Belgian First Division A 2020/21: Anderlecht vs Royal Excel Mouscron – tactical analysis
With the Belgian First Division A recently starting its 2020/2021 campaign, it is vital that each team gets off to a bright start. In this match, Anderlecht faced Royal Excel Mouscron. Anderlecht had just received confirmation that their player-manager, Vincent Kompany, would be retiring from playing to focus solely on management. This was the former Bundesliga player, EPL winner and ex-Manchester City captain’s first match in a dedicated managerial role. The hosts went into the match unbeaten after a win and a draw in their opening matches. Royal Excel Mouscron were looking for their first win of the season after a draw and a loss.
The match finished 1-1 but was not without incident. Anderlecht dominated the match in terms of possession, pressing and front foot tactics. Mouscron had a man sent off in the first half which seemingly put the writing on the wall for an Anderlecht win, given their underlying performance statistics throughout the match and their extra player. Anderlecht got the breakthrough in the second half via a penalty. However, after the goal, surprisingly, possession statistics became closer and Mouscron were able to score an equaliser in the 90th minute. This tactical analysis will break the match down into various game moments to provide further analysis and insights into the tactics utilised by each team.
Anderlecht lined up in a 4-4-1-1 shape on paper, whereas Royal Excel Mouscron went for a 4-2-3-1. After the red card, Mouscron moved to a 4-4-1.
However, such line-ups and formations were not constant throughout different game phases. This can be seen by analysing the image of the average positions below. On average, Anderlecht played a 2-3-2-3 whilst Mouscron went for a 2-4-4.
The average positions also give us an insight into the match statistics. We can see that Anderlecht were positioned much higher up the pitch, whilst Royal Excel Mouscron adopted a deeper position. This is reflected in the possession, pressing intensity and xG.
Anderlecht dominated possession, which influenced their high average positions. We can see how Mouscron forced possession back after Anderlecht’s goal, this could have also been influenced by Anderlecht’s decision to contain the lead, rather than increasing risk with offensive tactics.
Anderlecht dominated possession high up the pitch, this set them up for a high-intensity pressing strategy, given they were high in the opposition half when they lost the ball. Mouscron had a preference to stay in shape, rather than create spaces by pressing Anderlecht fast and high.
The ball dominance, high positions and intense pressing led to numerous chances being created for Anderlecht. The xG stat argues that if finishing, goalkeeping and luck was performed to the expected standard, Anderlecht would have won the match 2-0 or 2-1. Mouscron did not create many high-quality chances but outperformed their xG to take a point from the match.
Anderlecht dominate the ball
We know Anderlecht dominated possession for most of the match. In possession, they commonly used a 2-3-2-3 formation, the centre-backs pushed up to the halfway line and they moved the ball to try and find spaces for passes between the lines. The players passed the ball wide and then central to try to stretch the Mouscron lines to create spaces. They had little preference to which side of the pitch they attacked.
Royal Excel Mouscron sit deep
Out of possession for long periods, Royal Excel Mouscron used a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 in a mid-block. They stayed narrow to block passing lanes and allowed Anderlecht to play out wide and then pressed the ball, forcing them to move it central and backwards. Mouscron allowed Anderlecht to progress into their half before engaging.
Royal Excel Mouscron try to counter but Anderlecht give their opponents little time
Mouscron tried to counter before the opening goal, which was a penalty, for Anderlecht, but they frequently only had one attacker to try to hit. This defence to attack transition goes hand in hand with Anderlecht’s attack to defence transition.
Anderlecht’s high and/or intense pressure on the ball forced Mouscron to play quickly, limiting precision and essentially making the direct pass a clearance on many occasions.
When Mouscron did find themselves with an opportunity to counter and multiple players to contribute to the attack, Anderlecht still engaged quickly but also recognised if a tactical foul was needed to stop the opposition progressing.
How the game changed late on
After Anderlecht scored the penalty, Royal Excel Mouscron saw they had nothing left to lose and decided to play more on the front foot. Their defensive line pushed higher in all phases, they actively pressed more, played from the back, progressed and committed more men forward. For Anderlecht, the opposite happened. By taking the lead, in combination with Mouscron’s tactics, they played more conservatively and their defensive line dropped, the press dropped to favour shape and Anderlecht were cautious of going for the second goal and getting caught.
With the lead and the extra man, Anderlecht should have been able to see the game out, however, a cross into the box with multiple committed forwards led to a glancing header into the far post in additional time. There was not a numerical overload in the box overall, but there was when we look at the number of attackers compared to defenders who are goal side. When defending a lead in the final minutes, Anderlecht should have created a defensive overload to increase their chances of defending the cross and holding on to the win.
Overall, based on underlying stats and match domination, Anderlecht deserved to win the match. However, they could not score the second goal to kill the game. After the opening goal, Anderlecht played more conservatively and relinquished the control of possession, Royal Excel Mouscron pushed for an equaliser. Despite Anderlecht still creating chances in this period, Mouscron were able to score in the 90th minute to take a point. An effective performance for Anderlecht but the result did not match and more could have been done for the goal conceded. For Royal Excel Mouscron, they may not be happy with the performance, but a draw at Anderlecht whilst playing with 10 men will provide a lot of satisfaction.