Olympique Lyonnais have just experienced one of their worst weekends ever. And the season has barely started.
Despite it only being the second week of Ligue 1, our most promising young striker suffered a torn knee ligament in training while the team experienced an embarrassing defeat to a promoted club. Worse yet, the search for a central defender has been equally underwhelming.
The pressure is already heaped on “Pep” Genesio as this Friday, OL will host an eager Strasbourg side who are looking to repeat last season’s upset. We’ve all tried to bury that 3-2 loss deep into our memories, (just like the time that you accidentally killed your neighbor’s bird when babysitting it while they were away on vacation). Dimitri Lienard pulled a stunning Memphis Depay-esque last minute winner out of his arse that shocked the OL and gave Strasbourg all 3 points.
Le Racing are coming to Groupama Stadium in decent form after beating a confused Bordeaux team 2-0 and then drawing 1-1 against our filthy rivals, AS Saint Etienne. They will go into this match with confidence and look to their impeccable team spirit and determination to get a result away from home.
Genesio has brightly lit torches and sharpened pitchforks already outside his window. He needs to get it right in front of a fan base that’s ready for his blood if OL leave with anything less than a win. For both Genesio and OL, this is their chance at redemption.
Tactically starved against a resilient and organised Reims, OL will face a similar test on a fresh pitch of grass (not bacteria-riddled or covered in sand this time), where they will need to break down a Strasbourg formation that’s happy to stay disciplined and not be too adventurous.
The keys to success? A lineup that puts OL’s best players as close as possible to the goal. The squad’s strength is in its individuals with all the positives and negatives that go with it.
The team’s focus needs to be placed on Memphis Depay, who has the ability to impregnate the entire female fan base with just one strike. The 442 diamond puts both him and Bertrand Traore close to the goal with a balanced midfield focused on breaking the lines and giving as much service as possible to these two.
Against Reims, the entire team was slow and confused, as if they had spent the entire week training in a Chinese opium den (is this the Genesio effect? hmm). With no confirmation of Nabil Fekir’s return for this Friday, Genesio will be sweating bullets at not having his job saviour on the pitch.
There are alternatives for Fekir’s absence. The young Pape Cheikh Diop has shown beautiful things in preseason and could compete for a starting position on one side of the diamond, which would push Houssem Aouar into the number 10 spot. He has similar moves to Tanguy Ndombele and has lots of energy to burn. Cheikh and Ndombele were paired together against Inter in the preseason to great effect, with both always looking to go forward with the ball and to disrupt the opposing attacks with “enthusiastic aggression.” Welcome to FC Castagne.
On paper, OL have one of the sexiest young midfields in Europe. After last season, there’s a lot of pressure to see them not just repeat their success but go to the next level. Unfortunately, that midfield is still on holiday, and we have yet to see it perform anywhere near the heights of last season. Against Strasbourgh, they have a chance to find that rhythm again.
As with every match under the Genesio regime, we can never be fully confident at how the next match will unfold. Which OL will turn up? Was the defeat to Reims the “rocket up the arse” that OL needed? Will it help them remember not to wait for divine intervention from “Pep”? Will they realize each other’s individual qualities? The opportunity for redemption is real, it’s there for both the players and the management to take.
We know that Olympique Lyonnais have the good looks, talent, and ego to play spectacular and silky smooth football. As fans, we not just hope but expect to see it against Strasbourg, where we can get our season back on track. Redemption can not come sooner.
Match prediction? Taking off my skeptical spectacles, I would say a nervy 1-0 win for OL. We’re likely to see some nervous moments at the back, some dangerous Strasbourg counters, a more solid midfield performance, and an eventual moment of brilliance from one of our attackers that can go onto the YouTube highlight reel.
Follow Sam on twitter @OZOL1950.