Before the season began, everyone expected a rejuvenated LOSC Lille side. With new money and an exciting manager, the northerners were expected to be a viable European contender amongst a myriad of in-transition sides.
That all looks a little farfetched right now.
The Gérard Lopez era started back in January when, in preparation for Marcelo Bielsa’s arrival for the start of the following season, they would bring in a glut of players. Six in total, mostly on the final day of the winter window, but not many have hit the ground running.
Anwar El Ghazi has blown hot and cold, Junior Alonso is in and out of the team, Fares Bahlouli is yet to play under Bielsa, Ricardo Kishna didn’t make his loan permanent and Gabriel has been lent to Troyes.
The only player of any real significance during that mad trolley dash was Xeka of Braga. His reward for a solid half of the season? Sign him permanently only to sanction a loan move to Dijon on transfer deadline day.
A good start then, which only seemingly gets better.
They brought in nine players throughout the window, with many of them seen as players that they can develop and sell on. That’s something we’ve seen very successfully from Monaco in the past but the major difference is the amount of players coming through the door at once.
Most have been plonked straight into Bielsa’s set-up and so far, they are playing like a bunch of strangers. A strong opening day win masked it briefly before poor defeats to Strasbourg and Caen almost exacerbated it.
To build something sustainable, where you can allow young players to grow, you need to build a solid foundation. Some experienced heads, those that know the club well enough to pass it on and help the new lad settle into their new surroundings.
To that effect, Bielsa binned both Rio Mavuba and Marko Basa without any kind of fee in return. Whether either were particularly viable for a starting place any more can be questioned, but surely their Ligue 1 experience at a high level should have been worth more than a pat on the back for their services.
Adding to the loss of Xeka is the move of Naim Sliti, also to Dijon in a loan move. The former Red Star man did not impressed in a truly dire LOSC side last season, but he had shown enough promise in Ligue 2 to receive a fair crack this campaign, yet was also deemed surplus to requirements given the side’s newest acquisitions.
Allowing Sebastian Corchia to leave was written on the wall, the Frenchman had wanted to move this summer, but around €5m from a Champions League side seems like they were caught with their pants down, even if he had one year left on his contract. When his replacement Kévin Malcuit costs almost double that figure, alarm bells should be ringing.
However, to some they had won the window by beating a number of Premier League and Ligue 1 sides to Angers forward Nicolas Pepe. Possibly one of the most overhyped talents of the window, the Ivorian is yet to score or really do anything of note under the lights at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
But since they bought a forward, they needed to bin one. So out went last season’s top scorer Nicolas De Preville, to a league rival in Bordeaux, for a figure believed to be between €8m to €10m.
A joke, really.
A player that would run through walls for your club, who would even go in net despite looking like a small child in the goalmouth and yet that wasn’t enough. The only viable goal threat the team have had this season was touted around clubs on the final days of the transfer window like it meant nothing.
Even worse, De Preville revealed Lille had to sell in order to recoup some transfer fees. A club that earned €47m from transfer fees last season and with a reported big-money investment apparently needs to sell one of its best performers to keep it above some sort of established money threshold.
Les Dogues fans will agree that this stinks of a lack of planning, a lack of thought and another scramble to assemble something for El Loco.
Unsurprisingly when it comes to the Argentine, temperatures appear to be at boiling point. His appointment was to be the start of a new dawn and if the performances of the start the season continues, don’t be surprised to see him to leave another club in the lurch sooner rather than later.