Olympique Lyonnais – Paris Saint-Germain: Routine Rout For The Champions (1-4)

Everything is a little easier when your best players are on the field. The endpoint that PSG’s new manager has in mind for his outfit is far out of reach, but a four goal haul in the first half contributed to storming success on the night— and even more misery for their opponents.

Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.

We decided to make this article free to read. If you want to support our work, consider taking a subscription.

Money does not assure a state of contentment. Since the start of the new century, a pair of cash rich models have built two hegemons in French football. Neither has reached its self-fulfilling prophecy.

The arrival of Qatari wealth in Paris brought visions of similarly affluent affairs on the field. PSG have fulfilled their demands in France, losing a grip on the Ligue 1 crown only twice in the last 12 years. Yet, gaudiness, rather than grace, in their transfer policy has spoiled the soundness of the squad— and has drawn them no closer to the first Champions League trophy in their history. The pains of this project have ousted six managers in its time. How long will the latest leadership last?

Lyon have suffered a similar fate. Jean-Michel Aulas applied his awareness from the business world to the sports scene, acquiring the club in 1987 to create a powerhouse fit for the top tier of French football. By 2008, his team had won Ligue 1 for the seventh year on the trot. That haul has stagnated: no silverware has adorned the cabinet for over a decade. Another year without European competition reflects a sorry state of affairs that is a distant reality from the success at the start of the millennium.

Laurent Blanc, whose exploits include a treble in charge of the guests, has led Lyon for almost a year. Activity in the last week of the window forced him to reconfigure in the final third. Bradley Barcola has crossed enemy lines, but Ernest Nuamah sought to fill the void. Alexandre Lacazette was absent due to a suspension. Amin Sarr is on loan at Wolfsburg, so Tino Kadewere stepped in as the striker.

The visit of RC Lens marked Luis Enrique’s first victory in his new post at the third time of trying. He selected the same eleven individuals for this away day. Summer signings Lucas Hernández and Milan Škriniar stayed on the left of the back four. Vitinha and Warren Zaïre-Emery kept Fabián Ruiz on the bench. Kylian Mbappé, Marco Asensio, and Ousmané Dembélé picked up the mantle in the offense.

Developing relationships

The hosts had not registered a win in Ligue 1 this campaign and experienced the worst possible start. Two minutes into this affair, Corentin Tolisso pivoted on the ball in the buildup, and Manu Ugarte robbed the possession. He drew contact in the box, earning a penalty. Mbappé stepped up to the spot, slotted a strike down the center of the target, and the shot deflected off Anthony Lopes into the net.

PSG then set out to control the match with the ball. They faced a 4-2-3-1 formation in which Maxence Caqueret was mainly close to Ugarte. Enrique’s instructions followed the path of the previous week. He laid out a 4-1-4-1 structure to build out from the back. Both fullbacks were deep in support of Ugarte and the central defenders, while Vitinha and Mbappé exchanged positions on the left.

The calm and control that Enrique desires in the retention and progression of the ball was not always present. But the depth and tempo the Parisians could generate in the final third could still tear apart Lyon’s defense. Mbappé was willing to offer a deep release pass behind the rearguard from the center or the left. On the right, his teammates probed gaps more often in combination with other blue shirts.

Dembélé stayed tight to the flank, determining to dribble in from the right. Along with Zaïre-Emery, Achraf Hakimi’s advances on the underlap allowed PSG to rotate the ball inside through the halfspace. In the 20th minute, passes between the pair drew the guests to the edge of the box, and Hakimi buried the rebound from the winger’s cross to double the lead. Another three points were virtually secure.

1st minute: offensive sequence from PSG. Hakimi supports Dembélé with a pass and an underlapping run, pinning Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nicolás Tagliafico. The winger drops off, turns inward and finds Zaïre-Emery. Caqueret pushes forward to close down the midfielder on his outside shoulder, freeing space to break the lines. Asensio motions towards his teammate, letting ball run across him laterally to get free between the lines and Mbappé eventually explodes forward on his outside.

Moments mask the margins for improvement

Enrique also wished for his men to press high up the field. Mbappé shifted into the frontline with Asensio, and Vitinha, like in the game against Lens, would move to the left to relieve him of extra defensive burden. However, after Ugarte’s tackle for the penalty, seldom did this pressure pay.

Around the half hour mark, these aborted pressing sequences forced the away team to give up more territory. Rayan Cherki backed his magnetic skill on the ball to roam and break open the field, while Nuamah will add extra quality on the dribble to this squad from the flanks. Yet, Lyon could not put the pieces together in the final third, and the setbacks continued to increase as the half drew to a close.

PSG settled again in enemy territory. Kadewere jumped to press Škriniar, whose passing lane to Ugarte remained free. The midfielder’s ball reception caught the attention of Caqueret, whose opposite man, Asensio, could wander freely into the gap in the back four. The central forward raced clear and hammered home. The visitors were three goals to the good, and the contest was complete.

Moments before half time, Lyon leaked once more and let in another effort. Diomandé stepped into midfield, punching a pass into the feet of Zaïre-Emery. He and Vitinha worked the ball to Asensio before the defender could atone for his error, and a gaping hole at the back signaled danger. Mbappé streaked free from Mata, bagged his brace, and added to the dismay among the opponents’ camp.

Too little, too late

At the start of the second half, Blanc brought on Mama Baldé for Kadewere. The manager also switched to a 5-3-2 block. Numuah joined the substitute upfront, Cherki dropped to the left of the midfield, and Maitland-Niles reinforced the defense as a right wing-back. In a battle for pride, this concession was productive. The hosts tried to tighten up at the back, but also threatened themselves.

A consolation goal rewarded their efforts. Nuamah forced Donnarumma to parry a close range header from a corner, then Zaïre-Emery clipped the heel of Tagliafico in the six yard box. Tolisso hit a shot to the left of the goalkeeper from twelve yards. But it was too little, too late. The deficit was too high.


The league table continues to come closer to the norm. PSG now sit second in Ligue 1, only two points behind Monaco, with the second most goals scored and the second fewest conceded. Enrique cautioned a stance of too much praise: both aspects of his press and possess game model require more time to refine. But the firepower of this side in the final third will be too great for most of the competition in France— and the acquisition of Randal Kolo Muani only reasserts this reality.

Meanwhile, the mess at Lyon persists. Blanc termed this defeat a nightmare, and his team lay at the bottom of the standings with a mere point from their first four fixtures. His words after the final whistle were of a man who had accepted his part in this crisis but had also resigned himself to the club’s fate. This institution has been in the doldrums for a long time, and its finances hinder sporting development. Now that the window has shut, he must scramble for a solution with this set of players.

Match plots will be added as soon as possible.

"Possession as a philosophy is overrated. Possession of the ball as a tool is underestimated." João Cancelo stan (19) [ View all posts ]


Be the first to comment on this article

Leave a Reply

Go to TOP