Lyon hosted Brest this past Wednesday evening in a quarter-final clash of this season’s Coupe de la Ligue. Just three places and four points separated these two sides in the Ligue 1 table, at the time of this contest. However, the gulf in quality between these two sides was evident in this match.
Lyon ultimately advanced to the semi-finals, as they earned an impressive 3-1 win in this game versus Brest. Following Lyon’s impressive showing in this game, they can now look forward to a visit from Lille in the semi-final.
On top of a gulf in quality, Rudi Garcia’s intelligent and effective tactics gave his Lyon side an advantage. In this tactical analysis piece, we will analyse how Garcia’s tactics helped his Lyon side to overcome the challenge of Brest in this quarter-final fixture.
Lineups and formations
Garcia set the home side up in a 4-2-3-1 shape for this game. Lyon were almost at full-strength for this game, with the exception of a couple of players. Firstly, winger Maxwel Cornet received a rare start at left-back in this fixture. As Lyon were on top for most of the game, Cornet was deployed effectively as an attacking wing-back.
Meanwhile, regular first-choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes took to the bench for this game. Ciprian Tătăruşanu enjoyed a rare start in his stead.
Lyon retained this base 4-2-3-1 shape for the majority of this contest. However, they defended in a 4-4-2 for the majority of this fixture. Later on in the contest, they switched to a 4-3-1-2 as they saw out the game.
In attack, Cornet would generally play as high as the last line of Brest’s defence. This created somewhat of a 3-2-5 shape for Lyon in attack as their remaining three defenders and two holding midfielders would more-or-less sit back and cover for their five attacking players.
Brest manager Olivier Dall’Oglio set their opponents up in a similar shape to Lyon, on paper. Brest’s shape altered from Lyon’s mainly due to the depth of their wingers. As they were on the back foot for the majority of the contest, Brest’s wingers were usually forced to sit deeper. This usually created a 4-4-1-1 shape for the away side.
As well as the depth of their wingers, Brest’s shape differed from Lyon’s in that they generally remained flatter than their opponents. This made life difficult for Brest both in and out of possession.
Lyon’s offensive shape and heavy early focus down the left-wing
Lyon’s attacking 3-2-5 shape, in possession of the ball, was clear from the very early stages of this game. Houssem Aouar, Martin Terrier, and Moussa Dembélé generally occupied more central roles in attack. One of those three would play centrally, while the other two would generally aim to play in the half-spaces.
Meanwhile, Cornet and right-winger Bertrand Traoré would usually provide the width in Lyon’s attack. With that said, Lyon’s attacking five played with fluidity throughout this game. The creation of the shape was more important than who performed which specific role. This allowed for a lot of movement and variation in Lyon’s attack.
This image above shows us an early example of Lyon’s attacking shape in this game. Immediately after kick-off, Lyon created their 3-2-5 shape and looked to put Brest under pressure.
As we can see, Cornet has pushed as high as Lyon’s forward line on the left-wing. Meanwhile, right-winger Traoré has dropped slightly deeper, coming in line with Lyon’s double-pivot of Thiago Mendes and Lucas Tousart.
The contrasting movement of these two wide players essentially creates a 3-3-3-1 shape for Lyon as they build out from the back. This shape was effective at allowing Lyon to create space in wide areas.
In this image, we see Traoré enjoying space, free to receive a pass on the right-wing. Brest left-back Romain Perraud is hesitant to follow Traoré deep as this would allow Lyon to create a 4v3 overload up-front.
Brest’s narrow shape is effective at preventing Lyon from playing through the centre in this passage of play. However, it leaves clear gaps for Lyon to exploit in the wide areas.
Lyon focused their attacks heavily down the left-wing during the opening 10 minutes of this game. They effectively advanced the ball down the left flank on multiple occasions during this time period. Despite this, Lyon struggled to break through Brest’s backline. The image above shows us an example of one of Lyon’s early attacks down the left-wing.
As Lyon played the ball through to Cornet on the left-wing, Brest would move to a 5-3-2 shape. We can see the first two lines of this shape in this image above. Brest’s right-winger Julien Faussurier would shift to right-back as the ball made its way to the left-wing. Meanwhile, Brest’s two central midfielders would also shift to the left to offer support.
Brest moving to this shape accomplished two things. Firstly, this helped Brest to create an overload on this wing. This made it difficult for Cornet and Lyon to create clear chances.
Secondly, as we can see marked in this image, this defensive shape created somewhat of a cage around the Lyon player occupying the near half-space. In the case of this attack, Dembélé is the player being caged by Brest’s midfield and defence. This was very effective in winning the ball back for Brest.
As the ball was played into the half-space from Cornet, Brest are quick to tackle Dembélé and swiftly win back possession. This was an effective tactic for preventing Lyon’s attackers from playing in the early stages of this game.
