Johann Lepenant – Player Profile

Johann Lepenant is a diminutive, right-footed, defensive midfielder, who was signed by Olympique Lyonnais from Stade Malherbe Caen for €4.25 million in July 2022, aged just nineteen.

Born in in the coastal town of Granville, Normandy, Lepenant began his journey in the youth ranks of local club US Granville, where his father was one of the coaches. He stood out from a young age and was soon on the radar of local big boys Caen, to whom he moved in 2017.

Having been part of the France national team set-up in age-group squads for several years, and having played in the Under-17 European Championships and World Cup in 2019, Lepenant made his first team debut for Caen in September 2020 as a late substitute in a Ligue 2 match away at Rodez, just over a month shy of his eighteenth birthday.

However, it wasn’t until the following January that Lepenant was handed his first start for the club, but when it came he grabbed the opportunity with both hands and was a regular in the line-up for the remainder of the season as the club narrowly avoided relegation from Ligue 2.

Season 2021-22 was a happier affair for Caen, as they bounced back to finish seventh, with Lepenant a fixture in the heart of their midfield. His assuredness in possession, neat and tidy passing and tactical discipline earned him many plaudits along the way and ultimately the big move to Lyon in Ligue 1.

That first season with Lyon began well for Lepenant. He was a regular starter under coach Peter Bosz and looked comfortable playing at the higher level, turning in some solid, if unspectacular performances. However, it finished on something of a personal low when his individual mistakes cost Lyon a couple of goals in the home game against Montpellier in May. He was substituted just before the hour mark with the team trailing 4-1 and had to watch from the sidelines as his team mates completed their stirring come-back to win 5-4.

That performance seemed to dent his confidence somewhat and he was left out of the starting line-up for the remaining four games of the season by manager Laurent Blanc.

The 2023-24 campaign represents a chance for a fresh start for Lepenant and he needs to prove that he has what it takes to hold down a spot in the midfield of a team that aspires to finish in the upper echelons of Ligue 1. Blanc gave him a vote of confidence by handing him starts in the opening two games of the campaign, but a pair of defeats saw him again relegated to the bench and he may now have fallen down the pecking order.

He seems to be a fairly one-dimensional player, who is perfectly adequate at breaking up opposition attacks and relaying possession to a team mate, but he offers next to no goal threat himself and doesn’t weigh in with enough assists either. His lack of physical stature and pace is perhaps a disadvantage in such a pivotal role in the centre of the park.

With a physique and playing style not dissimilar to that of France legend Didier Deschamps, the hope must be that Lepenant can maximise his virtues in a similar way to the now France manger and forge a career as a ‘water-carrier’ de luxe. Still only nineteen years old, there’s plenty of time for him to develop and improve, although my suspicion is that his talent set is too limited to make him much more than a squad player in the long term at Lyon. Let’s hope he proves me wrong.