By Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip)
Paris Saint-Germain picked up the first silverware of the French domestic season last Saturday, thrashing Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 to pick up a fourth consecutive Trophee des Champions.
Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura, Hatem Ben Arfa and Layvin Kurzawa goals were too much for Les Gones, who could only reply through Corentin Tolisso’s consolation effort, as the French champions ran riot under new coach Unai Emery.
For all of Jean-Michel Aulas’ bleating off the pitch, his Lyon side were beaten soundly on it and early hopes that Bruno Genesio’s men can push PSG closer in Ligue 1 this season were dashed. They also lost star man Alexandre Lacazette to a thigh injury before half-time.
OL were set up to beat last campaign’s dominant force, Laurent Blanc’s possession-based and often inefficient juggernaut, while Emery had lined up an under strength starting XI to be slick, efficient and less about holding on to the ball.
This term’s PSG might lack Zlatan Ibrahimovic but collectively, they already look stronger and that was without a number of players who could be considered automatic starters when available.
Lyon, on the other hand, look weaker or the same as they were last season at best. The continued presence of Lacazette is a boost, as is the return to fitness of fellow France international Nabil Fekir but Samuel Umtiti leaves a big hole in defence and there is still a lack of squad depth.
The seven-time Ligue 1 champions replaced Umtiti with Nicolas Nkoulou from Marseille, while Emanuel Mammana and Maciej Rybus have also come in but otherwise, it is the same squad that fell drastically short in the UEFA Champions League last campaign.
Although Genesio possesses the likes of Lacazette, Fekir and Maxwel Cornet in attack, there is arguably a lack of depth there still. Especially with the former now set to miss the opening few weeks of term with a thigh problem suffered against PSG.
Keeping hold of Lacazette this summer, something which looks like it will now happen, is a coup for Lyon. However, in order to ensure that the gap between OL and their capital rivals is not 31 points this time, Les Gones need more depth.
The returns to fitness of Fekir and Clement Grenier should help Lyon to avoid the same slow start they made to last season, which killed their title hopes extremely early on. The problems will surface when the Champions League gets underway though; the squad is still simply too thin.
In an ideal world, the men from Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Region would have kept Umtiti and sold Lacazette, allowing for a larger scale regeneration of the squad. The defender fetched €25million from Barcelona but his France international teammate could arguably have gone for double that.
Instead, Genesio’s men find themselves with a weaker defence and an attack still over-reliant on Lacazette. So when the No. 10 gets injured, like he is at present, his team find themselves stretched thin.
Staying at Parc Olympique Lyonnais for another campaign will not harm the prolific striker’s career; in fact, more Champions League experience will help him to develop even more. There is a danger that his value drops, though, if Lyon endure a disappointing season.
If that happens, then it is OL who will suffer because they could have easily earned about €50million for him and brought in a number of Champions League-ready talents.
Because of the way Les Gones’ summer has gone, Lacazette now needs to have another of his 21 or 27-goals seasons if the team are to be successful. Fekir will be expected to chip in and help to lighten the load, of course, but most of that burden will still fall on Lacazette’s shoulders.
Barring a late flurry of impressive transfer signings, don’t expect this Lyon side to push PSG all the way based on what we have seen from the pair so far.