Coupe de la Ligue 2019/20: Lyon vs Lille – tactical analysis
Lyon hosted Lille on Tuesday in the first of two Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals to take place this week. Lyon ultimately walked away with the spoils and booked their place in Stade de France for the final of the competition following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory. They will meet winners of semi-final number two, PSG, in the final.
Tactically speaking, this game could accurately be described as a tale of two halves. Lille dominated much of the first half of this game, while Lyon managed to get themselves into the contest more in the second half, producing a more impressive showing. In 90 minutes, these two could not be separated as they played to a 2-2 draw.
In this tactical analysis piece, we will provide an analysis of the most prominent tactical decisions made by both sides in this game. We will analyse Lille’s effective tactics to prevent Lyon from playing through them in the first half, along with their effective attacking tactics. We will also look at how Lyon’s tactics changed in the second half to positively impact their performance.
Lineups and formations
Lyon lined up in a 4-1-4-1 shape for this game. Ciprian Tătăruşanu reassumed his position in goal for the hosts, replacing usual number one Anthony Lopes. Tătăruşanu has featured in all of Lyon’s Coupe de la Ligue games thus far on the road to the final.
Rafael da Silva also enjoyed a start at right-back in this game. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Maxence Caqueret earned his sixth first-team start of the season, as Lucas Tousart took to the bench. Other than those slightly more irregular inclusions, Lyon’s team provided no real surprises.
In attack, wingers Maxwel Cornet and Bertrand Traoré generally provided the width for Lyon. Meanwhile, the ‘8’s Caqueret and Houssem Aouar joined centre-forward Moussa Dembélé in more central attacking zones.
The visiting side Lille lined up in a 4-4-2 shape for Tuesday’s semi-final. Lille made just three changes to their more usual expected lineup for this game. Firstly, similar to Lyon, Léo Jardim enjoyed a run out in goal for Lille, in place of regular goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
Lille also rested both of their regular full-backs, Domagoj Bradarić and Mehmet Zeki Çelik for this game. In their place, Lille fielded Jérémy Pied at right-back and Reinildo Mandava at left-back.
Lille’s attacking full-backs and wingers combine to attack the half-space
In attack, one of Lille’s full-backs would generally overlap their near-side winger, subsequently providing the width on that wing and allowing the said winger to drift inside. One of Lille’s two central midfielders would push up and join the attack, while one would sit in front of their defence. This created something of a 3-1-4-2 shape for Lille in the build-up.
We can see an example of Lille’s offensive 3-1-4-2 shape, along with Lyon’s 4-1-4-1 defensive structure, in the image above. Here, we can see left-back Reinildo playing high up on the left-wing. He has vacated his left-back position in order to occupy a place in Lille’s attack during the build-up.
This leaves Lille with a back three. Just in front of them, we can see Boubakary Soumaré sitting between the defensive and midfield lines. While he sits deeper, his midfield partner Benjamin André has pushed up into the line of four playing just behind the two centre-forwards.
Lille generally assumed this shape during the build-up for much of this game. Lille’s offensive full-back helped them to create chances down the wing throughout this game. As the full-backs joined the attack, they frequently helped their side to create an overload versus the Lyon full-back. This was an effective tactic in helping Lille to create quality chances throughout the course of this fixture.
The above image shows us an example of Lille’s left-back receiving the ball high up on the left-wing. As the left-back pushes up, this allows Lille’s left-winger Jonathan Bamba to drift inside. As we can see, this creates a 2v1 situation in favour of Lille, versus Lyon right-back Rafael.
We can also see that Soumaré has joined the attack on this occasion. His positioning occupies Lyon’s right centre-back, Marcelo, preventing him from shifting across to cover Bamba’s run. This image gives us a perfect example of Lille’s attacking tactics in action, with their attacking six players overloading Lyon’s defence.
As this passage of play unfolds, Bamba is played through Lyon’s defensive line. He manages to play a low cross into the Lyon box which falls to centre-forward Victor Osimhen. Unfortunately for Lille, Osimhen’s shot is blocked on this occasion. However, their ability to effectively unlock Lyon’s defence is clear.
This image shows us an example of Lille’s attacking shape, with the right-back enjoying the freedom to get forward on this occasion. This allows Renato Sanches to shift inside, where he links up with the midfield.
We can see Lille form a rhombus shape as they overload Lyon in the midfield here. Sitting midfielder Soumaré forms the tip at one end, while centre-forward Nanitamo Ikoné drops deep to form the tip at the other end. Meanwhile, advanced central midfielder André links up with Sanches in the centre.
