The Europa League enters the knockout stages and we have one of the toughest ties of the round, as its Spurs vs Lyon for a place in the last 16.
The French side have suffered a slight fall from the team that were serial winners of Ligue 1 and have been Champions League regulars over the years. However, coach Remi Garde has them up to second in the division behind the mighty PSG, as they look to return to Europe’s top-table.
In the Europa League, they are undefeated, only drawing with Sparta Prague once they had qualified, so they will be no pushovers. Andre Villas-Boas has said, “This could be a test of whether we’re good enough to play in the Champions League,” and he may well be right.
So what will the French side bring to the Lane and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Lyon?
Lyon set up and tactics
Remi Garde has lined his Lyon side up in either a defensive 4-3-3 or used a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. This has been dependent on whether Lyon have been home or away and whether he wants to deploy two more defensively minded players in front of the back four.
When he has gone defensive, he has used Maxime Gonalons and Gueida Fofana and we may just see both again here with the second leg to come.
Remi Garde does have options though and have does often use former Spurs man Steed Malbranque in alongside Gonalons. We all know about Malbranque from his time in the Premier League with both Fulham and us. The Frenchman is very comfortable on the ball and plays and receives short passes, whilst having an eye for the killer ball in the final third.
When Malbranque plays, he is mainly used to move the ball forward to either Clement Grenier or Yoann Gourcuff in the advanced midfield role. However, a lot of his passing is focussed on moving it out left and right to the wide players, especially Alexandre Lacazette on the right.
Up front, Garde has altered his forwards between Lisandro Lopez – who apparently we made a bid for when we signed Hugo Lloris – and Bafetimbi Gomis. The Argentinean has been mainly used at home in the Europa League, whilst the Senegalese international gets the starts on the road. The two have been used together in a 4-3-3 with Lopez out to the left and Gomis through the centre.
So, having talked about their set up, lets take a look at some of the key danger men.
Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier
Remi Garde has tended to favour Yoann Gourcuff over the younger Clement Grenier in the advanced midfield role, but the two have featured together.
Gourcuff was a star at Bordeaux where he combined with Marouane Chamakh to create a devastating one-two punch, but both players’ careers have declined since. Gourcuff can still a danger though as he has shown in this season’s competition, where he has supplied chances from his three appearances so far.
He drifts around off the front, but is a danger to play balls through a defence, as well as supply longer diagonal passes from wider areas to runners in-behind.
If we take a look at two of his performances on Stats Zone, we can see how he attacked with his passing down the right side with balls played in to the box against Bilbao. Whereas against Sparta Prague, he looks for the longer through ball in to the penalty area from central locations, assisting on a goal this time.
Clement Grenier has been used in the advanced midfield role instead of Yoann Gourcuff, but has also been used in the same side, but in a deeper position.
Grenier got the nod instead of Gourcuff at the weekend, so we may not see him at the Lane tonight. However, if he does play, he offers a similar attacking threat through his passing, but also has an eye for a long range shot at goal.
When on the ball, his passing is to move the ball out to the wide players, whilst also probing through balls straight in to the opposition penalty area. This was greatly demonstrated at home to Sparta Prague on match day one and less so away to Hapoel on match day two. Despite not having as much of the ball in Israel, he was still able to create a goal by one of his through passes towards the penalty area.
Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez
We will probably see one or the other, as Remi Garde only rarely uses the two as part of a front three. However, both Gomis and Lopez offer different styles of play.
Bafetimbi Gomes has made the majority of starts due to injury to Lisandro Lopez, but in the Europa League, the Senegalese front man usually gets the nod away from home. This is due to the fact that Gomis is very capable of winning aerial battles and holding the ball up.
From there he is able to create little knockdowns before moving in to the box to get on the end of crosses, or make runs on to through balls. He likes to drift to the right side of the field, as this is where Lyon focus the majority of their attacking play.
Against both Sparta Prague and Athletic Bilbao we can see this in action and the number of long balls he is able to win. This releases pressure on his defence, whilst also initiates attacks. He is then able to get in to the box, as he looks to get on the end of crosses from Alexandre Lacazette and balls in behind from Gourcuff or Grenier.
Lisandro Lopez on the other hand prefers the ball to feet and to play a shorter passing game than the Senegalese front man. Whilst Gomis shifts to the right to get involved in the play, Lopez likes to work the central and left areas. This is why Remi Garde will deploy him on the left of a front three if he is taking a very attack-minded approach.
From working the left, he then moves towards the centre where he is very efficient at getting on the end of squared balls, cut backs and low-driven crosses.
Alexandre Lacazette is just 21, but has already shown that he can play as a winger in a 4-2-3-1 or as a wide forward in a 4-3-3.
The key to his success is that he plays very wide down the right side, almost hugging the touchline and is able to beat players off of the dribble in order to supply crosses or come inside for a shot.
His goal in Lyon’s 3-2 win at Bilbao highlighted his propensity to drive inside from his position on the right flank and Benoit Assou-Ekotto will have a job to keep him in check.
Lyon concede chances from the right
Lyon are a threat going forward, but teams have had success getting shots from central locations with chances manufactured through their left back zone.
Athletic Bilbao gave them two tough tests in the group stages and were able to generate chances from this zone and the channel between the left and centre back.
Gareth Bale will be a handful for solid right back Anthony Reveillere, who usually keeps chances generated from his side at a premium. It will be interesting to see if Andre Villas-Boas moves Bale in to the centre or gives him licence to roam from the left here.
The big factor for Spurs will be Aaron Lennon down the right and he will be a key player for Spurs. This will be especially true if Remi Garde continues with Fabian Monzon at left back. Garde has had faith in the Argentinean throughout the competition, as opposed to Mouhamadou Dabo in the league.
Spurs vs Lyon outlook
Andre Villas-Boas has already commented that Brad Friedel and William Gallas will play for Spurs and this could be especially risky if Yoann Gourcuff starts for Lyon. Gallas is not very mobile and Brad Friedel doesn’t like to come off his line, so Gourcuff’s through balls could be very effective.
A lot also depends on Remi Garde’s selection and therefore how adventurous Lyon are going to be. Does he go with two more defensive players of Maxime Gonalons and Gueida Fofana in a double pivot in order to keep things tight for the second leg? Or does he go with one of them and a player to move the ball in to attacking positions in Steed Malbranque or Clement Grenier?
Then he has to decide whether he will include both Gourcuff and Grenier or Malbranque, which may be too attack minded with the second leg at home to come. The same might also be said of playing a front three of Lopez, Gomis and Lacazette unless they are chasing goals.
Andre Villas-Boas has said it’s a big game, with big motivation.
“Our players are motivated to do well in this competition and they know that if they beat Lyon, it will serve as further inspiration for the rest of the tournament.”
Whilst William Gallas has said that we won’t underestimate Lyon, even though they are in a re-building phase.
“Their strength is that they play as a team, as a block, and they pass the ball well. They’ve got a threat up front as well with the likes of Lisandro Lopez and Gomis. They can break through at any time and cause problems for the defence, so we can’t give an inch or any room for these players to take advantage.”
Spurs will look to come racing out the traps and grab an early goal to unsettle a side that will sit deep and play on the counter. If we get one, things could be interesting. However, Lyon have been excellent so far in this season’s competion and will prove a tough team to break down here.
Spurs vs Lyon prediction: Spurs 1 Lyon 1