It cannot be underestimated how important Florian Thauvin is to Marseille and it would be a strange day in Marseille’s history to not see the player in their line up, he has become part of the furniture at Stade Velodrome.
But after a successful personal season for Thauvin the rumour mill will start up once again and he could be linked with a move away from the club from the south of France. This is due in part to the fact that Marseille did not qualify for Europe, after an inconsistent season saw the club finish in 5th place a cool 30 points behind champions PSG and 5 points from a European finish.
Thauvin has spent five seasons with Marseille on and off and once left the club to join Newcastle United, but in England he only played 13 games before being loaned back to Marseille who eventually signed him permanently. Time is still on his side and at 26 he has his best years ahead of him. But despite winning the World Cup with France (he hardly played in the competition) he only has one other trophy which is the Ligue 2 championship with Bastia, and Marseille’s resolve may be tested again this summer to try and hang on to the player.
It should be no surprise if bigger clubs are looking at Thauvin after the season he has had. In the end Thauvin finished just 1 point behind Angel Di Maria to be crowned the best midfielder in France in the European fantasy rankings for Ligue 1. Thauvin finished on 95 points after scoring 16 goals and assisting in another 8. Both Thauvin and Di Maria were clearly the best midfielders this past season in Ligue 1 and both finished over 20 points above the next player in 3rd.
Thauvin’s best weekend occurred against Amiens when Marseille won 3-1. Thauvin scored a hat-trick which also earned him a bonus 2 points and from that one game he earned a whopping 14 points. There were other stand out moments too like when he earned 10 points against Guingamp and Toulouse, he also started the season with 10 points from his first two games.
One negative that could be pointed at the player was his disciplinary. Thauvin was booked 5 times during the season and was also sent off once. Take a few of those cards away and he would have finished top of the pile for Ligue 1 midfielders.
For now Ligue 1 is still graced by his presence but after having another superb season one wonders how long Thauvin will stay with Marseille and no European football for next season?
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Strasbourg and Guingamp will contest the final of the Coupe de la Ligue on Saturday and nobody could have seen this as a final match up for France’s secondary cup competition.
Strasbourg will start as slight favourites and they did punch above their weight earlier in the Ligue 1 season, but have faltered of late and slipped down to 10th place. Indeed any chances of finishing in a European spot seem distant so winning the Coupe de la Ligue looks to be the only realistic chance for the club of qualifying for the Europa League. They last won a major trophy in 2005 and the famed club will be looking to secure their 4th title overall.
One man that will be looking on will be former Arsenal manager and great Arsene Wenger, who not only was born in Strasbourg but also played for the club and there is no doubt who Wenger will be supporting come the weekend. Wenger will be in official attendance for the game to be played in Lille.
Strasbourg have done brilliantly well to get to the final where they have had to knock out the likes of Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux, that is no mean feat and whilst the club have had an average season to say the least they have really shone in this competition.
But if you think Strasbourg have got to this final against all odds, think again when we look at their opponents Guingamp. The club have been extremely poor this season in Ligue 1 where they have been rock bottom for the majority of the season. Resigned to relegation months back they are currently in the best form of their season and have decided to fight. They have climbed back up to 18th place but are still 7 points from safety and the next few weeks will be crucial for their chances of playing In Ligue 1 next season.
Guingamp have had to climb their own personal Mount Everest and incredibly went to Paris in the quarter finals and knocked out PSG in one of the biggest shocks of the season. Whilst sceptics could feel that PSG were not taking the competition seriously this is completely far from the truth as the Parc des Princes crowd were left in stunned silence.
Guingamp followed that up with a penalty shoot out win against a rejuvenated Monaco under Leonardo Jardim’s return and the rest as they say is history. In truth both clubs come into the final as winners and this should be celebrated. It is refreshing not to see the likes of PSG, Marseille or Lyon here.
Because of this the final remains wide open and we should see a very entertaining game of football where one clubs season could go from being average to great.
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?
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.
This week’s Ligue 1 player of the week award is bestowed upon Alassane Plea of Nice, whose blockbuster performance saw him bag four goals and 18 points as Les Aiglons breezes past a lacklustre Guingamp side on their journey to Stade de Roudourou.
With Mario Balotelli out of action, Plea was tasked with the duty of leading the Nice line and replacing a goal scorer that has netted an impressive 14 in 18 this season.
This week’s Ligue 1 Player of the Week accolade goes to Angers defender Ismael Traore.
Perhaps an unexpected recipient of the accolade, the 31-year-old central defender delivered a steadfast performance as his side ran out 3-0 victors in their home clash with a Guingamp side that have been tough to beat in recent weeks.
Angers took the lead in the very first minute when Flavien Tait headed home from a deliciously floated in cross to bag an unexpected first goal of the campaign.
What followed was a tight affair between the two clubs that saw Guingamp dominate much of the fixture but fail to create opportunities as they came up against a Continue reading →
Guingamp are not normally a football team that claim many column inches- for one any person that isn’t French can’t even pronounce their name, but the club who hail from north western France have caused way more than ripples in France’s Ligue 1.
After just 3 games the club are in 2nd place and it’s only goal difference that separates them from 1st place which Monaco currently hold. Now of course it is very true that the season is young and predictably Guingamp may just drop off but that can’t discount from a cracking opening period.
What makes Guingamp’s start so good is that they earned 4 points already from the likes of Monaco and Marseille. On the opening day of the season the club also known as En Avant de Guingamp Côtes-d’Armor -that’s quite something to swallow- drew 2-2 away to Monaco.
The following week they beat Marseille 2-1, both games they were supposed to lose and both they won. Last weekend they easily overcame Nancy 2-0 and now sit right near the top of the league.
Guingamp are managed by a black manager which should be applauded given the lack of black managers in football. Antoine Kombouare is well known in Ligue 1. He was a defender and was part of the PSG team who won Ligue 1 in 1994.
At 52 he has a decent trophy haul too. Just before PSG were taken over and lavished with riches the former player was announced the clubs manager. The club didn’t perform to expectations but Kombouare did lead them to a Coupe de France win in 2010 and the following season they reached the final again.
Before his PSG venture he led Valenciennes to the Ligue 2 title and promotion to Ligue 1 back in 2006. He also helped Lens get promoted.
Kombouare is well aware of sorting out Guingamp’s defensive woes and on the evidence of the first few weeks he has done a sterling job. Not only have Guingamp progressed (they kept their first clean sheet of the season against Nancy) they are also scoring goals. Indeed they have scored at least 2 goals in each of their games which will always give them a chance.
Now the question is how far can the club go? The realistic proposition has to be to try and finish in the top half of the league- and get the most points the club has got in Ligue 1. The next level is to qualify for Europe.
Dreamers out there will point to Leicester City and a shock title for Guingamp- but in a long hard grinding season in France that will most probably be above them. However there is no reason that the club can’t continue this fantastic run of form.