Coupe de France 2019/20: Lyon vs PSG – tactical analysis
Lyon hosted PSG on Wednesday evening in what was the first of two Coupe de France semi-finals to have taken place this week. Les Parisiens booked their place in the 2019/20 Coupe de France final as they registered a dominant 5-1 win in their semi-final fixture.
Despite losing Wednesday’s fixture by four goals in the end, Lyon delivered a performance that they may be able to have taken some pride in throughout the majority of this game. The two teams were tied at a scoreline of 1-1 up until Lyon defender Fernando Marçal received a 61st-minute red card, after which PSG bagged four of their five goals in an eventful final 30 minutes.
This tactical analysis piece will examine the tactics that were deployed by both of these two sides in Wednesday’s Coupe de France semi-final. In this tactical analysis piece, we will analyse the Lyon tactics that successfully kept them level with PSG up until their catastrophic red card as well as PSG’s ultimately successful tactics from Wednesday’s fixture.
Lineups and formations
Rudi Garcia’s Lyon lined up in a 4-1-4-1 shape for this fixture. Lucas Tousart and Houssem Aouar played as a pair of ‘8’s in front of Lyon’s January signing Bruno Guimarães who played in the holding midfield role for this game. Meanwhile, Martin Terrier and Karl Toko Ekambi played on either side of the midfield as Lyon’s wingers in this game.
Lyon’s midfield five played a vital role in the defensive side of Lyon’s game in this recent fixture. The shape of their midfield was important for helping them to maintain a numerical superiority to their opponents in the centre of the park. In addition to that, Lyon’s midfield played a crucial role in thwarting their opponent’s attempts at building out from the back at times in this fixture.
Thomas Tuchel set his PSG side up in their regular 4-2-2-2 shape for this Coupe de France semi-final clash. Les Parisiens’ front four consisted of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani, and Pablo Sarabia for this game.
Mbappé and Neymar frequently interchanged positions over the course of this game, with one of them occupying a central role while the other one moved out to the left-wing. However, Cavani and Sarabia generally held their respective positions throughout this game, with Sarabia sticking to the right-wing and Cavani holding his position as a centre forward.
Sarabia and whoever was occupying PSG’s left-wing position at the time, played an important role in PSG’s defensive shape. Both wingers generally had to track back to take up a position in PSG’s defensive shape, creating a 4-4-2.
In the offensive phase, PSG usually switched to a back three with one of their two central midfielders dropping into the defensive line, thus allowing their full-backs to advance up the pitch. One of PSG’s two full-backs would then usually join their front four to create an attacking line of five. Lyon’s 4-1-4-1 similarly allowed them to create an offensive line of five with their advanced midfield four frequently joining centre-forward Moussa Dembélé in the attack.
PSG’s attacking five
As mentioned above, PSG set out to create an attacking line of five in the offensive phase, consisting of their front four attackers in addition to one overlapping full-back.
Right-back Thomas Meunier often advanced up the pitch to join his side’s forward line, while left-back Layvin Kurzawa was the one who often found himself sitting back in the defence. The two full-backs worked in unison to help create PSG’s offensive shape in this game.
We can see an example of the shape that was deployed by PSG during the offensive phase throughout the majority of this game in the image above. This image shows us how Meunier positioned himself in an advanced position on the right-wing in order to create an attacking five during the offensive phase.
By creating an offensive line of five, PSG attempted to overload Lyon’s four-man backline. As we can see here, Les Gones’ left-winger Terrier followed Meunier’s attacking movement, dropping deep into his own half in order to try and defend against the offensive full-back at times.
This image also shows us how Meunier’s overlapping runs allowed right-winger Sarabia to drift to the inside, occupying the right half-space, as he is in this particular passage of play. The Spaniard was particularly dangerous from these positions when combining with the overlapping right-back to create a 2v1 situation versus Lyon left-back Marçal.
This next image shows us an example of one passage of play that featured a successful combination between the overlapping Meunier and Sarabia on the right-wing. On this particular occasion, we can see Meunier carrying the ball from deep into the opposition half. At the same time, we can see Sarabia subsequently drifting inside as a result, now occupying the right half-space.
Meunier’s quick movement combines with Sarabia’s run to the inside here to create a 2v1 advantage in favour of the PSG pair against Lyon left-back Marçal, who we can see hurriedly tracking back along with the rest of Lyon’s back four in this image. Terrier can also be seen tracking back in an attempt to maintain pace with Meunier’s run in this image, however, we can see that the Belgian right-back has already dribbled past the Lyon midfielder here.
