You are reading the Get French Football News Talking Points Column written by Eric Devin.
Despite their run to the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, SC Bastia’s season has often had the feeling of almost coming apart at the seams, with a coaching change, a raft of player movement and a stadium ban after crowd trouble in their match against Nice. It was never going to be easy for the club by any measure, working as they were within limited means to avoid relegation, and having been shorn of perhaps their most creative player, Wahbi Khazri, in the summer.
Now, however, having reached that final and won three matches in a row, the time is perhaps overdue to give Ghislain Printant some credit. Brought in to replace Claude Makelele in November, the former youth team manager has brought stability to the side, as well as more attacking intent, something Bastia desperately lacked under the former Real Madrid player.
As Saturday’s dismissal of Francois Kamano illustrated, Bastia are still one of the league’s worst clubs in terms of discipline, with the joint-second-most sendings-off and second-most bookings. However, despite failing to tone down their temperaments, Bastia have been rejuvenated going forward in the new year. Key to this success has been the arrivals of Basel loanee Giovanni Sio (five goals in eleven matches) and ex-Lyon winger Gael Danic (scorer of Saturday’s match winner, and three assists) in the winter window.
While Sio’s future is unknown beyond the season, he has expressed a desire to stay, and Danic’s renaissance after being used sparingly at Lyon has likewise brightened the side’s attacking prospects going forward. With the youngster Kamano likewise finding form in 2015, the club have gone from Ligue 1’s worst attack in the season’s first half to the tenth since the winter break.
While still a smash-and-grab side at heart, as this weekend’s win and the defeat of Saint-Etienne illustrate, with a greater attacking fluency under Printant, Bastia have actually been France’s seventh best team in 2015. It would be foolish to expect the club to maintain that standard over the course of next season, especially with loanee goalkeeper Alphonse Areola set to return to his parent club, Paris Saint-Germain.
His departure, combined with an aging back line, means some further investment is still needed for the Corsicans to continue their success under Printant, but barring a major exodus in the summer, it would be a great surprise to see Bastia occupying the relegation places next season.