Memphis depay is driving lyon towards a champions league place football the guardian gas definition science

“You do not have the right to be eliminated in this way,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told his squad after their defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Europa League last month. Lyon had won in Russia the week before but a 3-2 defeat in their own ground ended their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals and Aulas was not happy. “Individualistic behaviour always ends up being punished!”

With forwards playing for themselves and the team barely playing like one, Lyon’s season was in danger of finishing two months early. Their next game was trip to Marseille, who were five points above them in the league table, so Aulas made his feelings known. His opinionated persona can be problematic but at times it also makes him an inspirational leader. In this case his rage instigated a spectacular turnaround for his coach, his team and, especially, Memphis Depay.

Bruno Génésio has long been the nearly man at Lyon but, with his job on the line before the Marseille game, the manager received a helping hand from the opposition in the build-up. “Forgive me for being vulgar,” said young Marseille midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, “but we want to destroy them.” These words soon adorned Lyon’s dressing room wall, stoking a rivalry that never requires much rekindling. Lyon were at last ready to fight.

For long periods of a rumbustious, streetwise 3-2 win, Lyon finally looked like they were playing for each other. They frustrated Marseille, keeping possession brilliantly in an uncharacteristically mature display. Depay, who had been dropped after the CSKA game, came on and scored a last-minute header, a winning goal that underlined both his ability and his inconsistency.

As his players drifted off to international duty after the Marseille game, Génésio was again given an unexpected helping hand. With the Netherlands lacking attacking options, new manager Ronald Koeman deployed Depay as a centre-forward in a 3-5-2 for their trip to Lisbon. Depay stood out and scored in an eye-catching 3-0 win against the European champions. Koeman praised the forward for “working hard for the team.” He had given Depay more responsibility to create and score goals, and, perhaps surprisingly, Depay relished it. When the Dutchman return to Lyon, Génésio took Koeman’s ideas and ran with them.

Utilised as a centre-forward, Depay has gloriously returned to the form he showed at PSV and at the 2014 World Cup. Lyon have won all five of their league games since the Netherlands beat Portugal, scoring 17 goals and conceding just twice. Depay has been superb, scoring or setting up 12 of those goals.

Previously, Depay had been a little stranded while playing out wide for Lyon. Opposition teams tend to sit in against them, with midfielders doubling up to help their full-backs. Denied space and frustrated by defenders, Depay often tried to dribble his way out, which rarely worked. He also struggled with the defensive responsibilities required by a wide player. “It was impossible for me to play this way,” admitted Depay. “It wasn’t really where I was at my best.”

In central areas – whether as a false nine, playing off another striker or as an attacking midfielder – Depay can seek out space, follow his instincts and play to his strengths: pace, skill and, now that he is much closer to goal, finishing. Depay believes he is capable of becoming the best player in the world so being appointed the attacker in chief has clearly tapped into his self-confidence and sense of self-importance.

Crucially for Génésio, Depay’s rebirth as a striker has solved, almost overnight, a number of tactical issues he had struggled with throughout the season. The diamond used in Lyon’s 2-0 win over a floundering Nantes this weekend allowed his supremely talented midfield quartet to play to their strengths. The balletic 19-year-old Houssem Aouar in particular benefitted from a central midfield role, rather than being forced out wide, as did talismanic captain Nabil Fékir, while the marauding Tanguy Ndombélé is also given the freedom to bulldoze around midfield by holding player Lucas Tousart.

Génésio is again riding high, having come so close to finally folding. Considering his powers of recovery, perhaps his latest salvage operation should not come as a shock. The newly freewheeling Lyon, led by Depay, are back above Monaco in second in Ligue 1 with Champions League football on the horizon once more. Ominously for the rest of Ligue 1, however, the notoriously erratic Depay might have finally found his footing. “I can do a lot better if I believe in myself more,” said the Dutchman after his goal and four assists helped thrash Metz earlier this month. “I like playing in this position.” President Aulas, though always divisive, may have proved decisive again. Ligue 1 talking points

• While his former side were busy moving up the table, Clément Grenier helped Guingamp do the same, albeit in much tougher circumstances. The visitors had been 2-0 up against PSG at the Parc des Princes but conceded two late goals and had to settle for draw. Grenier contributed an assist, his third in four matches as Guingamp extended their unbeaten run to five. Grenier is still a long way from the player who was missed the World Cup in 2014 through injury but, much like his erstwhile Lyon team-mate Jimmy Briand, he has been rejuvenated by a move to Brittany.

• Another week, another crucial victory for St Étienne, who moved into fifth after Nice were held at Strasbourg. Jean-Louis Gasset has impressed since being given full charge of St Étienne in December, by relying on a mix of new acquisitions (Yann M’Vila, Mathieu Debuchy and Neven Subotic) and canny veterans such as Stéphane Ruffier. In the recent absence of captain Loïc Perrin, Ruffier has been particularly imperious, including saving a penalty against Montpellier on Friday to preserve a clean sheet, his fourth in six matches. He has butted heads too often with Didier Deschamps to be considered for Russia this summer, but with Steve Mandanda’s status still in doubt through injury, Les Bleus could do with Ruffier’s combination of experience and brio.

• Finally, Lille earned a vital win to keep their hopes of survival alive. Troyes also winning complicates things, but Christopher Galtier’s team still control their own destiny – a win over Toulouse on Sunday will take them out of the automatic relegation places at a minimum. Spurred on by energetic performances from Nicolas Pépé (eight goals in 2018) and midfielder Yves Bissouma, Lille showed the desire and talent to avoid the drop, no small matter given the club’s looming financial issues. Quick guide Ligue 1 results Show Hide