NEWLY-PROMOTED Lorient welcome Strasbourg on Sunday for their first Ligue 1 clash of the season. James Cantrill (@) shares his thoughts on the showdown.
Lorient vs Strasbourg | Sunday 23rd August 2020, 14:00 | BT Sport
Strasbourg head to Brittany and the maritime town of Lorient on Sunday afternoon for their Ligue 1 curtain-raiser hosted by the town’s namesake at the Stade du Moustoir.
It will be newly-promoted FC Lorient's first game back amongst the French elite following a three-year absence. Christophe Pelissier's side gained promotion as champions after topping Ligue 2 on a points per-game basis.
Strasbourg, on the other hand, will be looking to extend their tenure in the French top-flight to four consecutive seasons. Les Coureurs have improved year-on-year and will be looking to push on again this campaign by hitting the ground running on the west coast.
Lorient team news and tactics
After failing to even make the play-offs during their first two seasons back in the second division, Lorient parted company with Mickael Landreau and appointed Christophe Pelissier at the start of last season. The Frenchman had previously gained promotion from Ligue 2 with Amiens and he quickly managed to implement his philosophy at Les Merlus.
Pelissier likes his sides to play out from the back and press high with high defensive line. He needs his centre backs to be comfortable on the ball and he wants his attacking players to operate in the half spaces and rotate positions. This Lorient side adapted to these tactics quickly as they finished the campaign as top goalscorers in the league, playing total football.
Pelissier opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in 40% of his fixtures and 4-4-2 in 27% usually implementing tactical tweaks in order to adapt to their opposition. However, how his side played remained the same and during games Lorient's team shape would remain quiet flexible.
I expect Lorient will opt for the same 4-2-3-1 that they deployed to great effect last season. With record signing Adrian Grbic unavailable, Umut Bozok is expected to lead the line. This would see them line up as follows; Nardi; Mendes, Laporte, Fontaine, Goff; Lemoine, Le Fee; Diarra, Bolsgard, Wissa; Bozok.
In possession, either one of their full backs or their holding midfielder would drop in between the centre backs, the wingers often start wide to provide the width before drifting inside to occupy the half spaces in between the opposition’s midfield and defence. From goal kicks their centre backs would drop to the byline to receive the ball short from the keeper. If the opposition pressed, their keeper would make an overload in their favour.
In terms of their high press, Lorient rely on their high intensity and aggressive front line. Their back four squeeze high up the pitch out of possession as their front line manipulates where the opposition pass. They defend in a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 formation. Often their striker will press the centre backs, centrally players will go man to man and shut of passing lanes. If a pass does manage to break a line successfully, then Lorient players will quickly compress the space and put pressure on the man in possession.
In transition, if they lose the ball they will often counter-press quickly, instead of dropping of to regain shape with the nearest man pressing the opposition player with the ball.
This combination of possession-based football, high press and high defensive line was the key to them becoming the most prolific team in their league last season. Their defensive solidarity cannot be overlooked either, they only conceded 25 goals was is the fourth lowest goals conceded tally in the league!
The uncertainty lies in if Pelissier's men will be able to persist with this style against far superior opposition this campaign. Will they be able to maintain the same intensity and dominate possession like they did last season? It remains to be seen.
Strasbourg team news and tactics
Since gaining promotion in 2017, Strasbourg have gone from strength-to-strength. They finished 15th on their return, then 11th in their second campaign and then last season they were just three points of fifth – with a game in hand- before the season was drawn to its untimely conclusion.
Thierry Laurey has kept the faith in the team that served him so well last season and thus Strasbourg have not been very active in the transfer window. Therefore, they should name a similar XI to that of last campaign.
With goalkeeper Matz Sels a long term absentee, Bingourou Kamara should start between the sticks. Lebo Mothiba has also been ruled out after sustaining an Achilles injury. They should line up with; Kamara; Lala, Simakan, Djiku, Caci; Sissoko; Bellegarde, Lienard; Thomasson; Waris, Ajorque.
Tactically, Strasbourg are almost a polar opposite side to Lorient. Le Racing's style of play revolves entirely around their deadly counter attack- last season only PSG scored more goals via counter attacks then Strasbourg's 28%- and their direct play is build on their solid defensive organisation.
