-4-2 block, trying to remain compact and restrict forward passing options for Monaco. The two strikers tried to keep relatively tight distances to Adrien Silva the deepest midfielder for Monaco.
Aside from making it harder for Silva to get involved in the buildup, it also meant that Jemerson and Benoît Badiashile as wide center-backs for Monaco got slightly more space and time as the strikers were less willing to leave Silva unattended. The wide midfielders for Nantes also preferred to stay close to their nearest central midfielder rather than stepping out early to pressure Jemerson and Badiashile.
Monaco’s number eights Bakayoko and Golovin would first of all position themselves relatively high. They would look to position themselves between the lines, usually in 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 the 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. More specifically though, they were looking to position themselves in the gaps between Nantes’ central and wide midfielders on each side.
Through this positioning, they could help open passing lanes directly into the feet of the strikers, as the Nantes central midfielders would shift across to close the gaps between themselves and the wide midfielders, leaving central areas more open.
These passes were most often received by Slimani, who offered himself very well with his back to goal in this game, bringing others into play with lay-offs. Ben Yedder meanwhile was more likely to be making runs in behind, which made for a relatively complementary partnership with Slimani.
Slimani would also drift out to the left wing on occasion, clearing space for Golovin to push further forward through the left halfspace. Indeed it was Slimani who provided the lay-off to Golovin on the left side in the lead up to Monaco’s goal. The Russian midfielder then proceeded to thread the ball through to Ben Yedder on the shoulder of the last defender, who shot past Alban Lafont to make it 1-0.
Nantes wing attacks show danger
Nantes’ main area of attack was in wide areas, where they had some decent combination play between winger and fullback at times, as they looked to supply crosses for Kalifa Coulibaly, who provides substantial aerial presence in the box.
Nantes’ possession phase.
Nantes played a relatively basic 4-2-3-1 structure in attack. The number ten, Blas, was quite mobile and would roam very large distances across the pitch to try and pick up good positions. Bamba usually stuck more consistently to the right wing, while Simon would come inside slightly off the left.
Simon himself was very much a lively feature of the attack. He always looked dangerous dribbling against the likes of Gelson Martins and Jemerson on Monaco’s right, and very much seemed to have the better of his direct opponents. He also came very close to scoring for Nantes in the first half, as his header from close range blazed just over the bar.
Left back Samuel Moutoussamy came on as a substitute for Fábio during the first half and would also go on to combine well with Simon on a couple of occasions, but nevertheless Nantes went in at the break 0-1 down.
Nantes dominate second half but Monaco retain lead
Nantes had grown into the game during the first half and in the second half they were on top for much of the time. Monaco were meanwhile sat back in their 5-3-2 block looking to secure their result.
Blas, who had previously been the number ten for Nantes seemed to be playing more from the right side of midfield as the second half progressed, with Bamba moving more central. Blas still retained his license to roam though, and often found himself drifting into central areas or even over to the left, which naturally led Nantes’ attacks down the left side more often.
Nantes put the pressure on, and ended up outshooting Monaco by nine shots to three in the second half. They were not really creating clear cut chances though. Their attack did not lack for endeavour, but in reality they missed some craft and creativity in the final third.
Monaco were on the back foot but not truly on the ropes. Their five man defense gave them good presence when defending the box, and defending deeper probably even suited them as it gave Nantes’ quick forwards less room to exploit in behind. Monaco ended up seeing the game out to win 1-0.
Nantes showed their limitations when it came to chasing the game. Their system is not one designed to be chasing games, and relies more on being able to keep games tight, as demonstrated by their record so far this season. Nevertheless, the performance overall was not a bad one, and if not for a clinical Ben Yedder finish or Simon’s miss in the first half, Nantes could have walked away from this with a point.
A clean sheet will be a relief for Monaco considering their defensive record – it’s only the second one they have kept all season. Their attack had some nice moments of combination play, as the 3-5-2 shape happened to be a good fit against the 4-4-2 defensive scheme of Nantes.
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