Ligue 1 Round Up: PSG roar on as Lyon’s bus is attacked in Marseille

The 13th week in Ligue 1 saw champions PSG reinstate their 8 point advantage at the top of the standings.

PSG were impressive away to Brest who had not lost at home this season and they came out 2-1 winners at a tough ground. Angel Di Maria opened the scoring and the impressive Mauro Icardi grabbed the winner. Icardi has been one of the most important signings made up PSG coach Thomas Tuchel as the club have repeatedly had injuries to their famed front three. This game was no different as both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were missing, but it was another 3 points for the club in the end.

Marseille have roared into 2nd place mostly because other clubs keep dropping points but they have won 3 of their last four games. At the weekend the club played a grudge match against Lyon, and these two famous rivals served up a treat which Marseille won 2-1. That stopped Lyon’s revival under new coach Rudi Garcia. Although Lyon’s team bus was attacked before the game and the club would have been shaken by that. One is reminded of when the same thing happened to Manchester City’s bus when they took on Liverpool in the Champions League.

Whilst the result leaves Lyon in 14th place with 16 points they are just six points behind 2nd placed Marseille, and there is a lot still to play for in the league.

Angers could have remained 2nd but slipped up to Reims and could only draw 0-0. They also ended the game with 10 men and the club have only won 1 game from their past five. One of the best form teams at the moment is Saint Etienne who have picked up 13 points from their last available 15. The club gained their 6th victory of the season when they beat Nantes 3-2 away from home. As for Nantes who were 2nd just a few weeks ago they are going through their worst form of the season and have now dropped to 9th place after losing 4 games in a row.

The bottom of the league remains tight. Nimes are last with 11 points and yet one win would take them into safety, but those wins will have to start coming soon. The club lost to Strasbourg 4-1. The worst form side of the league Toulouse are in 19th after losing 3-0 at Montpellier and Dijon remain in 18th after a close 1-0 defeat at the hands of Monaco.

Ligue 1 football resumes from the weekend of 22nd November where PSG will be at home against 5th place Lille. Marseille will take on Toulouse and be favourites to win that game. Can PSG’s 8 point lead be caught up? Probably not but that is the question on every French football fans’ mind. Only time will tell.

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Why Arsene Wenger needs one more managerial job and why that club should be Bayern Munich

Arsene Wenger will of course go down as one of the great managers of the modern game, but the way in which he left it with his time at Arsenal was on a sour note, a feeling of is that it? And Wenger deserves more, he owes it to himself.

The highly respected Frenchman has been without a job since the summer of 2018. He needed time away from football and that made sense. He’s made trips abroad, been invited to football gatherings and looks like he is genuinely enjoying life. But even at 70 in every interview he has had he has always maintained that he misses the game, and that he would love to coach again. And yet as the time passes by it looks inevitable that he never will. Well it did up until Bayern Munich sacked Niko Kovac, suddenly for Wenger there is an opening.

If reports are to be believed Bayern have now approached Wenger and made him their number 1 choice. Wenger himself has said that he would be interested, so surely it is just a matter of time? Wenger would be thrust into a very competitive Bundesliga season and of course Bayern are in the Champions League.

Not many managers out there have such loyalty as Wenger and his one worry returning as manager would be having to face his former club and the one he will always be remembered for coaching, Arsenal. Bayern does not represent that problem and it is unlikely the teams would meet in Europe, with Arsenal being in the Europa League and Bayern in the Champion League. The only way would be if Bayern were to finish 3rd in their Champions League group and that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon.

Wenger usually so secretive has spoken freely about what could happen and has been in contact with the club in the last few days. He has confirmed that brief talks have commenced and that more will follow next week. If all things go well Wenger could be the new manager of Bayern by the end of the month.

However there is still that feeling that Wenger wants to keep old memories and that his love for Arsenal would be tarnished if he didn’t make his time with the Gunners his final job in football. He needs to distance himself from that because he will be remembered as a great manager but we also tend to remember a manager’s final days in the game too. With Bayern he has a realistic chance of ending his glorious career on a high, and he needs to do everything he can to get that job.

