If their recent outings in the Europa League are anything to go by, it could be a long old season for Les Dogues. After a wholly disappointing exit from a European competition that they worked so hard to qualify for, LOSC Lille look to be in a troublesome position after a disappointing first outing in Ligue 1 last weekend.
The debate as to whether or not Antonetti’s Lille side were totally committed to progressing in the Europa League is a fairly irrelevant one, as their performances screamed of a team lacking quality or the necessary tactical-knowhow to break their opposition down.
A team that couldn’t get through even if they wanted to. So, with pre-season well behind us, I have decided to put my manager’s hat on and have a look at five things Les Dogues could do to make sure that this season becomes a successful one:
Scrap the 4-3-3:
As we’ve mentioned a few times on the GFFN show and GFFN preview show (go listen to those if you haven’t already!), being successful in a 4-3-3 is really quite hard. It demands a number of things from a team. Qualities that Lille, perhaps, don’t actually have at the moment. It requires a distributor in the centre of midfield, who can move the ball quickly around the pitch.
Lille have mostly defensive-minded midfielders. It requires wide players who are comfortable to cut inside their full-backs, and make space for the lone-striker. Do you see Bautheac, Lopes or Amalfitano doing that? No. They are told to just get down the wings and deliver balls into the box; a tactic that can easily be snuffed by an organised defence. It also requires goal-scorers from every position.
Wingers, midfielders, even full-backs that can overload the box and take their chances. Goals are not something that LOSC have found easy. 4-3-3, for now, just doesn’t seem to be the formation that suits Lille, and perhaps if they moved to something like a 4-2-3-1, where their defensive-minded midfielders can be utilised properly, and more support can be offered to the lone-front man, they might start finding goals become a bit easier to come by.
Bring Lopes central:
With a change in formation comes new opportunities for under-utilised, but talented, players, and Rony Lopes fits the bill for that. Of the many dull moments in two of Lille’s recent games against Azerbaijani side, Qabala FK, Lopes’ will to get forward was one of the highlights.
A talented player, full of skill and untapped ability, Lopes could potentially be a key player for Les Dogues this season. However, if he stays stuck out wide, this talent won’t be utilised at all.
A shift to the 4-2-3-1 would give Lopes the opportunity to play off the striker, giving him more chances to create and more chances to score. A player with his talent deserves the freedom to develop, and out wide, Lopes is simply stifled.
Buy a ‘creator’:
Whether they change formation or not, one thing that is distinctly lacking from this side is creativity. Teams need an artist. A maestro. Someone who can find that space or unlock that pass that nobody else knew was there.
With the attacking talent that Lille possess in Eder, Lopes, Bautheac and the newly signed Nicolas De Preville, it seems only right that Antonetti should bring in someone who can provide these players with the chances they thrive on.
One standout candidate for this role, in my eyes, would be Montpellier’s Ryad Boudebouz. 11 assists last season, and a pass-success percentage of 77.8% (quite a lot for a player that see’s so much of the ball) shows that Boudebouz’ incredible performances for his former club, Bastia, were no fluke.
As well as being someone who can unlock a defence with the wave of his boot, Boudebouz is also quite handy from a free-kick, and could be someone who could really get this Lille side ticking.
Arguably, Sebastien Corchia is LOSC Lille’s best player. With the performances of Bacary Sagna starting to dip, Corchia will most likely become France’s number one right-back, and Lille would be very wise to keep hold of him.
His ability to get up and down the pitch, providing pinpoint crosses and another attacking option, as well as his acute defensive ability, makes Corchia one of the most promising defensive prospects in Ligue 1, and it’s no surprise to see the likes of Barcelona and PSG being linked with a move for the Frenchman.
Yes, Lille could do with the money, but Corchia does so, so much for them, and that much needed cash could well come from somewhere else. Which brings me onto my final suggestion…
Yes, I did just say that. At this point, I really do believe that the amount of positives that could come from the departure of Sofiane Boufal far outweigh the benefits of him staying. For starters, all the other suggestions I have made could become possible if Boufal left.
There would be less pressure to play the 4-3-3 that suits him and not many others. It would give Lopes the opportunity to take a leading role. It could provide the funds necessary to bring in players that will improve the most crucial areas of the team.
And finally, it would mean that Lille would be under less pressure to sell their star players. Rumours have been circulating of a potential move to Watford for a sum of around £15m. That money could go a long way for Les Dogues, and I hope that Boufal’s injury setbacks don’t stop such a deal from happening.
I’d be ridiculous to deny that Boufal isn’t a brilliant player, and hasn’t been fantastic for The Great Danes, but sometimes you need to know when it’s best to sell and move on.