In the last update I departed Amiens, leaving them in 11th place.
I take over Olympique Lyonnais on 14 December 2024. The club find themselves in 15th place having just departed with Vincent Company.
The Board have set me the following expectations:
1 – Reach the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Europa League – Luckily Kompany hasn’t done a bad job here, we sit in 13th just outside the playoff places with two games left against Dinamo Batumi and Stuttgart.
2 – Finish mid table in Ligue 1 – Finding ourselves in 15th, I certainly hope I can turn around the team enough to drag them to at least mid table.
3 – Reach the Quarter-finals of the French Cup – Who knows how cup draws will go…fingers crossed this is one we can achieve.
The first thing I want to do, before setting up tactics or meeting the press is delve into the players and ensure morale is as high as can be. The team is clearly full of talented players so I’m assuming that team morale is one of the issues.
A happy squad is a winning squad (?)
In the squad screen I see two players who are very unhappy. The first is 32-year-old left wingback Tagliafico who wants to leave for Champions League football. I ask him to give me until the end of the season but this makes him even more angry (oops!) and therefore he’s been transfer listed with an asking price of £20m. Much to his delight.
The second is Lacazette. He’s unhappy, transfer-listed and wants to run down his contract. His request is granted and it’s another player who is no longer unhappy.
Hopefully this has a short term boost on squad morale, especially as they’re both senior players.
WHERE DO THE PROBLEMS LIE?
Let’s face it: Lyon are a good team, with some very good players. So why are they languishing in 15th place, mid-December?
By looking at the Data Hub information available I can see something immediately… and it doesn’t make for pretty reading.
The only stat they’re above Ligue 1 average for is shots per game. However, looking at the Non-Penalty xG per game, the shots being taken aren’t good ones! And the 35% shots on target ratio is also well below division average.
Aside from that, they can’t tackle, can’t pass, can’t defend and the goalkeeper can’t save shots very well.
Here’s the statistical “highlights” so you know what I’m working with:
They have the second worst defensive record in Ligue 1 after 17 games.
They have the 5th worst goal scoring record in Ligue 1 after 17 games.
Worst cross completion ratio, with 8%
Worst goals scored from corners, with 0
3rd worst pass completion ratio, with 80% (16th)
4th worst for number of passes completed (15th)
3rd worst for possession lost (16th)
2nd worst for goals conceded from corners, with 5 (17th)
5th worst for tackles won (14th)
5th worse for tackles won ration (14th)
3rd worse for headers lost per game (16th)
Wow, it’s a good job I arrived when I did!
There are some positives though… change creation and shot-based stats are decent, so the players are able to get the ball into the attacking players… just not in very good positions. And when they do get the ball into a dangerous position they can’t score. Infact, the data hub described “our” shooting as “Aggressive but wasteful”.
6th for total shots
3rd for fouls against
3rd for dribbles per game
1st for high intensity sprints
6th for expected goals
8th for non-penalty expected goals
Under Kompany, they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 and here’s what appears to be the regular line up:
Another assumption is that Kompany tried to play with a high tempo, which is why the passing stats are so poor. Judging by the high percentage of possession won inside our own area I also predict they were playing with a low defensive line.
Looking at the regular starting 11, Caqueret had the highest average rating with 6.96. All four attacking players have scored 4 goals each, whilst Aouar leads the assist charts with 5.
When it comes to central defenders, young Brazilian, Morato, is a beast, winning 86% of his headers and tackles, whilst his partner Diomande has fared slightly worse, winning only 69% of headers and 76% of tackles. That tackle ratio is below average but clearly isn’t the main reason for the team’s poor defensive performance.
Left wingback Tagliafico wanting to leave could be a blessing, especially if I can get around £20m for him. He’s well below average for tackling, heading and passing… and that’s no good to me.
On the other flank, Terracciano, is also below average for tackling but he’s young and someone I can work with. The other option at right wingback, Santos, has mainly been played further up field. He’s a much better attacking option and may get the nod from me…
Moving into the midfield, Perrone – on loan from Man City – has been playing as a defensive midfielder but is below average for tackling, interceptions and passing. He’s performed well in the air though, but certainly needs to up his performances if he’s to remain in the team.