 

PSG lose another game in Ligue 1 but get away with it

PSG lost their 3rd game of the season, something which usually doesn’t happen until around April and yet they are still 7 points in the lead in Ligue 1, in a season which is looking quite bland as far as who will win the league title goes.

This latest defeat was perhaps the most surprising as the club were playing Dijon who are struggling badly in the league and look set for a relegation dog fight. Whilst it is true that Dijon’s form has picked up no one expected them to get anything against the champions even if they were at home last Friday night.

What made matters worse was that PSG opened the scoring and it looked like only a matter of time before the league leaders would add to that, but it didn’t happen. Dijon actually fought back and won 2-1, that winning goal coming after a great solo run from Jhonder Cadiz.

Dijon coach Stephane Jobard said: “I’m happy for my players because they were rewarded for their efforts. We caused PSG problems and were also able to hold them off. It’s a great chapter in the club’s history, and proves to me that we belong in Ligue 1″ He continued: “I’m certain of my players mental strength, and we showed character in equalising before the break. We scored at key times: at the end of the first half and the start of the second. That ruined things a bit for PSG, because after that they became a little too individualist.”

With PSG losing it meant that 2nd placed Nantes could take full advantage and close the points gap to 5, but the Canaries lost to Bordeaux 2-0 to make it 3 defeats in a row. This has let in Angers who have gone back up to 2nd place after they beat Strasbourg 1-0. At the end of the weekend PSG can be content in knowing that they only lost 1 point

Next PSG will play in the Champions League and their next domestic match will be against Brest. On paper this should be 3 points but Brest are at home and unbeaten their all season and have proved to be very solid. It should be an interesting game and we have seen already that if teams are willing to give PSG a game this one can struggle.

Is Thomas Tuchel’s job under threat? For now that answer is no, but if the club struggle some more in the league and do not win the Champions League, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is his last season.

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PSG’s rout of Marseille confirms Ligue 1 as a one team league

The beginning of the season in France’s Ligue 1 just felt different. It may have been because the champions every year except in 2017 since 2012, PSG had suffered through transfer speculation all summer about Neymar. It looked as if the Brazilian was certain to leave, he wanted to, and yet a proposed deal to Barcelona or Real Madrid fell through and Neymar and PSG were stuck with one another, not that PSG ever wanted Neymar to leave in the first place.

Then there was the beginning of the season, PSG had a poor pre-season and then lost a couple of early games. Losing at this stage of the season just didn’t feel normal at all. When the club then lost 2-0 at home against Reims that was simply seen as a shock, this PSG weren’t supposed to lose in Paris, and if they did then it would happen in April with the season long over not in September.

On top of PSG’s league problems was their attacking front three, when on form look like the deadliest in Europe. Edinson Cavani a veteran now also looked like he would be leaving in the summer but he couldn’t find a good deal. But he has spent most of the opening campaign injured. Neymar also started the season injured, then came back and duly earned 9 points for the club in four games, his goals in single goal games won games and won over the fans, even the ultras who had warned Neymar that it would take a long time to win their trust back. Think of Neymar what you will, he is a world class player and a summer of discontent has not changed that fact.

However on recent international duty Neymar was injured and the forward is not expected back until after the November international break. So attentions turned to Kylian Mbappe the outstanding French forward but he has also missed key games through injury. He is back now and has simply continued scoring goals, it is amazing to think that Mbappe is just 20 years old. Mbappe has scored 8 goals in all competitions this season totalling 9 games. And for PSG overall he has scored 68 goals in 96 appearances that is simply fantastic.

So with PSG having a stop/start beginning to their season one could think that even if they win the league it would be much more competitive than it has been in recent years, not so. PSG might have lost 2 games already seen this but just thank the big man upstairs that they have because they are winning their other games and destroying others. This includes smashing Marseille 4-0 at the weekend with two goals each for Mbappe and Mauro Icardi. Make no mistake that PSG coach Thomas Tuchel was on the money bringing in quality like Icardi to PSG when their strikers were getting injured.

So after 11 games PSG have 27 points from a maximum of 33 and in fact that’s very impressive so impressive that the other clubs simply cannot keep up with them. Nantes are the surprise team in 2nd place but they have lost their last two games and are 8 points behind PSG. Last December it was clear that only PSG would win the league and that looks like easily being the case again.