As this play moves on, Meunier finds Sarabia attacking the right half-space. The Spanish playmaker subsequently takes the ball further inside and goes on to play the ball towards Mbappé on the edge of the box, which is what we can see happening in the image above.
This image provides us with a clear example of how PSG’s offensive line of five managed to effectively overload Lyon’s backline at times in this game. We can see here how Meunier and Sarabia’s link-up on the right-wing managed to draw all of Lyon’s back four over towards that side of the pitch. As we can see in the bottom left corner of this image, Neymar is then left unmarked on PSG’s left-wing.
Mbappé exhibits impressive skill and awareness in this passage of play. As Sarabia plays the ball to him, he dummies it, allowing the pass to run through to the unmarked Neymar. The Brazilian attacker manages to get a shot off inside the box, however, he ultimately misses the target on this occasion. However, despite not producing a goal, this passage of play demonstrates how effective PSG’s attacking five were at creating problems for the opposition in this game.
Lyon’s defensive shape and pressing
When they managed to break free on the attack, PSG proved to be a difficult force for Lyon’s defence to have to attempt to stop throughout this fixture. However, Lyon were set up in an effective manner to prevent PSG from easily breaking free on too many occasions in this game.
PSG struggled to build from the back throughout this game. They had a difficult time creating chances from passages of play in which they maintained a large portion of the possession. This was mainly due to the effectiveness of Lyon’s press and defensive shape, both of which made life difficult for PSG during the build-up.
We can see an example of Lyon’s typical defensive shape during a period of PSG build-up in the image above. Firstly, this image shows us the horizontally compact nature of Lyon’s midfield during the defensive phase in Wednesday’s game.
As PSG play with the ball on the right side of their defence, Lyon’s midfield shift over to that side of the pitch as a compact unit. We can see right-winger Toko Ekambi sitting quite centrally here, maintaining a relatively short distance between himself and central midfielder Tousart.
Lyon’s compact shape made it difficult for PSG to try and play through them in this game. Furthermore, this image also shows us how PSG’s full-backs also generally sat quite narrow during the build-up phase here. While Lyon’s compactness may have created some space on the opposite side of the pitch for PSG to quickly switch the ball to, they lacked the width to effectively do this during the build-up for large portions of this game.
Lyon’s defensive shape also helped them to maintain a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch versus PSG’s central midfield duo. Due to their central overload, Lyon could afford to allow one central midfielder to press the PSG backline more aggressively during their attempts to build out from the back, without feeling the loss in midfield. We can see an example of this press in action in the image above.
Marquinhos received possession of the ball just prior to this image. As the left centre-back received possession, Lyon’s right central midfielder Tousart began to press the Brazilian defender quite aggressively. We can see an example of this press in action in the image above.
As Tousart begins to press Marquinhos, Toko Ekambi simultaneously shifts his positioning to a more central area, in order to close off the passing lane from Marquinhos to Mbappé. Tousart keeps the passing lane to Idrissa Gueye in his cover shadow as he presses Marquinhos, meanwhile, Guimarães and Aouar hold their positions in central midfield.
Lyon’s pressing and effective defensive shape helped them to thwart PSG’s build-up play consistently throughout this fixture.
With the centre of the pitch often closed off, PSG frequently found themselves forced to play the ball out to the wing from their defence. When PSG played the ball out to their wingers, it generally triggered a more aggressive Lyon press. We can see an example of this aggressive pressing in action in the image above.
On this particular occasion, we can see Neymar receiving the ball from Kurzawa on the left-wing. As the Brazilian winger receives possession here, Lyon right-winger Toko Ekambi immediately gets tight to him. In addition to that, Lyon’s nearside full-back, central midfielder, centre-back and the sole holding midfielder also join the press on the PSG winger.
Almost immediately after receiving the ball in the passage of play being shown in this image above, Neymar is forced to play the ball back to Kurzawa, due to Lyon’s effective pressing.
We can see that Mbappé has shifted over to the right-wing to offer support for Neymar in this passage of play. However, Lyon’s press congests too much of the area surrounding both Mbappé and Neymar, resulting in the Brazilian ultimately being forced to play the ball backwards.
Lyon’s counter-press was another effective element of their game in their recent Coupe de France fixture. The image above is taken from the passage of play which directly led to Lyon scoring the opening goal of this game. As we can see here, Lyon deployed an effective counter-press to begin the move which led to their opening goal.
