Why Lyon's Lack of Experience Has Them Slipping Down Ligue 1

Nicholas McGeeContributor IOctober 9, 2013

SEVILLE, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 19:  Alexandre Lacazette (R) of Olympique Lyonnais and Markus Steinhofer of Real Betis Balompie in action during the UEFA Europa League group stage match between Real Betis Balompie and Olympique Lyonnais held on September 19, 2013 at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

The first part of the 21st century was a heady time for Olympique Lyonnais, with the club winning seven consecutive league titles between 2001 and 2008.

Lyon lost their grip on the Ligue 1 title in the season after their win in 2007-08 and have been unable to win it back.

Although they have not been the force they once were, Lyon have been able to maintain a presence as one of French football's powerhouses. But this season looks to be the time when their place in the upper echelons of the top flight might come to an end. 

After finishing third last term, Remi Garde's men have endured a desperate start to the season, taking a mere 11 points from nine games.

The low points have been frequent. Their dismal Champions League exit to Real Sociedad and the recent 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Montpellier are crushing pills to swallow in particular.

Lyon sit 14th in Ligue 1 following the loss to Montpellier, but their decline should not come as too much of a surprise.

Garde is a promising and astute manager, and while Lyon are in the midst of a substantial injury crisis, their current problems can be traced back to a hierarchy desperate to sell off almost every asset.

Big-name departures have been common at the Stade de Gerland. Michel Bastos, Lisandro Lopez and Dejan Lovren left the club in the summer after Hugo Lloris and Aly Cissokho moved to newer pastures prior to last season.

The number of sales has led to a severe lack of depth in the Lyon squad, and hence their present injury troubles have forced Garde to field an array of academy products.

Lyon's youth system is one of the best in France and has produced regular starters such as Samuel Umtiti, Maxime Gonalons, Clement Grenier and Alexandre Lacazette. However, Lyon have become somewhat overdependent on young talents like Jordan Ferri and Nabil Fekir this season. 

That lack of experience has shone through dramatically as allegedly inferior but well-organised teams have taken from Garde's men. Defeats to Reims and Ajaccio underline their below-par start.

Still, that is not to say that Lyon's youngsters should take all the blame for the club's poor form.

Lacazette—hardly a veteran at the age of 22is the only player who has delivered. He has found the net four times in eight league appearances. 

Grenier has shown glimpses of the talent that has made him one of the more highly sought-after players in Ligue 1, but he has yet to perform on a consistent basis. 

Striker Bafetimbi Gomis has scored just once since his reintegration to the side following his failed move to Newcastle United. He, along with team captain Gonalons and Umtiti, will need to perform better if Lyon are to turn their fortunes around. 

The prospective returns of Yoann Gourcuff, Milan Bisevac and Henri Bedimo will help Lyon to recover, but with the Rhone club already six points adrift of the Champions League places, it could be a long season for this once dominant institution.