One of the main problems is that Lille who finished as runners up last season sold a couple of their best players and Lyon started the season with Sylvinho in charge only to sack him after a few months. Lyon will improve after a shocking start to the season but they are already 14 points behind PSG as a consequence.

The French league has a lot to like about it, and sometimes fans of other leagues don’t see this. But there is one glaring problem, we already know who will be the league champions with 27 more games left to play and that can’t be good for anyone.

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Is VAR and a lack of common sense ruining the game we love?

Yet again the talking point of the weekend is not so much the football but VAR and one wonders if common sense is now ruining the game we love?

There are so many different issues after a few months of VAR and that can be normal when a new service is implemented but it has also been evidently frustrating for fans. Now when your team score, you cheer with uncertainty, you just never know if play will be called back. It is even harder if you are at a game. Take yesterday’s match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace as a huge example. The game was locked at 2-2 but Arsenal had taken the lead, it was a goal, but it wasn’t. Fans in the stadium honestly had no idea what was going on. Replays were not shown, no explanation was given, but there was a long delay. The goal looked legitimate, but VAR had spotted something between two players in the build up something and nothing if truth be told and Arsenal were denied what most probably would have been the win.

The offside rule is another problem. How can a player be deemed to have an advantage or looking for one if their nose, or hair or foot is offside? This isn’t VAR’s fault of course and it is only going by the laws of the game, but they are silly ones at best. The same problem is the hand to ball, ball to hand rule in the penalty area. How can it be a penalty when no obvious cheating is involved? We now have a situation where an opposing player can now fire the ball into a defenders arm and get given a penalty, stone wall in some people’s opinion, this seems almost warped and is ruining the game.

Penalties are given far too easily, but at the end of the day when VAR was supposed to clear up match day controversy it is actually simply adding to it. So what is the solution? First off common sense needs to prevail, it is easy to tell if a player is putting themselves in a position to cheat or take an advantage or handle the ball or mistakenly do so. VAR needs to be quicker in its decisions and perhaps VAR should be less used and let the referee be able to make decisions. One area where VAR is needed is offside because the linesman’s job seems obsolete now, too many are too poor at their job. And what VAR does spectacularly right is when a player is NOT offside and is able to rule that out.

I think it’s fair to say that even if you are for VAR, the system has made too many errors and the judgement really hasn’t been there on a consistent basis. That’s fine it is new, but perhaps this has all been rushed out far too quickly? The football, the players and the goals should be the talking point of the weekend, not VAR and that is the bottom line.

UEFA need to show zero tolerance to racism after Bulgaria-England game

It was suspected that it would happen before the game and then it did. England played Bulgaria away from home and the nations black players had been warned that racist chanting could happen during the game. But this time there was a plan of action at hand.

Sure enough the racist chants bellowed out throughout the stadium in under 30 minutes and it was heartening to see something different happen- the game stopped, the referee abide, talked to England manager Gareth Southgate and also a group of racist fans were led out of the stadium. Finally some action whilst the game was going on had occurred. Black players who have had to endure vile chants usually monkey gestures were taking that fight back.

One had to feel sorry for Tyrone Mings, who had earned his place finally in the England team. This was his debut for the national side and it should have been a memorable and proud one. Sure England won 6-0 and Mings played his part but it all got overshadowed by the racists.

After the game UEFA charged both sets of fans- England for chanting during the Bulgarian national anthem and Bulgarian fans even if in the minority and their racist and also Nazi salutes. But what will be the outcome?

Simply put UEFA have been pretty useless at dealing with racism. Getting the worlds best players to partake in anti racist messages does not work, banners do not work, adverts do not work, fines do not work, banning certain fans does not work. having sections of the ground closed off does not work and even playing behind closed doors does not work. So what is the solution.

Maybe simply there is none. Racism has been with us for centuries why would it go away in 2019? It won’t and to think it will is living in dreamland. But Bulgaria need to be punished as does any other nation and football club by that matter. The punishment needs to be to stop that supply- that means to actually stop the football club or nation operating. In effect suspending a business.

Bulgaria should be thrown out of the Euro 2020 qualifying and then banned from partaking in the qualifiers for the next World Cup. With every other friendly game played outside the country. It might seem harsh but a message needs to be sent.

