Why can Olympique Lyonnais really go down to Ligue 2?

OL are penultimate in Ligue 1.

Why can Olympique Lyonnais really go down to Ligue 2?

OL are penultimate in Ligue 1. If many followers still have difficulty imagining it, there are reasons to think that the descent to Ligue 2 is a very real risk for the Lyonnais.

With only two points in six days of the championship, Olympique Lyonnais has had the worst start to a season in its history, tied with the 1979-80 season. That year, Les Gones finished 18th in Ligue 1 and had to compete in the play-offs to stay on. If it is still too early to say that this 2023-24 financial year will be so catastrophic, the season is now well underway and the trend is not towards improvement on the Lyon side. Deciphering the situation of a legendary club on the edge of the precipice.

Last Saturday's match in Brest should have marked the start of a new cycle, a mental and sporting "reset" for the Rhone club. Fabio Grosso made his debut on the OL bench, after the more than predictable ousting of Laurent Blanc. But the Lyonnais delivered a very lackluster performance, dominated by a confident Brestois who deserved their victory (1-0). It is certain that it will take time for Fabio Grosso to instill a new dynamic and instill his playing principles. But the attitudes of the players, without reference on the pitch, sometimes resemble real collective abandonment. Some media are also reporting internal tensions, including between players, and the general atmosphere at the club does not seem to be conducive to a reaction of pride.

The statistics are overwhelming for OL at the start of the season, and clearly show that the club is in its place in the red zone. The Lyonnais are those who run the least and lose the most duels in Ligue 1 this season, like in Brest where they won 47 duels for almost twice as many lost (79). The advanced statistics are also alarming. OL have only 6.3 xG ("expected goals"), third lowest total in the championship, for 13.8 xGA ("expected goals against"), highest total in the League 1. Figures close to reality, since the Lyonnais have the worst attack in the championship (3 goals) and the second worst defense (11 goals conceded). They only scored when they were already down by at least two goals. In short: struggling physically, without offensive ideas and vulnerable behind, this OL seems incurable.

This stiffness is partly attributable to the total absence of a game plan or guiding idea under Laurent Blanc, who constantly asked for experienced and "physical" players to obtain the same catastrophic results once these recruits were recruited. acquired. John Textor, by taking control of the club, should have acknowledged the failure of the Cévennes coach, and taken advantage of the summer to restart a new cycle by choosing a more "modern" coach. But it's not all Laurent Blanc's fault: he only anesthetized a group that was already asleep, and above all impoverished in quality. The departures of many talents (Gusto, Lukeba, Barcola) who were poorly replaced and a cheap transfer window have largely reduced the wealth of the squad, which now has nothing of a top-of-the-table team. Added to this is incomplete planning, illustrated by the sale for only 3.5 million of Abdoulaye Ndiaye to Troyes, when he was already ready to take over from Lukeba and OL are still looking for its holders in central defense.

To make matters worse, the extra-sporting situation is more than vague. Sanctioned by the DNCG this summer, no one knows if John Textor will be able or willing to invest during the next transfer windows to renew a sick squad. The power war with Jean-Michel Aulas has ended since his departure from the club, but the economic and sporting direction has not been clarified. The new Executive President, Santiago Cucci, has never worked in the world of sport and looks more like a businessman than a club manager. He is also very discreet in the media, like John Textor, even though OL Groupe risks very big economically in the event of a catastrophic season or even a descent to the second division.

Sports management seems to be in the hands of Matthieu Louis-Jean, recruitment director, and Benjamin Charier, recruitment coordinator. They have managed to achieve great results (Mata, Nuamah, Alvero) but have to deal with very limited resources and the absence of guidelines concerning the game plans of successive coaches. It will take a generous investment from the new owners to relaunch the machine, but also for the graft to take place quickly with Fabio Grosso, because OL are already behind schedule and no longer have the luxury of patience. The urgency is to take points, and the rescue mission begins with a perilous trip to Reims this Sunday.