Lyon were without a win in four games before they played Monaco on Sunday on night. They also went into the game on a high, having ground out a gritty draw in Ukraine against a cagey Shakhtar Donetsk side in conditions that were challenging to say the least. These two statements represent the interminable pendulum of Lyonâs fortunes, from match to match and even from minute to minute. Through it all, Bruno GÃ©nÃ©sio has had his hand on the tiller, often looking as embattled as JosÃ© Mourinho at his most frightened.
GÃ©nÃ©sio was born in Lyon, played for the club for a decade and was a loyal assistant to RÃ©mi Garde and Hubert Fournier before taking over as manager on Christmas Eve in 2015. His first season was an unmitigated success as the club weathered the loss of Nabil FÃ©kir to a season-ending injury and secured a place in the Champions League. In his second season, 2016-17, he looked out of his depth in the Champions League as he failed to beat either Sevilla or Juventus in the group stage, but a stirring run to the last four of the Europa League put him back in good stead, even if Lyon were torn to ribbons by Ajax in the semi-finals.
Last season was more of the same, with Lyon doing the double over Marseille and beating PSG at home, but there was a suspicion that their impressive run-in was down to the individual talents of Memphis Depay and Bertrand TraorÃ©. There was also a gutting elimination in the Europa League, where Lyon lost to CSKA Moscow on away goals in the last-16. GÃ©nÃ©sio is often mocked for his team selections, tactics and Lyonâs inconsistencies at the back. It is not uncommon for the hashtag #genesiodemission (GÃ©nÃ©sio resign) to trend on Twitter in France and the naysayers were out in force after Lyonâs 2-0 home defeat to Rennes earlier this month.
But is he really such a poor manager? Lyonâs best players can look distracted but, with Ligue 1 often considered a shop window for more moneyed leagues, it might be beyond any manager to hold the attention of players who are in their prime. TraorÃ© and Depay are the most obvious examples of this, but even Tanguy NâDombÃ©lÃ© lacked focus at the start of the season, having been linked with a summer move to Manchester City or Tottenham.
This season we have already seen Leonardo Jardim leave Moncao, the manager seemingly hamstrung by players casting covetous glances towards the wage packets on offer in other countries. If Jardim, a master at developing young players, can struggle in such circumstances, is GÃ©nÃ©sio to blame for Lyonâs foibles given the constant churn of players?
Witness, too, Lyonâs transfer policy. The squad was in dire need of a new centre-back this summer given the sales of Samuel Umtiti, Mouctar Diakhaby, and Emmanuel Mammana in recent windows and Lyon looked to be making a genuine splash when they were linked with Benficaâs RubÃ©n Dias and Barcelonaâs Yerry Mina. Instead they ended up with Jason Denayer. He has been impressive so far, but his arrival showed that the club were put off by the price tags of those other defenders.
GÃ©nÃ©sioâs answer to this lack of defenders has been to turn to a back three, which has seemed rickety at times, but has also made MarÃ§al look a decent option, as well as Kenny Tete, who seemed an afterthought after the arrival of the promising LÃ©o Dubois in the summer. The system has come undone at times, but it has also helped Lyon secure vital draws in Europe. GÃ©nÃ©sio deserves some credit for this. His tactics also impressed against Manchester City, where Lyon adopted a 4-4-1-1, with an emphasis on pace and skill on the flanks, and became the first (and so far only) team to win at the Etihad this season.
GÃ©nÃ©sio has also excelled at deploying little-used players in unexpected scenarios and bringing impressive performances from them. Lucas Tousart has fallen out of favour more often than not this season, but was sublime in Kiev in midweek, and Maxwel Cornet, an afterthought at best in the league, came up with three goals over two matches against Manchester City. The reinvention of MarÃ§al, an attack-minded left-back with Guingamp, would fall under this umbrella as well. These performances do not come out of the blue, but come from a manager who has his finger firmly on the pulse of his players.
Lyon are within touching distance of second place in Ligue 1 and remain unbeaten in the Champions League. They have not taken full advantage of the struggles Marseille and Monaco have experienced this season but, given the trying financial circumstances in which GÃ©nÃ©sio has been working, could it be that he is (whisper it) underrated as a manager?
Ligue 1 talking points
â¢ While PSG and Lyon edged through in the Champions League, Rennes were the only Ligue 1 side to secure Europa League football for 2019. Their revival under Julien StÃ©phan continued with a 2-0 win over Astana and a brace from forward IsmaÃ¯la Sarr. His rejuvenation and burgeoning understanding with in-form Hatem Ben Arfa will be key at home and in Europe this season. A 1-0 win for Bordeaux in Copenhagen was not enough to take them through despite some much improved displays, notably in both games against Zenit. Nevertheless, the form of centre-back Pablo, who was linked with Manchester United this week, and veteran striker Jimmy Briand will breed hope of a return next season. Marseilleâs embarrassing European campaign, however, ended in defeat at home to Apollon Limassol. Rudi Garcia has a full blown crisis on his hands, with Dimitri Payetâs vacant displays heading a long list of worries for last yearâs finalists.
â¢ With law enforcement again stretched due to ongoing unrest instigated by the Gilet Jaunes movement, only four Ligue 1 games took place this weekend. Lyonâs 3-0 win over Monaco followed a 1-1 draw between Nice and St Ãtienne, Wylan Cyprienâs late penalty made it eight games undefeated for Patrick Vieiraâs team, although their points total remains flattering after some dull displays.
â¢ Newly promoted Reims continued their stellar start to the season with a win over Strasbourg. They have one of the best defences in the league and a superb goalkeeper in Edouard Mendy. He has a commanding presence when controlling his area and his instinctive shot-stopping have proven crucial. Mendy may not be around long.
â¢ Lille survived a late fightback from the NÃ®mes to the secure another three points and hold on to second place. Les Dogues have been fortunate to remain unaffected by cancellations over the last week, which may give them a big advantage later in the season when fixtures start to mount for their rivals.
Ligue 1 results
Reims 2-1 Strasbourg
NÃ®mes 2-3 Lille
Nice 1-1 St Ãtienne
Lyon 3-0 Monaco
Ligue 1 table