The Resurgence Of Memphis Depay

 • by Andrew Gibney
news now

On Sunday, Memphis Depay’s name was the talk of Europe. The Lyon forward scored a stunning 94th-minute winner to lead his team to a wonderful 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain.

The vital three points helped OL close the gap to the league leaders down to just eight points.

His long-range effort was the Dutchman’s ninth of the Ligue 1 campaign and his form this term has been crucial as Lyon race up the table, solidifying themselves as one of the favourites to land a Champions League place this season.

Still only 23 years old, Depay has come a long way from his disastrous spell at Old Trafford. Joining Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven for £31million put a huge target on his head, a fee he never managed to live up to.

In 53 appearances for United, he scored seven goals in all competitions and assisted another six. A long way from the combined goals and assists total of 79 he managed in 124 games for the Dutch club. Playing 29 games in his first season in the Premier League, he scored just twice and by the time he left he looked like the shell of the player he grabbed a lot of attention in the Eredivisie.

Near the end of his time at the club, although he was still attempting long-range shots, when he was lining-up attempts on goal you could almost sense a lack of conviction. With players in numbers getting between him and the goal, his efforts were tame.

From the graphic below, taken from the Europa League game against Fenerbahçe, Depay is way out from goal, but still tries his luck.

Depay shot against Fenerbahce

You can argue there are a lack of options for the winger, but when you are severely lacking in confidence, it’s a difficult shot to take.

“We’ve bet on a player who wants to show his immense talent,” said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas when the deal to sign Depay was close.

“There was a lot of interest in him from his time with Holland and in Eindhoven, where he had two fantastic seasons. When you see him developing, you get the impression he really wants to show his immense talent.

“This is a big operation, because I think it will be around €16.5million, with up to €8million in bonuses. It’s a major investment.”

Even from his early games in France you could see he was the same player. Shots rained in from distance, he wasn’t picking the high-percentage chances. You are never going to take that away from him. Similar to Arjen Robben and others with one very strong foot, his go-to move is to play on the left, cut inside and fire off shots.

Yet, once he got off the mark, scoring in his fourth appearance in Ligue 1, you could see he would be a good fit at Lyon.

Memphis Depay has shown great improvement at Lyon alreadyMemphis Depay has shown great improvement at Lyon already

Playing on the last shoulder of the full-back, he was slipped through on goal, collecting a pass inside the area, he had enough confidence to take it first time and curl the ball into the far corner.

You Might Also Like

In just 16 league appearances, Depay finished with five goals and seven assists, a very positive return for his first campaign in France.

From a goal-scoring perspective, he started slowly as the Lyon attack tried to work out their new look.

A free-kick against Rennes opened his account, he also helped set-up another three in the opening six fixtures. Yet, with Mariano Díaz taking the early plaudits and Nabil Fekir’s revival, Depay’s contributions were quiet and underplayed.

Last season it was all about Alexandre Lacazette, with the Dutchman on the left as the second option.

However, this term, with Bertrand Traoré joining from Ajax thrown into the mix, Lyon have four options in a blistering attack and Depay has thrived in one of France’s most dangerous frontlines.

At United, when you combined his expected goals (xG) and expected goals assisted (xA), Depay managed 0.36 per 90 minutes. Unsurprisingly it jumped to 0.90 in his first season at Lyon and it has reduced to 0.59 this season. This is the level he needs to maintain.

His shots per 90 have reduced to three from 3.8 last season and although he is converting fewer of his attempts on target, it’s where he’s trying from and the quality of shots he’s trying which makes the biggest difference.

The rise of Memphis Depay

Lyon have options, going forward, with the three other forwards and rampaging full-backs, plus dynamic midfielders like Houssem Aouar and Tanguy N’Dombele, you are spoiled for choice when on the counter.

Fekir is elusive; drifting through the middle or dropping deep as the No.10, he helps occupy defenders, pushing and pulling them around the final third.

Opponents don’t know who is best to mark and it gives the forwards an extra half yard of space, exactly what Depay needs to test goalkeepers.

Even against the league leaders. Everyone at Parc OL knew what he was trying to do, but they still couldn’t stop the Dutchman cutting inside onto his strong foot and unleashing an unstoppable shot.

PSG have men back, but five Lyon players in the final third, unlike the United example against Fenerbahçe, the defenders don’t know who to mark.

He’s still the same player, playing off the left, cutting inside and trying his luck from distance. Give him options when on the ball, or distractions which offer him gaps to exploit and this is what you get, a dangerous forward who can punish you both in and outside the penalty area.

Like Football Whispers on Facebook