“Still relatively early doors”: Why Lyon are behind their rivals in the D1F title hunt – scout report
As the men’s domestic game swings back into action, following the completion of the World Cup, the majority of leagues in the women’s game are taking a well-deserved winter break. As a result, fans of each one will have ample time to sit back over the festive period and reflect on how each of the teams has been getting on, drawing their own conclusions on what has already taken place and what could still happen once matches resume.
One division that will be worth keeping an eye on in the new year will be the Division 1 Féminine (D1F), which went into the break with Lyon Féminin and PSG Féminine once again locking horns at the top of the table, but with PSG leading their rivals by a point. As a result, Lyon, who have looked off the pace in recent games, will have ground to make up in order to have any chance of sealing a 16th league title, and this tactical analysis will look in greater detail at their most recent performances to see where they have been going wrong and what needs improving as they look to overtake the team from the capital.
The first aspect of Lyon Féminin’s play that this scout report will focus on is their passing, which is always an essential part of any team’s game plans. However, Sonia Bompastor’s side have not been moving the ball around with as much accuracy as they normally do, which has led to some of their performances looking laboured.
Here, they are on the attack and have made their way into PSG’s third, with their front three shape clear to see. They now have space to pick their pass and create a goalscoring opportunity, with striker Melvine Malard in control of the ball and with options on either side of her. However, in her attempt to find winger Delphine Cascarino, in the yellow circle, she ends up putting too much on the pass, allowing France left-back Sakina Karchaoui to track the ball and clear it from danger.
What went wrong here is up for debate, with some likely to see it as Cascarino needing to get further forward in order to have a better chance of receiving the pass, whilst others will look at Malard and will say that she released the ball too early and didn’t give her teammate a chance of beating Karchaoui to it, and others still will argue that Malard needed to send the ball towards the far side of the pitch instead.
However, what everyone will agree on is that this was an opportunity that Lyon needed to take and didn’t, and the fact that it wasn’t the only time that they squandered chances when they got into the final third is one of the reasons that PSG ended up winning this game.
One key aspect of Lyon’s tactics that is always noticeable in their performances is their triangular structures, which they like to set up around the pitch as a way of moving the ball or individual players into different areas of the pitch with as much precision as possible.
However, in the last few games, they have not shown that same accuracy, meaning that the ball has been lost too easily and opponents have been able to end threats early. Here, the pass from Belgium international Janice Cayman was too quick for Amandine Henry to control, with the result being that the next pass to USA midfielder Lindsey Horan, who is on loan from Portland Thorns, was intercepted by Eva Sumo, who had anticipated what Lyon would do here and who was looking for an opportunity to gain possession.
On this occasion, Lyon’s mistake didn’t cost them as Le Havre Féminines’ counterattack was quickly ended by captain Wendie Renard, but it was still another moment when they didn’t look themselves and that they will need to work on when the second half of the season gets underway.
Whilst most fans will have their differing views on aspects of football tactics, one thing that most will agree on is that strikers don’t make the best defenders, because they tend to make mistakes when moving back to help that end up putting the rest of the team under instant pressure from the opponents.
This situation demonstrates how Lyon have also been blighted by that issue, with Denmark striker Signe Bruun tracking back here to help recycle the ball. However, before passing towards her goal area, she doesn’t look around her, meaning that she doesn’t see how close Dijon Féminin’s Swiss forward Meriame Terchoun is to her. As a result, Dijon are able to win the ball easily and take a shot at goal, with Terchoun narrowly missing the target.
It should be mentioned that Lyon did beat Dijon 8-0, so it would not have been a disaster if they had conceded a goal here. However, the fact that Bompastor’s side have been making these mistakes in the first place is a concern, and there is no doubt that they will need to improve on these areas of their play if they want to stay in the D1F title race.
Another area of Lyon Féminin’s play that has let them down at times is their decision-making around the field, and this is a major reason for them struggling to score goals and win games in a more convincing manner.
Bruun is once again the player at fault here, with the former Manchester United Women loanee receiving a pass and turning to shoot at Guingamp Féminines’ goal. However, she has again not assessed her options before doing so, meaning that she has firstly not noticed how close Guingamp defender Emmy Jézéquel is to her and secondly that Cascarino is in open space on the far side of the pitch.
It should be mentioned that Bruun has started the season in a good way, with her being a key reason for Lyon averaging 2.25 goals per game in the league so far. However, there are moments like this when she could have done better, and that is the key point to make.
As this graphic shows, Bruun was not the only player who wasn’t at their best in that game, with Lyon as a team only finding the target with three of their 17 shots. Nothing should be taken away from Guingamp, who defended as a team and made themselves tough to break down, but Lyon will know that they dropped two points in this game through being so wasteful and that results and performances like this can prove costly in a title race as tight as the one that they are in.
