January transfer ban could be a blessing in disguise for Lille

Struggling Ligue 1 side Lille were given a transfer ban by the LFP following a hearing before French football’s financial watchdog, the DNCG. This means they have to rely on what they have right now and may look to call some of their loaned-out players back.

The Northern France club looked very ambitious at the start of the season but started to lose their confidence along their way, until now. Under the new ownership of  businessman Gerard Lopez who was willing to splash the cash to revamp almost everything in the club.

The project looked even more ambitious after the club appointed Marcelo Bielsa as the manager in the hope of driving the young team (aged approximately 22.5 years old in average) to a strong finish in Ligue 1.

Their project was often compared to Marseille’s project after Frank McCourt’s acquisition – but the Southern France club opted to build the team with more experienced players instead.

The first match looked good for Les Dogues, they won 3-0 against Ranieri’s side FC Nantes. Everything looked very promising from there. But surprisingly, they feel to a sudden downfall. They were unable to win in 10 matches in a row with three draws and seven defeats.

The situation was made worse after the influential coach made an unauthorized trip to Chile to visit his friend Luis Bonini in late November.

In the end, “El Loco” was relieved of his duties by the board of LOSC Lille.

About three weeks later, in mid December, LFP announced that they would not allow the club who are currently struggling in 18th place, to make a transfer move. Though the LFP didn’t give any specific reason regarding the ban, it’s thought to be because of financial problems.

Gerard Lopez, the former owner of the Lotus F1 Team, took over as Lille’s new majority shareholder in January 2017 but questions have been asked about his financing of the deal.

Many people, especially the fans thought this was a major blow to the team and to their hopes of reaching their targets of finishing at least 5th in the league this season. However in my opinion, this couldn’t get any better for the team.

Lille started their spending spree in January last year, bringing in 8 new players to the club who at the time managed by Franck Passi. Then they continued in the summer transfer window with around a dozen, young, fresh faces coming in and a total of £58.50m spent.

Not just new players, these players are young talented players from various continents. Names like Thiago Maia, Thiago Mendes, Luiz Araujo, Edgar Ie, Nicolas Pepe, Kevin Malcuit, Herve Koffi, Xeka, Naim Sliti, Fode Ballo-Toure, Ezequiel Ponce (loan), Adam Jakubech, Chano Boukholda, Kouadio-Yves Dabila, and Boubakary Soumare joined Lille last summer. The new faces brought in replaced the players unwanted by Marcelo Bielsa who he deemed to not good enough to play for the club. When Bielsa arrived at Lille, it is said that he only needed 45 seconds to decide the future of the players in Lille.

But I always kept thinking, that maybe the reason behind this downfall is that the changes happening at the club are perhaps too fast. The board wanted the club to get back to their high heights again like in 2010/11 in just three seasons.

Gerard Lopez did everything he could, even building new training facilities just like Bielsa wanted. The club also brought in many talented staff members such as coach Joao Sacramento and chief scout Luis Campos. The club even started their high-intensity training program earlier than any other Ligue 1 team but things still didn’t work out well, especially on the pitch.

The new players have struggled to gel as of yet, even now that the season is more than half-way through. I’m talking about how they are playing in the field, in a match.

Bielsa’s high-pressing, quick tempo passing tactics didn’t seem to work for Lille, not because the players’ didn’t have the proper skills and/or ability to execute it – I mean, believe me, they have a squad of very talented young players right now, but it’s just the players, they don’t know each other very well yet. Bielsa was fielding an entirely different squad of players from six months ago, yet he expects them to get used to his tactics after just three months of training. Although we could see a glimpse of Bielsa’s brilliance in every Lille match, we could also see that the players still often struggle with miscommunication, consequently they still make a lot of mistakes both individually and collectively and this could easily result in loss of confidence.

Marcelo Bielsa is not a really good loser and as Gerard Lopez said, he’s often very frustrated after failing to win a match. Perhaps his reactions after the matches were a little bit too harsh and his young team didn’t respond to it very well too.

Moving on from Bielsa, now the team is managed by former Lille player Christophe Galtier who is well-known as the longest-serving manager in Ligue 1 as he managed Saint-Etienne for 8 years. Throughout his years with Saint-Etienne, he managed to keep the club to a stable finish of 4th-6th on the table, which means his club often got a chance to compete in Europe.

After winning 4-2 against Le Mans in his managerial debut in Coupe de France, all he has to do now is to keep the confidence up and get the best out of the team with his own methods. No need for transfer or whatsoever, he already has a good squad composition of his own, now it is up to him as to whether he could produce the best out of it or not. Meanwhile, the team can now focus on building their relationship with one another without having to be distracted so much by new players coming in and/or any changes of tactics.

Having a transfer ban in January might sound horrible but it might be a blessing in disguise for Lille. Let’s see how they go about their business as they face the second round of Ligue 1.

 

 

 

 

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