Gareth Bale was the star, but Samuel Umtiti was the key player, as our Europa League 1st leg clash finished Spurs 2 Lyon 1.
We were focussed on attacking the left back, creating our best opportunities on the few occasions we could get in-behind him. At the other end, his awesome left foot shot gained the French side a vital away goal.
Lyon set up and tactics
Lyon came out in a defensively minded 4-3-3 formation. In possession, Lisandro Lopez and Alexandre Lacazette pushed on to support Bafetimbi Gomis. Without the ball, these two would drop very deep and make a 4-5-1, leaving Gomis as an out ball.
I speculated in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Lyon whether Remi Garde would deploy two defensive midfield players, or just one alongside Steed Malbranque. Garde ended up lining up with all three, as he went for a solid defensive core, with Maxime Gonalons alongside Gueida Fofana. Malbranque has been playing deeper for Lyon this season, but the former Spurs man got the nod in an advanced midfield role ahead of the usual incumbents, Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier.
Garde’s selection was attacking by deploying three forwards, but also largely defensive with two retreating and two holding players clogging-up the middle.
For the first 15 minutes they did come out and press Spurs through their three front men, whilst the other seven outfield players sat back. Then, for the rest of the half they all dropped off, content to defend from halfway. This was probably a tactic to mitigate Spurs quick start, which we know that AVB likes to try and go for an early goal in big matches.
As anticipated in the Tottenham tactics, Lyon looked to play down their right side. Bafetimbi Gomis likes to drift out here to receive long balls and clearances played up to him from the defence, winning the knockdowns for Malbranque and Lacazette. From here he can then move towards the box and look for a return. Nowhere was this more prevalent than in his penalty shout after being tripped by Jan Vertonghen.
Malbranque and Lacazette were the main Lyon threats in the build-up play all night. Steed would come out to the right once the play was in the Spurs half, whilst Lacazette would drive in-field. The wide forward’s mazy run and shot that was tipped over by Brad Friedel highlighted how Lyon were trying to work this flank, and this was very much how the Lyon goal arrived. Lacazette had come inside, whilst Malbranque had drifted wide and supplied the cross, which Umtiti ended up slamming home.
Spurs set up and tactics
Spurs once again lined up with Gareth Bale in the middle and Clint Dempsey out to the left in a 4-3-3. After it was clear that Lyon were going to crowd the centre with their two holding players, both Bale and Dempsey would often switch positions due to the lack of space. In the second half, after Clint Dempsey was substituted for Lewis Holtby, Bale switched almost exclusively to the left, coming back inside only in the final few minutes.
Without the ball, our pressing game was very much evidence once more. AVB likes the number nine along with the advanced midfielder to press the opposition centre backs and force passes back to the keeper to clear. Here Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Bale showed good energy to shut down both Milan Bisevac and Dejan Lovren, which allowed us to win the ball back from the resulting clearances downfield.
The key for Spurs though, was attacking left back Samuel Umtiti.
We looked in the Tottenham tactics at how teams have had success in creating scoring chances through the Lyon left back zone. With Gareth Bale drifting and Clint Dempsey coming inside from the left wing, Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker were combining to stretch the play down the right.
Most of Spurs good moments from open play came from the combination of Walker and Lennon. This included a nice one-two, which freed Walker in behind and his perfect cross saw Gareth Bale miss a wide-open goal.
The pair were effective for most of the match, with Lennon coming inside and Walker moving around him on the overlap. From an offensive point of view, this was one of Walker’s best matches of the season.
All about Bale
Despite the good work done down the right by Lennon and Walker; the star of the game was once more Gareth Bale.
Starting off in a central role, the Welshman found space very difficult to come by with Lyon packing the centre, but the best chance of the first half fell to him. Had he managed to side-foot home, rather than back across an empty goal, it would have been a great reward for the tactics of trying to expose the area in-behind Umtiti.
After the interval, the Welshman moved back in to his normal left-sided role, trying to stretch a compact and narrow Lyon side. Anthony Reveillere is a good right back and with the help of Maxime Gonalons, they did well to keep him quiet for much of the second half. One of the rare moments that the Welshman managed to turn and run at the right back, saw him whip an excellent low cross in to the box, but it failed to find a team mate.
Once more, Spurs were struggling to break down a team sitting deep. Even the introduction of two passers in Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson couldn’t find a way to pick open an organised Lyon defence.
However, coming back inside for the final few minutes, Bale would be saving some magic in his left foot for one more free-kick in the dying seconds. Game Over.
Spurs 2 Lyon 1 conclusions
Spurs had a game plan here to attack through the Lyon left back zone occupied by Samuel Umtiti. Both Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker stayed wide, with the latter overlapping to get in behind the Lyon left back, from a ball played through by the former.
If Gareth Bale had scored from the open goal chance that these two created for him, the game could have taken a very different route.
Lyon fashioned an equaliser from their plan to move the ball down the right. With Malbranque constantly moving wide and Lacazette coming inside, they were trying to get the ball in for Bafetimbi Gomis. They managed to get Malbranque in to a crossing position, only for it to be headed out by William Gallas before Umtiti smacked the clearance in to our net.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Gareth Bale though.
Two set pieces, two Ronaldo-esque style free-kicks, both beating Remy Vercoutre in the flight rather than with power. The night belonged to him once again.