Lyon had a very luckless 2019-20 season by any standard. They changed manager in October, lost two cup finals, and finished a lowly 7th. Their best performances came in the Champions League where they reached the semi-finals. They defeated Juventus and Manchester City along the way, before falling to eventual winners Bayern Munich. With Rudi Garcia taking charge of Lyon for a full season, much improvement was expected in the league, as we review his year at the helm.
📝 DEAL DONE: Lyon have signed Karl Toko Ekambi on a permanent basis for €11.5m from Villarreal + a 15% sell-on percentage clause. (Source: @OL) pic.twitter.com/fVhEbKZCnC
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) June 2, 2020
Lyon were very active in the transfer market. They brought in exciting talents in Karl Toko Ekambi and Lucas Paqueta and promoted youngster Tino Kadewere to the first team. Lyon also cut their squad to a large extent, letting players go on loans and transfers to free up finances. With the season having a delayed start, Garcia knew he had to be on the money from day one.
Like Monaco, Les Gones’ season can be observed in terms of 2020 and 2021. Till the first week of January, Lyon had only lost just one game out of 19 which came in matchday three. They were top of the table at this point having won 11 matches with an average of two goals per match. Garcia and co. must have been feeling confident of winning the title or at least securing a Champions League return.
⚽️ Our top scorers this season (all competitions):
1⃣4⃣ Karl Toko Ekambi
1⃣0⃣ @LucasPaqueta97 pic.twitter.com/67W8ww04XK
— Olympique Lyonnais 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@OL_English) May 25, 2021
However, none of those things happened. Lyon lost five times in 2021, including two damaging losses at the end. Those defeats, to Lille and Lens respectively, left them adrift of the top three as they limped their way to a 4th place finish. Their attackers were all on song throughout the season, however. Memphis Depay, Ekambi, and Kadewere all finished with double-digit goals. New signing Paqueta racked up nine goals and five assists as well.
9⃣ Man of the Match awards for @LucasPaqueta97 in his first season with #TeamOL! 🏅 pic.twitter.com/HQW8TGUqpD
— Olympique Lyonnais 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@OL_English) May 26, 2021
In the Coupe de France, having reached the summit clash last season, they were bounced 2-0 to Monaco in the quarter-finals. Overall, everyone involved with the club must be feeling that a big chance to win the title had been let down after a disappointing finish.
Ligue 1: 4th
Coupe de France: Quarter-finals
MONACO 2-3 LYON
An action-packed game if there ever was one. To recap, this match featured five goals, five red cards and a last-minute maiden goal from a 17-year-old. A pretty sedate first half ended with Monaco holding a 1-0 lead. The second half saw Depay level things up within 10 minutes. Les Gones then forged ahead after a header from Marcelo, with Monaco having being reduced to 10 men. The hosts struck again in the 85th minute with a penalty after a foul by goalkeeper Antony Lopes.
What a moment! ❤️💙pic.twitter.com/sHE8dcinCk https://t.co/dJ282XDC0m
— Olympique Lyonnais 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@OL_English) June 3, 2021
With the game looking to finish level, late substitute Rayan Cherki scored the winner within a minute of coming on to snatch all three points for the away side. The game descended into chaos in the final minute of injury time with four red cards equally shared by both teams. Lyon held on and claimed a vital win in their quest for European football next term.
Honourable Mentions: PSG 0-1 Lyon, Lyon 4-1 Monaco
LYON 2-3 NICE
This game just edges out the defeat to Lille in terms of importance and fate. Last matchday of the season, a win would have seen them qualify for the Champions League. Lyon started the game in fine fashion with Ekambi scoring the opening goal within 15 minutes. Though Nice equalised just before the half-hour mark through Kasper Dolberg. However, Ekambi’s second five minutes from halftime put Les Gones in pole position to win this tie.
Full-time: #OLOGCN 2-3
We finish fourth in @Ligue1_ENG and will play in next season's @EuropaLeague. pic.twitter.com/seXi9SFjaX
— Olympique Lyonnais 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@OL_English) May 23, 2021
The second half was immediately terrible to Lyon, with Nice grabbing two goals within 12 minutes of the restart. Lyon toiled hard and kept at it till the last whistle but were unable to breakthrough. With this defeat, Garcia and co. lost the chance of finishing in 3rd and achieving Champions League football for next season.
(dis)Honourable Mentions: Lyon 2-3 Lille, Lyon 0-2 Monaco (Coupe de France)
Who else but the Dutch phenom? Memphis reached the 20 goal figure in league football for the first time since 2014-15. He also had 12 assists and led the forward line for Les Gones with distinction. Memphis was in explosive form right from the start, with a hat-trick in the team’s first match this season. His pace, deadly accuracy and ability from set-pieces as well saw him outscore his xG by 4.75.
20 – Memphis Depay becomes the first Lyon player to score 20 goals and deliver 10 assists in a single Ligue 1 season since Opta analysed the competition (2006/07). Brilliant. #NOOL pic.twitter.com/pAamSPOJoA
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) May 16, 2021
He has really been in fine form ever since his switch to France, with the club, greatly benefiting from his talents. Memphis’ eye for setting up teammates is also something that has evolved with the years and he will look to lead Netherlands to great highs in this summer’s European Championships.
Honourable Mentions: Karl Toko Ekambi, Lucas Paqueta
The Brazilian midfielder started 23 games this term but was hardly as effective as last year. His stats across the board have seen a decline. Namely shots, chances created, assists, crosses (all P90) had all seen downward trends. Mendes had six assists last term while this season, he finished with just one.
Lyon Midfielder Thiago Mendes On Inter’s Radar, Spanish Media Report https://t.co/5H02xnIUlh #FCIM #InterFans #ForzaInter pic.twitter.com/ArmHMR9Cjh
— SempreInter.com (@SempreIntercom) December 17, 2020
Furthermore, he was also left out of the latest Brazil squad for the World Cup qualifiers and looks set to miss Copa America too. With the financial situation hitting Lyon hard, it will not be a surprise if Mendes does decide to leave. However, no matter which club he commits to, Mendes knows he will have to improve a lot come next season.
(dis)Honourable Mentions: Djameleddine Benlamri, Mattia De Sciglio
With Peter Bosz arriving as the new manager and strong rumours of Memphis leaving, Lyon might have a tricky off-season coming up. They will be hoping to continue their strong push at the upper reaches of the table and with Europa League football also to come, there is a lot to look forward to for the club as a whole.