It’s common knowledge that in football your pre-season doesn’t define the season ahead, but it can certainly set the tempo for how you start. In Lyon’s five pre-season games, they’ve lost four of them, conceding 13 goals and scoring two in the process.
There is certainly something to worry about for manager Hubert Fournier. He admitted that his side’s pre-season has been “disturbing” following their 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Trophee des Champions.
The harsh truth for Fournier is that his side really did not look like a title challenging proposition. If it was not for a mixture of poor finishing from PSG and the remarkable Anthony Lopes in goal, the margin could have been greater.
Les Gones have serious issues and there is a belief amongst the fans that the players are not mentally attuned heading into the campaign.
It must be stated, they were without big-name players Clement Grenier, Guida Fofana and Clinton N’Jie, who all missed the game through injury. Lyon’s creative outlet in Nabil Fekir was another key omission due to a suspension.
The first area that needs addressing is the defence. Lyon struggled in this department last season and at times looked like a bottom half side. The heroics of Lopes in goal saved the team’s blushes throughout the campaign and was vital in securing Champions League football for this season. An over-reliance on the shot-stopper is a precarious game to play.
Veteran defenders Christophe Jallet and Henri Bedimo possess a great amount of experience but are the wrong side of 30. Younger alternatives are needed in defence if the club want to resurrect their issues at the back.
The addition of Rafael for a fee of £2million is a clever piece of a business, having big-game experience during his 169 games for Manchester United. He will be expected to take Jallet’s place in the side and improve the right-hand side of defence, with the Brazilian’s injection of pace and positional awareness.
Fellow summer acquisitions, forward Claudio Beauvue from Guingamp and defender Jeremy Morel who joined from Marseille on a free transfer, could also turn out to be shrewd.
With the improvements made to the defence, the next issue to address is in midfield. Clement Grenier missed the majority of last season due to a number of different injuries and just when it looked like Lyon’s creative-midfielder was back for the new season, he tore a tendon in his left leg.
Two targets have been named in the French press as replacements for Grenier. The first is Sergi Darder of Malaga, the 21-year-old came through the club’s academy system and has been touted as the best graduate since Isco. Lyon are believed to be in advanced negotiations with the Spanish midfielder.
Darder brings determination in every game and has a keen eye for passing, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette alongside, his directness would be a great asset next season.
Another name among the rumours is Manchester City’s Rony Lopes. The attacking-midfielder played 23 times for Lille last season, scoring three goals and assisting three. He is a lot more creative than Darder, but his defensive contribution and passing still need to be polished.
The task now for Lyon is to reproduce their form from 2014-15. Finishing second on the Ligue 1 table was a massive achievement, but as we have seen in the past, teams can fade away just as quickly.
Nobody had Les Gones down to challenge for the title before the start of last season and it is easy to forget that after the first four games they were in the relegation zone. The side has the talent to win the league, but stopping PSG will take a mammoth effort.
They have no surprise package this season, Fekir is now a marked man and Lacazette will be watched closely. Will the Champions League be a hindrance on their season? Only time will tell, at the end of the day, pre-season is just a warm-up, but Lyon will need to be at their best if they’re to challenge for the title this campaign.
By Callum Read – @