This season has been something of a renaissance for Lyon. They are back challenging at a high level in Ligue 1, whilst nurturing an extremely youthful squad. Their form has come as a surprise to observers, and if they can’t win the title, they do at least look likely to make a return to the Champions League. So what next for this historic giant of European football?
Hubert Fournier sits in quite a precarious position – the French league season is reaching the business end, and Lyon reside in the place everyone wants to be, first. This may seem like the ideal scenario, but in recent weeks Lyon have started to show signs of feeling the pressure. It is to be expected, the squad that Fournier possesses is so young and inexperienced, you could be forgiven for thinking this was an established title winning team.
The injury to star man Alexandre Lacazette could not have come at a worse time. The French international missed key games such as PSG and that has put the stress on the rest of the squad. Despite this, Lyon have managed to muddle on, three draws in a row against Monaco, PSG and Loirent can look bad on paper but considering the calibre of opposition, and the fact performances haven’t been as convincing, Fournier’s men could have just as easily come away with three wins. Lyon’s muddled form continued as Lacazette returned and they beat Nantes at home, but followed their return to winning ways with their first league defeat in three months at Lille this weekend.
It is going to be a challenging three months for Lyon, the return of Lacazette will help boost the title push, however regardless of the outcome in May, Lyon should seal themselves a Champions League spot for next season. With the shaky form of Marseille, Lyon have themselves a bit of breathing space. PSG remain largely inconsistent with everyone else are far behind, meaning Les Gones fate is in their own hands.
Champions League football may once again return to this prestigious club next season, something that is crucial in the development of not just the players, but the club as a whole. The competition will bring much needed financial backing. The ongoing new stadium build that sees Lyon increase capacity to 60,000, will in the long term add immense value to the club and its place as one of European football’s giant teams.
Lyon’s owner Jean-Michel Aulas has been very vocal about the new build and amidst heightened speculation of his players being watched by all of Europe, it may have been wise for Aulas to say no one will leave in the summer. It is hard not to disagree with him, Lyon are once again a highly competitive team that may well win Ligue 1 this season. Champions League football is on the horizon coupled with an amazing new stadium. It could not be a better time to play for this club.
A lot of what happens to Lyon in the future will be dependent on money, but whereas in the past this resulted in the sales of star players such as Karim Benzema, now Lyon actually have the cash to compete, and say no to the vultures that circle.