Will Marseille’s week go from bad to worse?

Marseille 0-3 Atletico Madrid. The scoreline suggested a comprehensive win for Atleti, however, Marseille fans would beg to differ. The OM supporters would argue their team was in the ascendancy for the first twenty minutes of the game yet Dimitri Payet’s injury deprived the club of its star performer.

Atleti were never going to concede silly goals & the Spaniards were always going to put up a fight in the middle of the park. The end result was a deserved triumph for Atleti who presented coach Diego Simeone with his 2nd Europa League trophy since joining the club. For Marseille, a promising week may yet end on a more sour note if OM fail to beat Amiens in Ligue 1 later today.

The southern French club is fighting with Monaco and Lyon for 2 Champions League spots. Ligue 1 champions PSG have obviously secured the other spot reserved for France in Europe’s elite competition. The consequences of missing out on Champions League football for another season will be dire not just in terms of finishing 4th in Ligue 1 behind PSG, Monaco & Lyon but also the missed opportunity of bringing in much needed revenue.

The Champions League guarantees a financial windfall via both the allocated revenue for French clubs but also via game day tickets and further merchandise sales. Marseille will likely beat Amiens but their fate will be decided by Monaco and Lyon. If the latter two sides win their games, then Marseille must settle for a disappointing 4th place finish in Ligue 1.

In what appeared to be a promising season at one stage has slowly descended into a chaotic and disappointing one. Things may still get worse if OM fail to snatch 2nd or 3rd place in the French League.

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Why Dimitri Payet’s possible move to Marseille makes zero sense


There is a classic London fog that has descended over east London of late, the Olympic Stadium and West Ham football club to be precise. All that was calm is no more. The reason? West Ham striker Dimitri Payet wants to leave the club mid-season.

Payet joined West Ham in the summer of 2015 for a reported £11m from Marseille. It should be noted that Payet did not want to leave the Ligue 1 side but was told to because of financial strains. Once sold Payet wooed in the Hammers crowd with some glorious play and goals and was named West Ham player of the season, not only that the fans warmed to the French international so much that they even gave him his own song:

“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet! I just don’t think you understand. ’He’s Super Slav’s man. He’s better than Zidane. We’ve got Dimtri Payet!”

But since Payet’s request to not play for the club and effectively gone on strike, the fans have created another song- one way too explicit to be shown here, but it’s safe to say that the older song will never be sung again around the stadium.

Payet is currently at 29 West Ham’s highest paid player on a reported £125,000 a week, at first it seemed to have two offers to be lured away from the Premier league. One was an unconfirmed offer from China which we can guess would have saw his weekly salary tripled. The other was from his old club Marseille, they went even further and even approached West Ham with an money offer. Reportedly the last bid of £20m has been rejected by the club, who would most probably be looking for at least £28m plus.

Payet is determined to leave, right now he plays in the Premier league for a side that won’t win it. If Payet’s motivation is to win a league title why would he choose Marseille? If truth be told Marseille have recently been invested well into with a cash injection of £400m and more to come. However Ligue 1 has turned into the PSG show at present and teams such as Monaco, Lyon and Nice have also stepped up their game.

Whilst Marseille did win the league in 2010, this was also off the back of Lyon’s downward spiral after a superb decade that saw them win 7 titles in a row. But let’s slow down a little, the game even in a short period has changed so much. PSG has won the title for the last 4 years and even though they are not exactly up to par this season they are the type of club who have the ultimate pulling power to bring in a new coach and new players. Marseille have this too but to a much lesser extent. In essence Marseille are a long way from PSG, that is the reality. If Marseille push on then there is every possibility that they can go up the level they need to, but by then Payet will be too old, he has three seasons tops at the highest level.

So if Payet does want to leave West Ham shouldn’t he be banging on bigger doors? Or does this all boil down to wanting to rejoin a team he has nostalgic leanings for? In the short term he will be welcomed like a son, but in the long term he may be warming up the bench and watching the next generation of PSG and Monaco hoisting the trophies up.

No shocks in this round of World Cup qualifiers


There were no shocks in a weekend of World Cup qualifiers, where all of the top-seeded European sides ran out comfortable winners. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and current European Champions Portugal all recorded wins and between them they scored a phenomenal twenty-two goals and conceded just two.

