Can Cesc Fabregas save Monaco from Ligue 2 football?

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Cesc Fabregas left Chelsea and the Premier League after many successful seasons to join Monaco, and the Ligue 1 club really need his services- but can the ex Barcelona and Arsenal star save Monaco from relegation?

Monaco have been languishing near the bottom of the league for most of the season and started 2019 in 19th place. Just before Fabregas joined Monaco enjoyed a very narrow 1-0 win in the Coupe de France against non league Canet Rousillon FC which just underlined how far the 2017 Ligue 1 champions have fallen. But with Fabregas in the ranks and Franck Passi now as Thierry Henry’s assistant the future might be bright for the side.

This as evident when Monaco travelled to the Stade Velodrome at the weekend to play Marseille- a game that everybody was expecting Marseille to win. The match finished 1-1 and Monaco came back from a goal down. It was a fantastic team effort and one wonders if the club buoyed on by the signing of Fabregas can now turn a corner?

Fabregas had a great game as he was drafted straight into the squad and manager Henry had this to say about the Spaniard. “Cesc Fabregas got better as the minutes ticked by. He managed to take the match in his grasp and read between the lines. We could have finished certain moves off better, but we’re on the right track.”

What was evident was how Fabregas teamed up so well with the Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans who ended up getting the equaliser for the team. But of course there has to be some degree of caution and Monaco clearly are not out of the woods yet.

Even though they got a great result at Marseille the club are still in 19th position and are 4 points from safety. The good news is that they have reached only the halfway stage of the campaign and they have plenty of time to escape from the bottom three. You’d have to think now with the capture of Fabregas and Passi in the wings that as long as the player stays fit and there is calm at the club that Monaco should have enough to stay up.

On Wednesday we will find out more about the club in the second half of the season as they face Nice in the derby at home. Nice already have double the points of Monaco and are good form having lost just one game from their past five, so this match will be a great indicator if things are going to change for them.

For now getting Fabregas on a 3 year deal could be a lifesaver.

Is Franck Passi about to take Thierry Henry’s job at Monaco?

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Since Thierry Henry took over as coach of Monaco it has been a nightmare in the south of France which has seen the team stuck in the bottom two of Ligue 1. One wonders if Henry’s role with the club is coming to an end with the announcement that Franck Passi has been drafted into the team as assistant.

Passi is well known in Ligue 1 as the ‘fixer’. He has done commendable caretaker jobs at clubs such as Marseille and Lille he is if you like the man who stabilises a club before a bigger name replaces him. The worry is that Henry already knows this and may just not get on with that idea. Time is certainly ticking for the ex Arsenal legend.

One of the biggest problems for Henry has been his attitude as seen through the French media who have reported that he seems disinterested at times, easily wound up and very moody on the touchline. In an era where it is difficult to criticise the modern day footballer- see Jose Mourinho for that, Henry continues to do so and when the team make mistakes he makes it very known. For some media they see Henry as a dead man walking at the club.

It has, for sure been incredibly hard for him. Henry has lost 9 games from the 14 managed at the club with a win rate of 21%. Just before the Ligue 1 season wrapped up for Christmas Monaco had to play Guingamp at home a game seen as one that should be three points, given that Guingamp have been ever poorer than Henry’s side this season. What followed was a 2-0 defeat and more misery for Henry. What was depressing is that Monaco had just 2 shots on target against the bottom club.

They are now 4 points from safety and yet with a decent run there is every chance that Monaco will not be relegated to Ligue 2. It is true that this isn’t all Henry’s fault but he was the wrong person to bring in only having some experience as an assistant with the Belgium national team beforehand. Most of the blame must go to the owners who have constantly sold their best players that now run into double figures in the last few seasons alone. That is the real reason that the 2017 champions could be relegated this season.

Ligue 1 kicks off again for Monaco on January 13th and it doesn’t get any easier for Monaco and Henry with an away trip to Marseille. Could a heavy defeat at Stade Velodrome signal the end for Henry?

 

Can PSG go the whole season in Ligue 1 unbeaten?

