Mid-Season Report: Lyon

Olympique Lyonnais Men’s Team:

In short, it was a nightmare first half of the season for the senior men’s Lyon team. Their performances and results fell short of even the most pessimistic predictions. The pre-season friendlies were a harbinger of things to come as they lost four out of five and struggled to find the net. Once the season got underway, they gained just a solitary point from their opening four games, which prompted the dismissal of manager Laurent Blanc in early September.

Italian coach Fabio Grosso arrived but failed to steady the ship before he too was dismissed after just one win in his seven games in charge, which left Lyon sitting rock bottom of the table. Survival in Ligue 1 became the limit of their ambition for the remainder of the campaign and Pierre Sage was installed as interim manager.

After a tricky first two games at the helm, Sage guided the team to three consecutive wins to round off the calendar year on a relative high and lift them out of the relegation zone. Performances and morale seemed to improve under the caretaker boss and there is cause for some cautious optimism going into 2024. However, there’s still a lot of work to do as they rode their luck at times during the recent run of wins, especially away at Monaco, and the player confidence still appears very brittle.

I’m now fairly confident that there are at least three worse teams than Lyon in the division (namely the current bottom three – Clermont, Lorient and Toulouse – and probably Metz too), so hopefully they can put aside any lingering fears of relegation and continue to climb the table in the new year. Mid-table obscurity is probably the best they can hope for now, along with a decent run in the cup.

On an individual level, most of the players have been disappointing. In particular, some of the most experienced players such as Lacazette, Tolisso, Lopes and Tagliafico failed to live up to expectations. Much vaunted new signings such as Nuamah, Mama Baldé and Maitland-Niles flattered to deceive and homegrown talents such as Caqueret and Cherki were badly off form. The one bright spot was young Irish centre-back Jake O’Brien, who was a solid presence in defence and contributed some vital goals.

Olympique Lyonnais Women’s Team:

The Lyon women’s team have gone from strength to strength so far this season and we’re running short of superlatives to describe them. They started off by winning the Trophée des Champions 2-0 against PSG in September and then proceeded to win each and every one of their opening eleven league fixtures to leave them eight points clear at the top of the Division 1 Féminine table at the half way stage. The 1-0 win away at PSG on matchday two already feels as though it may have been a title decider.

Lyon have been equally impressive in Europe. They began their Champions League campaign with a thumping 9-0 win away at Slavia Praha and followed it up with two more wins to take control of the group. The only thing that spoiled their one hundred per cent record across all competitions was when they let a two goal lead slip away at Brann in the last match before Christmas. An equaliser deep into injury time earned the Norwegians a 2-2 draw and the distinction of becoming the only side to avoid defeat against Lyon in the first half of this season.

Anything less than a relentless march towards another league title will be a disappointment from hereon and they will also be expected to progress deep into the latter stages of the Champions League to try and regain that trophy. The Lyon women’s team have every reason to look forward to 2024 with eager anticipation..

Olympique Lyonnais Reserves:

The Lyon reserve team are competing in the Championnat National 3 Groupe K in 2023-24, having been relegated at the end of last season. That is one of 11 regionalised groups of 14 teams at level five of the French football league pyramid. It lies below the Ligue 1, Ligue 2, National and National 2 levels.

Only the top team in the group will be promoted to National 2 and Gueïda Fofana’s Lyon reserves ended the calendar year in third place in the table, seven points behind leaders Lyon La Duchère. They experienced an inconsistent start to the season but put together a three match winning run from mid-November before ending the year with a 2-2 draw versus Ain Sud to climb up the table.

They have also been competing in Group B of the Premier League International Cup, where they faced three away games against English opposition. Lyon started well with wins at Chelsea and Southampton followed by a draw at West Ham, but lost 2-1 at group leaders Brighton and Hove Albion in their final fixture. It looks unlikely that they will progress to the next stage of the competition as only the top two go through and Lyon sit third in the table. They require an unlikely sequence of results in the other remaining games in order to go through.

Olympique Lyonnais U-19:

The Lyon men’s U-19 team compete in the Championnat National U19 – Groupe B, one of four regionalised groups at the top level of U-19 football in France. Under the charge of former defender Jérémie Bréchet, the team started the season well but endured a sticky patch from late October into November with three defeats on the trot before returning to form. They end 2023 in fourth place in the fourteen team table. There’s a five point deficit to leaders Sochaux, to whom they lost 1-0 away in November, although Lyon do have a game in hand. Auxerre and Paris FC are also in the hunt for one of the top two spots that would mean qualification for the end-of-season championship play-offs.

Lyon kicked off their Coupe Gambardella campaign in December with a 2-0 win away at ASPTT Dijon and they face a trip to Metz in the Round of 64 for their first fixture of 2024.