This past summer transfer window has turned Lyon into a made-for-TV movie. There’s broken promises, betrayal, and greed – all that’s missing is an evil stepmother and a clueless boyfriend.
Oh wait, that’s Aulas and Genesio.
To recap, Lyon has what can only be termed “a colossal fuck up of epic proportions” in the right-back position. As most of you know, I don’t break out the “f word” unless it’s serious.
When too many is just as bad as too few.
It all started last season when Lyon heavily courted Léo Dubois, who was at the end of his contract at Nantes. He was doing well enough to catch the attention of several clubs and even ended the year as the best right back of Ligue 1. Many also predicted he’d make his way back into the French National team.
For all intents and purposes, this was a great capture by OL. Dubois was quality, and best of all, he was free. Aulas, who never says no to a good deal, signed him in January (but let him remain at Nantes to finish out the season).
The problem was that Lyon already had two right-backs in Rafael and Kenny Tete. Sadly, no one thought to ask what would happen to them because…well, that’s OL for you. Unlike other clubs, they deal with problems by closing their eyes and hoping everything magically works out.
Fast forward to six months later. Pre-season training immediately makes it clear that overcrowding was going to be a very big issue. Neither Rafael nor Tete had any desire to leave, and Dubois, who had literally just arrived, wasn’t going anywhere either.
Genesio needed to figure out how to accommodate 3 right-backs. He tried putting Dubois on the left, which was a fail. Rumors popped up that he would put Rafael further up as a right winger (intriguing but also a little scary) or as a left-back if Marçal left (he didn’t). The other idea, to utilize Tete as a center-back, had been dismissed by Genesio, which is puzzling given Lyon’s lack of depth in that position.
Like, don’t you even want to try, bro?
But no matter how Genesio worked it, the problem remained – too many right-backs for a single spot.
Matters were further compounded because it wasn’t clear who exactly should start. While Dubois was the obvious first choice, he didn’t impress immediately, and his first few games were poor. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be an issue, as new players sometimes take time to gel with their team, but the constant rotation with Rafael and Tete meant that Dubois never got the chance to settle.
Rafael and Tete also lived at the edge of uncertainty, never knowing who would be left off the team sheet for the next game. Rafael, who was pushed towards an exit this summer and nearly signed for Besiktas, has said loudly and clearly that he wants to stay. And while Genesio seems to prefer Dubois, Rafael has started the last two games. Tete, on the other hand, has yet to play a single minute of this season and has not started a game since last March. Of the two, it was looking like Tete would be doomed to spend this season with the reserves.
But while Tete seemed to have lost his club’s confidence, his national team manager still believed in him. Not only was he called up for Netherland’s latest friendlies, but he started both games and even managed an assist. He was excellent, which put further doubt onto Genesio’s decision to make Tete the 3rd choice.
Tete, to his credit, isn’t letting this bring him down. In a recent interview, he confided that while his current predicament took him by surprise, he’s going to work hard to make his way back into Genesio’s good graces. It’s also a subtle reminder that while he might be 3rd choice at Lyon, unlike Rafael and Dubois, he’s a confirmed international.
What does this mean for OL?
With Tete and Rafael vowing to fight, and with Dubois likely to bounce back from his initial malaise, it’s unclear what the best decision will be. Rafael is beloved by the fans, and his attitude and good cheer play an important role in team morale. Tete is young, but we’ve seen glimpses of the player we know he can be. As for Dubois, he’s Nantes’ former captain and has an upwards trajectory, so we can expect big things from him.
What is clear is that Lyon made a huge error in even allowing this situation to unfold. They never should have bought Dubois without confirming a departure. Instead, there are now three players who deserve to play, and of all positions on the squad, it will be right-back that will cause Genesio the most indecision.
The only saving grace is that with the Champions League as well as two domestic cups, there should be more opportunity for rotation. It won’t be enough by a long shot, as it still means someone has to remain off the team sheet for each game, but at least these guys won’t starve . I hope.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if one of them – likely Tete – departs in January.
Who do you think should start?