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More or less PSG have been absolutely dominant in the French Ligue 1 since 2012 and their massive takeover which has seen the club win 6 out of the last 7 titles in France. Millions have been spent on some of the greatest players to have graced the game in recent years. The likes of Zlatan Ibramhimovic, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and a new starlet in Kylian Mbappe have passed through their doors.

However it is this season that just feels different under new coach Thomas Tuchel. The reason is evident when you glance at the league tables. Yes it is no surprise to see PSG in 1st position, but they have played 14 games so far and won 14. It’s like a PlayStation game that went very wrong in a kind of excellent way. 42 points means that their nearest challengers Lyon are 15 points behind and the league in effect looks over before December.

We should also be reminded that their nearest rival Lyon were soundly beaten 5-0 last month by the Parisians. They are just that good that no team in France seems to be able to touch them. And yet of course in previous seasons it felt the same way until they would lose a surprise game away from home. This past weekend that almost happened. Not so much that the team would lose but even drop their 100% win rate. The team was Toulouse and with an important Champions League game coming up against Liverpool, both Mbappe and Neymar did not play and PSG edged to a 1-0 nervous victory.

PSG certainly have it within them to not only go unbeaten the whole season but to win every game, it would be a massive achievement even if some critics would point and suggest that the French league is not strong. Well tell that to Premier League champions Manchester City who in 2 games against Lyon both home and away failed to beat the team and conceded 4 goals along the way.

Ligue 1 is not the strongest league in Europe of course but it is far from weak, all it is missing is some wealthy owners to give PSG a run for their money (pardon the pun).

PSG’s real tests will come as the season progresses. How will they react if they are knocked out of a cup competition, especially the Champions League? The league is theirs that is basically assured now, but it is a question of how long they can continue their dominance this season which is most fascinating. Europe will be looking on in anticipation that is for sure.

Patrick Vieira is creating small miracles at Nice in Ligue 1

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His time as coach of Nice started off bumpy, awkward even that included losses, draws and a lack of back bone within the side. Patrick Vieira’s time looked up even after just a month, as another 1990s generation player that got found out when it came to stepping up as manager.

But Vieira has worked hard and worked his mentality and theory into his group of players. He even has Mario Balotelli playing well and the two of them have respect for one another and get along fine. More than that Nice are winning games and have headed up the table. Their objective this season was to do well enough to stay in the league. Now their objective will be to finish in a European spot and who would think that wouldn’t happen?

The club currently sit in 7th place and have won 4 games in a row. On form they would be in 3rd place in the league- that is astonishing when you think Vieira still has limited first time management experience and at this point the capture of the former French and Arsenal midfield legend looks like a good call from Nice.

Nice’s most recent victory raised eyebrows as it came against Lille who have been superb this season but Nice ran out 2-0 solid and deserved winners. Vieira said: ”I’m satisfied with the score and the way we played. Against a very good Lille side, we managed to play the perfect home game. Even if they had chances in the first half, we didn’t really suffer in the second half. The team is more solid than at the start of the season and the players played for each other. Mario Balotelli and Allan Saint-Maximin put in a huge amount of work defensively and that’s why I took them off.”

Vieira mentioned the word perfect and that is what Nice have been in the past four weekends. Next they will face Guingamp in a game they will be expected to win again.

For Vieira being black and being in management is one thing. Sadly the story in 2018 is that black managers are grossly under represented at this level. The good news is that Vieira is proving his worth and hopefully more ex black players who decide to get into management will have the opportunities that Vieira has. Right now he is flying the flag high just as high as his Nice team.

Thierry Henry gets first win with Monaco but a testing month awaits

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Thierry Henry finally achieved his first win as Monaco coach after his side beat Caen 1-0 at the weekend. It was a deserved victory too and means that Henry could celebrate for the first time in 7 games.

Monaco are still in the bottom three but there was a huge sense of relief after the win from the players and Henry. It meant so much and means that Henry’s win rate leaped up to 14%. After the game Henry said: “I am happy for the team and the supporters. We needed that, even if we were not completely in control of the match. We could have been out of sight sooner, and in football you don’t know what can happen. Caen like to get crosses in quickly, they fight, and we knew what to expect. The manner in which we get results is important, but we will worry about that later. (Radamel) Falcao showed that he is Falcao. He is the captain, he is there to score goals.”