France, arguably, had the toughest group game of the teams mentioned with a home tie against Sweden. They went behind in the 54th minute, however Sweden only managed to hold onto their lead for three minutes when Paul Pogba scored for France. Dimitri Payet secured the points for France just under ten minutes later as they ran out 2-1 winners to remain at the top of the group, three points ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden.

It took Germany just seven minutes to open the scoring in their away tie against San Marino. Werder Bremen striker Serge Gnabry, who spent six seasons in the Premier League and scored just one goal, scored a hat-trick as they romped to an 8-0 win with defender Jonas Hector scoring a double.

Italy, who were away to Liechtenstein cruised to victory with four goals in the first half. Torino striker Andrea Belotti who has scored eight times in the Serie A thsi season, continued in his rich vein of form with a double for Italy. Ciro Immobile, who has nine in the Serie A this season for Lazio scored one with Antonio Candreva also scoring. There were no further goals in the second half as Italy took their foot off the gas, which was probably a good thing for Liechtenstein.

Spain, who are drawn alongside Italy in group G, have no margin for error and made no mistake against the country who are without a win in their qualification campaign. They eased to a 4-0 win thanks to goals from Vitolo, Nacho Monreal and Aduriz. They face a tougher task this week though as they travel to London for a friendly against England, who themselves are not in the greatest of form, but still managed to dispose of Scotland with a 3-0 win.

European Champions Portugal trail Switzerland in their World cup qualification group by three points thanks to a 2-0 loss at the hands of the leaders. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 28th minute, but a goal for Latvia in the 67th minute levelled things. The Latvians’s managed to hold on for just two minutes when William Carvalho restored the lead for the home side. Goals from Ronaldo and Bruno Alvers ensured a comfortable win for the Portugese, although for a while it wasn’t all plain sailing.

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Bottom three earn valuable points in the English Premier League

Euro 2016

The three teams currently occupying the relegation zone in the English Premier League all recovered from a goal down to earn a point from their latest game.

Whereas Sunderland and West Ham staged comebacks to draw 1-1 at home against West Brom and Middlesbrough respectively, Stoke City’s achieved the same accomplishment in their game with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Swansea surrender home lead

In contrast Swansea City, who sits just one point above the bottom three, lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool after surrendering a one goal lead at the Liberty Stadium.

Whilst Leroy Fer capitalised upon indecision among the Liverpool defence to open the scoring, goals from Roberto Firmino and James Milner, with the 32-year-old midfielder converting a Panenka style like penalty, gave Jurgen Klopp’s side their fourth successive league victory.

In order to achieve that Liverpool displayed great determination and resolve, amidst testing conditions to vividly illustrate their evolution into an excellent side under the guidance of Klopp is continuing to undergo steady progress.

Conversely, Klopp’s Swansea counterpart Francesco Guidolin is experiencing difficulty in his efforts to engineer an improvement in the current form of his team, since of the six games they have played after beating Burnley on the opening day of the season, the Welsh club have drawn one and lost five.

Payet rediscovers magic touch

Subsequently the 2012-2013 League Cup winners are now level on four points with West Ham, after Dimitri Payet scored a wonderful solo goal to salvage a point for Slaven Bilic’s side from their game with Middlesbrough at the Olympic Stadium.

The French internationalist embarked upon a slaloming run to brilliantly drift past several defenders before finishing precisely beyond Victor Valdes.

A palpable wave of relief swept through West Ham’s support following Payet’s goal, which arrived shortly after Middlesbrough had taken an early second half lead courtesy of a header from Christian Stuani.

The 30-year-old is Aitor Karanka’s team’s leading marksman this season, with him previously scoring twice as Middlesbrough recorded a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

Light relief at the Stadium of Light

The Black Cats are currently at the foot of the table, despite earning their second point of the season against a dominant West Brom, with Patrick Van Aanholt scoring a late equaliser, following Nacer Chadli’s first half goal.

Although the result ended a run of three successive defeats for David Moyes’ team, they are still searching for their first win of the season whilst so too are Stoke City.

