Lyon have given us the biggest upset of the Champions League this season. Real Madrid, favourites in many eyes, have been out thought and out fought. Claude Puel take a bow.
I feel this victory for Lyon is a win for team work over brainless spending and sends a clear message to the world of football, buying is not always the solution. It is so easy to get enamoured by the glamour of big names flashing around in the print and electronic media. Very few people actually understand that glamour is not a quality that wins football games.
Lyon weren’t perfect but they did a job and played to their strengths. Madrid tried to play to their strengths, but just didn’t have enough in attack to break the resilience of the French side. Some may consider this a case of negative tactics by Lyon. Well, Manchester United and Chelsea used the same to beat Arsenal and have tried the same with Barcelona as well. If those teams are great, then so are the battlers from France.
There is an interesting and deep-seated connection between Claude Puel and Arsene Wenger that was established way back till 1988. I was not aware of this till last weekend when I read this brilliant article. Sometimes the writers in the media do a good job after all!
Puel was a key player in Wenger’s first trophy winning squad at Monaco. It was Wenger who recognized his qualities and encouraged him to combine playing with coaching. At Lyon, Puel was introduced as “A future Arsene Wenger”.
The similarities might not be immediately apparent. Lyon played a highly tactical game to outwit Real, while Arsenal have been on the receiving end of similar tactical drubbings. Any superficial analysis would lead to the conclusion that both are exactly the opposite.
I see it as an insult to top quality managers when their work is shredded to bits by such lame thinking. Either manager is capable of using multiple tactics and they choose the appropriate ones based on the understanding of their squad and the opposition. At times the tactics don’t work and it seems the manager does not know what he is doing. It would be fair to question the manager’s decisions, but to accept that illusion as a matter of fact is naïve in the extreme.
We do not know if Puel will follow the exact path as Wenger. He might play an attacking game once the basic ethos of team play and hard work are established, or he might choose to go the Mourinho way and back his natural defensive instincts. We don’t know if the Lyon manager can build a squad on a shoe string budget, develop young players and perform consistently at the highest level. Put simply, there is no way to say he will be a Wenger clone. And I’m sure he doesn’t want to be one either.
Arsene is one of the greatest managers of all time and if Claude Puel achieves even half as much, he will have an admirable and rewarding career. For now, I am just happy my prediction came good and the moneybags have been trashed. It does compensate for an insipid but expected Milan performance.