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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Despite a summer of discontent Neymar proves he is one of the best players in world football

Neymar was back at the weekend for PSG after a summer trying to leave the French champions. The Brazilian could not force a move and the teams he wanted to move to in Barcelona and Real Madrid couldn’t afford him anyway. Under intense pressure to do well Neymar showed his class when he really had to and scored the winner against Strasbourg.

This wasn’t just any type of goal, this was a goal sent from the heavens that changed all of the sports headlines the world over because this game looked like it would end 0-0. In the final minute with PSG heading for a disappointing draw at home, Neymar latched onto a cross, and bicycle kick style shot for goal, the ball thundered in the net and the roar from the fans could be heard outside Paris.

At first Neymar did not celebrate then buoyed by his team mates he couldn’t resist but not too, the villain in this piece had suddenly turned to the hero.

What PSG’s ultra fans thought of that will be interesting. They put out a statement a few days ago saying that Neymar had disrespected the club and that it would take a long time to earn Neymar’s trust back. Well in a matter of seconds he went a long way to doing that.

Criticism is thrown at Neymar, the way he acts, the way he goes tumbling down and he has been wrong in trying to force a move out of Paris this summer. But one thing that can’t be taken from the Brazilian is just how supremely talented he is, when you see goals like he scored at the weekend then you know he is amongst the worlds best footballers- that’s what paying 200m euros does to a team and that’s why PSG were so stubborn in not wanting to sell him, no one could blame the club for that, when you see what Neymar can produce.

Something says that following this vital win and vital goal in such a vital game that Neymar’s forgiveness will be accepted much quicker from the die hard fans. Whilst some fans of ultra groups take everything within football too seriously, they did have a point, given that it should be an honour to play for PSG, and Neymar does need some making up to do. At the weekend he did that in the best possible fashion and after a summer of discontent, Neymar could have a very memorable season ahead of him, if that is what he so desires.

 

 

Ruthless PSG keep Neymar and now will go after the Ligue 1 title and Champions League

The transfer saga of Neymar finally ended on September 2nd when the extended European transfer window closed. And Neymar in the end has stayed at PSG, which was surprising news.

The Braziian had been a wantaway star for the past 3 months but a deal could not be secured between his suitors which were his former club Barcelona and Real Madrid. Though it is thought that Neymar’s preferred choice would have been Barca, well he ended up with none of them, the guest at a wedding how ends up single. What now for Neymar?

PSG will expect their player back after the international break where Neymar could play two friendlies, and they need him. The club have injuries to strikers Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe with Mbappe out for 4 weeks. Neymar needs to step in and hit the ground running and that means goals. How will fans react to Neymar still being in the team? True you’d want such a player, but he has talked only about wanting to leave the club. Once he starts scoring goals and winning games he will probably be invited back into the hearts of the fans, but long time loyal ones will be a little suspect of the player and he will have to earn their respect.

As for Neymar’s future, it’s very possible he could still leave in January, although that would mean he wouldn’t be able to play in the latter half of the Champions League. We must remember here is a player that doesn’t want to be in Paris, that reportedly wanted to pay 20m euros to help a deal go through. So his future with the French champions is still uncertain.

What is certain is PSG have been stubborn and ruthless over Neymar’s transfer, it’s something that you can’t blame them for. Why lose out financially on a player that cost you over 200m euros just a couple of seasons ago? At the same time you could argue that Neymar being in the club had become toxic, his friendship at least with Mbappe looks damaged. Again wins and goals could well help repair that.

Despite PSG having to face a less than happy beginning to the season they are still top of the league with 9 points and lead on goal difference from Rennes, Nice and Angers, and they will go after the league again. The step up in the Champions League is also required and out of all of the players coming in this summer one has to be impressed by their last minute loan signing of Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan. Icardi regularly gets 20 goals a season and he should be a success in France.

PSG may have already lost a game, and been in the press for the wrong reasons, but make no mistake every team in France should be worried, because they look stronger than ever.

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Why PSG are to blame for Neymar’s transfer saga

The Neymar transfer saga keeps on raging on and it is threatening to undermine PSG’s season, the champions have already lost one game and further more could happen until the team know exactly what is happnening with the Brazilian.

Tensions were brought to a head when in the curtain raiser of the season PSG beat Rennes in the cup competition, league champions who meet the cup winners and Neymar who didn’t play in the game went to be part of the photo celebrations but was pushed out of the photo by Kylian Mbappe, who now sees himself as PSG’s main player.

