Thanks to their last win of the year on Wendesday night against Angers (2-0), OL's position in the league has markedly changed and they have cause to aim high in the second half of the season.
Jean-Michel Aulas's reaction on Wednesday night on OLTV a few minutes after the victory against Angers betrayed his sense of relief: "On the evening of the loss to Guingamp, we were in the dumps. But we encouraged unity, in particular around the coach (...). We have all climbed a mountain together. We're on 34 points with a match in hand. We're looking good for the second half of the season..."
OL will certainly go on holidays sitting pretty and will serenely prepare for the many showdowns in 2017. Maxime Gonalons and his teammates are clearly back in business: with 34 points, OL are now at a respectable distance from the top three - five points behind PSG, eight adrift of Monaco and ten behind Nice. One can imagine the boost that OL would get if they were to be awarded the three points from the abandoned match against FC Metz.
How did OL pull themselves out of the hole of despair on the night of the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Guingamp at the Parc OL? By shoring up the lines: "We encouraged unity," explained the president, Aulas, "There was a lot of work put in, a lot of involvement. We gradually rediscovered our consistency and our talent."
We encouraged unity. There was a lot of work put in, a lot of involvement. We gradually rediscovered our consistency and our talent.
There was also the boost that came form the whole team deciding as one to lift their game. Two days after the stumble at Guingamp, Presient Aulas took to OLTV to outline the plan for Lyon to get to 31 points by the winter break. This seemd to have an immediate effect, with a win in Toulouse (1-2) followed by a run of positive results with a draw in Turin in the Champions League (1-1) and narrow wins over Bastia and Lille.
Since 22 October, OL have lost only once: against the run of play to PSG (1-2). Bruno Genesio's team have strung together some good performances in Ligue 1: seven wins in eight matches; and boosted their morale by hauling a bag of goals against Nantes (0-6) and by winning away in Monaco (1-3).
A squad that has come good again and individual players who have finally bloomed: Anthony Lopes has become an impenetrable last obstacle for attackers. The central defensive pairing of Diakhaby and Yanga Mbiwa has become a mainstay; Rafael has stepped up his raids down the right flank; and Morel and Rybus have judiciously shared responsibility on the left side of defence. In the midfield, alongside the indespensable Gonalons and Tolisso, Lucas Tousart has seized his chance to show that he has become a ready alternative in a team that also incluces Ferri, Darder and Grenier. And up front there's a quartet that has simply taken off. Starting Rachid Ghezzal, Nabil Fekir, Alex Lacazette and Mathieu Valbuena has been a successful gamble by the Lyon staff in this end-of-year period, the four players taking turns being decisive in these last few weeks and clearly raising Lyon's level of play.
The end of 2016 has given rise to high hopes for next year. Despite being eliminated from the Champions League and the Coupe de la Ligue, there are still many challenges ahead: the league, the Coupe de France and the Europa League, three competitions that will give OL the chance to shine in 2017.