The Ligue 1 Review – Week 9

Adam White and Eric Devin return after the international break with the Ligue 1 Review.

1 | Bruno Genesio must be condemned for Lyon’s display vs OGC Nice 

Lyon face a grudge match against Juventus tonight at the Parc OL, with Champions League progress more or less in the balance. As such, Bruno Genesio opted to rest Alexandre Lacazette and Rafael from the start, the pair having just returned from a month out on Friday against Nice.

The youngster Jordy Gaspar, last seen getting torched by Sevilla, started at right wing-back and Nabil Fekir operated as the nominal striker, with Corentin Tolisso moved forward from midfield to play behind him.

Tolisso had quite the nightmare, losing track of Paul Baysse for Nice’s opener and generally struggling to connect with Fekir, but the real questions should be asked of manager Genesio.

After a comprehensive performance in the Rhone Derby a fortnight ago, with Tolisso at right wing-back, it was a surprise to see such radical changes, especially with Rachid Ghezzal having turned in a good performance in the derby.

After last season’s inglorious exit, there was no doubt that more emphasis be placed on the Champions’ League, but playing a weakened side against the league leaders, even away from home, causes some obvious issues to be raised.

A win, or even a good performance, would have done wonders for a team that has been uneven in the league. In taking a punt against Nice, Lyon now face Juventus having lost three of their last four matches.

The team’s injury crisis does create a degree of extenuating circumstances, but the effect on a youngish team’s psyche is potentially damaging.

If Lyon can rebound by avoiding defeat on Tuesday, Genesio’s decisions will be vindicated, but for the moment, his rotation and use of Gaspar looks a bit suspect. – E.D.

2 | Nancy must learn from ESTAC Troyes’ mistakes

In years to come, comparing the 2014/15 Ligue 2 and 2015/16 Ligue 1 tables may be a little confusing.

Troyes, second division champions in 2014/15, 24 of 38 games won and a +37 goal difference, were anchored to the foot of Ligue 1 a year later with just 3 wins and a -55 goal difference.

The bare facts, however, do little to illuminate Troyes’ true plight. Their budget was deemed inadequate by French football’s financial authorities and were, for a time, automatically relegated back to Ligue 2 before the sale (and loan return) of Corentin Jean to Monaco amended the deficit.

Despite their eventual participation in Ligue 1, Troyes were unable to truly strengthen, restrained by the financial bind placed on them by the DNCG in the way Metz have this season and Angers did last. Troyes espoused an open style of football that had won them the second division but in Ligue 1 often played into their opponent’s hands.

They failed to adapt. Nancy’s rise to Ligue 1 has drawn a number of parallels with that of the preceding Ligue 2 winners, they too have strengthened only sparsely and opened the campaign with little adaptation to their tactics used in the second their.

The ease at which Lyon picked them off in August being testament to this, despite some attractive attacking play. Troyes took a similar path and it was their undoing.

Despite being by no means the least progressive side in the division their back four and central midfield was routinely exposed and proved to be far too brittle far too often.

However, Nancy boss Angel Correa has already moved to rectify his own side’s shortcomings in this area with a switch to a 5 man defence and a more counter attacking style which has seen performances improve and their competitiveness increase, a draw in Bastia and a win at Lorient being stand out results.

Last season a rampant PSG notched 9 times upon their visit to the Ligue 2 champions, this season despite a pair of first half goals from Cavani and Lucas they didn’t have it all their own way.

An Alou Diarra header made it 2-1 before the new boys had the perennial champions under a little pressure during the closing stages. Nancy are still bottom of the table and it will be a long season for Correa and his charges, but survival isn’t out of reach. – A.W.

3 | Why Bafétimbi Gomis is the short-term key for Marseille

Goalscorers are rare in France, finding one and getting the best out of him is often the difference between a mediocre season and an excellent one in Ligue 1.

Since breaking his duck against Lorient at the end of August, Bafetimbi Gomis has 6 goals in 7 games including the winner on Sunday night in what turned out to be a dire match up at the Velodrome with promoted Metz.

Although Franck Passi is yet to truly convince as OM boss (although his days may be numbered anyway following yesterday’s completed takeover), Marseille are slowly be moulded into a more effective footballing unit.

Florian Thauvin is continuing to impress both in terms of his displays and attitude, Yohann Pele is starting to settle into his number 1 jersey following Steve Mandanda’s departure while the back four are showing they’re nowhere near as leaky as they might have been with Doria in particular proving some of his critics wrong amid links with Chelsea this week.