So Neymar has been very distant, some claim him to be injured that is the offical story, but let’s be honest, coach Thomas Tuchel is not going to select someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere.

It is clear that Neymar will never play for PSG again, so what is the delay all about? The obvious answer would be that PSG want a decent deal, after all they paid over 200m euros for him. The fact is that PSG should simply be looking for a long term deal and demand those terms. Players can be involved but they should be able to get back the money they invested. If it takes Barcelona or Real Madrid four or five years to finish up payments then so be it, PSG are not clamouring for money, and they don’t need it. So why not be able to wait for some payments, and get rid of the problem which is Neymar.

The saga of Neymar is not then Barcelona or Real Madrid’s fault to find the price tag and or players to swap, its solely down to PSG- Neymar has never wanted to be there, and getting him in the first place was the biggest mistake. PSG would still have won the league and cups they have entered, and so all in all his acquistions save for shirt sales and fan hype seems unfounded.

Now that PSG have made the mistake in getting Neymar, they need to sell him, the whole situation has made little sense. Except that the deal you want you can’t have now, but later it will work out. In being stubborn with a player they should never have bought they are making it toxic for the club and throughtout this summer PSG have been appearing in the press for all the wrong reasons. This one looks like it will drag until the deathly hours when the window finally closes on September 2nd. It couldn’t come quick enough.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Benoit Costil

Benoit Costil’s career will always be remembered by his time at Rennes but since 2017 he has been guarding the goal of Bordeaux and this past season he had a decent campaign with Bordeaux finishing in the top half of the league and for him he finished 7th with 35 points.

During the season he kept 9 clean sheets which was impressive for the 32 year old and he ended up being the only goal keeper from the top 9 in Ligue 1 that was neither sent off or booked for the whole season.

Costil’s went into last season with a value of 8m. While Bordeaux struggled at times, they did find enough form at one point in the season to think they could challenge for a Europa League finish but it quickly became evident that it couldn’t be the case for this year.

Costil started the season with by earning -4 points in his opening two games as the club kept conceding goals. In fact it wouldn’t get easier for him at the beginning of the season as in the next games Bordeaux beat Monaco but conceded with that match finishing 2-1 and the following game ended in a 2-0 loss to Rennes. The next match was a thriller but for Costil it did his points total no favours as Bordeaux drew 3-3 with Nimes. The next match ended in a 3-1 win over Guingamp but again Bordeaux had conceded. It meant that Costil did not earn any positive points until his 7th game of the season. But once he started he couldn’t at least for a while stop.

The great run begun when Bordeaux beat Lille and Costil kept 3 clean sheets in a row to earn 21 points. While he would gain some more consistency it was this run which started at the end of September and ran until the first week of October that ended up being the goal keeper’s best run of the season.

His single worst game points was against Nimes, Saint Etienne and Lyon were in those fixtures he earned -4 points on each occasion.

Costil ended the season much like he had begun it and earned no points in his last 6 games with a total points haul of -10.

This wasn’t a great season for Costil, although in some games he was outstanding, but Bordeaux simply were not strong enough and it showed. Still Costil beat his total from the season before which was 31,and he will be hoping to improve in the points stakes and try to keep a few more clean sheets next season.

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Final nail in PSG’s coffin Neymar fails to return back to France

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The relationship between PSG and Neymar has reached a new low after the Brazilian failed to show up for training on Monday.

PSG’s official statement said: ‘On Monday 8 July Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was due to return to pre-season activities with the Paris Saint-Germain senior squad. Paris Saint-Germain notes that Neymar Jr was not in attendance at the agreed time and place. This was without the club’s prior authorisation. The club regrets this situation and will therefore take appropriate action.’

The obvious problem is that Neymar was never going to be back in France with PSG a day after Brazil won the Copa America in Brazil. True Neymar has been injured for the tournament but it was obvious that he was going to be at the final, Brazil’s first in 12 years and when the team won it is again obvious that he is naturally going to celebrate with the team, to think otherwise means you want to start an excuse for an argument.

Some could argue that why would PSG want Neymar back in training if he is injured. But today in Paris was all about medical check ups, and so in theory Neymar should have been there. But it is clear that there has been a breakdown in communications between club and player. It now looks inevitable that Neymar will be fined for his actions, not that he will care, he will just enjoy to celebrate with Brazil.