Onto a player I’m really looking forward to working with, Caqueret. For reasons unknown to me, Kompany was playing him as a Ball Winning Midfielder and you’ll not be surprised to know he struggled in the key metrics required for this role. However, he shows his intelligence by smashing the average for interceptions per game. Where he excelled is with his 7 progressive passes per 90, a massive 4 over the average for midfielders in Ligue 1. I’ll certainly look to use him more effectively.
In Attacking Midfield, Aouar has done really well in his role as an Advanced Playmaker, whilst Cherki has also produced good stats despite switching between Inverted Winger and False 9 throughout the season. Tricky winger Zhergova, a £10m signing from Lille, gets on the ball a lot and looks to be a real attacking threat.
Something all three are struggling with is passing. All are below average across passing stats. Clearly something to work on.
Finally, up front where there’s a surprising lack of talent – although given their league position, maybe it’s NOT a surprise. For some reason, Lacazette hasn’t started a single game – no wonder he wants to leave. The lone striker role has been mainly taken up by Ekambi who’s been operating as an Advanced Forward. The 32-year-old has scored 3 goals in 13 starts and I need to get the scouts out looking for a new striker as soon as possible!.
Amin Sarr could be a good, young option, but he’s out on loan at Farense in Portugal. However, it looks like I’ll be able to recall him in a few weeks. Realistically though,I don’t think he’ll be much more than a backup if I manage to bring someone in.
So, to conclude…
No decent strikers
Strengths and weaknesses
Heading over to the comparison tables, I’ve learned the following:
Whilst the defence is mostly good, we’re lacking in pace and strength.
The midfield, predictably, is poor in terms of teamwork and tackling.
Unsurprisingly, the limited pool of strikers are the slowest in Ligue 1 and aren’t very good aerially.
When it comes to physicals it’s grim reading. We have the lowest fitness in the division and aren’t far off bottom for strength… sigh.
Mentality-wise we’re below average for aggression, determination and work rate.
Things look a bit better from a technical standpoint, but we’re still lacking in crossing and finishing.
Ok, those are mainly the weaknesses, so what are the strengths of this current squad?
Well, we’re talented dribblers and have a good first touch. We’re (mostly) agile and quick with good vision and flair.
So, what’s the plan?
Starting up front, we clearly have issues. Aside from lacking a goalscorer, we also lack depth. Lacazette (33) has requested to leave, and Ekambi (32) has performed poorly this season. 17-year-old Serge Bayiha is waiting in the wings to make his first team debut and I think he has enough to challenge his two older teammates.
Elsewhere, a trio of Del Giudice (17), Fougeu (20) are Lega (21) are all promising but quite a way off Ligue 1 standards at the moment.
Rayan Cherki is another option and could do well in a False 9 role if partnered with a stronger striker. He’s got 4 goals and 3 assists, as well as the dribbling and flair to unlock defences.
As the midfielders severely lack work rate, teamwork, determination and aggression, as well as not being good tacklers I need to play a midfield three.
Luckily I have the players to play with two DMs and an AMC or a DM and two CMs.
Houssem Aouar and Maxence Caqueret are both must-starts. The third position could be taken up by any of up to 7 players, depending on which way I decide to go.
Due to the defensive struggles, I’m going to utilise a back-three… at least until the rot has stopped and we aren’t leaking goals as freely. Morato and Diomande are both young and the veteran guidance of Rob Holding or Dejan Lovren will help steady the ship.
Tagliafico will likely leave in a couple of weeks when the January window opens, so I’ve set up a Recruitment Focus for a replacement, as there’s none currently in the squad. Santos will play on the right as his speed and agility will be really important down that flank.
In goal, Anthony Lopes will remain as #1 despite his struggles. He’s made two mistakes leading directly to goals, which isn’t great, but hopefully a strong back-three in front of him will help.
What about the 3-4-2-1 which worked so well with Amiens? You WERE asking that, right?
Well, although that’s what I wanted to choose I don’t think it’s the right option for this team at the moment. As the stats showed, we’re already creating a decent xG, we just have no one who could score them. As such, I don’t think having two AMCs will help, we’ll still be creating chances and probably still have no one to take advantage.
Therefore I think having two strikers is the way to go for a while as it creates a better balance of creating and scoring abilities.
Maybe when I get a better striker in I can look at different options.
Fingers crossed I can turn this team around. I think it’s going to be fun.