Talking Points columnist Eric Devin takes a look at why last Saturday’s round of matches produced so few goals and whether it is a sign of things to come with just a few weeks of the league campaign remaining.
With eight matches to play, Ligue 1 has settled into five tiers. The title contenders, Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Lyon and rapidly rising Monaco realistically have little to worry about from the sides below them and just need to worry about taking care of business against lower-ranked opponents.
The next three sides, Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux and Montpellier are all chasing what could be two Europa League places, depending on who prevails in the cups. The bottom two, Lens and Metz, are nine and eleven points from safety and all but done for. Just above them, the fight to avoid relegation is hotting up, with Toulouse and Evian snatching crucial wins.
For the remaining seven teams, from Lille in eighth down to Reims in 15th, there is little for which to play, and five of the six were involved in three scoreless draws Saturday evening.
Bastia “hosted” Guingamp behind closed doors in what was probably the best of the three matches, with Alphonse Areola making several fine saves. But, with a combined 39 fouls, the match lacked any real flow and as the scoreline suited both teams, there could certainly have been more initiative.
Caen, their form having dipped as of late but still looking a relatively sound bet for safety, hosted Metz and were unlucky with Thomas Lemar hitting the bar early in the second half. Even as the visitors, desperate to close the gap on Lens, grew into the game after the interval, there was still a general lack of quality on both sides. The Breton Derby, normally a fiery affair, was, however, probably the biggest disappointment of the three matches.
Nantes, missing their attacking fullbacks Olivier Veigneau (recovering from a knock) and Issa Cissokho (suspended) were never going to get forward as they can, but to see their side fail to muster a single shot on target against their biggest rival was surely a letdown for traveling Canaris fans.
Rennes had been bright but a bit unlucky going forward away to Lille last weekend, but aside from Paul-Georges Ntep, the home side seemed not to have much interest in producing more. As with the other two matches, a point apiece would mean one step closer to safety, and both sides could furthermore be pleased with not having lost to a rival.
That being said, I do worry that with eight matches still to play, fans of Ligue 1 could be in for more weekends like this before the season is out. While the return from the international break does feature some tasty encounters including Saint-Etienne’s visit to Monaco and Le Classique, matches such as Nantes-Caen, Montpellier-Bastia and Lille-Reims are likely to provide us with similar results.