For a quick rundown on the main takeaways from the French top flight each week, the Ligue 1 Talking Points column is your guide.
1: So much for ‘boring old Ligue 1’…
Given French football’s reputation for its somewhat economic distribution of goals and supposedly defensive play, (averaging 2.53 goals per game in 15/16, the lowest of the big five leagues) to see 5 goal thrillers at Bordeaux, Caen and Metz on the opening day as well as Monaco and Guingamp sharing 4 goals was both refreshing and encouraging for Ligue 1 and French football as a whole.
Despite the total haul only reaching 26 due to four 1-0 wins and that dire 0-0 at the Velodrome on Sunday night, attacking play and spectacle were still commonplace across the French top flight.
Thrilling fight backs from both Monaco and Caen, an end-to-end second half at the Stade Saint-Symphorien between Metz and Lille and Bordeaux’s attacking verve in taking a 3 goal lead over St Etienne were complemented by a screamer from Guingamp’s Moustapha Diallo, a razor-sharp Alex Lacazette hat-trick plus some pulsating wing play from Malcom of Les Girondins and Metz’s new Senegalese recruit Ismaila Sarr, all amounting to burgeoning optimism for the coming nine months football. Bring on the goals.
2: Bordeaux could be a force to reckon with in 16/17…
A limp Europa League exit, an injury list as long as the Garrone, their manager sacked and vehement fan protests made for a disastrous 15/16 season for Bordeaux. But with Sagnol gone and steward Ulrich Rame relieved of his duties, the arrival of Jocelyn Gourvennec could mark a marquee moment in the club’s recent history.
Since winning the 09 title under Laurent Blanc, the club have drifted by comparison to 5th, 6th and 7th place finishes before their flattering 11th last season but with Gourvennec comes a fresh start and a bright, forward thinking style. While the arrivals of Menez, Kamano, Toulalan and Sabaly, finessed by potential for breakthrough seasons from wingers Adam Ounas and Malcom could lead JG to replicate his exploits at Guingamp, where he lead the unfancied Breton club to the French Cup and Europa League knockout stages.
Club president Jean-Louis Triaud stated that he was “seduced” by Gourvennec’s style of play and, after the attacking 3-2 victory over St Etienne on Saturday afternoon, the fans will be too. Can Gourvennec charm his way onto the podium and into a potential Champions League place? With this squad and no European football, it’s more than possible.
3: Metz the best of the promoted sides…
Angers were a revelation last season. Their incredible run in the first half of the campaign was one of the most eye-catching stories in European football over the winter.
The modest Breton club’s success made all the more impressive by their third place finish in Ligue 2, a full 14 points adrift of winners Troyes, and the fact that they recruited mainly from the second division, attesting to the wealth of talent in French football beyond Ligue 1. Metz and manager Phillippe Hinschberger, however, may have gone one better.
The eastern club have plundered the second tier for the likes of accomplished Brest centre back Simon Falette, promising midfielder Florent Mollet of Creteil as well as the pacey Opa NGuette from Valenciennes but also sought Ligue 1 experience in the mercurial Yann Jouffre, bullish St Etienne midfielder Renaud Cohade and well-travelled Turkish striker Mevlut Erding.
The blend of youthful exuberance and Ligue 1 nous seems to be coalescing nicely as evidenced by their pulsating 3-2 win over Europa League flops, Lille, on Saturday night and, as it stands, they look to be the best equipped of the promoted teams to retain their Ligue 1 status. Dijon and Nancy have been underwhelming by comparison.
The loss of Christophe Jullien to Toulouse from the Dijon back four has barely been addressed while fitness and age will likely hamper the effect of marquee signings Florent Balmont and Marvin Martin from Lille. Anthony Koura from Nimes remains Nancy’s only signing of real note. It could be a tough year for Ligue 2’s top two.
4: Alexandre Lacazette hits the ground running but could be on his way out…
“Do you have offers?” Lacazette was asked after Lyon’s 3-0 opening day win at Nancy. “Ask the president” he responded with a grin. “He’s convinced you’re staying…” “I’m staying then.” Following his clinical hat-trick at the Stade Marcel Picot, OL fans will be a little less convinced than their president, Jean-Michel Aulas, that they’ll make it to September 2nd with their prize asset still in situ at Parc OL.
A confident, fit and on-form Lacazette can be virtually unplayable and, if he sticks around, will be favourite to top the Ligue 1 scoring charts in 16/17 after the way in which the 25 year old unerringly dispatched Pablo Correa’s promoted side on Sunday afternoon.
With Premier League mouths watering, another bid in excess of the £40m+ West Ham offered could be on it’s way and may be difficult to turn down, despite Aulas’ assurances. However, if Laca were to stay, a title tilt is by no means impossible nor are a few waves being made in Europe. Here’s hoping Aulas sticks to his guns.
5: Dark days for OM but hope for Toulouse…
After the nightmare 15/16 season suffered by Marseille, OM fans might have been thinking that this season couldn’t get much worse. It turns out they were mistaken.
After a comprehensive squad overhaul which included the loss of key players Steve Mandanda, Michy Batshuayi and Nicolas Nkoulou, as well as the introduction of a brand new back four, OM opened the new campaign at an eerie, half empty Velodrome with the visit of a Toulouse side lucky to still be a Ligue 1 club and bereft of the talismanic Wassim Ben Yedder after his move to Seville.
The game was dull and drab at best but the Marseille performance managed to be magnitudes worse. Franck Passi’s side looked as though a stiff handshake ten minutes prior to kickoff amounted to the full extent of their bonds and, despite the talent in forward areas, stumbled through a more than forgettable 0-0 draw.
Toulouse will feel as though they could have taken all three points after acquitting themselves well and having the better of the game but OM continue to stare into the abyss.