By Paul Grant
Lyon’s performance in the Champions League is certainly outshining their Ligue 1 record this year. And while OL’s win against Schalke 04 was considered suspicious and perhaps not entirely deserved in much of the French sports press, last night’s victory over Tel Aviv is being heralded as the return of the Lyon of years past. Gomis opened up the scoring in the first half with a goal at 8 minutes, and it would be understandable if this didn’t set off fireworks for Claude Puel: Every goal scored this season by OL has been in the first period and there have not been many at that. But what then was that look (scowl) on Puel’s face, after Bastos’ 36 minute goal (which by the way was a fantastic goal for the Brazilian, one of the year’s finest). Puel looked less than excited, for while at the away leg the Gones picked up a nice collection of points for the C1 he knew well that it would do nothing to alleviate the pain of the last 7 weeks.
In 2008 OL finished first, in 2009 third, in 2010 second and presently they are bottom feeding at 18th on the Ligue 1 table. What the hell is going in Lyon? Can this really be chalked up to Lisandro’s rare and brief appearances or Puel’s mismanagement? Fans have been crying for Puel’s departure and OL president Jean-Michel Aulas is not doing much to dissuade his fear. Yet there is always something to be weary of when these losses start being chalked up to a purely managerial crisis. The assumption is that the coach could remedy the entirety of this debacle by merely introducing some new plays and some exciting new pep talks at half time (I’m thinking here of the way Wenger gets attacked when Arsenal manages to be only one of the greatest teams in the world and not THE greatest team in the world). Puel has got the players and he’s go the skills to coach them (coach meaning guide not force or magically transform) into a much higher position. So the question hangs what the hell is going on in Lyon? Hopefully this win will put a bit of confidence back into their play.
On a final note, it must be disturbing to have Cris absent for a game yet keep seeing referee Howard Melton’s bald pate prancing around the pitch in what could easily pass for last years home strip and wondering why Cissokho isn’t passing to him.