On a late Sunday night, Marseille got a home win against Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1 with two Dimitri Payet goals. Lyon scored a goal in the second half to reduce the margin to one goal, and the fiercely fought ‘Choc des Olympiques’ ended 2-1 in Marseille’s favour. 

This tactical analysis will summarise where exactly the game was won or lost between the two sides.

Lineups

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

Olympique Lyon were missing their star man Memphis Depay. Cornet came in to replace him on the left-wing. However, André Villas-Boas had almost no issue of such. Marseille fielded a lot of their main team players such as Dario Benedetto, Dimitri Payet and their midfield three of Kamara, Rongier and Sanson.

Marseille have tried a number of formations this season, and the 4-1-4-1 has been used before in the season by the ex-Chelsea manager Andres Villas-Boas, so this isn’t an experiment by any means.

However, Depay’s absence has forced Rudi Garcia to come up with a different formation. Olympique Lyonnais often deploy a 4-4-2 with Depay as the left forward. With their star man unavailable, Garcia switched 4-2-3-1 to make use of Cornet in his more natural role. So, let’s dive deep to see how did these tactics fair?

Olympique Lyon’s attacking setup

The visitors had somewhat of a unique system. Most attacking systems in modern football are link-ups between the full-back and the winger, with the former going forward out wide to offer width, otherwise known as the overlap.

Olympique Lyon was the total opposite. Both the winger and full-backs linked up well, but instead of an overlapping full-back, you had them underlap and go straight into the box, while their more advanced counterparts were offering more width.

For example, if Maxwell Cornet and Youssuf Kone on the left went forward, Cornet would be sitting out wide with the ball while Kone would underlap into the box from a narrow position. While certainly not the most niche tactic, it isn’t a common one either.

While both of the wide outlets are attacking, a nearby midfielder provides cover on the flank to close the space on Marseille and not allow a deadly counter-attack to set off.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

As Kone receives the ball, he prepares to take it forward but on a more narrow angle than his advance counterpart Cornet.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

Cornet stays as wide as he can. Kone’s space is being closed on and can’t stay as narrow as he wants to be. Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Reine-Adelaide goes to cover the space behind Kone to avoid a potentially dangerous counter-attack.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

Here is another example earlier in the game. Cornet is out wide and about to receive the ball while Youssuf Kone makes a run for the underlap while staying at a more narrow position than Cornet.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

As you can see, Kone is ahead of Cornet but in front of him rather than behind like overlapping full-backs normally are. In amidst of all this, Reine-Adelaide goes for the cover just like in the aforementioned example.

Marseille defensive setup

This was very easy to see, and it was man to man. The home team managed to stay compact while marking one by one.

Instead of leaving the less dangerous players open, Andres Villas-Boas assured that everyone would be taken on by somebody. This applied at least to anyone in or near the final third.

Everyone except for Dario Benedetto went to join defensively and sat behind the midway line in order to form a wall with the number of bodies inside their own half. Payet and Lopez would drift to a more narrow position to close down on the defenders allowing them less space. This killed some counter-attacking opportunities, but keep in mind that Marseille took an early lead and by that point there needed to be more of an emphasis on holding their lead.

The two centre-backs would stay in line as would the full-backs in order to keep that shape, but in the case of Lyon reaching the final third, they would continue to sit there and rely on the midfield to cover them as they had the primary task of taking on the attackers, not allowing them to get to the backline and cutting off attacks. In other words, the central defenders were really only there for last-ditch defending in a tactical sense.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

A direct pass from Lyon saw Marseille poorly positioned and their full-backs had to sprint back in order to prevent any clear cut chance created by the opposition. Meanwhile, you can see the centre-backs did not venture at all from their position and are there for any last-ditch efforts.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

As you can see here, once the players have all transitioned into defence, they each take their man and assure that there is no danger to be found.

Also, notice how the centre-backs are still dropping deep into their own box in order to get out of any big chance created by the opposition. While Ćaleta-Car is taking on Mousa Dembele of Olympique Lyon, he still has to stay within his current line to not allow the offside trap to fail. He is relying on his midfield counterparts to cover him and he’s in the way to stop the no.9 from getting any dangerous situations.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

It’s a similar situation here. There are three defenders taking on their attackers and the two centre-backs in position, with one (in this case, Ćaleta-Car) taking on the opposing no.9 (Dembele).

You may notice they are allowing some space, and this is because in case they lose the duel and get dribbled by their opponents, they’d be gifting a ton of space, so they are really closing down on that possible opportunity for the Olympique Lyon attackers.

Marseille’s attacking setup

Marseille played fast attacking football where a lot of their forward and midfielders would run up in transition and offer themselves out in offence. We mentioned how defensively they had plenty of players in their own half. While not quite as much in offence, they still had a lot of bodies joining the counter-attack.

Particularly, most of the attacks came through former West Ham winger Dimitri Payet. He would cut inside during almost every attack and would even drift to become an attacking midfielder and use his superior technique to try and make a difference within the game.

In each counter, there would be one wide outlet depending on what side of the pitch the game was being played at. For example, if the game would be played on the right, Sarr would join the attack as a full back and offer some width. The midfielders would also underlap into the box and try to play the one-two. However, unlike Lyon, the midfield did this and not the full-backs. The latter would only stay out wide.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

Lopez treads inside with the ball while his defensive counterpart Sarr would stay out wide to offer some width to the game and receive any possible clearance from Lyon to the side. Payet as you can see, is in the middle rather than out left.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

Lopez makes a pass to Payet and makes a run into the box expecting the return pass. His intention was the one-two with Dimitri Payet and being able to stay onside in the process.

Ligue 1 2019-20: Olympique Marseille vs Olympique Lyon Tactical Analysis tactics

You can clearly see Lopez in the box and still running, expecting the return pass from his teammate, but Payet trusted in his technical ability and took a shot at goal, which did end in a goal for Marseille.

Conclusion

In this analysis, we saw that this was a very even and entertaining game. Lyon and Marseille both had their attacking moments, but tactically there was a lot of understanding from the players. Marseille had to cut down on the opponent’s attacks by closing space in a man to man marking scheme where almost everyone was involved, and Lyon played a unique system in which the full-backs underlap rather than over.

It was a deserved result for the home team though as they were able to take their chances and keep Lyon out with good man to man marking and last-ditch defending.


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