At the same time Neymar could have contacted the club and told them in advance of his plans and this is what has clearly irked them. There is an underlying cause of course and that is PSG want to keep their player whilst Neymar wants to leave and return back to Barcelona, could this be part of his chess move to force PSG’s hand so he can move back to La Liga?

This could well be the final nail in the coffin and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Neymar really has played his last game for PSG. The catch in all of this is can Barcelona afford both Griezmann and Neymar, the truth of the matter has to be no, and the deal looks like it will only go through if PSG will take on at least 3 of Barcelona’s players in some kind of player swap deal plus cash.

The summer is hot but in Paris and in Barcelona it just got hotter.

Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Moussa Dembele

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Moussa Dembele came 6th in the Ligue 1 rankings as the best striker and he finished the season earning 65 points finishing just 1 point behind Andy Delort. The Lyon striker who helped his side to a 3rd place finish thus providing them with a chance to play in next seasons Champions League scored 15 goals and also assisted in a further 4, making him have quite a successful personal season.

Dembele is just 22 and it is interesting to see how his career has developed because even though he was born in France the wealth of his experience as a footballer is in the United Kingdom. That is because Premier League side Fulham bought him from the youth team of PSG when he was just 16. After spending three seasons with the club where he only scored 15 times he was sold to Scottish club Celtic where he fared quite better scoring 26 goals and winning six trophies with the Bhoys.

Lyon finally came in for him in 2018 and the chance to move back to France was simply too great and it would be to one of the best clubs. At Lyon in his debut season he has had a very good one, 15 goals is a fantastic return when we consider this is from just 21 starts. He did play a total of 33 games for the club last season but 12 of those started from the bench.

Dembele did not score in his first two games of the season and it wasn’t until his 3rd match that he chalked up the points although it was worth waiting for as he scored two goals in Lyon’s 3-0 win over Dijon earning him 8 points in the process. This would equal his best single match points tally which he repeated a further two times when Lyon beat Toulouse 5-1 and when they drew against Strasbourg 2-2.

His best form of the season was at the end of September and lasted for a month, scoring points in 4 consecutive games. He earned 16 points in that period.

The worst moments for Dembele came in February as he couldn’t find the net in 3 games in a row. Dembele ended the season consistently being able to earn an average of 4 points but in his last game of the season away to Nimes, which Lyon won 3-2 he wasn’t able to score a goal and didn’t earn any points.

This past season was Dembele’s best as a player and he looks frighteningly good when we consider his age. His value is 5m and that looks set to rise at the beginning of the upcoming season as he really fits into his role at Lyon.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Houssem Aouar

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In his professional career Houssem Aouar has only ever known playing for Lyon, and the fans love the midfielder. One of the reasons for this is that Aouar is a local boy and was born in Lyon in 1998 just weeks after France won their first World Cup.

Aouar has grown into his role at Lyon over the last couple of seasons and is now seen as a natural selection when the team plays each season. What caught Lyon’s attention was that Aouar was to be found to be able to play in any position in midfield and he can play as a winger, attacking midfielder and even a holding one- that is priceless for a club and quite rare.

Aouar finished 6th in the European Fantasy League rankings for midfielders in Ligue 1 and ended up with a points total of 60, the same as Ismaila Sarr who plays for Rennes. The player started 35 games last season and was involved in 14 of Lyon’s goals- scoring 7 and assisting in 7. When he played Lyon had 10 clean sheets and he was only booked two times with no red cards showing his maturity and he is still only 21. His value last season was placed at 8m.

It was not a good start to the season for Aouar who in his first five games managed just 4 points. Arguably his best game came in November when Lyon played Guingamp away from home, it was a thrilling match that ended 4-2 to Lyon. Aouar scored a goal and assisted in another and was able to earn 6 points. He earned 6 points in two other games later that season for more assists and clean sheets but was not able to topple that score for one game.

His worst points tally came against PSG when Lyon lost 5-0. Because of his position he didn’t lose points for goals conceded but he did pick up a yellow card and ended the game with -1 point. To his credit this was the only game of the season where he ended with minus points.

Aouar’s best period of the season started when Lyon beat Nimes 2-0 in mid October and ran for the next four games where he remained consistent and so did his club and picked up 18 points.