As for clubs, stop the fines and start docking points. As much as 10 points, punish those clubs if they are on the verge of European football and those 10 points drop them out of contention or could be the difference between being relegated or not.

No matter what colour you are or religion, you have the right not to be harassed on a football field and in the wider spectrum society. We will never get rid of racism, but we need to reduce it, and the only way of doing that is by having a zero tolerance attitude.

Lyon appoint Rudi Garcia after nightmare start to the Ligue 1 season

Lyon have had their worst start to a Ligue 1 campaign in an era and they have been swift to act. Before week 10 coach Sylvinho was dismissed and he has been replaced by Rudi Garcia but can Garcia improve the team and is he the right man?

That answer looks to be a yes and a yes. Appointing Garcia is the flipside of appointing Sylvinho, the ex-Arsenal man like for example Thierry Henry at Monaco had no top tier level experience and surely bringing him in to a club like Lyon at this early stage of his managerial career was as they say in French a faux pas.

Garcia though is a different cattle of fish and here we have a coach who has spent over 15 seasons managing teams in Ligue 1. His most recent job was with Marseille where the 55 year old spent 3 seasons and had his fair share of ups and downs but one must remember that the team stayed a consistent top 5 side.

His average career win rate is 47% which in managerial terms isn’t as bad as it looks and with Lille he hit 50%, he also hit 51% at his time with Roma. He has won 2 trophies, the Ligue 1 title and a cup both with Lille in 2011. So even though it has been some time he does have some trophies under his belt.

Make no mistake though with the start that Lyon have had where they are in the bottom half of the league with 9 points and a massive 12 points behind leaders PSG the objective for Lyon isn’t trophies but recovery. True a deep run in a cup competition will be welcomed, and the knockout stages of the Champions League too, but this season Lyon’s owners wanted to challenge PSG and give them a run for their money, and that will be the clear objective. If they can’t win the league, then come 2nd and get the club back on the map.

Lyon will host Dijon who are in 19th place and this seems to be the perfect opportunity for the club to bounce back even if Dijon have shown promise lately by winning two games in a row. Garcia has proven that he has what it takes, but it will be fascinating to see how he does it and how he deploys a team who have lost quality players including Nabil Fekir this season.

Don’t write off Lyon just yet will be the message from the south east of France, a sleeping giant may just have awoken.

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Lyon in crisis as they sack Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge

Lyon have sacked coach Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge as the club have made their worst start to a Ligue 1 season in 23 years.

The news of Sylvinho’s sacking was a shock given that he had just taken the job in the summer but Lyon have been very poor by their standards in the league. The problem for the ex-Arsenal player was that he did not have a resume to back up that everything will work out well, this was his first proper managerial job- and to be fair it showed.

Tactics went out of the window and chaos ensued as he directed the defenders not to cross the halfway line and then wouldn’t let star players such as Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele play together.

Pre-season results were also poor barring an away win against Arsenal. Although Lyon looked to be PSG’s strongest challengers at the beginning of the season as they opened up the campaign with 2 wins, scoring 9 goals and conceding none, that has dramatically changed since then.

Lyon have won just 2 games all season and at the time of Sylvinho’s sacking the club are in 14th place with 9 points a huge 12 points behind PSG. But has the club jumped the gun and not thought through this properly?

In truth given time Sylvinho may well have found the right system and there has been encouraging moments but keeping him would mean giving up European football for next season and seeing the club possibly finish out of the top 10, that would be too much for a proud team like Lyon. It does seem early to pull the trigger but a wider thought would have been taken on, and this could be the right decision. For Sylvinho this will come as a big blow, but at the end of the day Lyon could well be to blame. Is it correct to appoint a manager with no first tier experience in the game? That is why sporting director Juninho could be next to go.

The next question turns to who will replace Sylvinho? Laurent Blanc has been made the favourite and that could be a good solid choice. Arsene Wenger’s name has appeared once again, but the former Arsenal great looks unlikely to coach again, although he has admitted that he misses the game. Another name being linked is Jose Mourinho, with the money the club have maybe he would be tempted, but in the past he has dismissed coaching in Ligue 1.

