Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Ligue 1: November Review

It was another excellent month in Ligue 1 with quality football, excellent goals and the 4th managerial departure of the season. PSG have maintained their 100% record in the league winning all 14 so far. They are dominating the league. Meanwhile last season’s runners up Monaco continue to struggle making up the relegation zone with Guingamp.

Its fair to say PSG are walking away with the league already having collected maximum points from all their matches and they have a 15-point lead over closest challengers Lyon. Thomas Tuchel is enjoying his spell at PSG so far and his faith in youngsters has given PSG fans something to smile about. Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku and Timothy Weah have all made good contributions to the side when needed in their quest to win everything. Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani are turning into a strong front three and are showing plenty of unity despite constant speculation about the tension between as well as Neymar’s future. PSG will go into December confident of maintaining their 100% record, but question is… Can anyone stop them? Meanwhile the Champions League places are made up by Lyon, Montpellier and Lille. Bruno Genesio’s young guns Lyon are finding some consistency and form in league winning 4 of their last 5 games and have stormed into 2nd place. Memphis Depay has turned into their talismanic figure with Nabil Fekir having a much quieter season this time around. While Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele are winning plaudits and admirers across Europe for their strong partnerships and excellent performances. The young guns are finding their groove but again their aim to at least secure Champions League and they look very good to achieve that. Meanwhile, Montpellier and Lille have become this seasons’ surprise packages with both lying in 3rd and 4th and deservedly so. Michel Der Zakarian knows this league like the back of his hand and his Montpellier players are certainly enjoying their season having lost just twice all season. Overall Montpellier have won 6 of their last 11 games losing just once in that time to Angers and European football is a real possibility for them should they keep this kind of form up. At the start of the season I very much doubt Lille fans would be dreaming of potential European football at the end of the season following their narrow escape from relegation, but European football is a real ambition for them. Christophe Galtier has done a sensational job in difficult circumstances with financial problems blighting the club. Nicolas Pepe is the star of the team and is driving them into Europe at the moment. However, November saw their first real dip of the season picking up just 1 point in the month which saw them drop from 2nd to 4th. Christophe Galtier will hope Lille can recapture that form before the winter break to build momentum.

Sides enjoying excellent Novembers included Nice and St Etienne. It has been a much better month for Patrick Vieira and Nice with the Riviera side notching a perfect 3 wins from 3 and overall have 4 on the spin all with clean sheets. Vieira is finally getting the best out of his side and Nice have charged into 7th place just three off the Champions League spots. Vieira’s young team are turning into an efficient, hardworking team edging out victories while playing some decent football. The loss of Alassane Plea, Jean Michael Seri and Maxime Le Marchand did look clear during the opening few months but on recent displays its case off who needs them. Vieira’s side are in a decent form overall having lost just 1 of their last 6 matches and Vieira will be confident his side could quietly sneak into the top 4. Another side with Champions League ambition is St Etienne and it was a very good month for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side with the Les Verts collecting 3 wins from their 4 matches with their only blemish coming in the derby with Lyon and like Nice, find themselves just three points of those prestigious spots but are above Nice on goal difference. Wahbi Khazri is enjoying his season notching 7 goals in his new striker role this season. Gasset’s side are efficient but are also determined as emphasised in their terrific 4-3 victory over Angers with the lead changing on various occasions but they dug in and held on for a big win. Gasset’s side have belief and confidence going into a December and they will continue to push for a place in Europe but on current, Les Verts will be shoving teams out of the way.

Meanwhile, times remain tough for Monaco and Guingamp in the relegation zone while play-off occupier Dijon are fairing no better. Despite replacing Leonardo Jardim in October, Thierry Henry is facing real difficulties in his first managerial job. They are blighted by injuries, they are low on confidence and just cannot win at the Principality stadium. However, Henry did secure his first ever win as a manager edging out Caen away from home by a goal to nil. Henry will be extremely pleased and relieved to secure a desperately needed win and they now find themselves just 2 points off safety. But the overall picture must improve with Henry winning just 1 of his 5 league games and they are conceding far too many. Henry can be forgiven for his loyalty to Monaco, but the reality of management has hit him extremely hard and survival is imperative. Guingamp are desperately struggling themselves and eventually after just 1 win 13 league games Antoine Kombouare was dismissed becoming the 4th manager to be sacked already this season. His replacement is a man who knows the club well having left them in 2016 to take charge at Bordeaux. Jocelyn Gourvennec is back, and he is determined to rescue the club from relegation, but he has a big job on his hands. 1 win all season have left the players bereft of confidence and morale is low around the whole football club. He must hit the ground running with the club 5 points off safety and Gourvennec’s return didn’t start well losing 2-1 to Reims. Gourvennec will be aware of the task at hand and a crucial December lies ahead with the team needing results to ignite their survival charge and keeping Guingamp up will be surely one of Gourvennec’s best achievements in management. Olivier Dall’ogio is man feeling the heat and severely under pressure after, yet another winless month and Dijon have now sunk into the relegation play-off place. Just 2 points have been picked up since winning their opening 3 league games. 11 winless games have gone by and the pressure is increasing, and the club find themselves on the longest winless run in the league. Goals are sparse and keeping them out is proving tricky. A season that started with so much promise is descending into a desperate scrap for survival. Dall’ogio is under pressure and must improve otherwise that hypothetical axe could fall for a 5th time this season.

December is a crucial month for Ligue 1 sides with this the final chance to build up points before the winter break. Matches come thick and fast and this is a brilliant chance to build momentum for the 2nd half of the season. December is full of intriguing games including Lille vs Lyon, Bordeaux vs PSG, Amiens vs Monaco, Montpellier vs Lille, Bordeaux vs St Etienne, Strasbourg vs PSG, Monaco vs Nice, St Etienne vs Marseille, Nice vs St Etienne, Lyon vs Monaco, Marseille vs Bordeaux, Monaco vs Guingamp and Montpellier vs Lyon. The halfway stage is approaching in the Ligue 1 season and things are brewing away nicely with a scrap for Champions League football and survival in the league but the big question is… Who will take PSG 100% record away? Can they maintain it? You would find it difficult to bet against them.

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