You are reading the Get French Football News Talking Points Column, written by Eric Devin.
My first article for this site, back in December, had highlighted the potential candidacy of Nantes’ Michel Der Zakarian, as well as those of Marcelo Bielsa and Hubert Fournier for Ligue 1 managers of the year. While Nantes and Marseille have both stuttered to some degree in the intervening four months, Lyon have retained their place in the top two, and look nailed on to win a Champions’ League place, if not the title, should Paris Saint-Germain stumble.
The consistent and surprising excellence of Lyon, both in attack and defence makes Fournier an easy choice as the winner, despite the potential for a domestic treble at PSG. While the capital club have been hard-hit by injuries, Lyon have also dealt with a mix of injury (Jallet, Gonalons, Bisevac, Bedimo, Lacazette, Gourcuff, Grenier, Fofana) and international duty (Bedimo again, N’Jie, Yattara, Bakary Kone, Zeffane) themselves. With a multitude of young and relatively unproven talent, the ability that Fournier has demonstrated in coaxing the best out of these young players is impressive indeed, and his consecration as the league’s best manager is all but a formality.
Fournier’s excellence aside, however, the composition of the shortlist has given cause for some debate. Jocelyn Gourvennec’s leading Guingamp to the Europa League knockout rounds, the semi-finals of the Coupe de France and another mid-table finish make him another accomplished candidate to go with the Lyon boss. And, despite the resources at his disposal, Laurent Blanc’s navigation of PSG through a potentially difficult Champions’ League group and past Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea is also deserving when considering the club’s fixture congestion and injury list.
The identity of the fourth candidate has thus been the cause of some consternation, as neither Marcelo Bielsa nor Leonardo Jardim have found themselves on the list, the pair excluded for Christophe Galtier. While Galtier has done well to once again position a club of limited means in the European places once again, his lack of attacking nous has led to grumbling in some parts as to the exclusions of Leonardo Jardim and Bielsa. Marseille’s recent run of four losses has seen them tumble from the podium, and with such a streak so fresh in the minds of the selectors, it is obvious, albeit to a point how the Argentine has been left out.
His south coast neighbour, Jardim, however, has a much stronger case, having lead Monaco to the best record in the league in 2015. Combined with a wholly unexpected Champions’ League quarterfinal run, as well as the development of one of the league’s finest attacking trios, the Portuguese’s success has been a dramatic reversal from the club’s struggles early in his tenure. While it is important to consider each game on equal footing, the fear here is that the LFP is doing little to acknowledge the importance of a team finding form at the right time. Not that three points matters more or less in August or May, but in a such a competitive league, to have a team come together and perform consistently at the back end of a season, with a tangible reward in sight, cannot be undersold. Not to slight Galtier, who has done very well, but how Jardim’s accomplishments are not among the league’s four best, is somewhat incomprehensible.