the "annus horribilis" of Olympique Lyonnais

Memphis Depay seriously injured a knee on Sunday against Rennes.
Memphis Depay seriously injured a knee on Sunday against Rennes. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

This season was to be one of the wildest ambitions. Finally, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) was going to seriously compete with PSG in Ligue 1. Ex-idol Juninho was back as sports director, recruits had landed for more money in recent years (between 25 and 30 million euros) and the page Bruno Génésio, disputed trainer, was definitely turned.

Six months later, the Olympique Lyonnais crosses a veritable annus horribilis which experienced its climax on Sunday, December 16 at the end of the afternoon at the reception in Rennes. More than the seventh defeat of the season (1-0), the fourth at home, and the 17 points that already separate Lyon from the Parisians, it is the serious injuries of Jeff Reine-Adelaïde and especially Memphis Depay, the captain, top scorer and best player, who hit the Rhone club hard.

In the evening, the club communicated on its misfortunes, leaving a terrible list of injured: "Olympique Lyonnais deplores the serious injuries of Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, victims of a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament, respectively of the left knee and the right knee. These two serious injuries are in addition to those of Léo Dubois (meniscus injury) and Youssouf Koné (operated on an ankle) who will also be absent for a long time. "

" A disaster "

Memphis Depay, who has scored 14 goals in 17 games this season in all competitions, should miss at least the next six months. A heavy blow for Lyon but also for the selection of the Netherlands, which will return to a major competition in June at Euro 2020, two years after missing the World Cup in Russia.

The club's sporting director, Brazilian Juninho, could only deplore the long absence of his captain: "The Memphis injury is a disaster because he is the most decisive player. It’s really worrisome because he’s our best player, becoming the team leader on the field. I am sad for him. "

Coach Rudi Garcia himself was unable to find any positive points: "It is a very negative evening. Everything went wrong. Players must progress at high speed to show personality. We have to do much better. "

At this level of bad luck, we almost come to speak of a curse. It is not the neo-retired Bernard Lacombe (former goalscorer, then coach and advisor to President Jean-Michel Aulas), whose immense Lyon career was celebrated yesterday at the stadium, who will contest the use of this term in a football world where superstition is very significant.

This is even to wonder if we did not build the new Lyon enclosure on an Indian cemetery in 2016.

Questions about this succession of injuries

The concomitance of these two heavy wounds questions. But it is difficult – and even speculative – to see the consequence of poor physical preparation, even a few days after the words of Rudi Garcia who challenged "A lack of land work during the summer preparation" under the reign of its fleeting predecessor, the Brazilian Sylvinho.

Firstly because at least one of the two players, namely Queen Adelaide, has made all his preparations with his former club Angers, which he did not leave until the middle of August. And then because the ruptures of the cruciate ligament are the scourge of footballers, who live in the haunting of this terrible injury, the most frequent of their sport.

It is clear that the arrival, at the end of October, of the Italian trainer Paolo Rongoni, close to Rudi Garcia since his visits to Rome and Marseille, did not affect the physical condition of the Lyonnais. His working methods are sometimes contested (he has not left only good memories in Rome and Marseille) and accused of favoring muscle glitches.

November was a very delicate month for OL on this point, with an unfortunate series of hamstring injuries. The series of matches every three days, especially with the European Cup, has certainly left its mark.

Conflict with supporters

To make matters worse, distrust reigns at all levels, like the conflict between the supporters of the north turn and the players, whose latest episode occurred Tuesday, a few minutes after the miraculous qualification torn off for the knockout stages of the Champions League: Memphis Depay had sprinted towards an individual who brandished an insulting banner towards his teammate Marcelo, in delicacy for several weeks with a significant part of the supporters.

Read also Qualification for the 8th finals, conflict with the supporters … The mixed evening of OL in the Champions League

Even the prospect of the draw for the future opponent on Monday no longer excites many people. Eighth in the league, already six points from the podium (Lille), potentially eight points if Stade rennais (4e) wins their game late, OL are not armed to fight at the top of the rankings. Something unthinkable this summer for a club that has not finished outside the top 5 since the 1997-1998 season.

In this context, even the winter break does not seem able to bring healing to a club in dire straits. This annus horribilis could be used as a transitional season: the opportunity to launch young people from a high-performance and renowned training center, like Maxence Caqueret, 19-year-old midfielder, who was the only clearer in the middle of the terrible Rennes defeat.

Redemption perhaps passes through the youth of Lyons.


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