LIGUE 1 SEASON PREVIEW | Can Laurent Blanc get Lyon firing again?

One to Watch: Bradley Barcola 

No one would argue that it’s not unfair to say Lyon’s attack is largely reliant on club captain Alexandre Lacazette. However, towards the end of last season, academy sensation Bradley Barcola certainly took some of the attacking strain off the former Arsenal marksman’s back.  

The French U21 international was a revelation in the second half of the 2022/23 season, scoring 5 goals and assisting a further 9 in just over 1,400 minutes of Ligue 1 action. Barcola continued this rich vein of form at the U21 Euros with 2 goals and 2 assists for Les Bleuets. This prolific attacking output from the Lyon-born forward made Les Gones more unpredictable in the final third and provided some much-needed reprieve for Cherki and Lacazette, who were both expected to dig OL out of holes in what was a difficult season for the club. The Frenchman has also found himself heavily linked with a move to PSG during the summer window. 

Beyond Barcola’s attacking output, his technical quality in the final third also adds another dimension to Laurent Blanc’s attack. With a change of pace, he can beat players and from nowhere can find himself in a position of promise to create or score a goal for his team. The forward is still discovering his best position and is a raw talent, who will need some nurturing; however, if he continues in such an emphatic fashion, he looks to be the next elite-level talent from the OL talent factory and a major part of any success the club may have this season.  

Key signing: Clinton Mata 

Following the permanent departure of Malo Gusto, the right-back position became a problem area for Laurent Blanc, with 18-year-old Saël Kumbedi the only recognised option in his first-team squad. In a backline lacking experience, signing a seasoned but quality option who could both provide competition for and mentor Kumbedi became a must. OL have addressed this issue with the capture of Clinton Mata from Club Brugge. The Angolan international signed on the dotted line at the Groupama Stadium for a reported €5m. The 30-year-old has played 385 times at the top level of Belgian football, including 23 times in the Champions League. His valued experience should add a calming presence to an OL back line that looked somewhat erratic and panicked at times last season.  

Squad analysis: 

Laurent Blanc’s squad now looks thin. Following the departures of senior members of the OL squad, like Moussa Deméblé and Houssem Aouar, as well as the imminent sale of Castello Lukeba, the team is lacking experience and strength in numbers. After another disappointing finish, with the club finishing 7th and outside of European qualification, the team needs new additions to return the club to a position of challenging for continental football once again. However, the transfer restrictions placed upon Les Gones by the DNCG have made recruitment difficult. Only two players have arrived on permanent deals at the Groupama Stadium thus far. With a thin squad, Blanc will be hoping a lack of continental football will help his team stay healthy throughout the season. 


OL’s strength lies in the quality of its academy. With recruitment proving difficult, the ability to bed in top talent from their prestigious talent factory helps soften the blow of DNCG transfer restrictions. Cherki, Barcola and Caqueret, all look set to remain at the club, as signing any replacements of the same quality will prove an unlikely and difficult task. If all four can continue to impress and develop in the impressive fashion of last season, OL could develop an established spine within their team who all share one common trait – all graduates of Lyon’s academy. With this group finding their feet as established members of the first team squad, this upcoming season’s thin squad could also see chances afforded to the next generation of academy talents, like Mohamed El Arouch, who has impressed in pre-season. 


As a consequence of the lack of numbers within OL’s squad, the club are lacking in attacking quality. Blanc’s team only scored two goals in their first four pre-season games and failed to find the net on three occasions. Cherki and Barcola’s absence following Les Bleuets duty hasn’t helped matters, but with their replacements handed opportunities to prove themselves instead, they just haven’t cut the grade. Amin Sarr and Tino Kadewere have lacked confidence in front of goal and Karl Toko-Ekambi isn’t even interested in staying at the  club after severing all ties with the fans. It’s an area Textor has targeted, notably with a failed move for Christian Pulisic. However, if the club are unable to bring anyone in, it could be a toothless season in front of goal for OL if Lacazette were to suffer an injury. 


Problems certainly exist for OL and the inability to address them thoroughly in the transfer market could prohibit them from having a successful season. Despite their transfer restrictions, the club’s academy does offer a quantum of solace and could be their saviour once again. A more established set of youngsters with another year’s experience and development could help them challenge for continental qualification but with a lack of attacking quality beyond their starters and a thin squad, any injury to key players could be catastrophic and result in another season of mid-table mediocrity. 

GFFN | Liam Wraith

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