At OL Park,
An attacking quartet with an average age of 21, eight players trained at the club taking part in the match, and only three elements over 23 at kick-off… At this rate, Laurent Blanc will no longer have to often justify himself as to his supposed difficulties in relying on young players. Lyon’s performance, Tuesday in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France against Grenoble (2-1), at first refreshing and exciting, then laborious, proved in a brilliant way that the return phase of OL risked being articulated around the youth.
“We had to make room for the young people and we are going to let them play, repeated the Lyon coach on Tuesday evening. I may not have the reputation of getting young players to play, but I still started a lot of them in Paris and Bordeaux. I really like good young people, and in Lyon there are a lot of them. We have injuries [Lacazette, Gusto, Mendes…], but what I find quite positive is that young people give everything. You have to make them work and above all tell them the truth. »
“We tremble until the end”
And the truth is that the first period of a possible turning point in the season, certainly against the 7th in Ligue 2, was more convincing in the game than many matches played in previous months with confirmed players like Karl Toko Ekambi, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Damien Da Silva and Romain Faivre, all left in January, or even Moussa Dembélé, Houssem Aouar and Jérôme Boateng, who should play little by this summer. Nice goals from Bradley Barcola (1-0, 24th) and Jeffinho (2-0, 38th) enhanced the picture of a young group on their way to regaining Parc OL. This is only one success away from the Stade de France, and two away from a first title in eleven years, which would be accompanied by an almost unexpected qualification for the Europa League in view of its chaotic season in the League. 1 (9th at 12 points from 4th place).
“It’s the shortest way to reach Europe so it’s a goal, we don’t hide it”, soberly indicated on BeIN Sports Castello Lukeba (20 years old), defensive symbol of this famous academy lyonnaise. “The fact that the workforce is very young means that at times we have swings in concentration, explains Anthony Lopes (32). We really have to stay alert and that also goes through us, the old ones (Lovren, Tagliafico, Lacazette, Tolisso…). There, we tremble until the end when we should know how to make the matches a little easier. When you are a Lyon supporter, you must not be heartbroken. Admittedly, OL followers freaked out after Amine Sbaï’s goal on Tuesday (2-1, 74′). But they largely prefer this scenario to that of the insipid meetings chained under the Bosz era with the supposed executives mentioned above.
The “high potential” of Mohamed El Arouch
Especially since this Rhône-Alpes quarter-final offered them two new features: the first tenure of Brazilian rookie Jeffinho (23 years old) and the first significant playing time offered to Mohamed El Arouch (18 years old), who quickly replaced a Bradley Barcola hit in the hamstring (54th) like Jeffinho. “Mohamed can play everywhere, appreciates Laurent Blanc about his pocket midfielder of 1.66 m. Technically, he can get up to speed and he has been interesting”. Anthony Lopes insisted on his “high potential”, while the hero of the last Gambardella Cup with OL did not hide on Tuesday (97% of successful passes including two key passes). A defector this winter from Botafogo… by John Textor, Jeffinho made an even greater impression against Grenoble. Dribbling, shady, depth, elegance and audacity accompanied the second scorer of this match. The latter celebrated his stunt with a funny somersault, which is not the reason for his injury, as we first thought.
“It’s not given to everyone to be able to do somersaults, laughed Laurent Blanc. May he do many more! “Unsurprisingly, this unpredictable space player really pleased the former PSG coach: “He’s going to be fun to see because he’s able to make the difference when he has the ball. He is a player who feels football, he has a Brazilian touch on the ball. It is technically very interesting, with an atypical game, in times of support. He accelerates, he brakes, he reaccelerates, he is a spectacular player”. Still in full “acclimatization” for his first European experience, Jeffinho immediately showed great promise, before having to give up his place at halftime. But in the end, with him and all the other youngsters lined up on Tuesday, are OL already really playing better than they were a few weeks ago?
Laurent Blanc wants to inculcate “the movement”
“There were small phases of play that we were able to put in place [miam miam, cet enchaînement de folie Jeffinho-Cherki-Barcola proche d’être l’un des buts de l’année à la 28e], answers Anthony Lopes after a long hesitation. There was a bit of play, automatisms and fluidity tonight, even if it wasn’t flamboyant. “If the spark had come a lot from the Cherki-Lacazette tandem in February, Barcola, Jeffinho but also Amin Sarr, scorer for the first time in Angers on Saturday (1-3) show that offensive weapons are no longer necessarily lacking at OL . Decidedly talkative after the qualification against the GF38, Laurent Blanc presented the main axis of progression of this young danger à la Lyonnaise on BeIN Sports.
You can put your game ideas in place with young people, and I find it pleasant to have a squad that gives everything. But there is a quality that the players of Olympique Lyonnais lack a little, it is the movement. These are players who tend to only play when they have the ball at their feet. Creating movement to possibly have the ball or to allow their buddy to have the ball is a quality that they don’t have and that will have to be developed, rectified and worked on. »
Given the description, we immediately think of Rayan Cherki, still dazzling during sequences with the ball on Tuesday, but much more neutral when he does not have it. If Ligue 1 is back on Sunday (5:05 p.m.) with OL-Lorient, the international Espoirs and his friends have undoubtedly already highlighted the dates of April 5 and 29, as the last two matches of the Coupe de France are now THE priority. at the end of the Lyon season. And even the Grenoble defender Loïc Nestor is complimentary about the promises of this rejuvenated OL during the winter: “We see that there is a lot of talent and good young people in this team. Tonight, they were catchable because these talents have not all hatched yet. But in four or five years, these same players will evolve even higher. Cherki and others will surely be future greats”. Trust the process.