Stoke secure precious point

Nevertheless given that Joe Allen scored a late equaliser to deny victory to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, who had taken the lead courtesy of an Anthony Martial goal, Stoke are now unbeaten in two games, since prior to their excellent performance at Old Trafford, they had drawn 1-1 at home to West Brom.

Trio strive to enhance their prospects for the season

Therefore Stoke have now constructed a platform from which they can potentially climb up the English Premier League table, with that ultimately also being an aspiration shared by both Sunderland and West Ham.

Although none of the trio won their latest league game’s they each, earned valuable points, to brighten their respective outlooks for the season.

Nevertheless in the case of Sunderland, they currently have two less points than that amassed after the same number of games by the club’s team who ended the 2005-2006 Premier League season with just 15 points, which is the lowest total in their top flight history.

Subsequently so as to prevent the materialisation of a similarly dismal campaign, Moyes must galvanise his players to embark upon an improved run of form after the international break.

Such a task also faces both Mark Hughes and Bilic at Stoke and West Ham respectively, as the bottom three clubs aspire to ensure they remain competitive in the English Premier League and avoid spending the entire season at embroiled in a battle at the bottom of the division.

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Greizmann and Payet make markedly different starts to the season

Euro 2016

Two players who played starring roles in France’s Euro 2016 campaign are currently experiencing markedly contrasting fortunes at club level.

Greizmann flourishes whilst Payet toils

Influential in their country’s progression to the final of Euro 2016, which the French lost 1-0 to Portugal, Antoine Greizmann and Dimitri Payet performed superbly well throughout the tournament.

Furthermore the pair’s fine summer exploits on the international stage followed them enjoying great club seasons.  Whilst Greizmann excelled at Atletico Madrid, a similar assessment can be attributed to Payet’s contribution for West Ham during the 2015-2016 campaign.

However at present whereas Greizmann continues to flourish in La Liga, Payet is enduring a difficult start to the English Premier League season, as the 29-year-old winger toils in a team on a dismal run of form.

Payet plagued by West Ham’s woes

Specifically Southampton consigned West Ham to a fourth successive league defeat by beating Slaven Bilic’s side 3-0 at the Olympic Stadium.  Furthermore that result marks the first time in West Ham’s history that they have lost five of their opening six games in a top-flight season.

Consquently they currently languish in 18th position, as Payet struggles to rediscover his wonderful form of last season, following his Euro 2016 exertions for France.  The toll which those exertions potentially took on Payet was sensitively recognised by Bilic.

As well as resting Payet for the Europa League qualifiers, the 48-year-old Croatian did not start the former Olympique Marseille player in any of his team’s first three league games of the season.

After appearing as a second half substitute as West Ham opened their league campaign with a 2-1 away defeat to Chelsea, Payet was then omitted from the Hammers squad’s which Bilic named to face Bournemouth and Manchester City.

Subsequently a refreshed Payet provided assists for both of West Ham’s goals, as he made his first start of the season in their 4-2 home loss to Watford. For the first half-an-hour of that game, Payet was magnificent, with the highlight of his performance arriving when he delivered a wonderful rabona cross that Michail Antonio headed home to give West Ham a 2-0 lead.  Thereafter however Payet was powerless to prevent West Ham surrendering their advantage as he became a peripheral figure in the game.

Whilst that was a source of great frustration for the Frenchman so too has been the limited influence he has had on West Ham’s two most recent performances as they have lost 4-2 and 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion and Southampton respectively.  It is neither a lack of desire nor effort that governs Payet’s current struggles since he continues to abundantly display those attributes.  Conversely although this season he showed glimpses of his class against Watford and scored a wonderful injury time free-kick to help West Ham to a 1-0 League Cup victory over Accrington Stanley, Payet is simply out-of-form among a team low on confidence.

That is not a problem with which Payet’s French teammate Antoine Greizemann currently requires to contend.

Atletico remain grateful for Greizmann

The former Real Sociedad forward, who won the Euro 2016 player of the tournament and golden boot awards, has scored five goals in five La Liga appearances this season, to help Atletico Madrid remain unbeaten in, and amass twelve points from, their opening six league games.  After not playing in the first of those, a 1-1 draw against Alaves, Greizmann has been an ever present in Diego Simeone’s side.

