Women’s International Champions Cup 2019: Olympique Lyon vs Atletico Madrid – tactical analysis
European teams are now in preseason with the Women’s International Champions Cup representing a chance to see the different champions in early action. This game contested between Olympique Lyon and Atletico Madrid showed us a glimpse of what we can expect from the two champions this season. The season starts for Lyon on August 24th against Olympique Marseille so this tournament represents a final chance to see how the new tactical changes can fit in.
Lineup & Squad
Both managers used this game to bed in their new signings and see how they performed for their new teams. New Lyon manager Jean-Luc Vasseur gave starts to both Nikita Parris and Alex Greenwood while Jose Luis Sanchez started Toni Duggan but kept Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal and Kylie Strom on the bench.
Lyon lined up in a 4-4-2 formation looking to play an entertaining, attacking brand of football. Atletico Madrid looked to play a more narrow 4-1-2-1-2 system pairing Duggan with Ludmila da Silva. Ada Hegerberg partnered Eugenie Le Sommer who looked to play around the Norwegian striker.
Olympique Lyon (4-4-2): Bouhaddi; Bronze, Renard, Mbock, Greenwood; Parris, Henry, Marozsan, Majri; Hegerberg, Le Sommer
Atletico Madrid (4-1-2-1-2): Gallardo; Aleixandri, Tounkara, Linari, Montero; Torrecilla; Meseguer, Sosa; Sampedro; Duggan, Ludmila
This match was an opportunity for the new managers to test out a different formation and under former manager Reynald Pedros, Lyon preferred a 4-2-3-1 system but Vasseur has immediately employed a 4-4-2 which they used a mere 17% last season.
Tactical Analysis – Atletico Madrid’s game plan
Atletico Madrid employed a 4-1-2-1-2 and concentrated their play centrally. Their diamond midfield was meant to create numerical superiority against the two Lyon central midfielders and force support to arrive from elsewhere. Angela Sosa was critical in Atletico Madrid’s midfield being their main creative instigator. She initially started at left midfield but Greenwood and Majri’s lethal combination overran Laia Aleixandri time and time again. An early substitution from Sanchez saw new signing Strom come in at left-back and switched Sosa to the right to support the young full-back Aleixandri. This change saw her get on the ball a lot more and dictate the pace of the game. Their attacking strategy derived from a high press starting with the two centre-forwards.
Using two strikers in Duggan and Ludmila, Madrid wanted to press high and put pressure on both Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock. Renard is considered one of the top centre-backs in women’s football but she is prone to lapses in concentration in possession. While she has no issues in dealing with bigger, stronger strikers, the Lyon centre-back is especially prone to runners in behind due to her lack of pace. Madrid recognised this and wanted to utilise the speed of both Ludmila and Duggan by playing balls beyond Renard.
As the graphics above highlight, Madrid’s narrow shape has made Lyon adopt a more compact defensive line, however, there were moments where Atletico Madrid were able to take advantage of the higher positions taken by Lyon. Here we see Ludmila isolating herself against Renard trying to run in behind.
Ludmila’s smart turn and extreme pace puts her through and has the rest of the defence scrambling to get back into position. This also benefits Duggan (#18) who has the blindsided advantage over Bronze.
Both teams struggled for goals with the only goal coming in the 91st minute courtesy of a mandatory set-piece goal from Renard. Both Duggan and Ludmila were relying on scraps and struggled to grab a foothold in the game. Lyon’s well-structured, compact defence halted Atletico Madrid from posing more of a forward threat. They turtled into a hybrid 4-5-1 or 5-4-1 formation with Le Sommer dropping into midfield. Greenwood would tuck inside to create a narrow compact back four pushing Majri into a left-back position giving them greater defensive cover blocking Atletico Madrid’s full-backs from bombing forward. This clearly worked in their favour as Atletico Madrid only managed a total of five shots throughout 90 minutes.