Kurzawa had just won the ball back from Lyon in the moments immediately preceding this image. The PSG left-back subsequently attempted to start a counter-attack by playing the ball out to Mbappé, who we can see positioned on the left-wing here. However, Kurzawa’s pass fell short of the mark and was quickly intercepted by Lyon right-back Léo Dubois, who we can see quickly hunting down the loose ball in the image above.
As Dubois’ pressure pays off, he quickly combines with Toko Ekambi on the right-wing. The winger plays an inviting ball into the box which is subsequently put away by Terrier, who successfully scores the opening goal of the game.
Lyon’s pressure was a key part of their game throughout the majority of Wednesday’s Coupe de France fixture. Their midfield shape and well-organised pressing effectively helped them to stifle PSG’s build-up and chance creation. Furthermore, their aggressive counter-pressing helped them to forge chances of their own on occasion, such as the move which led to the opening goal of the game.
Lyon’s direct play
Lyon played with quite a direct style in-possession of the ball in this game. PSG didn’t press Les Gones particularly aggressively during this contest, however, they did deploy quite a high defensive line. Lyon attempted to combat this by trying to exploit their pacey attackers by executing plenty of long-balls over the PSG backline.
This image above shows us an example of Lyon’s direct style of play in Wednesday’s Coupe de France fixture. Here, we can see that PSG’s attackers weren’t pressing Lyon’s defence aggressively, despite having carried the ball near enough to the opposition half.
Despite their low pressure here, PSG deployed quite a high defensive line in this fixture. We can see PSG’s high line in the image above. Lyon’s pacey attackers, such as centre forward Moussa Dembélé attempted to take advantage of PSG’s high line throughout this game, with offensive runs such as the one we can see Dembélé making here.
Furthermore, Lyon’s defenders often looked to play balls such as the one we can see Marçal lining up here. Lyon managed to win a free-kick directly as a result of this long- ball, on this occasion. However, Les Gones managed to create plenty of chances throughout this game by building from the back in a more direct manner.
PSG’s effective counter-attacking
As stated previously, PSG struggled to create chances when building out from the back at times in this game. Lyon’s defensive shape made it difficult for Les Parisiens’ to play through them centrally in this game, while Lyon’s pressing was also effective at preventing PSG from building up through the wings.
PSG’s front four, and attacking line of five during the offensive phase, were particularly effective in 1v1 dribbling situations in this game. However, PSG struggled to create these scenarios regularly through their build-up play.
As a result of Lyon’s effective defending and pressing, PSG were at their most dangerous on the counter-attack in this game. PSG managed to regularly create the 1v1 dribbling situations that they were so effective in when they hit Lyon at pace, in transition.
This first image shows us the beginning of a dangerous PSG counter-attack. Here, we can see Lyon’s Guimarães attempting to play a pass from the central midfield out to the right-wing. However, as this pass is played, it is intercepted by the pacey Mbappé, who we can see tracking back in order to intercept this pass in the image above.
Mbappé successfully intercepts the central midfielder’s pass and subsequently goes on to use his pace and dribbling skill to carry the ball up the pitch.
This next image was taken just 11 seconds after the previous image showing Mbappé’s interception. Here, we can see Mbappé running at the opposition right-back, having carried the ball from within his own half to the edge of Lyon’s penalty area.
Lyon’s defensive shape wasn’t formed when Mbappé made his interception. As a result, the attacker could make use of his pace to quickly counter-attack Lyon’s weakened defensive structure.
While PSG often struggled to create effective attacking scenario’s throughout this game due to Lyon’s dominant defensive work, Mbappé successfully created a 1v1 dribbling scenario on the edge of the Lyon penalty are during this sequence of play.
Furthermore, we can see four PSG attackers rushing into the Lyon penalty area here, while just three Lyon defenders were present at this moment. In addition to the 1v1 dribbling scenario, PSG also successfully created an overload versus Lyon’s backline during this effective counter-attacking move. This shows us how effective PSG were in transition in Wednesday’s game.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, it may be fair to say that the 5-1 scoreline doesn’t completely do Lyon justice for their performance in this game. Lyon’s tactics were largely effective, both in defence and attack, up until Marçal’s disastrous sending off. Lyon were effective at shutting PSG down during the build-up on a number of occasions here, due to their effective defensive shape, as well as their well-organised pressing.
PSG’s counter-attacking quality ultimately proved to be too much for Lyon to handle at times in this game. The pace and dribbling quality displayed by PSG at points in this game played a large role in their dominant win.