They climbed to third place in La Liga, following a 1-0 home victory over Deportivo La Coruna, as Greizmann scored the decisive goal with a calm side – footed finish from Kevin Gameiro’s precise cross.

For both of Atletico’s past two La Liga campaigns, since joining the club from Sociedad for €30m in July 2014, Greizmann has scored 22 goals, with great potential existing for him to surpass that total this season.  That is particularly the case given his current rich vein of form, which represents a healthy extension of that which he produced both for Atletico last season and France at Euro 2016.

In addition to being the joint top scorer in La Liga alongside Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, Greizmann is also one of the division’s most outstanding general performers, as the 25 year-old has brilliantly recuperated from inspiring France to reach the final of Euro 2016.

Subsequently Greizmann has responded superbly well to the disappointment of losing that game, by helping Atletico construct a strong platform upon which the can build a successful season.

French Euro 2016′s duo’s current plights in stark contrast

At present Los Rojiblancos prospects of achieving that appear healthy, as they will aspire to extend their unbeaten run in their next La Liga game at the Mestalla against Valencia, from whom Sofiane Feghouli joined Greizmann’s French team mate Payet at West Ham.

The East London club will host Middlesbrough in their English Premier League fixture, with their aim being to end a run of five humbling successive league defeats.

Therefore although Greizmann and Payet were both stars of France’s impressive but eventually unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign, their current fortunes at club level are in stark contrast.

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West Ham and Slaven Bilic must avoid honeymoon curse in new Premier League campaign

Manchester City v West Ham United - Premier League

When Slaven Bilic took over from Sam Allardyce as manager of West Ham United last season there was a huge relief. And the pay off was pretty immense.

Bilic had his team playing positive football with no fears and the Hammers faithful looked like they had found exactly the right man in what was to be their final season at the Boleyn Ground in nearly 100 years of football.

And they had- The Hammers certainly had wobbles but they also recorded the most points ever in a Premier League campaign- and they didn’t just do it, they eased over that winning line with games to spare. They also secured European football for this season via the Europa League and the future in a new 60,000 plus stadium does look bright for the East Londoners.

But how bright will that be? Football analysts will be aware of the so called honeymoon period in for managers. Look at the recent case of Alan Pardew- so successful and respected when he switched mid season from Newcastle United to Crystal Palace- and there can be no doubts that he made the right decision. Palace had a new self belief about them and went on a string of brilliant results to push themselves into the top half of the table.

However last season despite some terrific results Pardew’s team were lost at sea somewhat and the reality soon came thundering in of Pardew and Palace’s limitations. Last season they finished 15th. Champions Leicester City almost finished with double those points.

So back to West Ham and with a new stadium and the popularity of Bilic as manager, players and fans both love the former Hammers player, there is, on the face of it, space for optimism.

However if pre season and their Europa League first leg match is anything to go by then fans will be slightly worried. The Irons have recorded just a single win from those six matches. The other worrying factor is that the Hammers have not been able to arrange a match against a top side in anyone of those fixtures.

They will of course play Juventus on August 7th to officially ‘open’ their new Olympic Stadium.

Until then they have other matters to contend with as they prepare to come back from a 2-1 deficit against Slovakians NK Domzale in the Europa League qualifier in London, just three days prior to the friendly match.

A shock exit at this stage could well be the lay of the land for the season ahead. West Ham’s ambitions under Bilic at this time will be to get near the ball park figure of their total points haul and try to win for the first time in 36 years some silverware. It will be interesting if Bilic and his team can escape the honeymoon curse that has fallen on many a manager.

Brilliant Griezmann fires France into Euro 2016 quarter finals


It seemed for almost an hour that the Republic of Ireland the underdogs were about to dump the hosts France out of Euro 2016. And then Antoine Griezmann made his mark on the game with two stunning strikes inside 3 minutes to seal victory for the French.

Les Bleus had started the match in the worst possible fashion after giving a penalty away just 2 minutes into the game. Robbie Brady converted it and the Irish had taken an unlikely lead.

