The Lyon boss is mocked regularly but reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League is a real achievementBy Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football NewsLyon were without a win in four games before they played Monaco on Sunday on night. Th

In defence of Lyon manager Bruno Génésio

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  • 2019-01-29 02:30:22 11 months ago
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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 Lyon’s fortunes, from match to match and even from minute to minute. Through it all, Bruno Génésio has had his hand on the tiller, often looking as embattled as José Mourinho at his most frightened.

Génésio was born in Lyon, played for the club for a decade and was a loyal assistant to Rémi 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 Fékir 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 Traoré. There was also a gutting elimination in the Europa League, where Lyon lost to CSKA Moscow on away goals in the last-16. Génésio is often mocked for his team selections, tactics and Lyon’s inconsistencies at the back. It is not uncommon for the hashtag #genesiodemission (Génésio resign) to trend on Twitter in France and the naysayers were out in force after Lyon’s 2-0 home defeat to Rennes earlier this month.

But is he really such a poor manager? Lyon’s 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. Traoré and Depay are the most obvious examples of this, but even Tanguy N’Dombélé 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 Génésio to blame for Lyon’s foibles given the constant churn of players?

Witness, too, Lyon’s 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 Benfica’s Rubén Dias and Barcelona’s 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.

Génésio’s answer to this lack of defenders has been to turn to a back three, which has seemed rickety at times, but has also made Marçal look a decent option, as well as Kenny Tete, who seemed an afterthought after the arrival of the promising Léo Dubois in the summer. The system has come undone at times, but it has also helped Lyon secure vital draws in Europe. Génésio 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.

Génésio 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 Marçal, 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 Génésio has been working, could it be that he is (whisper it) underrated as a manager?

Ligue 1 talking points

Rennes fans enjoy their run in the Europa League.

• 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 Stéphan continued with a 2-0 win over Astana and a brace from forward Ismaïla 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. Marseille’s embarrassing European campaign, however, ended in defeat at home to Apollon Limassol. Rudi Garcia has a full blown crisis on his hands, with Dimitri Payet’s vacant displays heading a long list of worries for last year’s finalists.

• With law enforcement again stretched due to ongoing unrest instigated by the Gilet Jaunes movement, only four Ligue 1 games took place this weekend. Lyon’s 3-0 win over Monaco followed a 1-1 draw between Nice and St Étienne, Wylan Cyprien’s late penalty made it eight games undefeated for Patrick Vieira’s team, although their points total remains flattering after some dull displays.

• 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.

• Lille survived a late fightback from the Nîmes 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
Nîmes 2-3 Lille
Nice 1-1 St Étienne
Lyon 3-0 Monaco

Ligue 1 table

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 PSG 16 39 44
2 Lille 18 11 34
3 Lyon 17 9 31
4 Montpellier 16 12 29
5 St Etienne 17 3 27
6 Marseille 16 4 26
7 Nice 17 -2 26
8 Reims 18 -3 25
9 Strasbourg 18 5 23
10 Nimes 17 2 23
11 Rennes 17 -2 23
12 Bordeaux 16 0 21
13 Nantes 16 0 20
14 Angers 16 -2 18
15 Toulouse 16 -10 18
16 Dijon 17 -12 16
17 Amiens 17 -14 16
18 Caen 17 -7 14
19 Monaco 17 -11 13
20 Guingamp 17 -22 8

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In defence of Lyon manager Bruno Génésio

European roundup: Dembélé and Messi sweep Barcelona past Celta Vigo

Barcelona ensured they will end the year sitting top of the table by strolling to a comfortable 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, inspired by another superb display from Lionel Messi.

Messi played a pivotal role in Ousmane Dembélé opening the scoring against the Galicians in the 10th minute, firing a shot at goal which Celta’s Ruben Blanco could only parry at the feet of the French forward, who squeezed the rebound through the goalkeeper’s legs.

The Argentina striker then scored a sixth goal in three La Liga games to stretch his side’s advantage on the stroke of half-time, latching on to a pass from Jordi Alba and producing an irresistible finish beyond Blanco just as he entered the area.

