If it were not for PSG, owner Jean-Michel Aulas would be living the Football Manager enthusiast’s dream with his Olympique Lyonnais–just as he was in the early aughts when his strategy of exploiting inefficiencies in the transfer market reaped in unprecedented returns of success. Instead, Olympique Lyon (OL for short) have finished 2nd in Ligue 1 for two consecutive seasons. Despite consistently being a top-three threat, OL’s most recent league title was all the way back in 2007/08, a title that capped off a record run of seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. With the 2016/17 season already underway, it is well past time to take a look back at OL’s 2015/16 season as well as what’s in store for the next 12 months.
Despite early whisperings that Lyon stood a puncher’s chance in 2015/16, any suspense as to who would take the ultimate Ligue 1 prize was quickly sabotaged by the juggernauts of PSG. Of course, OL did themselves no favors with their brutal first half of the season. It is a small miracle in itself that they finished the season in 2nd place. Exactly halfway through the season, OL were the definition of perfectly plain. The team sat 9th (out of 20) in the table with a goal differential of zero.
But the cold winds of winter would breathe new life into OL. Bruno Génésio, a proud product of OL’s youth system with 171 appearances from 1985 to 1995 for the senior team, took over head coaching duties just two days before Christmas. And on January 9th, OL christened the Parc Olympique Lyonnais (aka the wonderfully nicknamed Stade des Lumières, aka the Grand Stade) with a 4-1 romp over Troyes. Thanks to Génésio’s adjustments and some added luck, as chronicled by Mohamed Mohamed from Stats Bomb, the 2nd half of OL’s season had OL looking like PSG. In fact, it wasn’t until February 28th that PSG were finally denied an invincible season, suffering a 2-1 defeat to… you guessed it…the men from Lyon.
As for how well OL will fare for the rest of this season, the team’s past three games foreshadow a most reasonable outcome. Two games into the Ligue 1 season OL sits pretty atop the table. Only PSG and Nice have also won their first two games. With two clean sheets and five goals (all from Lyon’s star Alexandre Lacazette), OL have set a strong tone for their campaign.
However, if their 3rd most recent game is any indication, OL just doesn’t have the firepower to compete with PSG for the crown. In the Trophee des Champions, PSG dominated OL 4-1. Of course, in games such as these it is difficult to know how much each team cares, i.e. if they see it more as an exhibition match rather than as anything of real value. Since 2009, the Trophee des Champions has moved abroad, having been held in Canada, Morocco, the USA, Gabon (!), China, Canada, and Austria in successive years. Perhaps wonderful vacation spots are not the most motivating of environments.
But, with a renewed spirit and a recharged will, Lacazette and Lyon have begun their season with the guns ablaze. While it is far too early to know how well Lyon will keep the pace, especially with respect to PSG, the fight for first may very well be more interesting than assumed in the preseason. Yet OL’s eyes are not only set on the short term.
With their new and larger stadium, OL are well set to capitalize on increased revenue resulting from ticket sales, bolstering their sustainable business model even further than before in order to compete better with oil-backed behemoths like PSG.
Jersey Rating (Yay?): 4/10
Olympique Lyon has a pretty boring jersey game, but I will give them credit for their bi-colored collar. The vertical stripe down the middle, while not the exact same, is very PSG-esque, and therefore a deplorable choice. Also, the advertisement section looks to be sewn onto the rest of the shirt in a discontinuous way. That cannot possibly be comfortable. Plus, as written before, soccer teams should commit to either red or blue. It’s just not right or natural to be both. At any rate, OL’s current jersey is a vast improvement on last year’s, which appeared to be a Mad Libs template for multiple sponsors (see below). I cannot possibly justify giving them a 4 out of 10 for their 2016/17 jersey.