Lyon chased for Europe but could not catch eventual runners up Lille who had a superb season themselves. However 3rd place for Lyon was good enough to enter the play-offs for the Champions League proper where they will feel very confident that they can qualify from.

The most impressive statement to make about Aouar is that he was Lyon’s best midfielder last season. Better than Nebil Fekir which says everything and statistically better than Tottenham bound Tanguy Ndombele. His future in football looks very exciting.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Thiago Silva

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Thiago Silva feels like part of the furniture at multi champions PSG and the Brazilian has certainly been loyal to the club from Paris. He joined the club in 2012 from AC Milan and has played almost 200 league games and counting cups that rises to almost 300 games.

It was another solid year for Silva in the back four even if it meant just the league title this season as PSG imploded in the domestic cups and also the Champions League. Still at 34 Silva is rightly regarded as one of the best defenders in the game today.

Silva started the season with a value of 9.5m in the fantasy rankings and finished 5th in the defenders rankings for Ligue 1. He earned 60 points and was just four shy of fellow Brazilian Dante Costa. Silva has never been one for his goals, which is justifiable given his position and he did not score any this past season although he did assist in one goal. He was able to be part of a four man wall that kept 14 clean sheets and he was booked on four occasions, but not sent off.

Whilst Silva did earn 5 points for keeping a clean sheet in PSG’s opening 4-0 victory over Caen it was in the following games where he struggled. Even though PSG won their next 3 matches, they conceded in each of them including 2 against Nimes and that meant that Silva was punished and earned -1 point for those games.

Because Silva wasn’t able to earn any extra points through scoring goals his best points tally in single match was just 5, which he earned 14 times. He had two moments of good consistency in the season. The first was just before Christmas in a period which saw the champions thrash Guingamp 9-0 and he earned points in 4 games in a row. The other was towards the end of the season in February and onto March where he went another four games earning points which ended up totalling 19 points.

His worst points total coincided with PSG’s dismal poor form at the end of the season when they had virtually wrapped up the league title. He went the last four games of the season earning in just one game and letting slip -6 points in the other three games. His worst tally in one game ended up being against Lille when the team in 2nd place upset PSG at home and won 5-1, earning Silva -4 points.

Silva looks set to stay at PSG as it was announced before the end of the season that he and his family had been confirmed as French citizens- and that can only be a benefit for French football and PSG. He also earned one more point this past season than the season before.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Stephane Ruffier

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Saint Etienne played some wonderful football this past season, so good in fact that some media compared them to the great side of the 1970s that somehow made a nation fall in love with them for a few years. In the end their hard work paid off and they qualified for the Europa League and goalkeeper Stephan Ruffier was a key component to the clubs success this season.

Ruffier collected 58 points and finished in 5th place in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 rankings for goalkeepers. In fact only 4 points separated him from finishing in 3rd.

The 32 year old has been at Saint Etienne for 8 years and made almost 300 appearances for the club, making 37 starts from 38 in the league this past season. While the club did concede 40 goals under Ruffier he also made 13 clean sheets the 4th best in the league. Disciplinary was good too with just one yellow card all season and his value going into the season was 7.5m which looks to have been a bargain.

It’s interesting to note that Ruffier picked up his one booking of the season in the first game of the campaign, but because he did so and because Saint Etienne conceded in both of their opening games he started matchday 3 with -1 points.

His season really kicked off against Montpellier when the teams played out a 0-0 draw at Stade de la Mosson but that earned Ruffier a clean sheets total of 7 points.

Ruffier’s most consistent period came just at the right time when Saint Etienne also known as the Verts (greens because of their shirts) went 3 games in a row without conceding a goal in April. And this form was key to the club making a European place and fighting off the likes of Marseille and Montpellier and for a time Reims.

The games came thick and fast and started with a 3-0 win over Bordeaux. Nobody gave Saint Etienne much chance away to Reims in their next game but they went there and won 2-0 and finished off their trilogy of matches with a 2-0 win over Toulouse and Ruffier earned a whopping 21 points in those three matches.

Ruffier’s worst points total was inevitably in Paris when PSG the reigning champions beat them 4-0 and as a result he ended up with -6 points.

His last two seasons have seen him earn much less than he did in this one, and he has improved significantly showing signs of perhaps getting back to his 2014 season best. His value looks sure to rise as he nears completing 10 years with the club that is clearly in his heart and now he will be back in European football for next season.

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