This image shows us how Lyon began to get around Brest’s effective defending. Here, we can see Cornet running onto the end of a ball being played down the left-wing. In contrast to the previous image, Cornet is clearly enjoying much more space to run into here.
As we can see, Lyon centre-back Jason Denayer carries the ball forward from the backline. This helps Lyon to create an overload in the central areas. Faussurier is unable to immediately track Cornet’s run here as he also has to worry about Denayer’s run.
Cornet is subsequently able to enjoy much more freedom on the wing on this occasion. He manages to whip a dangerous ball into the box which falls to Traoré. The winger’s shot then forces a save out of goalkeeper Donovan Léon.
Lyon’s central overloads vs Brest’s poor build-up
The central overload created by Denayer’s run was just one of multiple occasions in which Lyon created chances in this manner throughout this game. The creation of central overloads became an integral part of Lyon’s build-up play in this game.
In contrast to Lyon, Brest struggled during the build-up throughout this contest. They generally attempted to deploy a similar attacking shape to Lyon in this game, if not even more attacking. However, their attempts to build from the back were less effective than Lyon’s tactics of creating central overloads.
This image above shows us an example of Brest’s attacking shape during this contest. We can see that both of Brest’s full-backs pushed high on each wing. Meanwhile, both of Brest’s wingers joined their centre-forward and ‘10’ in more central positions. This left only Brest’s centre-backs and central midfielders sitting deeper.
In this image, we can see that one of Brest’s two central midfielders, Hianga M’bock, has dropped between the centre-backs. This allows Brest’s centre-backs to split wider. However, this also isolated Brest’s remaining central midfielder, Hugo Magnetti, as we can see above.
Magnetti is heavily outnumbered by Lyon players in this image. This makes him an impossible passing option for his defenders. Meanwhile, Brest’s attackers are playing quite flat on Lyon’s backline. Their lack of movement makes them unattractive passing options as they are sitting on Lyon’s defensive line, and behind Lyon’s midfield line.
Brest’s near winger does present a decent passing option, however, as he receives the ball, Lyon shift their press over to that side of the pitch. Lyon subsequently force play all the way back to Brest’s goalkeeper through their press. Goalkeeper Léon goes on to play a long-ball which helps Lyon to regain possession.
Brest consistently struggled to effectively build from the back in this manner throughout this game. Their midfield options were cut off in a similar way to how they cut off Lyon’s midfield options earlier in the game. However, in contrast to Lyon, they failed to find an effective solution to this problem. Brest’s failure to control the midfield and play through the lines played a major role in their loss here.
Meanwhile, Lyon’s effective control of the midfield battle was arguably the biggest key to their success in this game. Lyon successfully overloaded the midfield in multiple different ways throughout this contest. Furthermore, their players got between the lines much more than Brest’s did. This helped them to effectively move the ball from the back into the final third consistently.
Our first example of this can be seen in the image above. Here we can see Traoré on the ball in Lyon’s midfield. He has vacated the right-wing in order to drop deep between Brest’s front and midfield lines.
Traoré’s movement creates a central triangle with Mendes and Tousart. Brest are unable to deal with the additional man in midfield and Traoré is able to advance the ball. Perraud is, once again, hesitant to leave his left-back position, as we can see. This allows Traoré time and space on the ball.
In this image, we can see the difference between Lyon’s attacking shape and Brest’s attacking shape. Here we can see that only one of Lyon’s attackers, Martin Terrier on the right-wing, is sitting on Brest’s last line. Dembélé and Aouar have both dropped deeper, in between Brest’s backline and midfield line.
Aouar and Dembélé help Lyon to create an overload in the midfield. Dembéle gives M’bock another body to worry about, meanwhile, Aouar gives Magnetti another body to worry about. This allows Kenny Tete to pick Mendes out, who can then advance the ball further up the pitch.
This image shows us another example of a defender pushing forwards in possession to create Lyon’s midfield overload. In this image, we can see that Tete has carried the ball into the midfield. Furthermore, we can see Traoré occupying a central position in this image.
Traoré is able to enjoy all of the time and space in the world as Tete finds him in the centre. He subsequently advances the ball out to the left-wing where he finds Aouar. Aouar takes the ball forwards and is unlucky not to score as he rattles the crossbar with a longshot.
Lyon’s third and final goal of the game also came as a result of a midfield overload. In the image above, we can see 16-year-old wunderkind, Rayan Cherki in possession of the ball. Cherki’s dribbling attracts three Brest players towards him, including two midfielders.
This creates space for Lyon’s central midfielders, which Lyon swiftly took advantage of. Cherki plays an effective backheel pass to fellow second-half substitute, Maxence Caqueret. Caqueret finds Mendes, who we can see calling for the ball in this image. Due to the space in midfield, Mendes has time to pick his spot and drills the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
We can see from this analysis that Lyon and Brest attempted to build from the back very differently in this game. While Brest struggled to get the ball out of their own half on many occasions, Lyon created central overloads to advance the ball past Brest’s midfield and create numerous chances throughout this game.