From then on the game belonged to France who dominated possession but there was a hint that today just wouldn’t be theirs. Time and again chances were missed with all France’s usual star players being guilty. Dimitri Payet so good in these championships was guilty on more than one occasion of seeking personal glory. He took many shots from long range hoping for the spectacular instead of not playing the ball to the better positioned player.

Antoine Griezmann’s passing was wayward and over powered and the French team time and again when going forward seemed happy to kick the ball back. In short we were witnessing a performance where it was literally 1 step forward and two back and the Irish kept their back four solid up to that point frustrating the hosts and even showing signs of going forward.

Indeed if it wasn’t for Hugo Lloris in goal France most probably would have been out of Euro 2016. The Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper made a brace of saves from short range that kept his side in the game. Griezmann might be getting all the plaudits and deservedly so but Lloris’ performance shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Paul Pogba showed signs of why Juventus don’t want to sell him for under £100m Euros but another player to stand out for France was Kingsley Coman. The 20 year old was electric in the second half and really opened up an until then very defensive Irish unit.

Griezmann’s first goal and France’s equaliser was a superb header and the second owed much to the Irish’s defence tiredness by then as the goal, but he took it well.

After France went 2-1 up there was only going to be one winner as the wind was taken out of the Irish game and then to add insult to injury Shane Duffy was shown the red card for taking out Griezmann who was going for his hat trick.

Republic of Ireland have played their part in this tournament and their fans have been fantastic but the end of the road has come for the Irish. As for France they march on to a quarter final date with either England or Iceland.

Tensions mount for France ahead of Euro 2016 match against Republic of Ireland


What if on early Sunday evening France are dumped out of their host tournament Euro 2016? Talk about pulling the plug out of the largest party France has known since the 1998 World Cup. The Republic of Ireland have that chance to do just that and to say tensions are mounting in the French camp would be an understatement.

Here in France fans are weary of the Irish who looked good against Italy with their group game victory that saw them reach the knock out rounds and have the opportunity to play the host nation. Ireland have the wind in their tails so to speak and the confidence is running wildly throughout the team. For some French fans despite the team progressing to the round of 16 easier than thought Les Bleus simply haven’t been firing on all cylinders. They have much like England relied on late goals to gloss over what has been anything but memorable performances and the fans will know that France will have to be at their best to despatch Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane’s team.

Of course there is also the question of history between these two and it is the Irish who will feel they were the victims last time out. Back in World Cup qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, both France and Ireland were paired in the play off knock out rounds to reach the finals in South Africa. The first leg in Ireland ended with a victory for the French by 1-0 but it was the 2nd leg in Paris that caused all the controversy. That match ended 1-1 after a spirited fight from the Irish but they went out 2-1 on aggregate. France’s goal was scored by William Gallas, a perfectly legit strike but he was assisted by the hand of Thierry Henry in the build up. Henry clearly did handball the ball and admitted so afterwards and it was inevitably a bitter pill for the Irish to swallow. Despite protests that the match should be replayed, FIFA denied the Irish the chance and they were out of the World Cup before it had even started.

The Irish team are bound to say that the match this Sunday is not about revenge, but it’s hard to escape the facts of what happened and the match between the two some 7 years ago will be on both sets of players minds.

There is no doubt that the city of Lyon will be on tender hooks when France meet up against Ireland both sides looking to reach the quarter final phase and play either England or Iceland in what would be another mouthwatering encounter.


Dream start to Euro 2016 for passionate Payet

Euro 2016

Laboring to a disappointing draw in their first game as hosts of Euro 2016 with an expectant home crowd growing increasingly restless, France were rapidly running out of ideas to break down a well organised Romanian side.

Les Bleus were in desperate need of a moment of either inspiration or good fortune.  Fortunately for them, Dimitri Payet provided the former, by unleashing a superb left foot shot which rocketed into the top corner of Ciprian Tatarusanu’s net, to give Didier Deschamps team a 2-1 win and transform the mood inside the Stade de France from one of frustration to euphoria.

Despite going ahead through Olivier Giroud just before the hour mark, France played with neither fluency nor incisiveness and surrendered their lead when Bogdan Stancu converted a penalty in the 65th minute.

