Introduction (formations and tactical strategies)-
Lyon and Madrid both used a 4-2-3-1. Although they used the same system they both clearly had different strategies. Lyon planned to sit back and counter attack down the flanks. Madrid over estimated Lyons attacking intentions and set out with a tactic more suited to playing a close match verses an opposition that was going to attack and threaten them, but more on that later.
Even though they both played a 4-2-3-1 the players had different roles and functions within the team; so please don’t go around sounding like these morons and think there is one way to play a certain formation. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBxVzoeMl5M) The major difference in the 4-2-3-1’s today was the role of the wingers. Lyon played with two wide midfielders who pushed up to become wingers. While Real Madrid played with one wide midfielder (Di Maria) and had Ronaldo as a second striker on the left flank. That’s why Ronaldo never tracked back it wasn’t because he is lazy rather more of he is used as a second striker positioned on the defensive line. Another difference big difference between the wingers is where they ran with the ball. Real Madrid’s wingers tended to move inside while Lyons chose to run down the flanks; this had a big impact on how effective each teams attack would be.
Mourhino gets set up wrong-
Arebola and Ronaldo pairing-
Arebola was chosen to pair up with Ronaldo on the left flank today. Going forward this wasn’t the best move because both Arebola and Ronaldo are right footed and have the natural tendency to move inside. The other problem with Arebola partnering Ronaldo is the fact once again Ronaldo likes to move inside. Lyon defend narrow, tight, and compact down the middle which severely reduced the space in which Ronaldo had to operate. Today was the kind of day where Ronaldo really needed Marcelo to bomb down the left spread Lyons defense and create more space in the middle for him to operate. It didn’t happen and it led to a stifled Ronaldo
Defensively you would think that Arebola would be the better option to deal with Lyons dangerous wingers. Thus justifying Mourinho’s selection, but tactics aren’t that simple. In tactics just as in life you have to weigh reward over risk. Let’s analyze the situation. If Mourinho really thought going into the match Lyon were going to try to play possession football and attack Madrid than his selection of Arebola would have been completely justified. One if Lyon were trying to play possession football than they would put Marcelo under pressure on a more consistent basis. As most of us know Marcelo is defensively lacking so choosing him in this situation would be the wrong move. Here’s why, if Lyon tried to play possession football there would have been more space naturally. Thus it would not be worth risking using Marcelo and having him skinned often just to create extra space that isn’t really needed. This was not the case here instead Lyon played a counter attacking game focused on restricting the vital attacking space the Madrid’s stars need. The extra space in this situation was needed and was worth the risk, and if you think about it there was no risk. If Marcelo bombs down the left flank and Real Madrid get counter attacked he would have his DM’s (Alonso and Khedira) to cover his space. Basically the only time where he would be put under any sort of constant pressure would be the 3 or 4 times in the first half where Lyon actually tried to string an attack together that wasn’t off a counter attack. Even those attacks got snuffed out pretty quickly. In essence since Lyon were counter attacking most of the time and Real Madrid had DM who could just move to cover the space left by Marcelo there would be no real defensive risk of using Marcelo. The real problem wasn’t that Mourinho used Arebola; the real problem was caused by Mourinho’s misjudgment of Lyon’s strategy going into the match. A tactical genius should be able to predict his oppositions approach to a match and have a plan ready to combat it. Mourinho had the right plan but for a different Lyon team and not the Lyon team he had to face.
Lyon creates more opportunities but Madrid dominates ball possession?
Although Madrid had more ball possession Lyon created more chances. This stat illustrates the different approach used by both sides. 35th minute- in game pass stats- 59-lyon 157 Madrid; Lyon pass completion 59% Madrid pass completion- 75%) This stat might be a surprise to some; how can such a technically accomplished side like Lyon only complete 59% of their passes.
Lyons passing is efficient-
Lyon played a direct attacking game which meant there passing was straight to the point, and they didn’t waste time playing short passes in midfield. They often got the ball into the feet of their attacking players. Just like in the Mainz game-
the manager (puel) was very smart by doing this. Since Lyon was technically inferior to Madrid it meant that even if Lyon did try to possession football they would always have less of the ball than Madrid. Possession is a complex thing which will be discuss in a later article, but just know since both of them were using the same formation and occupying the same space Madrid would always win the possession battle. By playing a direct passing game Lyon manage to maximize their time on the ball and create chances even with minimal ball possession. Also Lyons direct passing game was more suited to the long French pitch opposed to the short passing game played by Madrid. Sometimes it is not about how much possession you have, but how you use it.
Lyon smart passing down flanks Madrid not-
The main reason why they were able to attack down the flanks well and Madrid wasn’t is because Lyon didn’t have to deal with 2 Madrid players on the flanks. Also Lyon was counter attacking so Madrid fbs didn’t receive support from their extra midfielders. This is the ideal situation when you are trying to exploit the flanks. What Madrid tried to do was the complete opposite and they failed. They tried to attack down the flanks of an opposition who had a lot of men back. This meant that even if the Lyon fbs got beaten they would automatically have extra support. Furthermore Madrid didn’t have enough men to exploit any space that would have been created on the flanks. It would have been stupid for Lyon to attack down the middle because Madrid had 2 strong dms and way too many people defending or in a possible position to defend. When you attack down the middle you make it easier for the opposition to be compact and defend you. By attacking down the flank you can create more space and separate more players in their defensive block. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBZZO8Shw7o&feature=player_detailpage#t=52s )
To attack down the middle you need to get a lot of men forward, you need patience, or a lot of space down Lyon had none of these. Also it is just a lot harder trying to start a counter attack by clearing the ball down the middle.
Madrid’s poor set up hurts them again-
Once again Madrid’s poor setup proved to be their ultimate downfall in this game. Madrid generally played with 3 noticeable groups. Defense composed of (Ramos, Carvalho, and Pepe) midfield composed of (Di maria, Khedira, Alonso, and Arebola), and attack which was composed of (Ozil, Ronaldo, and Adebayor). See figure 1. This generally meant 2 things. One that the ball was going to be with either the defending group or the midfield group a majority of the time; Madrid spent a lot of time passing deep and not really troubling Lyon’s defense. In the first half Madrid only had 3 shots http://soccernet.espn.go.com/gamecast?id=311000&cc=5901. Two the attacking group would see very little of the ball and when they did they would rely on heavy support from the midfield group to break down Lyon’s defense. The fact that the pitch was long and Madrid was playing a short passing game really exacerbated the fact they didn’t have enough players on or near the oppositions defensive line. The long pitch separated the midfield and attacking groups and meant that often times when the ball moved to the attacking group they were left with minimal support. This created 3 vs. 9, 4 vs. 9, and maybe 5 vs. 9 battles at the back which Lyon easily won. Also the fact that Madrid played a short passing game, on a long pitch, with more men in midfield and defense then was necessary meant that a lot of Madrid’s passing was done deep and the ball only moved to the attacking group on occasion. See figure 1. Overall Madrid’s set up was poor; although I gave Madrid more of the ball it meant that there passing was done deep, and wouldn’t threaten Lyon. This is more proof that Mr. Mourinho over estimated the attacking intentions of Lyon, because the set up he choose would have been perfect if Lyon really tried to play a possession game with him, but they didn’t and Madrid struggled to break down Lyon.
This was an interesting game tactical and it was nice to see both teams use the same formations but completely different approach. Going forward Lyons approach more effective and Lyon’s defense was greatly helped by the fact that Mourinho got his set up wrong today.
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