It is not just when shooting at goal that Lyon have shown poor decision-making because they have also made poor choices during their build-up play too. In this case, they have taken the ball into the final third and have space to move the ball across Paris FC Féminines’ goal area and into the path of Cascarino. However, Vicki Bècho hesitates at the last minute and second-guesses herself, with her holding onto the ball instead and being closed down by Paris defender Annaïg Butel as a result.
Whilst Bècho does well to keep the ball, the fact that she didn’t take the opportunity when it first presented itself means that she is no longer in a position to shoot at goal, with her only option now being to pass back to Bruun, in the yellow circle. However, Paris now know what Lyon will do, with Switzerland midfielder Coumba Sow getting tight to the Dane once she controls the ball, and the fact that Germany international Dzsenifer Marozsán ends up shooting at goal from a significant distance highlights how Lyon as a team got themselves into a dangerous area but then made a poor decision and wasted the opportunity.
Again, Lyon did come out of this game with a narrow 3-2 win, but it was clear that they were once again far from their best, so this is another area that they will need to work on when the action resumes after the winter break.
The final area of Lyon Féminin’s game that they need to improve is their team structure, with them sometimes making it too easy for opponents to break them down, and this is another reason that some of their wins in recent weeks have been lacking in quality.
This situation is a clear example of when small adjustments in individual players’ positions have left them exposed. In this case, it is PSG who are looking for a way into their third, and Lyon initially had a good structure that was robust and tough to break down. However, once Sweden defender Amanda Ilestedt sent the ball towards Switzerland forward Ramona Bachmann, Lyon’s Damaris Egurrola made the decision to move forward on her own and press the former Chelsea Women player, trying to prevent the ball from coming any closer to the goal area.
This was the right thing to do here, as Bachmann initially had her back to the Netherlands and former Everton Women player and so wouldn’t have seen the danger until it was too late. However, Egurrola needed to win the ball once she made the decision to go forward, and that was where she went wrong here, with her not getting tight enough to Bachmann and leaving her with just enough room to move the ball around her and link up with midfielder Oriane Jean-François in the space that Egurrola had vacated.
On this occasion, Lyon were once again let off, with ex-Barcelona Femení midfielder Kheira Hamraoui seeing her effort from long-range saved comfortably by Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler. However, given that PSG ended up winning this match, these are the little details that allowed them to create opportunities and put pressure on their opponents, which is why Lyon need to work on them as they try to regain the ground that they have lost in the last few rounds of matches.
It wasn’t only in that game that Lyon left their opponents with space to operate in though, and this is why it is such a big issue and something that they need to address as quickly as possible. This time, it is Paris who are looking for a way to play the ball through their opponents, but the same thing has happened, with some Lyon players moving forward and others staying back.
As a result, Butel has space between their lines to send the ball into, with Gaëtane Thiney anticipating the pass and moving to receive the ball, and the fact that she was able to set up Ouleymata Sarr, in the black circle, with her next pass shows how Lyon’s structural issues can leave them far too open and easy for opponents to play through.
The fact that Lyon have enabled opponents to break them down in this way means that situations like this, when Paris are launching one of their counterattacks, have become all too common to see in their performances. To try and protect their goal area, the defending champions have four players rushing back to limit the space that Sarr has on the ball.
Initially, this looks like a good setup to have, but the problem is that none of the players are focusing on the rest of the Paris players, who are moving up the pitch to support their attack. As a result, Lyon were at an immediate disadvantage here, with them able to move into a line but unable to react to striker Mathilde Bourdieu’s change of direction once she arrived inside the goal area, with the Swiss forward able to turn Sarr’s pass into the back of the net as a result.
As with a lot of the points raised in this analysis, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and Lyon have only conceded 0.64 goals per game in the league this season which shows that, when they get it right, they are tough to beat. However, they will also know that they could have done more to prevent this goal from being created, and it is errors like these that cost teams titles.
In conclusion, this tactical analysis has taken a closer look at reigning French and European champions Lyon Féminin, providing some thoughts on why they are currently second in the Division 1 Féminine table, behind fierce rivals PSG, and what they can do to get ahead of them again.
Whilst a lot of this analysis has been negative, it should be stressed that Lyon are still picking up wins and have a lot of periods when they are playing well, so they don’t need to do a lot to rediscover their quality and should not be concerned about their league position at this stage of the season. All they need to do is to tidy up their performances and regain their composure in key situations and their title charge will be back on track, with one writer noting that it is “still relatively early doors” as far as the season is concerned, with nothing decided yet.