Thursday evening August 26, it is from Lille that Jocelyn Gourvennec, new LOSC coach since July, followed the draw for the Champions League. Far from Istanbul, where the ceremony was taking place, the 49-year-old coach saw his club win the bowls, with a place in Group G alongside Sevilla FC, FC Salzburg and Wolfsburg.
“A homogeneous group”, as described by Olivier Létang, the president of the club, who maintains for Lille the hope of a qualification in the knockout stages of the C1. But nothing to brag about for Gourvennec, reached by phone, who prefers to focus on other deadlines before the European games: “The Champions League is an event. But I do not want to disperse, first there is Ligue 1, which is very important. We must not get the wrong goal! “
Before thinking about Europe, the reigning French champion must indeed get back to the place in the league. During the first three days, the Mastiffs did not win a single match (two draws against Brest and Saint-Etienne, one defeat against Nice). The arrival of Montpellier at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium, Sunday, August 29, is an opportunity for the northern club to reverse the trend.
Because until then, the LOSC has offered performances well below the expectations of its supporters and has just achieved the worst start to the season for a French champion since… Montpellier, during the 2012-2013 season. The time when the supporters celebrated the title in the streets of Lille, on May 24, is far away. LOSC seems stuck in the 2020-2021 season, unable to delve into the next one.
“It went wrong”
“The transition between the two seasons is difficult, concedes Jocelyn Gourvennec. But that’s pretty much all the time when a team that isn’t planned to be champion does. Teams used to winning live less that. ” The return to competition was all the more difficult as LOSC lost three important players: Mike Maignan, Boubakary Soumaré and Luiz Araujo.
Above all, the northern club had to resign themselves to seeing Christophe Galtier, the one who led Lille to the top of Ligue 1. Now coach of OGC Nice, Galtier made a resounding return to the Pierre-Mauroy stadium on August 14, crushing his old team (4-0). A slap in the face for the French champion, who illustrates his difficulties at the start of the season. “But this game was irrational. There were a lot of emotions and it went wrong ”, underlines Gourvennec.
These first three games for Lille in the league are surprising, especially after the Dogues victory against Paris-Saint-Germain in the Champions Trophy, the 1is August (1-0). For the first time in eight years, PSG did not win this competition, and LOSC seemed ready to annoy the capital club for another season.
Since then, the machine has stalled. “The mobilization was very strong in this final, with a trophy to be won at the end, explains Gourvennec. But getting back into the championship is more difficult for the players because they know it’s a very tough, very long competition. It’s not easy to find the right habits. “
In order not to disrupt a group necessarily marked by an unexpected league title, the new LOSC coach has minimized the changes in the team: same system in 4-4-2 as under Christophe Galtier, same base men, same philosophy The only thing that changes is the message sent by the coach since the start of the preparation, summarized by the captain, José Fonte, after the rout against Nice: “Last season is over. We have to write a new story. “
Rebound expected against Montpellier
For the moment, the mayonnaise is not taking and, inevitably, Jocelyn Gourvennec is at the center of the discussions. The former coach of Bordeaux and Guingamp, who had not held positions for more than two years, has never had to manage such a workforce. “I was judged before I even started, so I don’t worry too much about that. I work hard but we cannot judge the contribution of a trainer over a month and a half “, defends the Lille technician.
To achieve unanimity, Gourvennec will have to unlock his victory counter with his new club. This Sunday, against Montpellier, LOSC has no other choice but to win, under penalty of spending the entire international break asking questions. The Lille coach is also waiting “The end of the transfer window, which will be important so that ideas are clear to everyone”.
With two points taken out of nine possible in three games, the urgency is already there for the champion of France. And this, even if AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais, two competitors for the top of the table, also missed their start. With the reception of Montpellier, Lille hopes to get back on track. “There was a clear improvement against Saint-Etienne [lors de troisième journée], so I expect continuity. We fell behind and we have to perform quickly ”, concludes Gourvennec.