Thursday, 4 October 2018

Ligue 1: September Review (Matchday 5 to 8)

Ligue 1 entertained us throughout September with plenty of big matches, quality goals and entertaining football which all football fans can enjoy. PSG have continued their perfect start winning all 8 of their league games so far. Lille, Montpellier and St Etienne make up the top 4. While at the wrong end, Guingamp prop up the table but have show signs of recovery while Nantes and shockingly Monaco make up the bottom 3.

PSG have been flawless in the league so far this season notching 8 wins out of 8 and looking unstoppable domestically. However, their Champions League campaign started with defeat at Anfield against Liverpool and no doubt the goal is to win the Champions League but a bad start like that could be costly in a tightly contested group containing Liverpool and Napoli. On French shores, nobody can seem to touch the capital-based club and goals are flowing nicely with Neymar already on 7 league goals while Edinson Cavani has notched 5 goals. Their goals are very much spread across the whole team and Tuchel has also utilised the club’s academy with the likes of Timothy Weah, Moussa Diaby and Stephen N’Soki getting their opportunity to impress and this a huge positive noting PSG may not be reliant on splashing cash to find players. You would find it extremely difficult to find a reason why PSG cannot continue their perfect run throughout October. They kick off their October run of matches against inconsistent Lyon who can beat Manchester City in Champions League and draw at home to struggling Nantes. Tuchel has made a big impression so far and no doubt their perfect run doesn’t seem to have an ending anytime soon.

The top 4 is made up of Lille, Montpellier and St Etienne who all had an excellent September. Christophe Galtier’s Lille are having a wonderful start to the campaign and are looking like a very good team who are difficult to beat and score against. 3 wins from 4 in their September matches have fired Galtier’s men into 2nd place. Their only blemish was a defeat away at Caen, but the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Bamba is the reason why Lille are playing so well. Both Pepe and Bamba have notched 5 league goals each with the latter notching a brilliant brace in their September ending victory over Marseille. Montpellier are also enjoying a rich run of form with Michel der Zakarian’s side sitting pretty in 3rd after an unbeaten September which saw them notch 8 points. They ended September with a moral boosting derby victory over Nimes and things are looking very rosy indeed. New strikers Gaetan Laborde and Andy Delort both got their first goals for the club in September and no doubt these two are prolific at this level and Montpellier will aim to continue their good form as the October matches draws near. St Etienne are also a rich run of form with the les verts storming up the Ligue 1 table after a slow August. Jean-Louis Gasset has got St Etienne going with 3 straight league wins since their 4-0 defeat against PSG. Victories over Caen, Toulouse and Monaco have followed that hammering and Gasset has certainly got the reaction he wanted. Wahbi Khazri is proving an excellent acquisition by the les verts after notching 4 goals so far including 2 in their recent winning run. However, somebody’s excellent run could end when Lille and St Etienne face each other in their opening match in October. A tasty encounter with Galtier facing the club he managed for over 7 years and no doubt emotions will be high with security in the top 4 guaranteed for the winner.

Another side who enjoyed September was Strasbourg. Le Racing suffered just 1 defeat in September and picked up thunderous home wins over Amiens and Dijon. Strasbourg have stormed into 8th place in the Ligue 1 table after notching just 4 points in the opening month of the campaign. Julio Da Costa and new signing Lebo Mothiba are forming a very good partnership up top with 6 goals combined. Da Costa has 4 of those goals and he is looking much sharper and fitter after a slow campaign last time out. The second season syndrome of August seems to have escaped Strasbourg’s system and no doubt they will want to continue their good form during October.

In contrast, September has been extremely difficult for Rennes, Monaco and Nantes. Last season’s runners up Monaco have struggled for goals and confidence so far this season. The principality club have sunk into the bottom 3 in the Ligue 1 table and Jardim must quickly find a solution and a team that works. A winless September and a run of 1 win in their opening 8 is a major concern for a side who have been brilliant in the last few seasons. From an outsider perspective, it seems the consistent sales of top stars over the last 2 years in particular is beginning to take its toll on the club. The likes of Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar, Fabinho and Guido Carrillo have seen Monaco net nearly £300 million and Monaco have struggled to replace what they have lost. Jardim has a completely new squad which so far hasn’t gelled and reached its full potential. Not even regulars Danijel Subasic, Radamel Falcao and Kamil Glik can find their best form at the moment and it seems times are tough. There is also speculation off the pitch that majority owner Ekaterina Rybolovleva may want to sell his stake, but he has vocally denied the club is for sale but clearly an issue at the club could well have spread down to the players and no doubt the fans will be concerned. Their form must improve, and fast otherwise things could turn ugly on the principality. Rennes start to the season hasn’t been that much better than Monaco’s. Sabri Lamouchi’s side have begun the difficulties of playing Thursday/ Sunday matches following their qualification to the Europa League group stages. While they started perfectly in Europe, domestically Rennes are struggling. Les Rouges had a winless September losing 3 of their 4 games and losing their perfect record at home. They have sunk to 16th in the table and no doubt this is Lamouchi’s toughest spell at the club since taking over in the middle of last season. Lamouchi will no doubt want an improvement and fast as October draws near. However, it has been a very disappointing start to the season for Nantes and the first sacking has arrived with Miguel Cardoso given his marching orders following just 1 win in 8 matches leaving Nantes in 19th place. While from the outset it is very harsh, chairman Waldemar Kita is a man who wants instant success, and anything less isn’t good enough as Claudio Ranieri found out last season. Cardoso has struggled to get Nantes going despite heavy backing in the transfer window from Kita and they are also winless at home with just 2 points collected on their own pitch and that simply isn’t good enough. Nantes have appointed Ligue 1 legend Vahid Halilhodzic as their new manager and he must hit the ground running and fast. The Nantes fans will be pleased I’m sure with the appointment of Halilhodzic having had spells in charge of Lille, Rennes and PSG in the past. His first game is a tasty derby against Bordeaux and no doubt a win here who ignite their season once again.

Things had started horrendously for rock bottom Guingamp with 6 straight league defeats and the pressure was beginning to mount on the players and manager Antoine Kombouare. However, a draw away to Nimes and a win at Angers both games without conceding has ignited their season. The club has been rooted to the bottom for much of this season and while they are still bottom, they have managed to build some momentum to take into October. However, they are yet to pick up a single point at home so far this season and they must address this issue fast. 3 disappointing defeats to PSG, Toulouse and Bordeaux have felt the fans frustrated and they will be desperate to see something from them sooner rather than later. Furthermore, Guingamp are still short on goals notching just 5 goals so far this season and conceding 19. While those records are poor, Kombouare will believe they have turned a corner and they will hope to push against Montpellier in their next game following their 2-match unbeaten run.

September was entertaining, and no doubt October will be the same with some mouth-watering games to come including PSG vs Lyon, Monaco vs Rennes, Bordeaux vs Nantes, Lille vs St Etienne, Nantes vs Toulouse, Nice vs Marseille, Bordeaux vs Nice and Marseille vs PSG. Quality goals and entertainment will follow in October as this certainly could be the month where the season really begins to take shape and we as fans get an insight as to where each club’s season is going to head.

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