Celta had conceded 18 goals in their previous four visits to the Nou Camp and although they fared better in defence this time, they struggled to cause Barça many problems, particularly after Spain international and top scorer Iago Aspas went off injured early in the second half.

Barca lead the standings on 37 points, three ahead of second-placed Atlético Madrid, who beat Espanyol 1-0 thanks to an Antoine Griezmann penalty, and six clear of Sevilla who play against Leganes on Sunday.

Franck Ribéry scored twice for Bayern Munich as they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on Saturday to climb to second place, six points behind the Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund at the start of the winter break.

The 35-year-old Frenchman tapped in his first goal in the 35th minute and added another in the 79th to take his tally to four goals in four league matches, with club bosses recently saying this was his last season at Bayern.

The Bavarians, who had half a dozen injured absentees, including Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, Serge Gnabry and Mats Hummels, added a third goal with Rafinha in the 89th and are now on 36 points following their fifth straight league win.

Rafinha is swarmed by his teammates after scoring

In Serie A Juventus maintained their eight-point lead at the top with a 1-0 win over Roma in the late kick-off, Mario Mandzukic scoring the goal that keeps Juve well clear of second placed Napoli, who beat Spal 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Paris Saint-Germain had to wait for a breakthrough against Nantes but Kylian Mbappé found the target in the 68th minute to secure a 1-0 victory – their 15th win in 17 Ligue 1 games.

Things go from bad to worse for Thierry Henry at Monaco

Edinson Cavani’s goal was met with a groan. Monaco had embarrassed PSG by capturing the Ligue 1 title 17 months earlier but, just 11 minutes into their match in October, Monaco were already two down. Nacer Chadil’s injury compounded the depressed mood at the Stade Louis II and, when his replacement Jordi Mboula was also forced off, manager Thierry Henry was seen mouthing “wow” to himself on the touchline.

Monaco’s disastrous 2-0 home defeat to bottom side Guingamp on Saturday leaves them 19th in Ligue 1 for the winter break, all positivity decimated while the club suffers through a catastrophic injury crisis and repeated allegations from Football Leaks as relegation looms. “Wow” indeed.

To underline their slump, Monaco have lost nine of their last 12 games in Ligue 1, as many as they lost across the previous 73. Excitement and romanticism aside, Henry has changed little during his 14 games as coach and, after just three wins, even that initial promise has disintegrated. Hope generated in beating fellow strugglers Caen and Amiens, thanks to a Radamel Falcao free-kick and brace of penalties has proven misplaced, as performances again melted away this week.

Henry has come to personify the atmosphere at Monaco. His obvious frustration paired with a sense of desperation came to the fore this week when he criticised his team after the dire 3-0 loss at Lyon. “Without desire, it is difficult to win. Without showing depth, it is difficult to win,” Henry explained, expanding on a previous claim that his “players are unintentionally refusing to play” due to a crippling lack of confidence.

The increasingly morose Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev, who, is alleged to personally pocket 10% of all transfer profits that the club makes according to Mediapart, insisted the club “didn’t bring [Henry] in as a fireman, he is here for the long term, not the short term.” However, Henry’s gloomy persona does not hint at long-term thinking, with the manager often losing his cool. “Like in the second half in Madrid, three-man midfield, Golo on the left,” he told Youri Tielemans during the Montpellier defeat. “How many times do I have to say … in English, in French, what else do you want?”

Criticism of Henry in the French media is mounting as he cuts an increasingly forlorn figure on the touchline. One pundit on RMC, a prominent radio station, deemed him “pathetic”. That sulky, withdrawn attitude has been transmitted slowly to his players, as Henry admitted in defeat to promoted Reims they “practically won all the duels and played as it should be done at home. On our side, the desire was not there.” Although Henry carries legendary status in England, his aura is not quite as lofty in France and his hold over the young squad remains questionable. An exasperated glare at Benoît Badiashile after the promising defender left his chair in Henry’s way as they left a press conference underlined his frustration over widespread inexperience.

Thierry Henry talks with his assistant coach Franck Passi before the defeat to Guingamp.