As per Wyscout, their press ranks as one of Ligue 1's most prolific with only three sides had a lower PPDA (passes per defensive action) than them last season.
However, whilst it is intense it is not relentless nor is it sporadic and this is best illustrated by the fact that Strasbourg had the fourth lowest ball recoveries in their final third last season. This means that their press is triggered when the opposition steps out of the final third. This means that when the opposition centre backs have the ball, Strasbourg's strikers sit of disengaged!
Out of possession they take up a 4-1-2-1-2 formation. The midfield four get into a diamond shape, going man-to-man and suffocating the central space. As mentioned above the strikers do not engage with the centre backs in possession, instead they drop of and cut of passing lanes into midfield.
In possession, Le Racing love to exploit the width of the pitch which comes as know surprise given their talisman is 6ft 4 Ludovic Ajorque. Last season they averaged 15.5 crosses per game which ranks them third behind only PSG and Montepellier.
The betting angles
Ludovic Ajorque Anytime Goalscorer (Betway 11/4)
Last season Ludovic Ajorque finished joint top goalscorer for Strasbourg with eight goals. Across all competitions, in a total of 33 appearances, he scored 10 times – that means he scored in 30% of his games. At odds of 11/4 it implies that there is only a 26.7% chance of him scoring.
Whilst this is not crazy value, he did start last season with a bang; scoring in Strasbourg's opening two games in their Europa League qualification fixtures.
It is also worth noting that with injuries to the likes of Nuno Da Costa and Kevin Zohi last season, Ajorque did not get the opportunity to establish a formidable strike partnership and this is something his raw attributes would prosper with.
This season he may just have that opportunity with Majeed Waris and this could see him reap the rewards. His potential new Ghanaian striker partner has proved to be a pivotal cog in an attacking duo before. During the 2015/16 he and Moukandjo scored 24 goals between them for Lorient.
Julian Laporte Passes (Ladbrokes)
As explained above, Lorient pass out from the back and Strasbourg do not press the centre backs as their strikers cut of passing lanes into the midfield. This suggest that Lorient's centre backs could rack up the passes. Ladbrokes have player prob markets available and Leporte is priced at 7/5 to attempt 50 passes and 17/4 to attempt 60, both of which take my fancy.
Last season Laporte attempted an average of 58.4 passes – in his 10 most recent Ligue 2 fixtures he attempted the following passes; 69/117/ 63/30/97/39/71/50/20/61. As you can see he failed to hit the 45 line in three fixtures, one of which was an anomaly and in the other two fixtures Lorient lead 2-0 at HT.
At odds of 17/4 to attempt 60 passes, is implies just a 19% of it landing. However, as listed above it happened in 60% of his last 10 appearances in Ligue 2. The uncertainty lies in how both sides will approach this fixture tactically, given the fact that it is the beginning of a new season. However, all things considered I think that it is worth the risk.
Julian Laporte To Have 1+ Shots (Ladbrokes 11/5)
Last season, despite scoring only once, Laporte had a shot in 40% of his appearances. During his last 10 Ligue 2 appearances, he averaged a shot in 60% of his games! At odds of 11/5 the implied probability of him having a shot on Sunday is almost half of that at just 31%.
Strangely, despite having the highest shots per game average (0.4) of any defender for Lorient, Laporte is the longest price for a shot. He's even slightly longer than his CB partner Thomas Fontaine who -despite playing eight less games than Laporte- averaged a shot every 0.1 games!
It is also worth noting that Lorient averaged 16.03 crosses per game last season and 4.5 corners in their last five fixtures. Strasbourg conceded a total of 52 shots from corners and set pieces last season, that is an average 1.9 per game.
Lorient vs Strasbourg – Ludovic Ajorque to score at Anytime (Betway 11/4)
Lorient vs Strasbourg – Julian Laporte To Make 50+ Passes (Ladbrokes 7/5)
Lorient vs Strasbourg – Julian Laporte To Make 60+ Passes (Ladbrokes 17/4)
Lorient vs Strasbourg – Julian Laporte To Have 1+ Shots (Ladbrokes 11/5)