“Believe me guys, he is a very good player who can do his job very well. work in this position of central defender, and who did not make mistakes like that in general. According to his press conference on September 9, after the defeat of Lorient (3-1), Peter Bosz will blindly put Thiago Mendes at the back of his starting lineup for the whole season. There is little doubt that the 30-year-old Brazilian, a midfielder throughout his career until last February, will be with Castello Lukeba again, this Sunday (8:45 pm), against the formidable attacking trio of Paris.
In addition to the cold sweats caused by this prospect in the short term for most of Lyon’s supporters, this very questionable repositioning, and a priori carved in stone, is in a sense the last symbol in a failed sports policy in the longer term of Olympique Lyonnais.
Because it is worth stopping the course of Thiago Mendes since his arrival in Lyon in June 2019 (for 22 million euros + 4.5 M €), while his profile is admired both by Florian Maurice and by Juninho. After two disappointing seasons (0 goals and 9 assists in 53 starts, all competitions combined), he was placed on the transfer list of his club in the summer of 2021. His departure from Flamengo, that both parties hoped for, failed, both in this transfer window and next winter.
“It’s a perfectly acceptable option”
Not really convincing at the heart of the game, even if with Sylvinho, Rudi Garcia or Peter Bosz, the former Lille then ticked all the boxes of the player who should be separated as soon as possible: a large salary (approximately 300,000 euros gross) , a sometimes glaring lack of fighting spirit, any role in the great adventure of the club in these two seasons (66 minutes of play accumulated in four matches in C1 until half of the Final 8), a league -on reputation as a regular night outing, and a distance with supporters that does not imply involvement in the famous “collective project”.
And then everything changed to everyone’s surprise in February, when Peter Bosz thought of him to compensate for the many failures in his central defense (Boateng was dismissed, Diomande was injured, Denayer was in bad shape and Da Silva is not on the level). Solid games in this unprecedented position against Nice (2-0) then during the two knockout stages of the Europa League against Porto (1-0; 1-1) then completely changed his status. With the contract ending in 2023, Thiago Mendes signed an extension on June 17 until 2025 with the club. All while inheriting last season’s end most of the well-placed direct free kicks, again strange to say the least. OL football director Vincent Ponsot recently explained the growth how this twist happened in the club.
When we ask ourselves about Thiago, the coach gives his opinion and the decision is always collegial. The coach, by supporting, estimated that Thiago can play in this position and we are also convinced. He played nine games in this position last season. I have in mind both against Porto, where he is expected to have a defense that plays high, with a restraining mark. He meets the coach’s criteria, so it is a perfectly acceptable option, especially since he is also versatile to play at 6. OK, there’s Lorient and Monaco, but let’s stick to what the coach is, he can be good in this position. »
There are many dumplings in 15 axis games
According to Vincent Ponsot, therefore a coach who came out of a difficult first season (8th in Ligue 1), unable to put his “offensive and attractive” game, who has the power to change the Brazilian destiny. with its leaders. And if the right arm of Jean-Michel Aulas refers to his dumpling that allowed the Lorient Ouattara-Moffi tandem to feast last week (3-1), after already being at the beginning of the first conceded goal, as well as the his very light mark in the wake of Monaco in the victorious header of the giant (1.94 m) Badiashile (2-1), the list of mistakes of Thiago Mendes is longer since his repositioning.
We think especially of the expensive costs of last season: his involuntary decisive head pass for Lille Gudmundsson (0-1) on February 27, an impossible “leap” by Anthony Lopes that allowed Lensois Clauss to score the empty goal (1-1) last week, and 45 disastrous minutes against Rennes (2-4) before being replaced during the March break. Still not bad for a player who only started 15 times behind Peter Bosz’s 4-man defense, right?
Great difficulty in aerial duels
“Thiago Mendes has shown that he has the predisposition to play in this position, especially thanks to his technical ability to restart cleanly,” said former OL defender Jean-Marc Chanelet. But he is handicapped by his height [1,77 m] for aerial duels, and he is not very fast. Beyond these two characteristics, it is clear that the 30-year-old midfielder is inexperienced at times in Lyon’s defense. “A mistake obviously becomes a big mistake much easier when you become a central defender, said Jean-Marc Chanelet. If Peter Bosz keeps his faith in him, he will undoubtedly return it’s on the pitch, but at the cost of how many mistakes? If we saw his misinterpretation of the game situation in Lorient with the second goal, we understand that he needs time to learn to take fewer risks. »
With the obligation to find the Champions League at the end of the season, can OL (5th, 4 points from 3rd Lens) insist on such a bet? And above all, will he not look during the transfer window for another solution than this troubleshooting that has become permanent, resulting above all from the club’s inability to transfer Jérôme Boateng and Damien Da Silva (under contract until 2023) this summer. Became a master of the art of tinkering in defense for 15 years, between the midfielders Bodmer, Toulalan and Gonalons, who returned to the middle for more or less long term, or the attackers Bastos and Cornet suddenly converted to the position of the left side, ‘OL showed in a bright way the limits of its sports policy.
This choice of Thiago Mendes has everything from a combination of circumstances, says Jean-Marc Chanelet. This team needed a defensive outfit and he was chosen to help. But if you extend the experience by making him a starter in the attack next season, you don’t need a little bandage but a solid plaster. »
“I play in central defense and I’m happy”
The series of big games against PSG and Lens could say a lot about the (un)strength of the defense of Lyon, where young Castello Lukeba and Malo Gusto (19) have no real competitors. On August 26, Thiago Mendes assured him: “A year ago, I was informed to leave. Some times are more difficult for me but I always try to give the best of myself. Now I’m playing, I’m feeling good, and I think it’s a fair return. I play in central defense and I’m happy. I just want to play to help my team. “
Contacted by 20 minutes, his entourage does not want to specify if his enthusiasm is still relevant since the failures suffered in Lorient and Monaco, where he acted as the ideal head of Turkey for the supporters of Lyon. There is nothing better to regain confidence, if you only have fifteen games in the career of central defense, than to fight with Mbappé, Neymar and Messi this Sunday, right?