Of the teams drawn by Everton for the UEFA Europa League, the headliner is Olympique Lyonnaise, a historic club from France. Before PSG had their current era of dominance, if was OL who won Ligue 1 seven straight times from 2001-2002 to 2007-2008. As recently as 2010 they were semi-finalists in the Champions League.
The big news from OL this summer was the selling of Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, which may lead you to think that we are dealing with a weaker version of the team that qualified for this competition last term. But we should not be misled, because Lyon has reloaded.
The French outfit boast a front four of Mariano, Bertrand Traore, Memphis Depay, and Nabil Fekir. All these guys are young, (Fekir is the old man in the room at 24) fast, and ruthless. They are averaging three goals a game in the first three matches of Ligue 1 and Mariano and Fekir have three goals each, while Memphis has one goal and two assists and Traore has a absolute rocket of a free kick for a goal.
Traore is a casualty of Chelsea’s mind-numbing loan policy, Mariano was a dominant force for Real Madrid’s B team but who never found a place amongst the Benzemas and Moratas of the world, and Memphis is a well documented victim of the hapless and now departed regimes of Manchester United. These are players of top pedigree who are at Lyon with a chip on their shoulder trying to prove that their former, more famous bosses missed the boat on them and we should absolutely not take them lightly.
In the midfield and and back line, there’s not a lot to be afraid of. Lyon’s philosophy is to attack constantly and try to win shootouts. That sort of recklessness should play right into the hands of a well drilled team like Koeman’s Everton but it does present the risk for upset as well.
The game plan, especially in Lyon, will be to possess the ball and make sure our fullbacks do not get caught too far upfield in the situation of a counter. It is not something our current right back situation inspires confidence in, but the overall quality of our team should prevail.