Posts Tagged ‘Lyon’
Lyon are 1-0 up at home to Metz and labouring when a lofted pass from Nabil Fekir finds Yoann Gourcuff in space on the left-hand edge of the penalty area. He deftly brings the ball down and throws a step-over to unbalance Metz defender Jonathan Rivierez, only for a posse of four opponents to force him towards the corner flag. The opening appears to have closed up, but Gourcuff holds off Rivierez and manages to drill a low pass to Corentin Tolisso, who steadies himself before shooting into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.
At first glance, the goal seems all Tolisso’s own work, but it is the pace of Gourcuff’s pass that creates the opportunity. Tolisso is too far from goal to shoot first-time, but Gourcuff knows that by fizzing the ball into his feet at speed, Metz’s defence will be caught off-guard and the young midfielder, an accomplished striker of the ball, will have time to pick his spot.
Though incidental, the assist bore all Gourcuff’s hallmarks, showcasing as it did his sensitivity to the precise technical requirements of each on-pitch situation. Every action he performs seems delicately calibrated, from the deliberate way he paces backwards before taking set-pieces to his habit of bobbing on his toes at the start of his run-up and the exaggerated follow-through when he strikes the ball. Sadly for Gourcuff, and for Lyon, he is also uniquely sensitive to the condition of his own body.
Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco may have stockpiled all the money in Ligue 1, but the playing fields of the French top flight have been awash with diamonds this season.
Over the past few months, a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond – known as a milieu en losange in France – has become the must-have tactical system for the league’s leading teams, with Lille, Monaco and Lyon successively enjoying improved fortunes after adopting the tactic and Marseille potentially poised to follow suit.
Lille were the pioneers, with coach René Girard installing the system within weeks of his arrival from Montpellier during the summer. Having initially declared an intention to persist with the 4-3-3 formation favoured by his predecessor, Rudi Garcia, he jettisoned the tactic after only 45 minutes of the club’s first friendly match, a 3-2 win over Dijon in July.
The system he introduced was designed to get the best out of Marvin Martin, who operates in the number 10 role ahead of a three-man midfield. Once seen as France’s answer to Xavi, he endured a disappointing debut season after signing from Sochaux but has spoken positively of the “freedom” afforded him in the new system. It is a set-up with which the 26-year-old is familiar, having come to prominence at Sochaux by supplying the bullets for Brown Ideye and Modibo Maiga as the club from eastern France recorded a surprise fifth-place finish under Francis Gillot in 2011.
“A bloated payroll, allied to the failure to qualify for the Champions League and diminishing income from television rights, meant that Lyon had no choice but to slash their wage bill in the summer. [Jean-Michel] Aulas sounded the alarm, declaring that it was time for the club’s “pharaohs” and “changing-room dinosaurs” to move on, and by the time the transfer window closed earlier this month, Hugo Lloris, Aly Cissokho, Kim Källström, Ederson, John Mensah and club captain Cris — among others — had all departed.”
This week’s Pitchside Europe blog, on how Lyon have made a steady start to the season despite a summer of Ligue 1 upheaval, can be read here.
“PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain closed to within two points of Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier by overwhelming second-bottom Sochaux 6-1 at a sun-splashed Parc des Princes on Sunday.”
My AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including a stirring comeback by Lyon that kept their faint hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive, can be read here.
“PARIS — An extra-time goal by substitute Brandão gave Marseille a 1-0 win over Lyon at Stade de France on Saturday that allowed them to claim the Coupe de la Ligue for a record third successive season.”
My AFP match report on Saturday’s Coupe de la Ligue final can be read here.
“PARIS — Champions Lille closed to within four points of top spot in Ligue 1 by winning 2-1 at home to Toulouse on Sunday and saw their grip on third place further strengthened by Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Rennes.”
My AFP report on the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including an important win for Lille and another setback for Paris Saint-Germain, can be read here.
