Olympique Lyon – AS Monaco: Fluid Lyon stroll to victory against lifeless Monaco (3-0)
Lyon dominated from the start against a passive Monaco side and took an early lead. They impressed with their fluidity in possession, albeit against minimal resistance put up by Monaco. After Aleksandr Golovin’s dismissal at the start of the second half, the game was effectively over. Monaco were actually flattered by a 3-0 scoreline, given just how hopeless their performance was.
Tactial analysis Josh Manley.
Thierry Henry’s introduction to football management has been far from what he would have envisioned in his days as player, pundit or assistant manager. His Monaco side have won just two games since he was appointed as new manager in early October. That makes it three wins all season for Monaco, who currently sit in the relegation zone, despite having one of the more expensive squads in the league.
Lyon on the other hand have caught the attention of many European football fans this season for much more positive reasons. They sit fourth in Ligue 1, but the team features some of football’s most promising talent such as Ferland Mendy, Tanguy Ndombélé, Hossem Aouar and Memphis Depay.
Lyon also earned recognition for being – until last week – the only team to have beaten Manchester City in any competition this season. They went on to take a rather strange route to qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages by drawing all five of their remaining group matches.
Lyon made two changes from their last Ligue 1 game, which was a 2-0 defeat at home to Rennes. Firstly, Jérémy Morel was replaced at left centre-back by the Brazilian Marçal. Secondly, Tanguy Ndombélé was dropped out, having also been unable to start midweeks against Shakhtar. In his place alongside Aouar, Lucas Tousart was fielded. The two played as the central midfielders in Lyon’s 5-2-3 formation.
Henry’s team selection continues to be made more difficult by an incredibly lengthy injury list. Nevertheless, he also made two changes to the side that won 2-0 away at Amiens last week. Center-back Jemerson returned to the side in place of Ronael Pierre Gabriel. Summer signing Aleksandr Golovin also found himself in the starting eleven, despite being an injury doubt, replacing Youssef Aït Bennasser in Monaco’s 5-3-2 formation.
Monaco’s 5-3-2 defensive organization against Lyon’s fluid 5-2-3 / 3-4-3 shape.
Lyon dominate possession
The pattern of this game was apparent from the very start. Lyon dominated possession straight away, while Monaco played very passive and defended deep in their 5-3-2 shape.
With the narrowness and passivity of Monaco’s midfield and forward lines, Lyon’s right and left center-backs Jason Denayer and Marçal had plenty of time to launch attacks from their deep halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the half spaces 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. positions. Monaco consistently struggled to generate pressure on Lyon’s advances with the ball.
Ahead of them, there was a lot of fluidity from the midfielders and forwards. Tousart was usually the central midfielder who positioned himself slightly deeper, while Aouar, from his starting position alongside Tousart, would roam into wide areas and higher zones. Sometimes Aouar would rotate with Fekir, who tended to drop quite deep in the left halfspace at times.
Depay’s role could be described as a ‘false nine’, a striker that constantly drops into midfield or towards the wings. Generally roaming across the pitch, the young Dutch forward helped create overloads When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. in wide areas where Lyon liked to try and create breakthroughs with slick combinations. These combinations were most common in the left halfspace and wing areas. Aouar, Fekir and Depay could all combine very skilfully from these zones. They were supported by the forward runs from left wing-back Mendy and the assured passing from the back by Marçal.
In the end though, both of Lyon’s first half goals actually materialized from the right side instead. Bertrand Traoré was the forward on this side and left his position a bit less than the likes of Fekir and Depay. He mostly stuck to the right, on the last line, playing on the shoulder of Monaco’s left center-back Benoît Badiashile. Although when the ball was on his side of the pitch, he would sometimes drop slightly to offer back-to-goal for a forward pass, or make diagonal runs behind Benjamin Henrichs, Monaco’s left wing-back.
After just six minutes, Lyon combined on the right side to set Traoré free behind Monaco’s defense. His shot from the right side of the penalty area was saved, but pushed into the path of Aouar arriving into the box, who made it 1-0.
The second goal after 34 minutes gave an example of how easy Lyon’s center-backs found it to stride forward and launch attacks. Denayer’s flat pass on the right side of the field sliced through Monaco’s defense to find Kenny Tete running in behind. His cutback was fired low into the net by Fekir.
Lyon’s pressing hardly tested
Monaco had a very low possession share throughout the match. In early stages, they did try to play out from the back in their 3-5-2 attacking shape. This led to a couple of losses of possession in their own half though. They seemed to lack confidence in their approach, and eventually started hitting longer clearances from the back. Given their midfield set-up, this was not an ideal approach to create chances. In the entire match, Monaco managed to shoot four times, compared to Lyon’s twenty-one.
The hasty approach deployed by Monaco meant that Lyon’s 5-2-3 pressing without the ball was barely tested. In the pressing spells they did have, their forward line of three matched up against the back three of Monaco, giving them fairly natural access to each defender. This was mostly in higher pressing. When slightly deeper, they would look to prevent being outnumbered in midfield by having the central of the three forwards mark Youri Tielemans, Monaco’s small and technical deep midfielder.
Golovin dismissed, game over
With Monaco 2-0 down at half-time and having shown little sign of recovery, there was already little hope of a second half comeback. Any such hopes then disappeared completely within seconds of the second half kick-off. Golovin inexplicably went studs-first into the calf of Fekir, and after a VAR review, was rightly sent-off. Golovin clearly was not trying to win the ball, and his incredibly unprofessional act pretty much ended any small hopes Monaco might have had to get something from the game.
Shortly after, Henry switched to a 4-4-1. This made little difference in the grand scheme of things though. Lyon continued to dominate as they already had against eleven men. Their fluid attack almost toyed with Monaco at times, and there was a feeling that they actually took their foot off the gas a bit as the game went on. This was especially true after Mendy’s header made it 3-0 after 59 minutes.
Henry’s misery at Monaco continues, and the team on the pitch look directionless and severely lacking intensity. Right from the start of this game, they seemed content for Lyon to take the initiative, and even after Lyon’s goals went in, there was no apparent reaction to chase the game from Monaco. Instead, they seemed like a team resigned to their fate.
For Lyon, there is little to learn about themselves from this game. Their talented individuals showed their class against a passive opponent who put up limited resistance. What remains an interesting question is why this talented bunch is never able to string together a good set of results. The loss against Rennes from last week is not an incident, as Lyon are prone to losing points against lesser opposition. Whether that specific aspect can be improved is an integral part in the battle for Ligue 1’s second place.
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