Talking Points columnist Eric Devin takes a look at the characteristic that is squad depth and how large a role it might play in the Ligue 1 title race.
While Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille did manage to win, unlike erstwhile leader Lyon, only OM did much to distinguish themselves this weekend. PSG were lucky not to drop points in a drab encounter against a feisty Lorient side, Marco Verratti heading off the line with the match tied at 1-1 in the second half. Shortly thereafter, the hosts were awarded a rather dubious penalty, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic duly converted before capping a hat trick in stoppage time after some slack defending from Lorient. Still, the score flatters PSG, who were both unimaginative and wasteful in attack.
While Ibrahmovic looked more motivated than he has been in a while, trying to play in Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi on multiple occasions, PSG’s general strategy was to hit balls over the top to the front three, making for a dull game. With the international break approaching and the squad limited by injuries (David Luiz, Marquinhos, Lucas Moura, Yohan Cabaye) and may be a little tired, perhaps it would be unfair to expect much more from PSG. That said, with all of Javier Pastore, Lavezzi, Cavani and Ibrahimovic included, a bit more flair could have been demonstrated.
Leaders on Friday, PSG remained in that position on Saturday as Lyon, also limited by a combination of injuries and suspension, failed to beat a Nice side that played with ten men for more than forty minutes. But whereas PSG can call on the likes of Pastore, Lavezzi and Gregory van der Wiel, all experienced internationals, Lyon’s options are along the lines of re-treads such as Bakary Kone, Steed Malbranque and Mouhamadou Dabo, a difference that is perhaps the clearest demarcation between the top two.
With all of Henri Bedimo, Alexandre Lacazette and Samuel Umtiti unavailable owing to bookings from OL’s feisty defeat of Montpellier a weekend ago, and Yoann Gourcuff going off injured, Lyon’s lack of depth was on full display, and Nice duly took the opportunity.
As impressive as Hubert Fournier’s side has been thus far, they have also been exceedingly lucky as regards injuries and suspensions, with only Milan Bisevac’s absence a long term issue. Granted, Henri Bedimo and Lacazette did miss small periods of game-time, but Lyon coped well enough in their absences.
Able to lean on the consistency of the midfield trio of Maxime Gonalons, Jordan Ferri and Corentin Tolisso, the left back and striker were barely missed. Now, however, with bookings continuing to pile up (Lyon have twelve yellow cards in their last three matches) and few options on the bench, discipline and fitness could yet prove to be OL’s downfall.