This bit of link-up play from Lille’s midfield is effective in dragging Lyon’s defence out of position. As Ikoné receives the ball in the image above, we can see Lyon left-back Fernando Marçal come out of the defensive line to press him. As this passage of play unfolds, Ikoné carries the ball further in-field. This subsequently drags Lyon centre-back Jason Denayer out of position also.
The movement of the two Lyon centre-backs opens up the right half-space. Osimhen and Sanches exploit this space. Osimhen receives the ball to feet and as he is tackled, the ball falls to Sanches who opens the scoring for Lille. This bit of play shows how effective Lille’s offensive structure was at times in this contest.
Lille’s press prevents Lyon from building up effectively in the first half
Lyon struggled to really get into this game throughout the first half. They couldn’t enjoy time on the ball for a sustained period of time during the first half. Their struggle to retain possession and build-out of their half of the pitch can largely be attributed to the effectiveness of Lille’s pressing, along with their compact defensive shape during this period.
This image shows us an example of Lille’s defensive shape. As we can see, their first line combines with their midfield line to form a hexagon shape around Lyon’s midfield. As Lyon attempt to play out from the back, Lille are able to effectively press them man-for-man due to their compact defensive shape.
In this image, we can see Denayer in possession of the ball. Ikoné is able to press Denayer as soon as he receives possession. While doing so, he keeps Thiago Mendes in his cover shadow, assuring that the midfielder can’t receive an easy pass. Denayer is subsequently forced to play the ball to left-back Marçal.
Lille’s press gets aggressive once Marçal receives the ball. Right-winger Sanches begins to press the left-back. At the same time, Ikoné simply moves across to continue to block the passing lane to Mendes. As Sanches moves out of the midfield to press the left-back, Bamba drifts further into the midfield. This helps Lille to retain a numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch.
As play moves on here, Lyon’s left-winger Cornet comes deep to make himself available. When he does so, Lille right-back Pied stays tight to him. Due to the Lille pressure, the ball to Cornet is the only option for Marçal. Cornet is immediately under pressure from Pied as he receives the ball and is unable to turn upon receiving possession.
As Cornet tries to play the ball into the midfield to Aouar, it is subsequently intercepted by André, who comes deeper to cover that option. This is just one example of the effectiveness of Lille’s press throughout this first-half. It is clear that their effective pressure prevented Lyon from enjoying time to build out from the back here. The majority of the first-half was played within Lyon’s own half largely due to this.
Victor Osimhen’s key role in Lille’s build-up play
Lille centre-forward Osimhen played an extremely important role in the build-up play for Lille throughout this game. Lille generally tried to play the ball into Osimhen’s feet quite quickly and regularly throughout this contest. Osimhen’s movement was key in Lille’s build-up as he constantly made himself available to receive the ball. He played a key role in Lille’s relatively direct style-of-play in this game.
Osimhen assumed the role of target man for much of this game. Lille’s goalkeeper and centre-backs frequently aimed for him as they played long-balls out from the back deep into Lyon’s half. Osimhen was quite effective in this role. He frequently caused trouble for Lyon’s defence as they attempted to deal with his presence and aerial ability. He was important for Lille as they attempted to gain control of the game in Lyon’s half.
This image above, from the second half of the game, shows us an example of Osimhen performing his role as a target man in Lille’s attack. Osimhen was frequently creative with his positioning as he attempted to get onto the end of Lille’s long-balls. Here, we can see that Osimhen has vacated his central position, as he opts to contest the aerial battle on Lille’s right-wing on this occasion.
Osimhen could be seen shifting away from the centre to contest aerial balls frequently throughout this game. On some occasions, Osimhen would shift onto the wing and enjoy a significant height advantage over the full-back contesting the ball with him. Right-back Rafael ended up in this situation on a couple of occasions in this game.
In the image above, however, Osimhen’s movement drags Lyon’s holding midfielder Mendes out to the wing. Mendes following Osimhen to the wing prevents a defender from being dragged out of the backline to contest the ball.
However, at the same time, Mendes’ movement opens up space in the centre of the pitch for Lille to exploit. We can see the space that opens up for Lille between Lyon’s midfield and defensive lines. As Mendes vacates his central position, Lille left-winger Bamba can be seen drifting into the centre of the pitch.
This is intelligent movement from Bamba and gives us an example of the effectiveness of Osimhen’s movement. Should Osimhen win the aerial battle, Bamba would likely receive the ball in plenty of space in the central area.
Osimhen’s movement and effectiveness as a target man was successful at dragging Lyon players out of position. He played an important role in helping Lille to build into Lyon’s half throughout this game.
This second image shows us another example of Osimhen’s intelligent movement and another aspect of his importance to Lille’s direct style of play in this game. As we can see here, Osimhen has, again, vacated his central position. However, on this occasion, Osimhen receives the ball to feet as Lille break on the counter-attack.