We should know the outcome in the next 10 days or so as Lyon try and save their season.

 

 

PSG fans must back up Neymar now after 2 goals in 2 games as PSG beat Lyon

Neymar the magician who is Brazilian did it again, didn’t he? After a summer where he has spoken negatively about his club PSG and wanting a move away to Barcelona, he has come straight back into the team and earned the club 6 points straight off the bat.

He is turning into an enigma someone that is hard to figure out. It is easy to throw negative criticism at him too. His lack of passion and loyalty seemed fairly evident, like a baby throwing out his toys he wanted out of one of the most successful teams in world football to play for another. His feelings were clear. One could think of the endless run of kids in and around Paris dreaming to play for the club and the youths who have been rejected at the final hurdle- the commitment, the passion and the loyalty. And then look over at Neymar who was playing with his career at the club and seemingly didn’t care.

But what Neymar has, which the other hopefuls don’t is sheer and utter quality. It is why he can want a move away with his career feeling like it is coming to an end in France and then come back and produce wonder goals, each time saving his club and winning the game.

A few weeks ago he scored an outrageous bicycle kick in injury time against Strasbourg with the tie at 0-0. And then this past weekend PSG travelled to a direct league rival in Lyon. Again the score tied at 0-0 before Neymar went on a mazy solo run and scored with the winner with just two minutes remaining.

Neymar is an unbelievable player and in a generation where Brazilian football has stalled on produced attacking greats, he is one of them and perhaps the only genuine one. The heir apparent to the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho before him.

The hardcore PSG fans known as the ultras put out a statement upon Neymar’s return that they won’t easily forgive the player, and to be fair it did seem understandable. But after these 2 games, that’s 2 return goals and more than that it is clear without the player that they would have drawn those games and had 4 less points as a result. That would mean PSG would have 11 points now and Angers would in fact be top, with PSG resigned down to 4th place and that is the reality of the situation.

It might be hard for the ultra fans or even regular PSG fans to admit this, but the team can’t afford to be without Neymar, he is simply that good a player.

 

 

Liverpool and Chelsea are shot down in Champions League openers

The Champions League is back and the premier competition in European football wasn’t without its surprises.

First Liverpool, and the current European champions were beaten 2-0 by Italians Napoli, signalling a poor start from Jurgen Klopp’s team in their title defence. The biggest worry for Klopp will be that his side always looked second best and credit to Napoli who played brillantly and made the unstoppable looking Reds side look very normal in this competition.

Still write Liverpool off at your peril, everyone knows how strong they are at Anfield and with the likes of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk in their group they should be more than fine. However notice needs to be given to Salzburg who smashed Genk 6-2. They had scored five of those goals in the first half. Also Napoli do not travel historically well and so this group is still obtainable for Liverpool.

The more disappointing result of the night for English teams would have been Chelsea, who at Stamford Bridge, lost 1-0 to Valencia. In years gone by this type of fixture would have been won a canter for the Blues, and problems still persist with the club with Frank Lampard in charge. They are playing some good football of course but not getting the results desired.

Chelsea could face an uphill struggle now with the likes of Ajax and Lille also in their group. Ajax who so impressed last season beat Lille 3-0 even though they have lost the core of what made them a great side, it is clear that their objectives will be to at least get to the knockout rounds.

Barcelona drew against Borussia Dortmund with the final score ending 0-0, but Barca will be more than happy with that at a very difficult ground. This is multiplied when we consider that ter Stegen saved a penalty from Dortmund and that Lionel Messi finally returned this season. The Argentine came off the bench in the 2nd half and Barcelona will be very happy about this development with La Liga looming at the weekend.

Inter Milan were very lucky to draw 1-1 with Slavia Prague. A last minute injury time goal by Nicolo Barella sealed a point at San Siro, a defeat would have been a big shock for the Italians.

Whilst it is just the first games of the competition there is a feeling that this edition could be wide open. Could a non big traditional team win it? The last one to do so was arguably Porto in 2004, still one has to remember that they one of the biggest teams in Portugal and had won the competition before in 1987. Another club that won it and shocked was Borussia Dortmund back in 1997. Maybe 2020 could see a change from the usual teams getting to the final and winning it?