Even before last weekend’s stunning 3-1 defeat at home to Dijon last weekend, the atmosphere around Lyon was tense.
As the players were warming up, supporters unfurled a huge banner bemoaning the Coupe de France semi-final loss to Rennes just a few days earlier at Parc OL.
“Another big game flop! Go and f*** yourselves,” the ultras of the club proclaimed.
Although Martin Terrier gave Lyon a 1-0 lead almost instantly, it was rapidly and tamely surrendered. Before 10 minutes were up, Lyon were trailing against opponents who had lost eight of their nine previous matches and are at best heading for the relegation playoff.
It was fitting that Dijon struck their second goal in the seventh minute, just as the home ultras were unveiling their latest banner and readying their latest protest: “Seven minutes of silence for seven years without a title.”
The home support became even less forgiving of their underperforming stars and by full-time the tribunes were deserted but for a few clutches of angry supporters, who had by now resorted to mocking their team by chanting ‘Ole!’ each time Dijon completed a pass.
“They have a right to be angry,” head coach Bruno Genesio sighed after the match. “We’re as discounted as they are.”
Sadly, the fans don’t believe that to be the case.
“Players, you dream of being elsewhere? Go and soil some other shirts,” another banner read, taking a thinly veiled swipe at Memphis Depay, who proclaimed his desire to move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs earlier this season.
To the fans, the Dutchman rather sums up the on-field problems of the whole club. While he is undoubtedly capable of brilliance, too often these moments are fleeting, particularly on big occasions.
But he is not the only star out of sorts currently. Captain Nabil Fekir is in a period of indifferent form, which has served only to highlight the shortcomings of others, while the previously redoubtable Tanguy Ndombele has also suffered a lull.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who came through the academy of the club, is currently at an impasse in talks over a new contract, with the Portugal international liable to leave in the summer if a deal cannot be reached.
Lyon’s problem, however, is that it is not just the players that the finger of blame must be pointed at; every faction in this unhappy tale has its role to play.
OL’s campaign has been far from a disaster, after all. Progress was made to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since ___, and they put up a decent fight against Barcelona. A return to Europe’s elite competition next season, meanwhile, looks on the cards, despite a campaign riddled with frustrating inconsistency.
But they should be closer to Paris Saint-Germain and the man who is likely to pay is head coach Bruno Genesio.
The former academy boss has become a figure of ridicule among the Lyon supporters, but while he has not done a stellar job, the team has hardly imploded under his unremarkable charge.
Perhaps his greatest crime was having president Jean-Michel Aulas so loyal to him. Indeed, he was expected to sign a new deal with the club before the fateful Rennes defeat, which has been the catalyst of OL’s troubles.
Aulas very publicly pulled the plug on the signing of the new contract, leaving the coach’s position apparently untenable in the wake of a rare PR catastrophe from the Lyon supremo.
With rumours increasingly linking Laurent Blanc, Marcelo Gallardo and even Jose Mourinho to Lyon in the summer, change is in the air.
Indeed, it seems that Lyon will hit the reset button in the summer, with stars set to depart, though, in Memphis’ case at least, perhaps not to the clubs they might have dreamed of.
With emotions running high on all sides, it’s time for a new cycle to start in the Rhone Valley.