Olympique Lyon’s tactical adjustments
From the get-go we could see Lyon look to build out from the back with Sarah Bouhaddi distributing balls to the centre-backs or the deep-lying Amandine Henry. The two centre-backs would split wide with the full-backs pushed out slightly wider and higher. This would signal a sign for Henry to drop into the vacant space to receive and build-out. Once possession transitioned into midfield Marozsan would ping long passes into the wide areas looking for the runs of Parris and Amel Majri. At first Atletico Madrid struggled to dispossess Lyon even with two strikers at the helm due to Henry’s intelligent positional sense and ball-playing ability.
Whilst the 4-4-2 system offers a more attacking style of play, it is majorly complemented by the playing ability of both Marozsan and Henry. Both players complement each other with their excellent playmaking, defensive cover and ability to understand when to sit and drive forward. Whilst Marozsan didn’t have the most effective World Cup, Henry displayed her brilliance in France and continued to exert her influence over proceedings in the United States.
As was the case for much of last season, Lyon’s main attacking outlet was the wide areas. The usual suspects in Majri and Lucy Bronze were ever-present on their respective flanks. But the introduction of Parris and Greenwood was surely a test to see if they could gel with their new team and continue their exploits from the Women’s World Cup.
A particular highlight was the inclusion of Greenwood which saw Majri play a more attacking role after starting at left-wing. She was a menace to Aleixandri for 90 minutes, terrorising the young full-back with her pace and combination play with Greenwood. Majri’s attacking exploits were in full effect over the summer and her partnership with Le Sommer was a highlight and the main attacking outlet for France. Lyon can look to recreate this with Greenwood and Majri. This can allow a Le Sommer to move into a more central striking role alongside Hegerberg. The movement by the two left-sided players forced Atletico Madrid into an early tactical switch by moving Sosa over to the right side to offer more protection.
As the graphics above highlight, Majri initially starts off in a deeper position protecting the right side of Lyon’s defence. As possession is being recycled across the Madrid back line, Majri notices Aleixandri in a vulnerable position with no short passing options available to her.
The French left-back gambles a move to aggressively press and pressurise the Madrid full-back trying to dispossess her. It works as the return pass to Aleixandri isn’t received well enough due to the pressure and a heavy touch allows Majri a run into acres of space ahead. Greenwood was in just behind (not pictured) covering the space Majri left in behind.
Greenwood’s inclusion could provide Lyon with more defensive stability and assurance. Greenwood is tactically intelligent and can provide a platform for Lyon’s defence to build from. With Mbock bailing out Renard on countless occasions, she is often left exposed with Majri’s forays into the attacking third. What Greenwood will provide intelligence in assessing situations and cover for her teammates in defensive situations.
Allowing Majri to play a wider, more attacking left-sided role gives Lyon a balanced line up with Parris preferring to drift inside the right channel. Bronze will continue to overlap her English compatriot. Greenwood did show proficiency to bomb forward but did so in spurts when the situation allowed it. When she was called upon defensively, she was smart enough to tuck inside while Majri dropped into a left-back position creating a back five (as portrayed earlier).
To complete the analysis, we should take a closer comparison between the two left-sided players and see how they match up. At first glance, we can see that Majri excels at dribbling and crossing because she spends most of her time in the attacking third. Lyon regularly commands the lion’s share of possession meaning Majri doesn’t have to sit deep.
However, where Greenwood does excel is in her recoveries, passing and aerial duels particularly her long passes. The former Manchester United player averages nearly 7.2 long passes per 90 offering Lyon another method of attack. Playing against teams that will look to employ a high pressing game against Lyon can be countered by Greenwood’s passing ability. If she can play in the likes of Hegerberg, Majri, Le Sommer and Parris, Greenwood will be able to create counter-attacking opportunities from deep.
Both teams will have enjoyed the experience and found many intriguing lessons from their early pre-season match. Vasseur will want to put his stamp on a highly successful Lyon team that won the treble last season and have been multi-time Champions League and Division 1 winners. His new signings have given him the ability to create new tactical ideas that will keep opposition teams guessing.
Atletico Madrid meanwhile were by no means poor and kept Lyon at bay for the majority of the match. A stoppage time winner from Renard was needed and the Spanish champions will be happy with their defensive display but work will be needed in trying to provide more support to the two strikers. If these two teams meet in this seasons Champions League I expect to see a much closer affair.
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