Henry also realised what lies ahead for the club in the coming weeks. “We went out and got this victory, and it can help bring us some peace. It is always better when you win, but we are not getting carried away. This is just the beginning. There are still lots of matches and battles to come. I am especially happy for the squad, for all the work they have put in and not been rewarded, but we are still in the relegation zone.”

Henry talked about battles ahead and he is exactly right on that point. It all commences for Henry and Monaco this Wednesday when they must travel to Spain in the Champions League to face Atletico Madrid, Monaco can be quoted at 16/1 to win the game which pretty much says it all. There is some hope for a Europa League spot for the side but even those hopes may seem faint after this game.

After that Monaco return to Ligue 1 action against Montpellier who have been in fine form so far. They play Amiens away which could be a possible win and then come the 3 really hard fixtures. Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Lyon. Monaco will also face Nice in what is always a special derby and this season will have the extra spice of Henry going head to head with his old Arsenal teammate Patrick Vieira, who is doing very well with Nice.

If Monaco can get something from these games then we will know if Henry can and has created some sort of turnaround miracle. The Caen win has given Henry reasons to be cheerful but he will want that momentum to continue. A defeat looks inevitable against Atletico in a few days but that game will be all about not getting stuffed for many goals and keeping the score predictable. The next 3 weeks will be a fascinating time at Monaco, that is for sure.

Why Thierry Henry will fail at Monaco and could be gone by Christmas

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Thierry Henry has had a miserable start to life as coach of Monaco after no wins in his first six games in charge. It wasn’t supposed to be like this and the script was supposed to be written a little better for the French footballing legend, but that isn’t the case and it seems clear why Henry’s time at Monaco is already numbered.

Let’s be clear of course and first focus on why Henry is up against it. And that is easy to answer given the quality that has been sold from Monaco in the past few seasons. That is why the club were in the bottom three when Henry joined and former coach Leonardo Jardim was sacked, even though he won the title in 2017 and broke the PSG stranglehold on Ligue 1.

But the main reason Henry is in trouble is because he is a great player. In his playing days at Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona we remember a player that attacked and scored many fantastic goals. Especially at Arsenal and Barcelona he was encouraged to play beautiful free flowing, quick paced attacking football. And that is his downfall as a coach, because he wants the same from Monaco. With the squad gutted though this is impossible this season, what could have been possible two years ago where indeed Monaco were scoring for fun.

Henry needs to work on defence if Monaco are going to stay in Ligue 1 and if he is going to keep his job. Truth is though is that it isn’t in Henry’s DNA to concentrate fully on this department, after all he was a natural attacking player who was then turned into a deadly striker by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

It seems that Monaco’s nightmare under Henry will be set to continue because he will have the belief that this team can fight their way out of trouble- which simply isn’t true and they will more than likely continue to leak goals. They have conceded 8 goals in their last 2 games without reply, and both were at home.

Their next game is away against Caen in Ligue 1, a tricky side and a tough task. But then it doesn’t get any easier for Henry as his side will travel afterwards to Spain to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. With the likes of having to play Borussia Dortmund, Lyon and a derby in December against Nice, Monaco surely look doomed. It may not even be a case of Henry being sacked but of him simply leaving. Henry simply wasn’t ready for such a job that was laced in nostalgia. Recovery at this point would be the greatest achievement of Henry’s career.

Henry has what it takes to succeed at Monaco

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When former Barcelona star and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was appointed as Leonardo Jardim’s successor at Monaco, hopes were high that Les Monégasques could kick on and get their awful start to the season firmly behind them. Last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up had looked listless and devoid of much in the way of effort, and so Jardim’s departure unfortunately seemed more a case of when, rather than if. Henry would then return to the club he left for Juventus in 1999 to take the reins as the new man in charge, with the hopes that the optimism could sharp be brought back to Stade Louis II and the side could start to climb back up the table. If a title tilt was beyond their grasp, at least they could have a good go at getting as much ground back as possible. Surely?

