En Garde: Lyon Skipper Staring Down a Minefield
Rémi Garde's honeymoon in Lyon may have come to an end last night, when Les Gones' hopes to advance to an eighth-consecutive Champions League knockout round were all but crushed by a nimble and well-coached Ajax side.
The first-year Olympique Lyonnais coach seemed to be enjoying a promising start to his top-flight head coaching career. Indeed, the former OL player, assistant, scout and player development director had seemed the perfect anecdote to the contentious atmosphere that festered under Claude Puel (2008-2011). In early October, boisterous fans chanted Garde's name at Stade Gerland as Lyon climbed to the top of the Ligue 1 table.
The events of the past week, however, have revealed that all is not well in Lyon. Friday, Garde saw a season-long home Ligue 1 undefeated streak evaporate with a 2-1 loss to Rennes and last night's Champions League tie brought a disastrous 0-0 draw with Ajax.
A closer look at Lyon's season reveals that these two matches, rather than representing a sudden reversal of fortune, actually confirm a season-long trend of disappointment and underachieving: a closer look at OL's 2011 accomplishments is in order.
In domestic league play, the vaunted home winning streak consists of five wins, three of them over teams hovering about the relegation zone. Only the August victory over Montpellier and a derby win against mid-table St. Etienne stand out as achievements, and the former took place almost three months ago.
...and on the road? Currently sitting on four consecutive defeats, Lyon has a draw at 15th-place Brest and two wins to its credit, one over relegation candidate Nice and another against newly-promoted Dijon. Nothing for Garde to hang his hat on there, either.
But this is Lyon: there's always Champions League, right? You know, eight consecutive trips to the knockout phase? Through five CL group matches, Garde's men have managed just two goals--both at the expense of group guppy Dinamo Zagreb--and have played 180 scoreless minutes against Ajax, during which the crafty Dutch side forced its more talented opponent to play outside of its comfort zone, pushing OL's tactical buttons relentlessly in what can only be described as a major and well-earned coaching triumph for Frank de Boer.Continued on the next page