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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Why Lyon's Barcola is not ready for Pochettino's high-pressing game but will cost top dollar one day

By Alessandro Schiavone in Strasbourg


Strasbourg 2-1 Lyon


One of the reasons why Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG were an unmitigated disaster was down to their prima donnas Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar’s selfish nature. In their two seasons at Parc des Princes the star-studded trio was not bothered to put in the hard yards on the back foot, do the running and track their runners. In the end Pochettino paid the ultimate price by being sacked at the end of a glorious 2021/22 Ligue 1 campaign. 

 

Taking all these factors into account it’s hard to see how Lyon’s right winger Bradley Barcola, for all his attacking talent and promise which are tainted by a lazy defensive attitude, would thrive under the hard Argentine taskmaster.

 

During the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea’s sisters club Racing Club Strasbourg, owned by filthy-rich Todd Boehly, the youngster didn’t give a memorable account of himself. 

 


Whether it was with the ball or out of possession, it felt like Lyon were playing a man down as the 22-year-old was on the periphery of the game for pretty much of it. 


The fact that he’s a right-footed attacking winger playing off the right flank suggests that he’s a rare breed these days in a day and age when inverted wingers are fashionable and in-demand.

 

In the first period he was disadvantaged by the fact that Lyon preferred doing their attacking down the left flank leaving the youngster, who scored 5 and assisted 9 in last season’s league campaign, chasing shadows. 

 

He often lurked on the edge of the box when Lacazette, Caqueret and Cherkhi had the ball but he still has to learn when to make an entry in the box and when to stay unmarked out wide to give his teammates a passing option. His decision-making in general, such as when to cross and when to take a shot on himself, has a lot of room for improvement.


After growing impatient with his lack of involvement in the game, Barcola decided to interchange position, moving to the left to see if he could exploit Strasbourg’s resolute backline. But that didn’t work as Lacazette missed back-to-back chances to break the deadlock before the interval. Frustratingly, the game was there for the taking for Lyon before things deteriorated. 

 

And when Strasbourg stepped up their tempo at the start of the second half, Barcola did not do much to improve Les Gones’ intensity off the ball preferring instead to stay high up the pitch. His lack of high pressing and generosity are reminiscent of Neymar, Messi and Mbappe who were a deal breaker in PSG's famous quest to win the much-coveted Champions League under a manager who got an unheralded "Harry Kane team", to use Guardiola's words, to a final in 2019.


That's clearly an aspect of his game he has to work on, before he can even think of impressing Pochettino.


The consensus is that on Sunday night he should have taken this game by the scruff of the neck against a Strasbourg team consisting of a number of inexperienced Ligue 1 nobodies. With his speed and individualistic attacking style he should have had a stranglehold on the game not least as the hosts were leaving gaps between the defence and a lot of space to attack in behind. If asked Barcola would probably be the first to admit that through his physicality, pace, direct running, progressive passing range and dribbling bravura he should have made a difference. But disappointingly he made it to easy for Strasbourg’s defenders to keep him at bay. In fact they didn’t even need to try hard. 

 

When it came to affecting the game with the ball at his feet, he gave more signs of life in the second 45 minutes, constantly interchanging positions and making inroads through central areas to confuse Strasbourg. But the team managed by Patrick Vieira did not fall for it. 

 

He attempted a dribble down the left. But despite successfully cutting inside, Doukoure imperiously blocked his run as he was on his way towards Matz Sels' goal. Ten minutes from time, when Lyon were aiming to recover from a sluggish start to the second half and a 2-0 deficit, he headed over from a cross. His particularly tall frame for a winger and heading ability along with the fact that he plays on the right hand-side which limits his opportunities to cut inside with his stronger right foot suggest that he’s an atypical and old school winger. Some of the finest wingers of the past decade such as Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Eden Hazard or today’s royalty including Kylian Mbappe, Rafael Leao and Bukayo Saka all play on the opposite side to make the most of their lethal foot.


Having said that, there’s definitely a player in there and despite looking off the pace for the majority of the game in Alsace, Barcola showed glimpses of his XXL talent such as changes of pace and an adroitness in tight areas which suggest that he’s on the path to stardom. Following the careers of Lyon greats Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette is not beyond him if he starts putting in the graft and shows consistency in games.


Yet his best position is on the left which could help him release his strong right foot. But with Chelsea already having Mudryk and Sterling occupying that position, first-team chances would be very limited right now for him in London.

 

Hence all things considered, it would be in his interest to stay back at Lyon couple of years to mature under manager Laurent Blanc before making the big jump to England. Doubts also persist over whether or not he’s ready to join perennial European underachievers PSG who who are understood to be keen to strike a deal to bring him to the capital. Yet a number of French talents such as Moussa Diaby or Christopher Nkunku found opportunities hard to come by after breaking into their first team in recent years there while Hugo Ekitike has stagnated since leaving Stade Reims for the record French champions.


After transforming Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min into world beaters, Pochettino would unquestionably be the right manager for an outrageously young talent like Barcola. But he's not ready for the pressure cooker of the Premier League right now. He's still a work in progress looking to find his feet in Ligue 1.


When that day comes along it might take a state-funded club backed by sovereign wealth to prise him away from the Groupama Stadium as his future transfer is destined to set clubs back a few million quids. Or as David Moyes would call it “Bank of England money” that fewer and fewer Prem League sides can afford in today's Saudi Arabia drugged market.



Report: Jean-Ricner Bellegarde scored a goalkeeper-assisted free-kick before Lebo Mothiba’s tap-in gave the La Meinau outfit a 2-0 goal cushion. Nicolas Tagliafico reduced the arrears late on but it was too little too late as the hosts hung in there to take all three points.

 

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