Thereafter the French players sprung to life and injected more urgency into their play, with Payet particularly prominent in trying to unlock Romania’s resolute rearguard, with the West Ham winger eventually doing so virtue of his wonderful 89th minute strike.

When substituted just a few moments later, after receiving a standing ovation from a capacity home crowd, tears of joy streamed down the face of the 29-year-old, who after being absent from the French squad for 9 months only returned to it in March.  Subsequently that month, Payet justified his international recall by producing two assured performances in France’s friendlies – a 3-2 win away over the Netherlands and a 4-2 home victory against Russia.

Against the Russians, with his first touch of the ball, Payet scored a sublime 30-yard-free kick and produced a similarly magical strike to help Les Bleus beat Cameroon 3-2 last month.  Such illustrations of Payet’s prodigious talent combined with his superb form for West Ham throughout the 2015-16 season - whereby he was named as the club’s player of the year and shortlisted for the PFA Players Player of the Year Award – convinced Deschamps to include the former Marseille playmaker in his Euro 2016 squad.

As such Payet has established himself as a key member of that, not only because of his goal against Romania but overall performance against Anghel Iordanescu’s men.  Whereas many of his teammates struggled to positively impose themselves on the game, particularly the much heralded duo of Andre Greizmann and Paul Pogba, Payet was a constant threat to the Romanian side.

In creating several chances for Olivier Giroud, one of which was the assist for the Arsenal striker’s goal, Payet displayed his vast ability to produce dangerous crosses and defense splitting through balls.  By doing so, Payet not only demonstrated his importance to Les Bleus, but substantiated a pre-tournament claim made by Deschamps on French TV.  “Dimitri can bring something to our side.”  Arguably many things.  Control, creativity, inventiveness, vision, a general wealth of technical ability, Payet displayed each of those attributes in abundance against Romania, which endeared him to the French supporters.  So too did his goal-winning celebration which he poignantly explained post match.  “There was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure, and all the emotion came out with that goal.”

Should the passionate Payet continue to perform as impressively as he did against Romania throughout the tournament, that will greatly enhance France’s prospects of being crowned European Champions for a third time.




France get off to a winning start at Euro 2016


There was to put it mildly a huge sigh of relief when Euro 2016 hosts got the tournament under way with victory against Romania. The French ran out narrow 2-1 winners in a game that looked to be heading for a draw at a sold out Stade de France.

West Ham United striker Dimitri Payet was the hero when his superb screamer just a minute from time sealed the win. The first half was mostly a scrappy affair with the French being ultra cautious in the opening exchanges. Indeed it took until early in the second half for the deadlock to be broken after a fine backward header by Oliver Giroud opened the scoring.

And yet victory seemed distant after Romania were handed a lifeline when Patrice Evra made a clumsy challenge in the area and the outsiders were awarded a penalty. Nicolae Stanciu duly obliged from the spot and it was 1-1. Suddenly the party atmosphere had evaporated and unless you were Romanian you were finding yourself rooting for a French goal. If anything the country had been through so much this past year a win in their host opening tournament could at least lift some spirits.

But Romania remained a solid outfit unwilling to yield to a script. It is worth noting that the underdogs had 10 goal attempts to France’s 14 and did play their part in the opening fixture.

And with just 60 seconds of normal time remaining France finally found the breakthrough after Payet’s shot. Manager Didier Deschamps then did the perfect salute to the young striker by substituting him in injury time and thus giving him a moment he will never forget. 80,000 fans applauding him, it was all too much for the player who visibility broke down in tears of joy.

Deschamps said of Payet, ”I have no doubts over Dimitri and the influence he can have on the game. He can make the difference, It is quite easy when you can bang it into the top corner, it solves a lot of problems.” Deschamps went onto describe the match which was a nervy affair, “The opening match of a competition is a bit like a cup final and we were a bit timid in the opening 25 minutes. It is the result that matters above all. We know not everything was perfect, far from it. This Romanian side showed they are very organised and it is very important to start with a victory.”

France will be hoping to put in a better performance when they play Albania next on Wednesday. The French end their group stage matches against Switzerland.