Jonathan David’s had a big last 10 days.
To the relief of all Canadian onlookers, the striker ended a near-two-month goal drought by scoring for CanMNT in the first leg of this month’s CONCACAF Nations League quarter-final against Jamaica. That two-legged tie may ultimately have ended in heartbreak and embarrassment for Canada, but David scoring his first goal since mid-September was one of the silver linings.
And on Sunday, the 23-year-old netted for Lille in a 2-0 win over struggling Lyon, his first club goal from open play since August 31 and his first Ligue 1 strike since August 27. The Canadian, Lille’s top goalscorer in the 21st century, was also the team’s captain for the day and his goal broke open the game to give Lille a 1-0 lead to protect.
David is a player who backs himself no matter his temporary struggles, but he admitted he was naturally relieved to see his three-month Ligue 1 barren run end.
“Of course, there’s joy,” he told French media post-game, as quoted by L’Equipe. “I’ve been waiting for it for some time, and for a striker to score always feels good. On top of that, we got the win and I’ve helped the team, so that’s even better.
“I didn’t doubt [the drought would end] because, like my first season, I’ve already experienced periods that were a little more difficult since I’ve been here. I’m used to it, I know it can happen, that I’ll have certain moments when I’m not so good, but if I kept working, I knew it would lead to something… I think the goal for the national team helped me take my mind off things, got me going again, and freed me up.
“After that, it’s all about hard work and the support of my teammates, who are always behind me. The staff too, the coach.”
And his manager and teammates hailed the Canadian after his decisive contribution on Sunday.
“Yes, it’s a bit of a relief,” said Lille manager Paulo Fonseca after the win. “It was important for the team that Jona scored. It’s important for his confidence because he’s working well. He got the captain’s armband. I think all of that together will be important for Jonathan’s future.”
That goal, an expertly taken finish, was David’s fifth of the season for Lille and just his third in 13 Ligue 1 games in 2023-24, a far cry from his elite scoring rate of 24 goals in 37 league games last term. But form is temporary and class is permanent, and it was always a question of when, not if, he would be back on the scoresheet.
As well as admitting that breaking his duck was a relief to him, David also acknowledged that he has sometimes been criticized for his gameplay through his scoring drought, with Lille fans and analysts sometimes accusing him of being too hesitant to go for goal.
“It’s true that sometimes I’m criticized for not being selfish enough,” David reflected. “I think about it sometimes, on certain actions. But, above all, I’m a player who likes to play for the team. I really enjoy doing it. If there’s a pass to be made, I’ll make it, even if I could shoot. Maybe I need to share a bit more, do half and half. Sometimes people tell me I run too much, but it’s natural for me. I can’t help it.”
Lille goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier expressed his happiness for his teammate, and also stressed that despite David’s comparative goal struggles this season, he doesn’t have anything to answer for to anyone.
“I’m very happy for him, it’s bound to unblock him,” Chevalier said. “He’s been here for many years. He won the title, he doesn’t necessarily have anything to prove to Ligue 1. He’s just had a hole. People sometimes tend to forget what Jona has done.”
David’s scintillating scoring form last season had him linked all through spring and summer with a move to clubs in other European leagues, and a loan offer from AC Milan was rejected on deadline day of the summer transfer window. Milan are reportedly intent on signing David sooner rather than later, with Italian media asserting they are determined to strike a deal in advance of next summer’s window officially opening.
For now, David insists he is happy to still be at Lille despite his goal struggles of late and the fact Les Dogues are only in the third tier of UEFA competition.
“People don’t realize it, but Ligue 1 is a tough league,” David concluded. “I’m happy to have stayed. I’m getting better every day and I’m learning more and more… I know I can get better and still progress here. I think I can be a little more aggressive in duels, especially in aerial duels where I can improve in my heading game. Be better between the lines, a little cleaner. And then add long-distance shots to my game to be able to score in different ways.”
Lille have only lost twice in Ligue 1 this season and are now unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions. That run of form has lifted them to fourth in Ligue 1 and put them in control of Group A in the UEFA Europa Conference League. With David firing again for club and country, they’ll have lofty ambitions for the remaining two-thirds of the season.