Olympique Lyonnais – LOSC Lille: Lyon Fall Short At Home Against Stubborn Lille (0-1)
Neither side was able to establish convincing offensive spells and the match devolved into physical midfield battles and moments of individual flair going forward. The lack of potent ball possession meant that the most dangerous chances came in transition and in the end it was Lille who were able to capitalize – Jonathan Ikoné notching the match’s only goal in the 68th minute.
Tactical analysis and match report by K.T. Stockwell.
A slow start under rookie manager Sylvinho led to the Brazilian being replaced with Rudi Garcia, who despite being generally disliked by Lyonnais fans, has at least been able to deliver some results. Garcia’s football is not always inspiring, but since his arrival Lyon had only registered one league loss heading into their match against LOSC on Tuesday night.
Midweek fixtures, almost by definition, require lineup adjustments and therefore Garcia tinkered with the starting eleven he used on the weekend against Strasbourg. The French manager stuck with his preferred 4-2-2-2 formation and brought Rafael in at fullback to replace Dutch international Kenny Tete.
Meanwhile, in midfield youngster Maxence Caqueret was dropped in favour of the more experienced Thiago Mendes, who formed a double pivot with Lucas Tousart. In front of the holding tandem Garcia kept faith in Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Martin Terrier, while Memphis Depay joined Maxwel Cornet up top.
A win over Dijon on the weekend had put an end to a three-match winless run for manager Christophe Galtier’s side. It has been a tumultuous year for Lille, as the club has had to deal with the growing pains of Champions League football, along with the sale of a number of their key players over the summer and now the departure of their assistant coach João Sacramento, who left to join José Mourinho at Tottenham. Constant transformation has meant the squad has had little time to settle into a rhythm similar to the one that bred so much success last season.
That unremitting change was on display again, as Galtier made a number of alterations to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Captain José Fonte and Gabriel kept their spots at center-back, but were joined by Zeki Çelik and Domagoj Bradarić in the fullback positions. In midfield the squad welcomed youngster Boubakary Soumaré back into the starting eleven, which pushed Renato Sanches into the advanced midfield three – joining Jonathan Ikoné and Jonathan Bamba. The triumvirate sat behind Victor Osimhen, who played as the lone striker.
LOSC close the gaps defensively
The match began at a frantic pace with both sides determined to win the midfield battle. The early by-product of this ferocity was a lack of conscious possession, as both clubs endeavoured to knock the ball long and onto the flanks in the hopes of catching the opposition defense napping.
Eventually Lyon were able to find some offensive rhythm, as they set up in their 2-1-3-4 buildup, which saw Tousart drop into the hole and help develop play. In the early portion of the half this seemed to be working, particularly the movement of Reine-Adélaïde, Tousart and Memphis up top, as the threesome were able to duck in between the LOSC lines and play several useful combinations that ended in decent chances at goal.
Lyon’s buildup against LOSC’s fluid 4-3-3/4-4-2 defensive shape.
Nonetheless, it did not take long for Lille to recognize the threat the Lyonnais forwards were posing and Galtier quickly had his side react to Lyon progressing the ball by contracting speedily into their 4-4-2 defensive shape – leaving little space between the two banks of four. The result was Lyon having to rely more readily on moving the ball out wide and thumping crosses into the area – the majority of which were gobbled up by Fonte and Gabriel.
Meanwhile, as is their want, once Lille was able to recover the ball they looked to play rapidly in transition – using Sanches as a quick outlet. This tactic worked wonders in the first half, as Sanches’ technical quality made him difficult for the Lyon fullbacks to mark. This is the most similar LOSC has looked to last season’s squad, which constantly used Nicolas Pépé in this function on the counterattack.
The LOSC buildup, which has now been made somewhat famous since its institution at Tottenham, was unable to establish itself throughout the match, as Lyon did a great job of quickly putting pressure on the visitor’s fullbacks – forcing them to try hopeful long balls to an isolated Osimhen.
OL fail to establish their game plan
The second half began with OL still unable to establish momentum through the middle of the park – an eventuality which saw Reine-Adélaïde and Memphis start to drift more and more toward the flanks, while Terrier and Cornet became largely ineffectual centrally.
Lille, at their best, are able to strangle the center of the park and against OL they were able to do just that – in large part thanks to the tireless running of Benjamin André and Sourmaré in central midfield. The tandem was diligent in their movements and has become so effective at working off one another – constantly switching and shuttling between flanks.
Lille were also effective in the rare moments they did press the OL buildup, particularly in the pressure André was able to put on Tousart with his back to goal. The calculated stress the LOSC midfielder put on the Lyon youngster helped to slow the pace of the OL attack.
However, offensively Lille struggled to establish their usual breakneck counterattack, a lot of which came down to the pressure Lyon brought on Ikoné in the center of the park – not allowing the tricky attacking player any space in transition. The second half also saw them do a better job of shutting off service to Sanches on the right flank – immediately working to cut off the passing lanes.
LOSC take their chance
A low percentage play, but one Lille constantly employed was attempting to go long to a sprinting Osimhen. As bad as Marcelo was in this match, Jason Denayer made up for it with his stellar work keeping the Nigerian international in check. However, built into these hopeful pot-shots was the intention of pinning Denayer deeper and stopping Lyon from cutting down the field in possession – Osimhen did not have a lot of touches, but he kept the Lyonnais center-backs honest.
It was nearly 35 minutes without a shot for either side when Ikoné scored for LOSC in the 68thminute – the beneficiary of a terrible clearance by Marcelo, which was intercepted by André, played into Osimhen on the edge of the box, before being bumped on to the diminutive attacking midfielder.
The goal sparked a series of changes from Garcia, who brought on Houssem Aouar and Dembélé for Memphis and Cornet respectively. However, at this point LOSC were comfortable in their 4-4-2 defensive shape and unwilling to allow Lyon any space in the center of the pitch.
Reine-Adélaïde and Aouar had a few worthy runs, but only mustered a handful of flashes beyond the posts. Galtier’s side had closed up shop early in the first half and Garcia’s side had no answers.
1️⃣st away win of the season, 3️⃣ valuable points and we move up to 4️⃣th place in the provisional @Ligue1_ENG standings. Great night's work, boys 👏. #OLLOSC 0-1 (Ikoné 68') pic.twitter.com/6N9HUhPxKU— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) December 3, 2019
Lyonnais supporters were generally dismayed at Garcia’s hiring and losses to rivals Olympique Marseille and now Lille will only exaggerate the discontent. Nonetheless, while Lyon presently sit in tenth, the wide open nature of Ligue 1 this season means they are a mere three points out of the top four. There is still plenty of time for OL to collect themselves and move up the table.
There is a lot of prognosticating going on around Lille – concerns that this season the club has taken too dramatic a step back. However, the underlying numbers are still in Lille’s favour – they have the second best expected goals difference in the league, are still a capable defensive side, and while they do not finish as emphatically as a year ago, they still create the third most chances in France’s top division. If Galtier is able to maintain the course and continue to bed-in a multitude of new signings, the club should finish in the European places for a second straight season.
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