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.

 

 

PSG fans must back up Neymar now after 2 goals in 2 games as PSG beat Lyon

Neymar the magician who is Brazilian did it again, didn’t he? After a summer where he has spoken negatively about his club PSG and wanting a move away to Barcelona, he has come straight back into the team and earned the club 6 points straight off the bat.

He is turning into an enigma someone that is hard to figure out. It is easy to throw negative criticism at him too. His lack of passion and loyalty seemed fairly evident, like a baby throwing out his toys he wanted out of one of the most successful teams in world football to play for another. His feelings were clear. One could think of the endless run of kids in and around Paris dreaming to play for the club and the youths who have been rejected at the final hurdle- the commitment, the passion and the loyalty. And then look over at Neymar who was playing with his career at the club and seemingly didn’t care.

But what Neymar has, which the other hopefuls don’t is sheer and utter quality. It is why he can want a move away with his career feeling like it is coming to an end in France and then come back and produce wonder goals, each time saving his club and winning the game.

A few weeks ago he scored an outrageous bicycle kick in injury time against Strasbourg with the tie at 0-0. And then this past weekend PSG travelled to a direct league rival in Lyon. Again the score tied at 0-0 before Neymar went on a mazy solo run and scored with the winner with just two minutes remaining.

Neymar is an unbelievable player and in a generation where Brazilian football has stalled on produced attacking greats, he is one of them and perhaps the only genuine one. The heir apparent to the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho before him.

The hardcore PSG fans known as the ultras put out a statement upon Neymar’s return that they won’t easily forgive the player, and to be fair it did seem understandable. But after these 2 games, that’s 2 return goals and more than that it is clear without the player that they would have drawn those games and had 4 less points as a result. That would mean PSG would have 11 points now and Angers would in fact be top, with PSG resigned down to 4th place and that is the reality of the situation.

It might be hard for the ultra fans or even regular PSG fans to admit this, but the team can’t afford to be without Neymar, he is simply that good a player.

 

 

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 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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Ndombele the great risk for Tottenham or a potential great?

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If relief had a sound then you could hear it amongst Tottenham fans as the club have agreed with Lyon to finally purchase Tanguy Ndombele for a reported £65m. The midfielder is understood to be signing this week for the club after having to pass a medical. The question is just who have Tottenham bought?

One has to remember that Ndombele was plying his trade with Amiens the season before and Lyon bought him last summer for just £7m- they have won nothing this season, and never looked like doing so- and his value has risen by almost £60m. That would suggest he is Lyon’s outstanding player? Not so.

Looking at how Ndombele performed statistically in the European Fantasy League rankings we can see that Ndombele wasn’t even Lyon’s best midfielder let alone being their best player.

In Ligue 1 midfielders alone Ndombele finished in 27th position. His ranking by position for all midfielders in major leagues was 177th with his overall ranking as a player at 449th. While it is true that stats can only get us so far, paying £65m for a player of Ndombele’s standing seems wrong, inflated and grotesque.

His achievements thus far have been zero, still he is young and at 22 Tottenham are hoping that is where his value lies. There has been talk that Tottenham are about to buy the next Michael Essien, perhaps they are and in an ideal world he will stay for six seasons, win trophies and become a club legend before being sold to Real Madrid for £200m. It could happen, and it could not.

Lyon’s value of the player is simply a joke, he has not improved by £60m over one season, but at the same time he has made the French squad four times albeit in friendlies. One has to wonder what Lyon’s valuation would be for Nebil Fekir, who did have a better season than Ndombele and is regarded as a huge player for Lyon even though he wasn’t deemed good enough to start for France at last summer’s World Cup.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that Ndombele’s arrival will be the first of many, but does club owner Daniel Levy think that way? The good news is that the club are about to splash the cash after being linked too Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis with a reported £60m deal on the cards, of course these figures fluctuate depending on who you believe. But that deal seems to have stalled. Then there was Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Club in Portugal but they could have a fight on their hands with Manchester United for his signature.

