Statistical Preview: Why Lyon will be a tough but beatable opponent for AS Monaco

AS Monaco

AS Monaco and Olympique Lyon prepare to do battle in what is unquestionably Ligue 1’s match of the round this weekend.

In a game that sees equal fifth placed Monaco take on joint ninth Lyon, there’s no doubt this should be a cracking clash between two exciting teams. Ahead of this captivating fixture, we focus on three talking points surrounding Lyon ahead of the match.

Bosz’s philosophy taking hold

Despite getting off to a shaky start under new manager Peter Bosz, which saw them win none of their opening three league matches, Les Gones have been steadily getting better since. Winning both of their Europa League matches, plus achieving wins over Nantes, Strasbourg and Troyes, there’s definitely been an upturn in performances of late.

Although they’ve only drawn their last two against Lorient and Saint-Etienne, much positivity can be extracted from what a force they’ve been going forward. With Bosz’s desire to implement his high octane, attackingly geared philosophy onto his team, it’s been impressive how quickly he’s got his squad to take on his ideas. ÔÇťI do the game strategy in relation to the qualities of the players. You have to look at which ones are available. But we are not changing our philosophy, which is to play offensive,” he recently stated.

Given the fact the fixtures have been coming quick and fast due to them playing in the Europa League, which has minimised his time on the training field, and this makes Lyon’s solid start even more notable. 

Boasting so many weapons to deploy in his preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, the likes of Lucas Paqueta, Karl Toko Ekambi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Houssem Aouar, Islam Slimani, Moussa Dembele and Rayan Cherki have ensured they have vital quality and depth in the final third.

Always eager to build out from the back, this has given them a strong platform to progress up the pitch. Adept at creating overloads, drawing opponents out and obtaining positional superiority, opponents have certainly found it hard to stop them bypassing their pressing structures. 

Having the third highest highest average possession in Ligue 1 (57.9%) and rating second for PPDA Against, this accentuates how competent they are with the ball.

Such a tremendous threat due to them having players with a range of speed, creativity, intelligent movement and dribbling prowess, Lyon are a real handful for any team.

To start with their passing and chance creation, and the fact they rank first in the league for shots (123), first for key passes (47), second for Expected Goals (15.87), equal second with Monaco for through passes (107), third for passes into the final third (513), fourth for progressive passes (640) and fourth for touches inside the penalty area (161) illustrates their menace. 

Ranking third for progressive runs (182) and fourth for most dribbles (300) amplifies what a handful they’ve been to contend with. 

Defensive instability 

Even though they’ve made waves offensively, they’re definitely still a work in progress defensively. Conceding 13 goals already, giving up the second most shots (120) and having the third highest Expected Goals Against reading (15.01), Bosz’s desire to play a high line and aggressively press high has seen them frequently exposed.

One particular issue they sometimes face is they tend to maintain a high line but don’t get adequate pressure on the ball holder, which gives the man in possession too much time to assess their options and pick passes.

While it’s come back to haunt them frequently, their high pressing has, however, manufactured some excellent openings for them when winning the ball back high. The numbers back this up too, for they come in fourth for PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action on 9.45) and third for challenge intensity. 

An area that Bosz is still refining and fine tuning, Niko Kovac and his staff will be doing their due diligence ready to take advantage of Lyon’s struggles in this compartment. 

Lucas Paqueta the danger man

Lyon’s wildly gifted Brazilian international, Paqueta, has been on fire this season, with him playing with confidence and style on his way to bagging four goals and supplying one assist.

A master with the ball at his feet, his close control, elite first touch and mazy dribbling to beat or unbalance markers has been a joy to watch. Capable of weaving away from danger with sharp turns, plus outfoxing opponents with slick changes of pace and direction, feints, shimmies, nutmegs and stepovers, his aptitude in this regard has been a major asset.

Aside from gaining separation from markers, the way he’s lured multi markers and drawn fouls in advanced zones has added to his effectiveness.

Such an ingenuitive passer who can unlock defences in an instant with magical through balls, engage in rapid combination play to pull apart backlines, strike penetrative line breaking passes or shrewdly switch the angle of attacks, the 24-year-old’s a constant source of attacking impetus.

Tying it all together with his movement, Paqueta expertly finds space between the lines, picks his moments when to surge in behind, drops deep to form overloads and knows when to support attacks in wide areas.

Paqueta’s Heat Map this season

Upon comparing him to players in his position across Europe’s top five leagues, and the fact he ranks in the top three percent for progressive passes (6.42 p90), top three percent for combined Expected Goals and Expected Assists (0.70 p90), top nine percent for Expected Assists (0.28 p90) and is in the top 23 percent for shots (2.59 p90) underlines his class.

Accompanying the above with his dogged defensive work, which sees him press intensely, apply his challenges forcefully and counterpress with ferocity, this enhances his value. In the top one percent for tackles (2.29 p90) and top five percent for pressures (22.26 p90), this punctuates his aptitude in this phase of the game. 

Unquestionably a man who Monaco will need to pay close attention to, if they can keep him quiet and limit his involvement, this will be a huge bonus in their quest for victory in a game that’s set to be decided by fine margins.