French club Lyon struggling on and off the field

October 6, 2022 GMT
Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi, left, and PSG's Sergio Ramos challenge for the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lyon and Paris Saint Germain at Groupama stadium in Decines, outside Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi, left, and PSG's Sergio Ramos challenge for the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lyon and Paris Saint Germain at Groupama stadium in Decines, outside Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi, left, and PSG's Sergio Ramos challenge for the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lyon and Paris Saint Germain at Groupama stadium in Decines, outside Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi, left, and PSG's Sergio Ramos challenge for the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lyon and Paris Saint Germain at Groupama stadium in Decines, outside Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi, left, and PSG's Sergio Ramos challenge for the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lyon and Paris Saint Germain at Groupama stadium in Decines, outside Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

PARIS (AP) — With the losses piling up and the delayed sale of the club causing even more havoc, French team Lyon is struggling like never before.

The club, which won seven straight French league titles from 2002-08, has lost four matches in a row for the first time since 1991. Added to those woes, the sale of the club to an American businessman has been postponed by three weeks.

“The entire squad is affected by this situation,” Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes said. “We feel angry and ashamed, too.”

For years, Lyon qualified regularly for the Champions League. But the club’s poor run this season looks to be a continuation of last season, when it wound up in eighth place for its worst finish since 1997.

Disagreements even forced sporting director Juninho to step down in January.

Jean-Michel Aulas, who took over ownership of the club in 1987, had been behind Lyon’s rise. But he has been in talks to sell the club to Eagle Football Holdings LLC, controlled by American businessman John Textor.

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The deal was set to be finalized on Sept. 30 but has been postponed to Oct. 21 because both parties are still negotiating the financial details, especially a partial repayment of the debt to the club’s lenders.

So far this season, Lyon is in seventh place despite getting off to a strong start by racking up 13 points in the first five games. But those opponents — Ajaccio, Troyes, Reims, Auxerre and Angers — are all in the bottom half of the standings.

When the competition improved, the results turned bad. Lyon didn’t earn a point in its last four games against Lorient, Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Lens — all teams in the top 10.

Defense was the main issue last season. Lyon conceded 51 goals in 38 league games, more than any other team in the top half of the standings. That problem hasn’t gone away this season.

Lyon lost the spine of the team within a few months when midfielder Bruno Guimaraes joined Newcastle in January and Brazil playmaker Lucas Paqueta went to West Ham in August. Belgium defender Jason Denayer was also allowed to leave on a free transfer in the offseason.

The current backline looks inexperienced with right back Malo Gusto and center back Castello Lukeba both 19. Lyon has also taken a risk by relying on an aging Jerome Boateng, who hasn’t played yet and has already missed seven games because of injury.

Boateng’s absence has led Lyon coach Peter Bosz to play Thiago Mendes in the heart of the defense. A defensive midfielder normally, Mendes has struggled in the center back position, making an error that led to a goal against Lorient and conceding a penalty against Lens.

Lyon didn’t create any decent chances and had no shot on target against Lens.

“It’s unacceptable,” Lyon midfielder Maxence Caqueret told Amazon Prime video. “We must work even harder, we must be much more ruthless and show much more desire on the field.”

To boost the offense, Lyon brought back Alexandre Lacazette despite his poor scoring form at Arsenal. The French striker notched only four goals in the Premier League last season.

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Surprisingly, Bosz gave Lacazette the nod over Moussa Dembele even though the latter was the club’s top scorer last season with 21 league goals. Lacazette has started every game while Dembele was handed only one start.

“Of course, we can do better,” Bosz told Amazon Prime video. “That is not Lyon. We must be higher in the standings.”

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