If Gomis can maintain his form and spearhead a regenerating Marseille side, who knows, a Europa League place might not be beyond the realms of possibility for OM. – A.W.

4 | Have Lille made a fatal error in transfer policy in attacking areas?

In the summer of 2015, Lille made what appeared to be two very canny purchases, the young strikers Baptiste Guillaume and Sehrou Guirassy. The Belgian and the Frenchman were both, big, bulky strikers, full of potential but both very callow.

Guillaume was afforded a decent number of chances with the first team, but failed to score in a dozen league appearances. Guirassy likewise, but his loan spell with Auxerre from January saw him score eight times in sixteen appearances, earning him a transfer to Köln this summer.

Guillaume is with second division Strasbourg on loan, and has struggled with injury, but would either have been a better option than Eder?

It is hard to argue with the €3.8M fee received from the German club, given Lille’s onerous financial state, but given the mess that is Lille’s current attack, might having an established front man have helped?

Eder should be playing that role, but on Saturday evening against Lille he and Naim Sliti continually switched roles, both of them popping up centrally at times, the other moving to the left. Without a creative presence, their movement was generally wasted, though.

Neither were able to hold up play, as each completed just a single pass in the box, and most play went through the youngster Yves Bissouma, who was on the right of the attacking three.

It is true that the absences of Eric Bautheac (suspension), Rony Lopes and Ryan Mendes (both injured) forced Frederic Antonetti’s hand to some degree, but without a consistent central focal point, the team looked equally as poor as they had against Nancy.

Recalling Guillaume may be an option, but simply asking Eder to play as a striker should be the manager’s approach. With the big Portuguese slow of foot and the wider players unlikely goalscorers, the quality of Lille’s chances should improve. – E.D.

5 | Enzo Crivelli crucial for SC Bastia

An Angers team that has settled nicely into form of late was always going to be hard to beat, but Bastia look a poorer team without Enzo Crivelli. The on-loan Bordeaux striker has scored just three goals in the team’s first seven matches, and two of those were against hapless Lorient, but his physical presence and energy provide the attack with a necessary focal point.

Francois Ciccolini had opted to play Thievy Bifouma as a de facto striker, with Gael Danic in support, but the Congolese, despite scoring, missed a handful of other chances, and failed to hold the ball up.

In this way, the wide duo of Lenny Nangis and Allan Saint-Maximin, both generally impressive throughout, lacked an outlet for their passing. Given that this was handily Nangis’ best match since arriving from Lille in the summer, Ciccolini must have been particularly galled at Bifouma’s performance.

With Brandao back in Brazil, the club are in dire need of a second, comparable option that can be the sort of physical front man as Crivelli.

The youngster has a less than sterling disciplinary record, and even if his “push” of the official against Guingamp resulted in a somewhat specious four match suspension, he is bound to miss more matches this season. – E.D.

6 | Why the situation at St Étienne must alarm the club

Nolan Roux’s last gasp controversial equaliser from the penalty spot to rescue a point for Les Verts at home to promoted Dijon on Sunday afternoon epitomised their season so far.

Saint Etienne’s men have scraped a barely acceptable opening to the campaign on both major fronts, their form has been lacklustre and lacking in any sort of impetus while they continue to look alarming blunt in attacking areas and devoid of creativity in midfield.

A well placed twenty second minute Lees-Melou header gave the visitors the lead and despite their supposed relative lack of quality, held their more illustrious hosts at arm’s length with considerable ease for the remaining 70 minutes.

That was until Cedric Varrault’s inexplicable hand in the back of a marauding Loic Perrin conceded a stoppage time penalty and ASSE escaped with a point. This type of drab display has come to character what is a make or break season for the club’s manager.

St Etienne have lofty ambitions under Galtier and after frustratingly treading water for a few seasons, the longest surviving manager in the division is expected to finally go one better on both domestic and continental fronts in making a real fight for the third CL spot and going deep in the EL knockout stages.

However, for now, their form looks to have regressed from last season. A Kevin Monnet-Paquet inspired 3-1 win over Montpellier being the only flash of potential in this current St Etienne team.

Points have been snatched from Dijon, Mainz, PSG, Anderlecht and Nantes in games they really should have lost while narrow wins over Bastia and a ten man (terrible) Lille side have barely pushed them above mid table.

