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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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.

 

 

Brilliant Lyon emerge as the team to stop PSG in Ligue 1

Well what a start to the Ligue 1 season it has been for Lyon, who have won their opening two games of the season. But what has caught the attention is the way they are winning their games.

On the opening day of the season they made light work of Monaco playing them away from home they ran out 3-0 winners. Then yesterday they played their first game at home and sent their supporters to their homes happy beating Angers 6-0. It means that Lyon have secured first position and have scored 9 goals from two games and have yet to concede. Could there be any better start to a season?

What has made this one special is that the club have had so much change during the summer. First long time coach Bruno Genesio  left his position and was replaced by Sylvinho taking in his first managerial job. Arsenal fans will remember Sylvinho fondly with his time spent at the club in the 2000s.

Quality players have been sold on such as Tanguy Ndombele who went to Tottenham and Nebil Fekir who was sold to Real Betis, this has raised nearly 100m euros for the club. But Lyon haven’t just sat around and it was inevitable that they were going to buy players. In came Jeff Reine-Adelaide from Angers for 22m euros, Joachim Andersen from Serie A outfit Sampdoria for 21m euros and Thiago Mendes from Lille who had performed so well last season for 19.8m euros. And so from the sale of Tanguy Ndombele Lyon were able to bring in 3 fresh and quality players. Right now it is paying dividends.

Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele scored two goals apiece and it just shows that there are goals all over the pitch for this Lyon side. The real surprise has been the impact that Sylvinho has had on the team especially with his lack of management experience. This season was always going to be a turning point of sorts for the club, but it seems for now to be turning in the right direction.

With PSG’s shock loss, Lyon are top of the table though we shouldn’t get too carried away after just two games it is the clubs application, confidence and goals which has lit up the league in its earliest of stages.

In the next month Lyon will face some tough competition having to play the likes of Montpellier and PSG, and by the end of September we will have a clearer picture if Lyon will be a genuine threat to PSG’s dominance over Ligue 1. For now they certainly are.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Benjamin Lecomte

 

Montpellier’s Benjamin Lecomte ended up being ranked as the 6th best goalkeeper in Ligue 1. The club fought for a European place and had some incredibly consistent moments during the season but ultimately fell short.

Lecomte started his professional career with Lorient’s B team and then the senior team where he ended up playing over 100 games. But after being edged out he was loaned to Dijon and ended up back at Lorient soon after. It wasn’t until 2017 that Montpellier in Ligue 1 took the plunge and signed Lecomte on a full time contract.

In his two seasons for Montpellier he has been a near constant presence, indeed he has missed just 1 game in that time in the league. This season Lecomte kept 11 clean sheets and ended up with a total points haul of 44. With him in goal the club conceded 42 goals. Lecomte was only booked once this season which is amongst the best for goalkeepers in the league. He would have cost you for your team at the beginning of the season 9.5m.

Lecomte’s season did not start off well as Montpellier were beaten in their first game 2-1 against Dijon and so he ended up with a points total of -2. In the next game Montpellier lost again and it wasn’t until the 3rd game of his season that the points started to roll in.

A 0-0 against Saint Etienne and a 1-0 victory over Reims meant that Lecomte earned 14 points in two games in a row with back to back clean sheets. The ongoing problem for the keeper was that consistency wasn’t his strong point which summed up Montpellier’s season too.

His most successful period of the season commenced in late October against Bordeaux and 3 club wins in  a row, keeping clean sheets in all of those games where Montpellier also found their firing boots scoring 7 goals meant that Lecomte earned 21 points in those three games, that ended up being almost half his season points earned in just that small time frame.

His worst game of the season was pretty much most goalkeepers worst games of the season playing away to champions PSG. And PSG won 5-1 meaning that Lecomte points total in that match dived to -8 points.

Once the game was up for Europe Montpellier did not play to the best of their levels and this was seen in Lecomte’s performances and final games where he earned just 6 points in his last four outings and those points came in one game. His final game of the season ended in a 1-0 defeat against Marseille earning him no points.

Last season Lecomte earned 79 points and so this season proved to be a backward step for a goalkeeper who has developed late but at the same time plays in a position where he should keep improving well into his 30′s.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers 2018/19: Edouard Mendy

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Edouard Mendy might not be a household name even in France but the goalkeeper who keeps command for Reims in Ligue 1 has, by his standards, had an interesting season after finally breaking through to first team football in the last couple of years.

Mendy had spent time in the lower national leagues of France and then was taken on for Marseille’s B team but at age 24 it seemed that Mendy’s career was in trouble, that is when Reims decided to take a chance on the shot stopper who hails from Normandy.

Mendy helped Reims win Ligue 2 and was rewarded when the team decided to keep him, mostly because of his chemistry with the back four. He has rewarded Reims by being statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the league this season.

In the fantasy rankings Mendy ranks as 4th finishing on 59 points and only 3 behind PSG’s goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Mendy would have cost 8m to add to your team. What has been terrific about Mendy’s season is he went the whole 9 months without missing a game in the league and played all 38. Though he conceded 42 goals he also kept  a highly impressive 14 clean sheets- that’s the 3rd best record in the league. He was booked 3 times which is easily the most from the top 10 keepers in the league.

Overall Mendy finished in 16th place if we take into account all goalkeepers in the major European leagues. So what went well for the goalkeeper during the season, and not so well?