Lyon’s central overloads were also effective in influencing the game directly in the final third. This is evident by the impact of a central overload in the creation of Lyon’s third goal.
Lyon’s high press
Lyon pressed very effectively from the front throughout this game. As Brest increasingly sent numbers forward, Lyon were able to effectively cut off the supply to their attackers. As Lyon then forced the play backwards, they pressed higher. This generally forced Brest to play the ball long, usually allowing Lyon to win the ball back.
This image shows us an example of Lyon’s high press. Brest’s right-back remained in the defensive line on this occasion, meanwhile, their left-back pushed high up the pitch, as we can see.
At this point, Brest’s back three are playing the ball amongst each other, as they are unable to play past Lyon’s high press. Brest’s Mathias Autret can be seen beginning to drop deep into the midfield to try and help Brest move out from the back.
However, as we can see, Lyon centre-back Joachim Anderson alerts Mendes of Autret’s movement. We can see Mendes glancing over his shoulder and moving to cover the roaming Autret.
Lyon were effective at dealing with Brest’s attempts at building out from the back. However, Brest also offered little movement further up the pitch for their backline to work with.
On this occasion, as a left centre-back, Dénis Bain receives the ball he plays it long into centre-forward Alexandre Mendy. Mendy controls the ball well and moves it out to right-winger Faussurier. However, Faussurier’s cross is poor and Lyon earn a goal kick.
Lyon’s high press was effective throughout this game, as we can see from this second half image above. Here, we can see how Lyon’s press cut off Brest’s attack from their defence.
Brest’s lack of midfield control is also evident in this image. At this moment, in this passage of play, they have no player occupying a central midfield position. M’bock is in line with the attackers in this image, while Magnetti has dropped into the backline to try and get on the ball.
Brest are ultimately forced backwards, once again, under pressure from Lyon. Goalkeeper Léon then plays a poor long-ball which allows Lyon to regain possession high up the pitch.
Lyon’s high press was effective at forcing turnovers and helping them to control this game. Lyon only really got punished for their high line on one occasion, in the 84th minute of the game when Samuel Grandsir scored as a result of a long-ball which put Lyon’s backline on the back foot. However, that goal was ultimately nothing more than a consolation for Brest.
Brest’s high line and aggressive centre-backs
Midfield supremacy helped Lyon to control this game but taking advantage of Brest’s high line helped Lyon to get the goals necessary to win this game. Brest played with a relatively high line throughout this contest. They attempted to prevent Lyon from enjoying much space on the ball.
They wanted to force Lyon to play in their own half through the use of a high line. Furthermore, their centre-backs played quite aggressively and were active in pressing into midfield, if presented with a ball-winning opportunity.
Brest’s high line ultimately allowed too much space for quick attackers such as Dembélé, Terrier, and Aouar to exploit throughout this contest.
This image above shows us an example of Lyon exploiting Brest’s high line in the first half. On this occasion, we can see Aouar playing a through ball to Dembélé who we can see running in behind Brest’s high backline.
Dembélé manages to get onto the end of this pass and takes the ball all the way to Brest’s penalty area where he finishes to score Lyon’s first goal of the game.
This image shows us another example of Lyon making the most of a successful attempt at getting in behind Brest’s high line. On this occasion, we can see Terrier running in behind Brest’s back four. Deep playmaker Mendes manages to pick out his run with an excellent through ball.
This pass starts the attack which quickly leads to Lyon’s second goal of the game. Terrier gets onto the end of this pass and holds the ball up allowing his teammates to join the attack. Right-back Tete gets a low cross into the box which finds Aouar, who slots the ball away into the net.
Lyon exploited Brest’s high line effectively throughout this game. The effective exploitation of Brest’s high line results in both Lyon’s first and second goals. Lyon’s quick attackers and quality midfielders allowed them to take advantage of their midfield dominance and secure the victory in this one.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, it’s clear that Lyon were the dominant side throughout the course of this game. Lyon won this game through their dominance in the midfield. Their creation of central overloads helped them to build past Brest’s press to get the ball into their creative attacking players.
Meanwhile, Lyon effectively prevented Brest from building out from the back through their effective use of a high press. Brest struggled to gain any control in this game due to their lack of numbers in midfield. Lyon generally didn’t allow Brest to play in their half of the pitch, which made life difficult for Brest creatively.
The space in behind offered by Brest’s high line is all of the opportunity that Lyon needed to score goals. Their midfield had enough quality to punish Brest, as did their quick attackers who exploited Brest’s high defensive line in order to create both the first and second goals. Lyon did well to subsequently see this game out by continuing to effectively control the contest.