“LYON, France — Lyon secured a slender advantage in their Champions League last 16 tie with APOEL FC by beating the Cypriot underdogs 1-0 in the first leg at Stade Gerland on Tuesday.”
My AFP match report on Lyon’s 1-0 victory over APOEL on Tuesday can be read here.
It is a measure of Lyon’s progress under Rémi Garde that Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss at Caen could be shrugged off as a mere inconvenience. Garde allowed himself a rueful smile during a pitchside interview after the match as he admitted he had been perplexed by his side’s sluggish approach to the game and in the subsequent press conference he was equally equanimous, likening the defeat to “a little kick up the bum”.
This time last year, Lyon had won just one of their first seven games and slipped into the relegation zone after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of their great rivals Saint-Etienne in the 100th Derby du Rhône. Disgruntled fans had begun to string up banners calling for Claude Puel’s dismissal in eye-catching locations across the city and although OL recovered to finish third, the mood scarcely improved.
Twelve months on and, despite having lost the last unbeaten record in the division at Caen, Lyon find themselves in third place, two points off top spot ahead of tomorrow’s game with Bordeaux. More importantly, Stade Gerland has become a happy place. Garde has galvanised the squad and has Lyon playing a brand of expansive, attack-minded football that has quickly won him the approval of the fans.
Strikingly, the turnaround has been effected without a single major summer signing and despite the fact several of OL’s most impressive performers were on the brink of leaving the club during the transfer window. Kim Källström looked destined for Galatasaray, Aly Cissokho was reportedly close to joining Liverpool and Michel Bastos spent the summer waiting for a call from Juventus that never came despite months of eyelash-fluttering from La Vecchia Signora.
“PARIS — Eleven points separate Lyon and Marseille after OL defeated their title rivals 2-0 on Sunday to go top of Ligue 1 and consign Didier Deschamps’ hapless side to the bottom of the table.”
You can read my round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action for AFP here.
A peculiar tactical phenomenon has been witnessed in France in recent months. In a microcosm of global trends that have shaped the game over the course of the last decade or so, Ligue 1’s top sides have all – without exception – begun to ditch their preferred formations in favour of a 4-2-3-1.
Marseille, whose title and Coupe de la Ligue successes last season were founded on a pragmatic 4-3-3 shape, were the first team to make the switch. For the crucial Champions League group game at Spartak Moscow in November, Mathieu Valbuena was moved infield from the right flank and allowed to adopt the central playmaking role that he covets. Didier Deschamps wanted to capitalise on the fact that Valbuena “is very accurate with his shooting” and the France international proved as much in the 18th minute when he put OM ahead with a precise, curling effort into the top-right corner. Marseille went on to win 3-0, in what was their most coherent performance of the season to date, and their 4-2-3-1 continues to emerge for high-pressure encounters, such as Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.
Another team synonymous with the 4-3-3 in recent years has been Lyon. Towards the end of the first half in their 4-1 win at Saint-Etienne last month, however, Yoann Gourcuff was allowed to advance a little further forwards and occupy the role of the classic number 10 that was his at Bordeaux. With Jérémy Toulalan and Kim Källström retreating into deep, central positions, it meant Lyon were playing a 4-2-3-1 and Claude Puel reflected that it gave the team “a certain balance”.
The switch brought the best out of Lisandro López, moved to the left flank in support of central striker Bafétimbi Gomis, in much the same way that André-Pierre Gignac’s best form for Marseille has coincided with the times when he has played from the left in support of Brandão. Occasionally isolated when used as lone strikers, both López and Gignac appear to relish seeing more of the ball and both men are particularly adept at cutting inside and shooting at goal with their stronger right feet.
“LYON, France — Karim Benzema scored against his former club Lyon to earn Real Madrid a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”
My AFP match report can be read here.
“PARIS — A late Anthony Modeste header earned Bordeaux a 1-1 draw at home to Marseille on Sunday and ensured the 2009 French champions avoided defeat in their first game since the sale of Yoann Gourcuff.”
My Ligue 1 round-up for AFP can be read here.