After Pépé, Lille finds another scoring talent in Osimhen
By JEROME PUGMIRE
PARIS (AP) While Nicolas Pepe awaits his first goal since joining Arsenal for a club-record fee, his former team Lille has found another scoring talent in Victor Osimhen.
The 20-year-old Nigerian has scored five goals in five league games so far, helping Lille fans to forget Pepe's departure for a reported 80 million euros ($89 million) after he netted 22 league goals to help Lille qualify for the Champions League.
Osimhen was signed for 12 million euros ($13.3 million) from Belgian club Charleroi, and on current market and re-sale value that looks like a bargain.
Quick, tall, strong and a powerful runner, he is ideally suited to Lille's rapid counter-attacking style - as was Pepe before him.
Osimhen's ability to play back to goal, often using his chest to expertly take down long balls and allied to quick turns inside the penalty area, make him very difficult for opposition defenders to mark. Furthermore, he shoots well with both feet.
He has slotted in seamlessly in a team which has other young talents in attack. Not least the 21-year-old Jonathan Ikone, a quick and skillful player who scored on his France debut and set up another goal in the next match during the recent international break.
Ikone grew up in the same Paris suburb as Kylian Mbappe - they are friends from their days living in Bondy.
Ikone netted only three times last season as Pepe did most of the scoring, but now Ikone can take up a far greater role in attack.
So too can Luiz Araujo, a Brazilian forward with pace, skill and passing ability in abundance.
He showed this in Friday night's 2-1 home win against Angers, starting the move which led to Osimhen's goal with a brilliant turn and sprint from the halfway line after controlling a long pass with opponents on his back.
"Last season his path was barred by Nicolas (Pepe). He's gained in maturity," Lille coach Christophe Galtier said. "I sensed it was the right moment for him to express himself. The team needs Luiz."
Waiting in the wings at Lille is 19-year-old Timothy Weah - the son of Liberia President and former PSG and AC Milan striker George Weah.
After scoring nine goals in two opening wins many observers were talking up Lyon's prolific attack.
But while forwards Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele shared the headlines, the Lyon defense had yet to be tested.
It has been now and the result is Lyon collecting only two points from the past three games - losing one and twice conceding leads to draw the match.
Friday's 2-2 draw at Amiens, which equalized in injury time following a hurried Lyon clearance, exposed deficiencies in Lyon's defense.
Imposing Danish defender Joachim Andersen - signed from Italian side Sampdoria for 30 million euros - was too often caught out of position and passed the ball out poorly from the back. Yet he did not get nearly enough protection from midfield.
Lyon's lineup looked split in two, with the midfield and fullbacks pushing up constantly to support the forwards and leaving huge gaps for the center halves to cover.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide set up one of the goals for Dembele but, just like fellow midfielder Houssem Aouar, he did not track back enough.
Lyon's new coach Sylvinho - a former left back with Arsenal and Spanish giant Barcelona - will hope for very quick improvement from his players.
They face Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League on Tuesday, followed by French champion Paris Saint-Germain at home on Sunday.
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Updated September 16, 2019