Arrived at OL in mid-June, Johann Lepenant, 19 and already in fifty pro matches in the socks with Caen, has been attracting attention since the start of Lyon’s preparation. Those who saw it build are formal: we will have to watch the young midfielder closely and take care of a profile that we rarely come across in the corridors of French football.
A few days ago, in Bourg-en-Bresse, there was at first only for him. He, this 31-year-old guy, promoted to general one evening in March 2017, returned to the skies of Lyon at the beginning of June, whom his trainer, Peter Bosz, welcomed with wide open arms. Alexandre Lacazette, number 91 on the back, only needed a small meeting to remind his lifelong supporters that he remains a beast of the thicket apart, often well placed to push a ball into the back of the net and always looking for the right area to come and unhook, combine and bring binder to the collective circuits of his teams. “I saw an intelligent centre-forward, who fortunately scored very quickly. He still, of course, has to learn how his teammates play, but he’s a good player.” , was content to let go of Bosz with caution and sobriety leaving the Marcel-Verchère stadium, where OL did not shake too much (4-2) and where another man was, above all, invited in all the conversations. A man of another generation, of another profile, arrived on tiptoe in Lyon in mid-June and who only needed 111 minutes to gather his first praise.
“A profile like Johann’s is good for French football. There are fewer and fewer pure ball players, so when there is one, you have to take care of it. » Cedric Hengbart
This man is obviously Johann Lepenant, landed from Caen against a little over four million euros with more than fifty pro matches put away in the socks at only 19 years old and whose first two outings in the Lyon jersey spun hopes for the future. “I am absolutely not surprisedsmiles Cédric Hengbart, who knew the young vacuum cleaner environment in Malherbe. He played as a sentinel, as the first launching pad, and it is exactly in this role that we can see all the qualities of Johann. He is a player who offers permanent assurance to his coaches: that of having a midfielder who moves all the time, who always wants the ball, who loses it very little, who likes to play for and with others, who feels the game. Inevitably, it quickly jumps to the eyes. »
“This player is a gem”
In the laces of Ligue 2, where he swallowed his first minutes at the end of 2020, Johann Lepenant has already left no one indifferent. At the time of his debut with the big boys, Pascal Dupraz, the coach who pushed him into the deep end in Caen, warned: “When you go see little Jo Lepenant, you will understand what I am saying. This player is a gem. » Then, at the start of 2021, the Granvillais exploded during two starts in the Coupe de France – one at Guingamp (3-1) and one against PSG (0-1), during which he had shaken Neymar well – and we don’t know. then never again saw his place slip away from anyone. “We told Pascalreplays Hengbart. We knew that as soon as he put him in the eleven, Johann would not go out. » Quite simply because Lepenant, who signed his first professional contract at just 16, has a profile as rare and complete as it is precious. Precious without the ball, first of all, because the one who ended the last season being the third player in the championship who played the most defensive duels per game (11.24) behind Lucas Deaux and Andrés Cubas is a scratch machine, to guide the opposing game and to trap its prey. Precious with the ball, then, because Johann Lepenant, whose frequency of taking information is very high, which makes his nickname “Lampard” even more appropriate, loses few balls, secures the whole and can evolve in all middle roles. “That’s what obviously caught our eye, because you don’t see many players capable of doing so many thingsespecially in France, underlines Cédric Hengbart, now coach of Blois (N2). A profile like that of Johann is good for French football at a time when we take a lot of powerful, fast guys, where we seek above all physical strength. There are fewer and fewer pure ball players, so when there is one, you have to take care of it. »
“He has great potential to develop in the use of the ball. Even though he has shown good things, he is sometimes a bit too lateral and negative in his passes. » Karim Mokeddem
A few caps in the viewfinder
This is precisely what Stéphane Moulin did last season, working in particular with Lepenant on his long game. “When I arrived, he was not playing a ball more than ten metersdetailed the Malherbe coach recently. He never made a long pass. When we assessed the level of the long game, I understood why. Since he’s smart, he didn’t. So, we made him work on this point. » Moreover, against Bourg-en-Bresse and perhaps even more against Dynamo kyiv on Wednesday, OL’s new number 24 has, beyond his many balls recovered, fired a few well-felt spears. “He is above all a hard worker, a big waste collector, but he has already shown, which we could already see in Caen, that he knows how to do several things very well.analyzes the former coach of Lyon La Duchère, Karim Mokeddem, who commented on OL’s first preparatory meeting at the microphone of OLTV. In big teams, sometimes a profile like his is missing. Now he has great potential to develop in the use of the ball. This is what differentiates him from Caqueret, because for the moment, even if he has shown good things, he is sometimes a little too lateral and negative in his passes. His positive assists in a match are easily counted on the fingers of one hand. It’s still a very good investment, a valuable asset for harassing, rushing to loss and as he will train daily with very great players, he will naturally progress. »
Cédric Hengbart continues: “It will never be the player who will do solitary exploits, who will take the ball and break through the lines with the ball at their feet. His priority is not to lose the ball, but the high level also requires playing forward more often, even more when you are in a dominant team. He still has trouble stringing together passes that break lines regularly, then projecting himself forward, but he knows how to do it. He’s only 19, and a 19-year-old can’t be perfect. It remains a very interesting subject to work on, especially since Johann sincerely loves football where others of his generation love it much less than him. In the training center, some already see football as a job. Not him. It’s still a game, a pleasure…” Used in the company of Jessy Deminguet at the controls of a 3-5-2 (or 3-4-2-1) in Caen, Johann Lepenant came to Lyon in a completely different game project, where he will have time to to refine in a busy game sector (Tolisso, Caqueret, Faivre, Reine-Adélaïde, Paquetá, plus other young shoots) and offer great options to Bosz, all with the awareness of having to take a step forward in terms of stats (no goals and only one assist in 53 Ligue 2 games). “This is the next step for him: to have more influence on the results of his team. He must reach this milestone in the next two years. , deciphered Moulin a few months ago. The foundations are laid.
By Maxime Brigand
Words by Karim Mokeddem and Cédric Hengbart recorded by MB.