Osimhen’s movement out to the left-wing, on this occasion, is effective at dragging centre-back Denayer out of position. Denayer is forced to shift over to cover Osimhen as left-back Marçal had pushed up the pitch to press Sanches.
As Denayer shifts over to the left, a big gap is created between him and his defensive partner Marcelo. Centre-midfielder André is able to burst forward and exploit this space on the counter-attack. Osimhen is able to hold the ball up as André probes into this space. He subsequently picks him out and creates a good goalscoring chance for Lille.
It is clear that Osimhen’s movement was important in Lille’s build-up play in this game. Osimhen constantly created a variety of problems for Lyon’s centre-backs. He was an effective threat for Lille creatively throughout this game.
Lyon’s increased second-half pressing intensity
As we mentioned previously, Lyon struggled immensely to build out from the back in the first half. However, in the second half, they managed to get themselves into the game much more. Lyon’s solution to their problems in build-up largely centred around their increased pressing intensity in the second half.
Firstly, this image shows us an example of Lyon’s more passive defensive approach in the first half. Here, we can see that Lyon aren’t performing a particularly aggressive press as Lille build from the back. Lyon’s centre-forward Dembélé is joined by Aouar in a front line of two as Lille progress the ball near to the halfway line. However, neither man presses the ball particularly aggressively.
Traoré comes central to pick up Soumaré between the lines, however, the rest of Lyon’s last two defensive lines are sitting much deeper than their front two. They can be seen in the process of dropping even deeper in this image above.
Lyon’s passive defensive approach allowed Lille time on the ball to pick out long-balls. Lille’s direct approach was effective due to their impressive aerial ability as well as their aggressive pressing which helped them to win second balls frequently. Lyon’s passive defensive approach was not effective at helping them to combat Lille’s direct approach.
As Lyon generally sat deep in the first half, they generally only forced turnovers deep in their own half. This made it difficult for Lyon to build into Lille’s half as Lille deployed effective high pressing tactics. As Lyon won the ball back deep in their own half, they subsequently struggled to progress it into their opposition’s half.
This second image shows us Lyon’s more aggressive pressing tactics in the second half. Here, we can see that Lyon’s defence is playing much higher. Their midfield and attacking lines are also playing much closer together as they perform an organised press.
In this image, Lyon had just effectively pressed Lille into playing the ball out to their left centre-back, Gabriel, in a wide area. As the defender is on the ball here, we can see Dembélé cutting off the central passing lane to Soumaré. Meanwhile, Traoré can be seen cutting off the pass to overlapping Reinildo, while Caqueret closes down the ball carrier while keeping Bamba in his cover shadow.
Under pressure, Gabriel attempts to play the ball centrally, towards Ikoné who had dropped deep. However, his pass is intercepted by Mendes. As Lyon pressed more aggressively in the second half, they also won the ball higher up the pitch.
This allowed them to largely bypass the Lille press that they had so much difficulty with, in the first half. This helped Lyon to build into Lille’s half much more effectively in the second period.
This image shows us another example of Lyon’s more aggressive press in the second half. On this occasion, we can see right centre-back, José Fonte, in possession of the ball in a wide area. He is being pressed aggressively by Dembélé in this image.
Meanwhile, we can see Aouar tightly marking the passing option to Pied, while substitute Tousart can be seen marking the central passing option. As Fonte attempts to play the ball long, he is charged down by Dembélé who wins the ball. Lyon are subsequently able to begin their attack in Lille’s half.
Lyon are able to take advantage of Lille’s struggle to transition to their defensive shape here. Aouar managed to take advantage of Fonte being out of position here. He probes into the left half-space as Dembélé wins the ball. He subsequently manages to fire the ball into the net, scoring Lyon’s second goal of the game. This shows us the effectiveness of Lyon’s more aggressive press in the second half.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece, it’s clear that both of these teams utilised some effective tactics to overcome the challenges of their opposition at times in this game. Lyon managed to solve their problem of building out from the back by pressing more aggressively in the second half. This helped them to win the ball higher up the pitch and build into Lille’s half much more effectively.
Meanwhile, Lille’s effective pressing tactics helped them to dominate much of the first half here. Their pressing combined with their effective ability to build into Lyon’s half quickly and directly to help them control the game in the opposition’s half for much of the first period.
Ultimately, this game was a tale of two halves and largely an evenly contested fixture. A 2-2 draw may have been a fair result, all things considered. These two will have to wait until March to face each other once again in Ligue 1, where they will be able to pick up where they left off to attempt to finally break the stalemate.