Olympique Lyonnais – Toulouse: Lacklustre Lyon Left Winless In Five Consecutive Matches (1-1)
Peter Bosz’s misfiring Lyon were in desperate need for a victory when they hosted newly-promoted Toulouse at the Groupama Stadium. The Dutch head coach was a man under pressure after a terrible recent run of form, so much so that he himself labelled this match as a must-win. His side failed to deliver, though, as they could only come away with a frustrating point.
Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.
There was a real buzz of excitement when Peter Bosz was appointed as Lyon’s head coach prior to the 2021/22 season, as an attack-minded coach was taking charge of a youth-infused side. He failed to live up to the hype, though, as he could only guide the club to a disappointingly low eighth-place finish last season. They showed faith in him by sticking with him through the summer, and that initially seemed a good decision as Lyon were keeping step with the league leaders till their 5-0 win over Angers, but have gone on to lose four matches on the bounce since.
Toulouse were just two points behind the home side going into this fixture, partly of course due to Lyon’s struggles, but also because of their positive start to the campaign. In a season where four sides are set to be relegated from France’s top flight, newly-promoted sides are even more endangered, but the Ligue 2 title holders have been proving their mettle with three wins and a couple of draws.
Lyon appeared to adopt a 4-4-2 formation for this fixture, with the young back line of Malo Gusto, Thiago Mendes, Castello Lukeba and Nicolás Tagliafico ahead of Anthony Lopes in goal. Johann Lepenant and Corentin Tolisso were in midfield with Tetê and Karl Toko-Ekambi on the flanks, whilst Alexandre Lacazette and Moussa Dembélé led the attack.
For Toulouse, Maxime Dupé had Anthony Rouault and Rasmus Nicolaisen as the two center-backs in front of him. Mikkel Desler was suspended so Kévin Keben made his full senior debut for Toulouse as the right back with Issiaga Sylla on the left. Stijn Spierings had Brecht Dejaeghere and Branco van den Boomen for company in midfield, whilst Fares Chaibi, Zakaria Aboukhlal and Thijs Dallinga made up the front three.
Lacazette stars in a deeper role
Since joining from Arsenal in the summer, Lacazette had been used as Lyon’s first-choice striker and returned with a decent tally of four goals and an assist in nine matches. However, this meant that Dembélé, who was Lyon’s top scorer in the league last season with 21 goals, had to play second fiddle.
In order to accommodate both of them, Bosz decided to deploy Lacazette in a number ten role behind Dembélé in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He needed just a couple of minutes in this match to make a definitive impact on the scoreline from this position, as he set up Tetê for the opener.
3rd minute: From a deeper area, Lacazette plays a first-time through ball to assist Tetê after receiving Dembélé’s wall pass.
Lacazette continued to have a good game in this role, attempting more shots than any other player on the pitch (4) and creating the second-most chances of anyone on the pitch (3). His movement in these areas also proved to be an issue for the Toulouse midfield throughout the match, as they had to constantly check behind their backs to track him.
Lyon fail to establish control despite leading
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Bosz, not just during his time at Lyon but throughout his career, is that his sides always struggle to close out a game. Last season, Lyon took the lead on 24 occasions but ended up dropping points in almost a third of them.
In such a match, you would expect a club with European aspirations to coast home comfortably with all three points after scoring so early on against a newly-promoted side, but that is not the Lyon way. They did create a few good chances which were left untaken partly thanks to some good goalkeeping from Dupé, but more importantly, the home side failed to prevent Toulouse from posing a threat on the break.
This inability to establish control over proceedings meant that Lyon struggled to kill off the match, so Toulouse always had hope. In the first half, they were unable to convert promising positions to clear-cut chances, but they did not let up and were ultimately rewarded in the second period.
Defensive disaster as Lyon drop points again
On the other side of the half-time break, Toulouse really began to apply consistent pressure on the Lyon goal. Things took a step up after the arrival of Rafael Ratao for Dallinga just before the hour-mark, as the visitors began to fashion a number of chances. Besides posing a set-piece threat, Toulouse came close to equalizing in the 62nd minute when Ratao hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Just a few minutes later, though, Lyon’s defense took matters into their own hands and decided to absolutely gift a goal to the Brazilian forward. They gave the ball away deep in their own half whilst trying to build out from the back, and then made a complete hash of defending as three white shirts ended up on the floor before Ratao calmly applied a finish from a vast expanse of space inside the box.
The home side were naturally forced to push hard in search of a winner after conceding, but the shotmap from the match lays bare their issues. Lyon did attempt a healthy number of shots, but most of them were low-quality chances from long range or tight angles, so Dupé’s goal was never greatly threatened and Toulouse came away with a point.
Lyon have finally ended their rotten run of four consecutive defeats, but this draw will feel much more like two points lost than a point won. They are already eight points off the top three with the sides around them yet to play this weekend, so their Champions League hopes are already fading. Bosz has failed to address the issues that plagued the side last season, so it is no surprise that his future as Lyon’s head coach is looking dicey.
Toulouse, on the other hand, have proven their credentials yet again in Ligue 1 this season. They have already forged a seven-point gap to the four-team drop zone, and are looking well on course for survival after a quarter of the season.
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