Lyon were looking to apply pressure on Lille in second place, who drew 1-1 with Strasbourg in their last match, whilst Monaco were looking to extend their three-match unbeaten run. Lyon, fresh from earning a respectable 0-0 draw against Barcelona in midweek could have moved to within two points of Lille with victory.
Monaco, who have been on something of a resurgence since Leonardo Jardim was reappointed following Theirry Henry’s disappointing spell in charge, were able to navigate to a comfortable 2-0 victory. In this tactical analysis, we will explain how they managed to nullify the threat of Lyon and emerge victorious at the Stade Louis II stadium.
Monaco’s defensive structure
Monaco pressed out of a 4-4-2 formation with Aleksandr Golovin pushing forward to support Radamel Falcao. This provided them with access to both of Lyon’s centre backs and Lucas Tousart who was the deepest of the midfielders in order to prevent them from advancing up the pitch. Cesc Fabregas and Adrien Silva were then able to cover passes into Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele in more advanced areas. Gelson Martins and Rony Lopes positioned themselves between the fullback and wide player using their cover shadows to prevent passes being played into them.
This pressing structure made it difficult for Lyon to progress vertically and lead to lots of ball circulation through the fullbacks. Whilst Lyon enjoyed more possession they struggled to turn this into efforts on target, managing just three in the match.
Throughout the match, Monaco were very direct in transition moments looking to take advantage of the spaces left by Lyon. When they regained possession their first thought was to pass or dribble the ball forward. As Lyon had both fullbacks positioned wide and just Tousart left to protect the defence, when Monaco won the ball they were able to attack an exposed defensive structure.
Monaco focused on vertical passes into Radamel Falcao with midfield runners supporting the attack. Through the pace of Martins, Lopes and Golovin they were able to provide support for the ball possessor. When they won the ball and attacked both Fabregas and Silva provided defensive stability in the middle of the pitch. This allowed them to run attack without fear of being left exposed defensively.
Following an early injury to Martin Terrier, Memphis Depay was introduced with Aouar moving out to the left with Depay playing centrally behind Moussa Dembele. This move caused a lack of balance to the Lyon attack as they often had no outlet on the left in advanced areas. When they were building up play this made it predictable for Monaco and enabled their midfield to be more compact as they didn’t have to shift large distances to cover a switch of play.
Ferland Mendy was often the sole player available in wide left areas of the pitch. It was only later in the game that he became more advanced which did enable Lyon to gain possession high on the left-hand side. With both Depay and Aouar drifting centrally Mendy was isolated which resulted in passes being played backwards often to a centre back.
As a result of these backwards passes Monaco were able to recover and set themselves back in their shape, which Lyon found very difficult to penetrate. Bruno Genesio really should have instructed one of them to maintain width on the left-hand side as this would have made it more difficult for Monaco to defend. By positioning an attacking player wider on the left this would have meant both Sidibe and Martins would need to shift across the pitch to prevent a 2v1 being created.
Monaco wrap up the victory
Monaco’s second goal came from a poor mistake from Leo Dubois, who was caught in possession whilst trying to dribble the ball out from defence on the halfway line. Lopes tackled him and dribbled straight at the retreating Lyon defence. Marcelo continued to back away worried about the threat of Falcao, which allowed Lopes to finish somewhat untidily into the far corner past Anthony Lopes who really should have done better. Instead of diving forwards he fell almost straight backwards and stuck his foot out as the ball just evaded his leg.
Lyon fail to capitalise
Lyon had an opportunity to get back into the game in the 70th minute with a penalty from Depay that was excellently saved by Danijel Subasic. Monaco failed to track the run of Dembele who was cleverly positioned between Kamil Glik and Sidibe before bending his run to keep himself onside. His touch took him into the penalty area where Glik dived in and brought him down.
The upturn in performances from Monaco since Henry has left has seen them move out of the relegation zone. It is immediately obvious that they possess a greater threat on the counter-attack as they are able to move the ball forward quickly and have plenty of forward runners to exploit the spaces left by their opponents. As for Lyon, they will be looking to move on from what was ultimately a very disappointing performance for them when they have Toulouse in their next Ligue 1 match.