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Lack of European commitments proving to be a blessing in disguise for Lyon

A rejuvenated Depay has been crucial to Lyon
A rejuvenated Depay has been crucial to Lyon's rise.
ANALYST
Modified 20 Jan 2021
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Rudi Garcia arrived at Lyon in October of 2019 following the sacking of Brazilian head coach Sylvinho. The club was 14th in the table when Garcia took over.

Despite some bitterness from the Lyon fans because of his stint at Marseille, Garcia stood tall amid the crisis. The club improved their form and eventually finished in seventh place at the end of the season. It was nonetheless a massive disappointment for a club that regularly secures Champions League participation.

Despite the improvement in the domestic rankings, fan pressure was mounting on Garcia. However, his team responded in the Champions League following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Lyon beat the likes of Manchester City and Juventus to secure a semi-final finish in the tournament. While fans are still upset over their absence from this year’s European competitions, it seems to have turned into a blessing in disguise.

Lyon’s start to the season was topsy-turvy, with the club registering just a solitary win from their first six games. 

Lyon's 13-match unbeaten run catapulted them to the top

However, everything changed with Memphis Depay refinding his form. Depay, who was future was speculated about in the summer, hit the ground running this season. He played a part in turning Lyon’s fortunes around at the Meinau Stadium, with a 3-2 win over RC Strasburg.

Following that win, Lyon embarked on a 13-match winning run that saw them beat Paris Saint-Germain along the way. The club were second in the Ligue 1 table by Christmas.

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While their 13-match unbeaten run was snapped against Metz, they are still in firm contention for the title and could still outgun Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

PSG’s indifferent form this season has given the other top clubs in France a glimmer a hope. Marseille, for instance, took control of the title race early on in the season. Lille has stayed on course as well this season. Lyon, however, are the team most likely to beat PSG to the title.

Lyon's squad is second only to PSG

The squad that Rudi Garcia possesses at the moment is second only to PSG. Both Lille and Marseille operate with depleted squads owing to Financial Fairplay sanctions.

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Several of Lyon's players returned to form this season, and undoubtedly, a lighter fixture list with no European participation seems to have aided them. Houssem Aouar has emerged as one of the top midfielders in France. The form of the center-back pairing of Sinaly Diomande and Jason Denayer has been vital in Lyon's rise to the top.

Their front three - Tino Kadewere, Depay, and Toko Ekambi - have been the deadliest frontline in the Ligue 1 this season. The trio has contributed to 31 of Lyon’s 39 goals so far - the highest of any club in the country. 

With Marseille slipping down the table and Lille operating with depleted reserves, Lyon remain firm title-contenders. PSG’s European commitments alongside the recent sacking of Thomas Tuchel are also other factors that will benefit Lyon. This season promises to be Lyon’s best chance of capturing the L'Hexagoal - a title they have not won since 2010.

Published 20 Jan 2021, 18:34 IST
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