Interview with Jean-Michel Aulas
"2019 is coming to an end. After the many changes made this summer, what assessment can you make of this first part of the season?
It’s a year like any other, except that the end didn’t go as we had hoped. It’s especially a year where there have been a lot of complications, including injuries that were not expected and that were hard on the team. This weakened a side that seemed to be returning to a level of success and playing with pride. So it's been a contrasting year because we finish it off by being progressing in all competitions, which has not always been the case. Qualifying for the Round of 16 of the Champions League for the second year in a row has made up for a difficult record to date, particularly in the league. But you have to know how to respond and you have to analyze things calmly. To be twelfth in a tight championship is far below our objectives but we could very well have ended up fourth, or even on the podium, without the few problems we have experienced. We are very close to our objectives given the difference in points which separates us from the podium but very far also in terms of the classification. It is therefore necessary to know how to make conclusions from these results which are not those we have expected. All of our supporters must also be behind OL. This is how confidence will come back and it is essential for players to get the best out of themselves in the second half of the season. On our side, we will correct a number of things. We are calm about what we have to do and what we will do. We can catch up. It is up to us to prepare ourselves so we prepare for the next matches in the best possible way.
Despite the results and recent setbacks, what are your hopes for the second half of the season?
We believe in our chances but we believe in them within reason because we faced quite a few moments of adversity in the first part of the season that befell our best players. There were also very negative reactions from part of our support. It had an impact on the players. They are not robots and sometimes they do not have the mental capacity to withstand all of these attacks, especially those which are unjustified. We are not where we need to be but we have probably have made some mistakes too. We will correct them and rectify the situation, by optimizing our resources as much as possible and hoping to make the most of the chances that we have missed since the start of the season. But for that, we all have to work together. Everyone has to be behind the team. It is unimaginable that a part of the public, however minor it may be, is against the players or the institution. Disagreement can be expressed but should not demonstrate against the players, who are the only players we have. You have to reason with them fairly. Having enthusiasm, confidence and showing solidarity will be the best way to win matches in the months to come.
"Il faut que tout le monde soit derrière l'équipe" pic.twitter.com/wELObmfj2k— Olympique Lyonnais (@OL) December 24, 2019
Can you recall the appointment of Rudi Garcia as head of the first team?
The decision to replace Sylvinho was taken by Juninho, a man who represents OL. We saw that we were wrong and this decision to part ways with Sylvinho was therefore legitimate. The sooner a decision is made, the faster things can be repaired. Regarding Rudi, we analyzed things. And looking back, I’m convinced it’s a good decision. He is someone with a lot of experience, and a lot of character, and who could face up to the media lobby, which did not make him their favorite. We needed someone strong and you have to bet on the long term. Rudi Garcia is doing a good job. As for injuries, there may have been mistakes during our preparation this summer that we paid for later. But since Rudi and his staff have arrived, with the sponsorship of Juninho, the whole team has set to work. This is a good thing for the institution of OL. His arrival is synonymous with success for the future. Now you have to play the game and wait until the end of the season to judge all of this.
Winter promises to be hectic. What are the needs of the team in the mercato?The needs are what Juninho and Rudi Garcia define. They are linked to certain insufficiencies and to recent injuries. I must clarify a point: we have choices to make, we want to find players capable of completing the squad, but we must not prevent certain young people from the academy from being able to express themselves in this context. Young players like Melvin Bard, Maxence Caqueret, Amine Gouiri or Rayan Cherki bring things with their presence on the field. We must not fall into this obsession with wanting to recruit when we have internal solutions. We have also seen Maxwel (Cornet) successfully play as a left back. Do we have to act immediately or can we wait? It’s a complex subject. OL are fortunate to be in good financial health and able to do things. But we will not penalize young people who have graduated from our academy and could play in other positions. We have certain capital gains and it is in this case that players can be recruited. Florian Maurice is already working on it.
With the takeover of Reign FC, what is OL's strategy around the women's team?
Like every year, the results of the women's team are brilliant. And now we haven taken over the Reign FC team, one of the best in the United States, where great players play. The idea is to extend what has been done with OL in the United States, the land of development in women's football, and to have the OL brand exported there. The acquisition of Reign FC is part of this strategy. "
Watch the interview with President Aulas in full here