Performances have been verging on the inept as well as naive and disjointed; Tielemans, for example, surrendered possession 34 times during the loss to Guingamp while centre-back Jemerson’s form, especially in the conceding two late goals to Montpellier, has been disastrous. This, however, is only partly down to Henry. Despite doing so expertly beforehand, former coach Leonardo Jardim could not regroup after this summer’s latest exodus of talent, while former Chelsea sporting director Michael Emenalo’s recruitment has lacked direction, the signing of emerging talents in the past such as Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva have been replaced by seven-figure sums for raw teenagers barely ready for the first team.

An injury list numbering double figures for some weeks, including a host of prominent first-team players such as Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic, France full-back Djibril Sidibé, former Manchester City forward Steven Jovetic, summer signing from Strasbourg Jean Ahoulou and last season’s standout forward Rony Lopes has proven insurmountable. Falcao even went as far to criticise the current squad’s quality, as injuries, departures and questionable acquisitions have left Henry with what is effectively the youth team and a smattering of established names. Han-Noah Massengo and Badiashile, for example, became the first players born in the 21st century to start a Champions League match.

The future of the club itself also remains in question. Rybolovlev, reportedly open to selling Monaco for some time, infuriated by various barriers imposed by Financial Fair Play and the French authorities, was held in police custody in November at the request of a local judge in connection with “active and passive bribery” and “corruption” and his potential complicity in these matters, according to Le Monde. Although a statement maintained Rybolovlev was “presumed innocent”.

Henry insisted he was “not thinking of the winter transfer window” but those above him certainty are with Cesc Fàbregas, Michy Batshuayi and Gary Cahill all linked this week and the former Arsenal forward admitting “we play to survive, we do not play for anything else”. This week perennial Ligue 1 caretaker coach Franck Passi, previously standing in at Lille regularly at Marseille, was added to Henry’s coaching staff. Perhaps a sign that Vasilyev foresees a change.

In 2011, Monaco were relegated and sat bottom of the second division by Christmas before Rybolovlev’s billions rescued them. Now the Russian’s future alongside his manager’s and their Ligue 1 status is again in doubt. This time, however, saviours may not be so forthcoming.

Ligue 1 talking points

Don’t look now, but Julien Stéphan has Rennes flying with five wins from five in all competitions. In-form Nîmes were the Breton side’s latest victim, with Saturday’s 4-0 win moving them to within a point of the European places. Stéphan has not been a revolutionary tactically, but he has imbued several key players with a large dose of confidence. Benjamin Bourigeaud, so influential last season, has been the chief beneficiary of this.

Crisis or no crisis? Marseille’s struggles are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Rudi Garcia’s side had lost on penalties to Strasbourg in midweek, and then saw a first choice side get a late equaliser against Angers on Saturday. Their once-vibrant attack has struck just five times in the last six matches. The January window and the end of the Europa League could be a tonic for Marseille, but things look dire indeed for a squad that is both thin and ageing.

Finally, Lyon’s trip to Montpellier was a great advertisement for the quality in depth on show in Ligue 1 this season; both sides may have looked a little rough around the edges but each was well up for a top-four clash that ran fast in both directions before ending up a deserved draw thanks to a sparkling pair of goals from Nabil Fékir and Rubén Aguilar. Both look well-positioned to continue their tilts at European football.

Ligue 1 results

Bordeaux 1-1 Amiens
Angers 1-1 Marseille
Lille 1-2 Toulouse
Monaco 0-2 Guingamp
Montpellier 1-1 Lyon
Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 Nantes
Reims 2-2 Caen
Rennes 4-0 Nimes
St Etienne 3-0 Dijon
Strasbourg 2-0 Nice

Ligue 1 table

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 PSG 17 40 47
2 Lille 19 10 34
3 Lyon 18 9 32
4 Montpellier 17 12 30
5 St Etienne 18 6 30
6 Marseille 17 4 27
7 Strasbourg 19 7 26
8 Rennes 18 2 26
9 Reims 19 -3 26
10 Nice 18 -4 26
11 Nimes 18 -2 23
12 Bordeaux 17 0 22
13 Toulouse 18 -10 21
14 Nantes 17 -1 20
15 Angers 17 -2 19
16 Caen 19 -6 18
17 Amiens 18 -14 17
18 Dijon 18 -15 16
19 Monaco 18 -13 13
20 Guingamp 18 -20 11
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