Matchday 8 of the Belgian Pro League pitted current leaders Sporting Charleroi against fourth placed Standard Liege. What looked an entertaining match on paper surely did entertain, with three goals scored in the last 10 minutes. In the end, Standard were able to grab all three points. This result ended Sporting Charleroi’s unbeaten start to the league season. The Stade du Pays was host to a very entertaining match and this following tactical analysis will analyse a few interesting tactical observations that were made throughout. It will also explain what Standard were able to do to end Charleroi’s unbeaten start to the season.


Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics
Lineups – credit – Wyscout

Karim Belhocine lined his Charleroi side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with 39-year old Nicolas Penneteau between the sticks. Dorian Dessoleil and Steeven Willems anchored the back four, flanked either side by Joris Kayembe and Guillaume Gillet. Mamadou Fall and Ali Gholizadeh started out wide. Ryota Morioka and Marco Ilaimaharitra anchored the midfield. Shamar Nicholson sat behind Iranian Kaveh Rezaei up top.

Philippe Montanier set his side up in a more defensive 4-5-1 formation. Young Belgian Arnaud Bodart started in goal behind a back four of Nicolas Gavory, Noë Dussenne, Zinho Vanheusden, and Collins Fai. Selim Amallah and Abdoul Tapsoba started out wide. Gojko Cimirot, Nicolas Raskin, and Merveille Bokadi started in central midfield. Jackson Moleka was the lone striker up top.

Sporting Charleroi’s Pressing Potential

One aspect of the match that caught the eye was Charleroi’s ability to press the Standard players in the right moments. Charleroi’s press was not one that they did consistently, but rather, one that they did occasionally with success. By the end of the match, Charleroi’s total PPDA was 12.4, with a PPDA of 18.8 in the first half, and 8.1 in the second half. What this shows is that while they would sit back, they would also press at the right moments. Below are some examples of this in action.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

Above in this phase of play, Standard are in possession near their 18-yard box. Charleroi have noticed an opportunity to press high and do it in a very organized manner. Each Charleroi player has their man to press and do it in a way to cut off all the passing lanes. The most obvious route for Standard to get out of this press would have been to get it back to the goalkeeper. The striker notices this and presses the goalkeeper high. The defender has no time to turn and find a passing option so the ball is put out of play. This results in an early throw in for Charleroi.

Another example of their pressing ability throughout the match is shown below. As shown, the Standard player that is in possession of the ball is taking his time on the ball, and as a result, the Charleroi players start to implement a high press to see if they can force a mistake. However, instead of pressing the man in possession, the Charleroi striker instead decides to press the centre-back. This ends up being the right choice. It allows the defender nowhere to go with the ball as a result.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

This would allow them to switch the play to the opposite side of the field and give Standard some space to play into. Since this passing lane gets cut off, it forces the Standard player to play the ball out wide to the wing. This initiates the winger to press the player on the near touchline. This then allows Charleroi to win back possession in a dangerous area. While they didn’t press at every opportunity, they chose the right moments. This allowed Charleroi to play a very tactical game. It also allowed them to save themselves for later in the match.

Standard’s Defensive Setup

For this match against the league leaders, Montanier decided to set his side up in a more defensive 4-5-1 formation. This allowed Standard to be more solid defensively and use their pace to be able to hit Charleroi on dangerous counter attacks. This also meant they conceded the majority of possession to Charleroi. This however, did not phase the Liege based side.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

As shown above, Standard set up defensively in a 4-5-1 formation. This allowed them to keep very tight in their back line, and outnumber the Charleroi attackers. They were able to negate the spaces that the Charleroi players could have exploited with a different formation. They also had their midfielders play tight as well with them often tucking inside. This allowed them to keep the numerical advantage in midfield while defending. This formation was able to bring Standard a lot of success throughout this match. With that being said though, it was not perfect.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

Another thing that Standard liked to do in certain moments was play a high line. These tactics could work wonders in regards to setting offside traps and winning the ball in dangerous positions high up the pitch, but it can also cause a team’s own downfall. This is a tactic that teams like Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Liverpool use regularly with mixed success at times. Here, Standard are playing a very high line, but the line is setup staggered, with the two closest defenders playing the striker onside. However, when the ball is played, they step up, and then the player is offside as a result if the ball is played to him as a second ball.