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Lyon star Fekir once again linked with move away

fekirLyon star Nabil Fekir looks once again set to depart the Ligue 1 outfit – and will hope that this time the deal can make it over the line. The 25-year-old had previously looked set to depart France for a move to Premier League side Liverpool, and had even recorded an interview for LFC TV. On top of that, the Merseysiders held a photoshoot of Fekir in the Reds’ home kit, with the move having looked all but done. However, Liverpool pulled the plug on the transfer at the last minute, leaving Fekir to return to the club he thought he had left to ply his trade once again in the 2018-19 campaign. Suggestions have risen up, meanwhile, that not one, but two top European clubs are keeping tabs on his progress.

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Outstanding Lille setting bar high in Ligue 1

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After 10 games Lille are still there. There means 2nd place in Ligue 1 which is de facto for 1st place because no one will be catching PSG this season. The current French champions have 30 points from 10 games, a 100% record that was underlined at the weekend with another devastating win, this time against Amiens in Paris which ended 5-0. Job done.

As for Lille, no one could have expected such a start from a team who have traditionally struggled in recent seasons showing only glimpses of what they can achieve. This season is very different.  It was only in May that Lille pulled off a fantastic escape from the relegation zone, and the club have worked hard all summer in changing the set up of what is now expected.

Coach Christophe Gautier has come into the team last December and had a mountain to climb, but with survival came some new recruits in the summer and also the real emergence of Nicolas Pepe who is growing into one of the better players in Ligue 1. It was his goal- albiet a penalty that helped Lille win their latest game. The club have acquired 22 points from 10 games, continue at that rate and they will come 2nd and could get 80 points.

Clearly the objective at the beginning of the season for Lille was to finish in the top half- this is an objective that is being easily met, but now the team and their coach and fans must be thinking to take things a little further and finish in a European place, if that ends up being for the Champions League then Gautier would have made a miraculous turnaround.

Whilst Lille are 8 points behind PSG, they can marvel at the fact that they are 3 points in front of Marseille and 5 points in front of Lyon. Monaco who are usually a threat can be discounted this season after their nightmare start has led them into 19th position and they are a whopping 16 points behind Lille. It will be fascinating if Lille can keep up their superb start to the season.

The club have lost just 2 games so far and have won 3 games in a row, at home they alongside PSG have a perfect record of played 5 games won 5, and Lille certainly mean serious business.

On November 2nd just how far Lille have come will be put to the ultimate test when they will travel to Paris to face PSG. By that time if both teams continue to win, the gap could be 11 points in PSG’s favour or just 5. For Lille’s Ligue 1 achievements this season, watch this space.

PSG fans will again be banned from Marseille clash in a sad day for football

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Next week Marseille will play PSG in what could arguably be the game of the season so far in Ligue 1. However the atmosphere of the game will be dampened somewhat because all PSG fans will be banned from the Stade Velodrome.

Local police have confirmed that no PSG fans will be allowed into the stadium because other events in and around the city will have the police force stretched. On the face of it that statement makes sense, but for a few seasons now fans have been banned. Whilst PSG fans cannot visit Marseille, it is the same situation in Paris where Marseille fans are also banned.

Police will know in advance that some violence is very much possible between a minority set of fans, which of course is the real reason that away fans will be banned from next weekend’s fixture. What isn’t being thought out or clarified is a way to change the hooliganism in France.

For a great example could you expect to see Arsenal fans banned from visiting Old Trafford, or Chelsea fans banned from visiting Manchester City? In the 1970s and 80s in England this wouldn’t have been a surprise to see, although even then this rule was rarely put into place, but this is 2018 and France a nation that has won this years World Cup seem decades behind when it comes to the organisation of fans for the big football matches. Hooliganism is almost non existent in the Premier League and in France it is getting better, but sadly and most evidently it is still there.

This will be the 3rd season where PSG fans have been banned from travelling to Marseille for the match. Whilst on a human form something needs to change, the reputation of some fans will also damage TV viewing and marketing. Just look to Serie A for evidence, a league that was light years ahead in the 1990s has fallen greatly due to hooligans, in club fighting, match fixing and ultra fans, it can all be linked and this latest news is no good for Ligue 1.

Something needs to change from the top and fans need to be educated enough not to cross the line. For now it is evident beyond recognition that even if there is a beer festival in Marseille and some other events the real nature of the ban is stop the violence, it seems sadly that the local police had no other choice.