Mendy started the season in terrific form picking up 14 points from his first two games as Reims beat Nice and Lyon and kept clean sheets on both occasions. However in his 3rd game Amiens shocked Reims by beating them 4-1 and that earned Mendy -6 points and this was repeated a further two times during the season. Less goals conceded would have seen Mendy easily finish in third place.

His best period was from the end of September until the beginning of December where from 5 games he scored points in four of them and walked away in that time frame with 28 points.

Mendy and Reims started to fall away from springtime after having a decent shout at finishing in an European place. His final 7 games were average indeed, this despite earning a couple of clean sheets those games earned him -3 points.

In the end Reims blew their European chance and finished in 8th place on 55 points and 11 points behind European qualification.

However Mendy proved himself in Ligue 1 and has really come up the ranks and it will be interesting to see next season if he continues to grow as a footballer after a tough start to his career.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Jose Fonte

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When we think of some of the best defenders in Ligue 1, we may think of the likes of Dani Alves at champions PSG or his team mate Marquinhos who have already underlined their status as great tacklers of the game in the modern era. But neither of those players came out on top in the Fantasy Football rankings in Ligue 1- that honour went to a Lille player by the name of Jose Fonte.

Fonte is not young at 35 but has had a superb season with Lille who ended up finishing runners up to inevitable champions PSG this season. Fonte has been around and played for no less than 11 different teams, having spells in his native Portugal and playing for clubs such as Benfica, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham.

Fonte moved to Lille last summer and coming out on top as the best defender in France is no mean feat in his debut year. Fonte scored 3 goals for the club this season and assisted in 1 goal but Fonte was never bought to be scoring goals and he has proved over this year his qualities as a defender in his preferred position as a centre back. This has included helping to keep 15 clean sheets as Lille won 22 of their 38 games.

If he was in your team then you certainly reaped the awards of only having to pay 7.5m for his services and he has turned out to be a fantastic bargain. Even by sole position in major leagues for defenders he would rank 16th so his purchase was good value for money.

Fonte had already earned 9 points within the first two weeks when Lille drew 0-0 against Monaco and then beat Guingamp 3-0. Indeed in Lille’s first 7 games of the season Fonte managed to help his side keep five clean sheets.

The defender’s best point of the season came in matchday 5 when Lille beat Nantes 2-1, he scored a rare goal but also assisted in another to gain 6 points. What was interesting about Fonte’s points this season is that he never had one major outstanding points total instead it was garnered bit by bit and what that showed was consistency. Fonte finished the season with a total points haul of 73 beating second placed Malang Sarr of Nice by 3 points. Only 3 defenders ended the Ligue 1 season with 70 or more points which underlines his achievements this season.

Fonte signed a 2 year contract and with Lille making the Champions League for next season he is sure to be in the amongst the back four come the start of the season. The question will be if the player the wrong side of 30 can have another solid season, for now the Portuguese seems like a massive asset for the club.

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How Reims went from Ligue 2 to Top 6 in Ligue 1

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The Stade Auguste Delaune houses one of the most famous and certainly historical team in France in Stade Reims, also known as Reims. This is the club that was made most famous by their 1950s team which included Raymond Kopa and a team that got to 2 European Cup finals only to lose to the infamous Alfredo di Stefano Real Madrid team.

Since then it hasn’t been easy for the club who were promoted back to Ligue 1 in over 30 years in 2012. They spent a few seasons in Ligue 1 before being relegated again and this season marks the clubs first back in 3 years. They won Ligue 2 and then started this campaign off very slowly before hitting their stride in October, surging into the top 10 and quite frankly they haven’t looked back. So what has been the secret for Reims who as the season draws to a close are in the top six teams in France?

Let’s start with the coach first and Reims have had too many coaches in the past decade so it was a surprise when youth team coach David Guion was finally given the job in 2017 when the club were in Ligue 2. Guion has been with Reims in some capacity since 2012, coaching the youth team, the B team then acting as caretaker manager and then taking the job full time two years ago.

He has oversaw a team this season back in Ligue 1 who have lost just 6 games this season and have lost just 1 game in their last 10 matches. which came in midweek against Strasbourg.

But Reims are in 6th place and just 3 points behind 4th and what would be an automatic qualification for next seasons Europa League- there is no doubt that the club have taken massive strides this season. Club ownership should be applauded for giving someone from within the club the job as manager as preferred to an outsider and the decision made so much sense given that Guion has been with the club for so long.

The big money for Reims at the beginning of the season was spent on Ghislain Konan a left back who came from Vitoria in Portugal for £3.6m. The attacking winger Arber Zeneli came for the same fee from Dutch side Heernnveen, and both have had to make their impacts known.

The majority of Guion’s buys though were centred on defence, be it the back four or holding midfielders and he has been able to correctly identify where Reims weakness would be entering Ligue 1 again, for that he should be applauded, plus a total expenditure of just under £14m for what amounts to bringing 8 new players in is very good business in this day and age.

Reims did take a £4m loss in the transfer market, but their buys last summer have been evidently beneficial and they have a game in hand in the league which could see them take 4th place if they can stay consistent. The dream for Champions League football is a little distant right now as they are 10 points from that milestone but at the same time if the club keep on this trajectory then they have every chance to realise that dream.

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