The club are at an important moment in their history, right dead bang on centre to moving on from the pretenders of yesteryear when an odd cup was good enough. There is a sense within the club that they can start winning important trophies and build a legacy on it. And it is all going to start this summer, that’s if Pochettino can get his players and Levy to open up his chequebook again.

Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Ismaila Sarr

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Ismaila Sarr may not come first to your mind when you think of brilliant midfielders plying their trade in France’s Ligue 1 but Sarr had a very solid season at Rennes to end up being the 5th best midfielder of the season.

Sarr who is from Senegal is widely unknown even in the league- although his performances this season should change that view. One has to remember that Sarr is still only 21. Sarr had played for Metz before being snapped up by Rennes in 2017 and has since fit into the team without any problems.

The Rennes midfielder would have cost you 7.5m to have in your team- that could go up next season after his performances in this one. He gained a total of 60 points, just 10 points shy of Reims’ Remi Oudin. His goal scoring feats were impressive as he netted 8 times and assisted in a further 6 goals and was part of a team that kept 11 clean sheets.

Sarr’s season started by picking up points in 3 of his first four matches as his play and his team gained momentum. However that was stopped soon after as Rennes went through a bad period of form that begun in mid September. As a consequence Sarr picked up no points for 5 games in a row.

His best form started at the beginning of December where he scored points in five consecutive games totalling 18 altogether. His best game of the season actually came down to two matches. The early season win over Angers in which he scored a goal and kept a clean sheet and the terrific 2-0 win at Lyon where he assisted in both goals and of course kept a clean sheet. For the player the Lyon victory might be the best moment of his season league wise.

Sarr picked up 6 bookings but otherwise never finished a game below -1 points which is an impressive sign at his age that he is maturing well. This is his highest ever points total and he will be looking to keep that momentum going for next season.

As for Rennes season they had a memorable one. True they could only finish in 10th place with 52 points and finished 14 points from a European place, but that is only the beginning of the story. Rennes qualified for the Europa League after winning their first major trophy in a generation when they stunned PSG in the Coupe de France final and beat them. It was one of the biggest shocks in French football history. The club won on penalties after a 2-2 draw and Sarr was on hand to score one of his to crown a very special season indeed.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Mike Maignan

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What has been PSG’s loss has been Lille’s gain and if anything is to be said of this season it’s that Mike Maignan has a bright future ahead of him.

The 23 year old from French Guiana has been superb this season and at one point it looked like he would be PSG’s number 1 goalkeeper. Coming up through their ranks he was instead overlooked as PSG spent big money dispensing with youth and Lille took the player under their wings, first in the B team and now the senior. He has been Lille’s first choice goalkeeper for the last 3 seasons, but has really broken through in the last two.

In the Ligue 1 football fantasy rankings Maignan finished in 2nd place with 84 points and just 7 shy of first place held by Walter Benitez. His value for this season was just 5m and that is sure to rise for the beginning of next season.

Lille of course had a successful season and while they did not win any trophies they finished 2nd and runner up to PSG which was no mean feat with Lyon chasing them until the final weeks of the season. In Ligue 1 only the first two places are guaranteed a Champions League group stage place with 3rd having to play in a qualifying round, so it was important for Lille to finish 2nd and now they have automatically qualified for Europe’s greatest prize.

Maignan was a huge part of this Lille side as he kept an impressive 15 clean sheets during the season. His overall ranking with all players would be 44th but his overall ranking with all goalkeepers in the major leagues would be an impressive 8th, that’s great going for such a young goalkeeper.

Maignan had many good highlights of the season, gaining what has become the maximum points for a goalkeeper unless they score a goal by achieving 7 points. One of his best periods was the final 16 games of the season when Lille and Lyon were battling each other in a Champions League run in that saw Maignan keep 9 clean sheets from the last 16 games.

With Maignan in such great form towards the end of the season it was ironic that on the very final game he earned the least points of his entire season as Lille lost 3-1 to Rennes and he ended up with -4 points.

It wasn’t all easy going for Maignan whose worst month was January when he earned 0 points but he was able to bounce back and in the end Walter Benitez and Mike Maignan were head and shoulders above any other goalkeeper in Ligue 1.

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