Despite a mediocre season, OL can count on a safe bet: the quality of their academy. Winner of the Gambardella Cup last Saturday, and great hope of the Lyon academy, Mohamed El Arouch is the next on the list of young people who will break through under the Rhone tunic.

This season, the rare rays of sunshine that OL have seen have come from their academy: Castello Lukeba emerged in central defense, Malo Gusto had a few flashes in his right lane, and Maxence Caqueret confirmed the talent that France detected in him two years ago. As a symbol, last Saturday, the Gones won the Gambardella Cup at the Stade de France against Caen (1-1, 5-3 TAB), 25 years after their last victory in the competition. The next day, in Metz, team A delivered a shameful copy to bow to the Mosellens (3-2), who had won only once in 2022 before this meeting. Often, when Lyon is doing badly with the pros, its academy offers some great talent. This was the case ten years ago, when the club had to tighten its belt to afford its stadium, and therefore trusted the Grenier-Lacazette-Umtiti-Tolisso-Fekir generation. This had given him back since it took OL to second place in the championship in 2015, by mingling for a long time in the fight with Paris.


And if the young people of Lyon gave a boost to this OL completely stunned and cracked, whether on the ground or internally? “We want the DNA of Lyon training to be the key word for the future” urged Jean-Michel Aulas this Tuesday in an open letter addressed “to fans of Olympique Lyonnais” . In this statement, and to illustrate this confidence in the new generation, the president mentioned the extension until 2025 of a certain Mohamed El Arouch. At 18, it should be him, the next Gone from the academy to break into the big leagues. Arrived between Rhône and Saône at the age of thirteen from his native Vaucluse, it was he who, in large part, carried his club to victory in the Gambardella final: a sublime goal by lodging a heavy strike under the bar, then a panenka during the penalty shootout to perfectly launch his teammates, who will triumph a few minutes later.

“He always shows enthusiasm. He is a player, he makes the game joyful. » Éric Hély, OL U19 coach

“His panenka shows great confidence in him. He scored, so I congratulate him! If he had missed it, I would have said it was a little daring. He is one of the players who have the nerve ” , jubilant Éric Hély, the coach of the Lyon U19s. Pocket attacking midfielder (only 1.65 meters), he shines this season with his technical and collective facilities. His greatest qualities? “The relationship between him and the ball, the first control, taking the ball in motion” , says Éric Hély. Described like that, he could be confused with Rayan Cherki. “These are different profiles. Rayan is a lot in the individual exploit, while Momo is more in the offensive dynamism. Rayan is closer to a striker, and I would say Mohamed is an attacking midfielder.” , develops his trainer. The kid from Orange willingly puts himself at the service of the team, and favors the good pass to the individual gesture. “He gives impetus forward. He always shows enthusiasm. He is a player, he makes the game joyful” says the technician.

Although branded with the long-awaited label of hope, El Arouch has arguably received a little less hype than Cherki, who is a year older than him. This allowed him to progress quietly, in his corner. But now, it’s impossible not to keep an eye on his mullet cut. Inevitably, as is the case for many young people from the training center, Lyon supporters are already impatient to see him tread the lawns of Ligue 1 next season. Maybe too impatient. If Éric Hély thinks that “technically and in the animation of the game” El Arouch is ready for the high level, “athletically, he still has to take a step forward” and “maybe he still needs a bit of mental maturation” . A little patience then.

Better than Benzema

However, it is difficult not to get carried away. After all, he has already achieved what Benzema, Ben Arfa and Loïc Rémy failed to do in 2005: win a Gambardella final. “I’d rather have El Arouch with me than against me! Again in the final, it was he who scored. It was close to his heart and, like players who have personality and qualities, he assumed his role as a technical and mental leader. He was not alone, but he was one of the players on whom there were a lot of expectations. This is one of his great qualities. In the fateful moments, the ax matches, he is there” , describes Hély. Next step: bring in a panenka in training while looking Anthony Lopes straight in the eye.

By Leo Peat
Comments by Éric Hély collected by LT


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