Even though AS Monaco’s devastating 3-2 loss to Lyon ruined their title hopes, there were still some positives to be drawn from their performance.
In the aftermath of a feisty, ultra competitive match that was littered with drama and featured five red cards, Niko Kovac tried to put a positive spin on things. We are obviously disappointed to have lost but my players did their best,” said Niko Kovac.
“I think we had the best chances. We missed that bit of success. We had the opportunity to score a third goal, which we missed. It’s football, it’s life. We still stay one point ahead. We must remain calm and reassure them. We lost a game. We must remain the same in victory as in defeat. We have to start again and keep our heads high. We have no reason to panic.”
Seeing as the team did many good things in the first half especially, plus outshine Lyon in terms of Expected Goals (2.11 to 1.57), possession (50.26% to 49.74%) and defensive duels won (52 to 39), this represents a good chance to reflect on three tactical takeaways from the game.
Left sided mechanics
With Lyon often cutting off Monaco when they attempted to pass out from the back, the home side came prepared with a plan to combat this. And this plan regularly involved them going long towards the left to bypass the Lyon press by going straight over it. With a combination of Wissam Ben Yedder, Cesc Fabregas, Kevin Volland, Caio Henrique and Axel Disasi usually forming a triangle, this ensured they were well placed to win second balls to regain the ball higher up. No matter who the target was or which team won the ball, Monaco would have one man looking for a headed flick on and at least one player in front of the target ready for a knock down.
The fact they channeled 40% of their attacks down this side illustrated their intent to use this tactic. Moreover, upon witnessing many of their most promising surges originating in the left, including their opener, this highlighted the success of this strategy as well.
Ben Yedder impresses
Undoubtedly Monaco’s best performer on the night, the brilliant Ben Yedder proved his class on the big stage. While his sublime Panenka penalty and wicked assist for Volland drew the headlines, there was much more to admire about his strong body of work.
Displaying his fantastic movement, this enabled him to supply a quality option for his colleagues and cause frequent dilemmas for his opponents. Choosing intelligently when to drop deep to link play, it was not only great to see how he waited for a passing lane to open, but also how he’d use double movements and feints to gain separation to unbalance his marker. As a result, he persistently found room between the lines to connect passages using his slick combination play and all-round excellent distribution.
The French international’s impact was heightened by his neat runs in behind, smooth interchanges with Fabregas and Volland and capacity to pin and draw markers to create space for teammates.
Once in possession, his slick first touch and ball control, in combination with his strength and press resistance, meant he withstood pressure admirably and could weave out of danger with ease.
In addition, how he carried the ball forward with vigour and could outfox his trackers with his feints, plus changes of pace and direction, added to his worth. His prowess in this area, which included his aforementioned passing as well, certainly served him and his team well in many scenarios.
By the numbers, his three shots, three touches inside the box, three progressive runs, two dribbles, two shot assists and two won aerial duels illustrated his multifaceted threat.
High pressing encouraging
Although they weren’t perfect in this regard, with Lyon breaking through on occasion, Monaco’s high press, which often took on a 4-3-3 style shape, still stifled their foes pretty successfully. To start with, Monaco would mark Lyon’s back three with Ben Yedder, Volland and the high pushing Ruben Aguilar. Fabregas would then look after Thiago Mendes while Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni would then keep tabs on Maxence Caqueret and Lucas Paqueta.
Djibril Sidibe and Caio Henrique would typically monitor the Lyon wingbacks, leaving Disasi and Guillermo Maripan to look after Karl Toko Ekambi and Memphis Depay.
Regularly timing and angling their press nicely to usher their adversaries towards the touchline and block off passing lanes infield, this subsequently forced them into low percentage long balls. This suited their towering backs, who had a size, strength and height advantage over their direct opponents to win their headers to help Monaco recover possession.
By shifting to the ball near side, where they shrewdly used the touchline as an extra defender, and placing their foes in uncomfortable situations with minimal options, their pressing was certainly a highlight when executed precisely.