Sunday, 30 December 2018

Ligue 1: December Review


December did deliver some action in Ligue 1 however, many of the teams saw their matches postponed due to the ongoing gilet jaunes protests across the whole of France. Despite the protests, there was plenty of action as PSG lost their 100% record but maintained their unbeaten league record. While Guingamp and Monaco continue to prop up the table. We also saw the 5th managerial departure of the season with Rennes sacking Sabri Lamouchi following a slow start to the season.

PSG continue to dominate Ligue 1 and end 2018 with a 13-point cushion at the top and two games in hand on nearest rivals Lille. A draw against Bordeaux at the start of December saw their 100% record go and they followed that up with another draw against their bogey side Strasbourg. But despite their draws, they are utterly dominating Ligue 1 and go into 2019 full of confidence with Ligue 1 title seemingly wrapped up at this early stage. Christophe Galtier’s Lille didn’t have any matches called off during December and did collect 8 points from their 5 games which saw them sneak into 2nd place. Nicolas Pepe the star of their side playing a key role in their victory over Nimes which saw them play a large part of the game with 10 men. Lille fans will be absolutely delighted with how they’ve played during the first half of the season and will hoping the team can continue that form going into the remainder of the season. Keeping Nicolas Pepe during the January transfer window will be key for Lille’s chances of securing European football in May. The rest of the Champions League places are made up by Lyon and Montpellier. Lyon are where many expected them to be, comfortably sitting in the Champions League places and attempting to catch PSG at the top. Genesio’s young lions are winning plaudits across Europe for their attacking emphasis and free flowing football. They put Monaco to the sword during December but ended 2018 with a draw against Montpellier leaving them 15 points behind PSG having played a game more. Genesio will argue they are where they need to be, but they are clearly still a class below PSG. In contrast, I don’t think a top 4 finish was on the Montpellier agenda but at the halfway stage of the season they find themselves inside the top 4 on ahead of St Etienne on goal difference. Michel Der Zakarian is doing a terrific job and has assembled a good strike force in Andy Delort and Gaetan Laborde with pairing notching 14 league goals between them. A mixed December for Montpellier winning just once in their 3 matches losing one and drawing the other. Despite this, Der Zakarian will be delighted with his team’s performances and position at this stage of the season.

So, Sabri Lamouchi became the 5th manager to lose his job this season as Rennes decided to part company with Lamouchi following a heavy 4-1 defeat at home to Strasbourg. Lamouchi left Rennes sitting in 14th in the table. His replacement is Julian Stephan, who oversaw the B side at the club and he has made a terrific start to his tenure winning his first 3 league games in charge. Stephan was in caretaker ship for victories over Lyon and Dijon and no surprise was given the job on a permanent basis and he celebrated that with a thunderous 4-0 win over Dijon. 3 straight league wins all with clean sheets is a dream start for any manager and no doubt Stephan will want that momentum to continue in 2019. Rennes are now 8th in the table just 4 points off the Champions League places but have played a game more than some of the sides around them.

Times continue to be tough for the bottom 2 Guingamp and Monaco. Guingamp are struggling and so far, the new manager bounce is yet to take affect however, they ended 2018 with a crucial win at Monaco seeing them close the gap to just 6 points off safety. Jocelyn Gourvennec will be absolutely delighted with the determination and passion to clinch that priceless win. A clean sheet to boot also helps the side but Gourvennec will be fully aware there is still plenty of work to do during the 2nd half of the season and will be looking to add new faces as the transfer window approaches. Thierry Henry is desperate for something to give at Monaco with Henry collecting just 7 points in 9 games since replacing Leonardo Jardim. 6 defeats in 9 games have highlighted Henry’s struggled to get them going so far this season. Goals are in short supply and they just cannot win at home this season. The Principality stadium is eating Henry’s young team alive with points becoming allusive. Henry knows they are still in touching distance of safety. They will start 2019 in the relegation zone 4 points behind 17th placed Amiens and Henry will be fully aware of the task at hand and certainly injuries haven’t helped his course with over 14 senior players injured at one stage this season. Henry will no doubt explore the transfer window and aim to add a few new faces to ignite their flailing season.

December brought us some action despite the ongoing unrest in France and the new year is dawning for all Ligue 1 clubs and that means the transfer window is upon us and no doubt that will bring drama of its own. Plenty of football to come in the new year and some mouth-watering fixtures including Amiens vs PSG, Nice vs Bordeaux, Marseille vs Monaco, the derby between Guingamp and Rennes, Monaco vs Nice, St Etienne vs Marseille, the derby between Lille and Amiens, the derby between St Etienne and Lyon, Marseille vs Lille, Dijon vs Monaco and Strasbourg vs Bordeaux. A huge month of games to welcome in 2019 but can teams get their seasons going in the new year? Only time will tell.

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