The midfield also left plenty of spaces out on the wings on goal kick situations like this. This is one position that Charleroi exploited often during this match. They did however stay tight through the middle, which forced Charleroi to play it wide. This allowed them less of a chance to get a good goalscoring opportunity.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

Another great advantage of playing a back five is the numerical advantage that is able to be acquired. Above, Charleroi are pushing late to try and find an equalizer. This forces Standard to sit back in a defensive shell and soak up the opposition pressure. In this phase of play, the left fullback is out wide defending against a possible cross from the wide player of Charleroi. As a result, there are still four Standard defenders in the box and only three Charleroi attackers, giving Standard the numerical advantage.This allows them to approach this situation in different ways, as they don’t have to worry about a 3v3 in the box. The extra man is able to “float” per se, and drift throughout the box. He can also create 2v1s in the box, or pick up an unmarked man. This setup was able to keep Standard solid defensively throughout the match. It was unlucky that they conceded such a late consolation goal.

Mamadou Fall’s Impact

While Charleroi did not have much success offensively throughout this match, one player individually that was able to cause trouble for the Standard defense was the 28-year old Senegalese international Mamadou Fall. The winger was able to use his deadly combination of pace and power to be able to cause havoc for the Standard defense. While he wasn’t able to lead Charleroi to a win, he did try.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

Above is a great example of the pace and power discussed earlier that he is able to use to get by defenders. Early in the match, Fall receives the ball near the touchline with the Standard defender on his back. He is able to turn and use his pace to get around the defender and power as well to hold the defender off from trying to bully him off the ball. After getting past the fullback, he then has the time and space to attempt a cross into the box. Unfortunately, the attempted cross was not a good one, and Standard were able to clear their lines. Fall was a nuisance down this flank for the majority of the match. With the Standard fullbacks lacking with pace he could run past them. He also was able to outmuscle them. This made him challenging to go shoulder-to-shoulder with during the match.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

Another thing that Fall was able to use well throughout the match was his vision and match awareness. This was something else that he was able to use to exploit the Standard defensive line. Above, Fall notices the space that is in behind the fullback and is able to make a smart run behind him. The Charleroi player sees this run being made and plays a perfectly timed pass for Fall to run onto.

In this situation as well, the fullback is caught ball watching, which leaves him susceptible to this type of movement in behind the him. This means that the defender is not able to react quick enough, and Fall is able to run onto the ball and this time delivers a much better cross into the box. While it does not result in a goal for Charleroi, it shows how much Mamadou Fall was able to offer during the match. He was one of the best players on the night for this Charleroi side.

Belgian Pro League 2020/21: Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liege - tactical analysis tactics

The final thing that Mamadou Fall was able to do well throughout this match was what got him a goal: positioning. Charleroi are 2-0 down in the 87th minute and need to score now to have any hope of miraculously going on to get a second a secure a magical point. The corner is taken and Fall drifts away from his man to find some space. As the ball comes to him, the player marking him turns and starts to move towards him. Fall is able to hit a sweet volley through the gap in between the two defenders and into the back of the net to pull a goal back for Charleroi. While it wasn’t able to end in a positive result for Charleroi, it rewarded Fall’s quality throughout the match.


This turned out to be a very entertaining match against the league leaders Charleroi and third place Standard Liege. While no goals were scored until the last 15 minutes of the match, the analysis of this match goes far beyond the goals. This match contained two very evenly matched sides that approached this match in different ways. Charleroi opted for a more attack minded, press heavy approach. Standard went with a more defense minded, counter attacking approach. Both sides have started the season well, but Standard Liege were the stronger team this time around.