Eight months ago, when the Ligue 1 season paused for its winter break, Ottawa's Jonathan David was at the centre of several transfer rumours to some of the world's biggest clubs.
David had scored 16 goals in Lille's first 26 games across all competitions and guided Les Dogues to the round of 16 in the Champions League, which led to many in the Canadian soccer community expecting a marquee transfer in the summer.
Unfortunately for David, that did not occur. Lille finished 10th in Ligue 1 (after winning the title in 2020-21), exited the Champions League with a whimper against Chelsea, and the Canadian's strong start was long forgotten with just three goals in his next 21 games.
There were many theories behind the slump, although this wasn't the first time David experienced a decline in form. He didn't score for Lille until November during his first season in 2020-21, picking up just two goals in 23 matches before finishing with 11 goals in 24 appearances after the winter break. That inconsistency, coupled with Lille's reported asking price, could've scared off potential suitors.
Thankfully, new coach Paulo Fonseca has replaced Jocelyn Gourvennec and it's breathed new life into the 22-year-old.
Fonseca, who prefers a 4-3-2-1 formation with two playmakers behind a striker during his coaching career, has tabbed David for one of those playmaking roles. He occupied that position at Gent where he attracted attention from several clubs, including Lille.
It's clearly comforted David because, like his final season in Belgium, he's started the year in a fury. He has two goals and two assists in two starts, and while it's early days, there's a lot to be excited about.
For starters, David is not a traditional number nine. He is an intelligent runner, but prefers finding pockets of space around the box to manipulate, but prefers finding pockets of space around the box to manipulate, as seen for his two assists.
And here's the first goal for #LOSC midfielder Benjamin Andre, assisted by a FANTASTIC back-heel by #CanMNT star Jonathan David to open the scoring 😎#Ligue1 | 🔴 https://t.co/7JFAUhgjL6 pic.twitter.com/LhwFpfA8QW— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 7, 2022
In both instances, David dropped into open space, his teammates played the ball quickly, and converted two beautiful goals.
This is a regular theme because when Lille has possession, David (number nine) moves inside to play off the centre forward, Mohamed Bayo (number 27), receives the ball in deeper areas and progresses it in the final third.
That enables David to execute his patented delayed, undetected runs into the box for a shot.
This results in Lille being a major threat on the counter when David spreads his wings.
Of course, there's a major difference facing newly promoted Auxerre and, say, Nice or Monaco. In fact, French champions Paris Saint-Germain are up next this weekend. That will provide a better sense of how well David, and Lille as a whole, have progressed.
But there are promising signs. David playing in a role that's more suited to his qualities can only have a positive knock-on effect for the rest of the season.