The feeling that Christophe Galtier has taken the club as far as he can is growing and, if their form doesn’t improve, this could be his last season at Le Chaudron. – A.W.

7 | Lorient look to youth, but is it too little too late from Ripoll?

A 2-1 Breton derby defeat saw Lorient coach Sylvain Ripoll lose the battle of the under pressure managers on Saturday night to Nantes’ Rene Girard.

An arrowed strike from Yacine Bammou (a Ligue 1 collector’s item) and a neat finish from Belgian holding midfielder Guillaume Gillet afforded Girard another week’s worth of breathing space, pushing Ripoll that much closer to the big Orange exit door at the Moustoir.

I have mentioned before both in this column and on the GFFN Preview Show that Lorient, as it stands, are lacking the quality to survive in this division.

However, despite the defeat there was one notable positive for the under fire Ripoll to take from the encounter; the performances of debutants Pierre-Yves Hamel and Matteo Guendouzi. Between them they had a sizeable impact on proceedings when thrown in at the deep end by Ripoll for the final 20 minutes.

Hamel’s courageous diving header to reduced the deficit with ten minutes to play and added a degree of spectacle to an otherwise uninspiring game.

With fellow strikers Benjamin Moukandjo and Waris Majeed affected by form and injury (not to mention their likely participation at the AFCON in January) Ripoll will be hoping that the newcomer, already 22, can continue to lead the line as effectively he did in the closing stages this weekend.

Meanwhile the 17 year old David Luiz-esque figure of Guendouzi slotted into midfield remarkably comfortably for one so young, showing assuredness in possession and a good eye for a pass on a number of occasions.

Lorient fans will be hoping that the injection of some new blood so desperately needed might come a little sooner than the transfer window and from an unexpected source. The league will watch their development with interest. – A.W.

8 | Has Herve awoken?

Herve Bazile’s first significant action upon replacing Yann Karamoh was to selfishly shoot from a tight angle while Jonathan Delaplace lurked in front of goal.

The former Lille man rightly remonstrated with the substitute, but two minutes later, Bazile delivered a sublime cross for Ivan Santini’s glancing header. Anthony Vanden Borre should’ve been closer to Bazile, but that was only the start of a very strong cameo.

Bazile’s passing also picked out Ronny Rodelin after embarrassing Vanden Borre a second time, but Rodelin fired wide. It wasn’t long before Vanden Borre’s evening was over, replaced by Mathieu Deplagne, but his replacement scarcely fared any better.

Yes, Bazile was fresh onto the pitch, and Montpellier were down to ten men, and he was also up against a tiring player with a lot of miles on his legs. Yet, this was the electric Bazile who has rarely appeared this season or last.

His confidence shaken by the arrival of Vincent Bessat last summer, he has recently been a peripheral figure, starting only eleven matches last season and three this season.

Undoubtedly his electric pace and energy, so key to Caen’s brilliant mid-season run in 2014-15 was still there, but his confidence and passing ability decidedly weren’t.

As Caen’s finish last season was far from the relegation scrap they had experienced two years ago, little was made of his “disappearance.”

However, if Bazile can find some consistency, providing some balance and an outlet for the passing of Julien Feret, his return to something even approaching the player of two seasons ago would surely be welcomed by Patrice Garande. – E.D.

9 | Terrific Toulouse state their case 

Toulouse could have had every reason to fold on Friday evening against Monaco, going behind early.

Their guests were flying on the back of a 7-0 win at Metz, and a win would have seen Leonardo Jardim’s side top the table, at least temporarily. Steeve Yago and Issiaga Sylla had traveled extensively during the international break, playing in Africa for the countries, and Jimmy Durmaz had played the entirety of Sweden’s two matches.

A combination of potential fatigue issues and some suggestion that the more callow elements of the team might be found out had given to rise to some considerable doubts from some quarters as to Toulouse’s real potential to continue to battle in the European places.

However, their response to Valere Germain’s goal on three minutes was immediate and positive, pressing high and using the power and pace of Martin Braithwaite to perplex Monaco’s centre backs.

Operating on his own in the absence of the suspended Ola Toivonen, the Dane was a constant menace, and perhaps should have scored more than the brace he did net.

Having been poor in the previous match, a loss at Caen, his goals (and a superb header to set up Oscar Trejo) will have done much to silence his doubters and those of the team as a whole.

Braithwaite’s goal tally for the season now stands at six, in just six matches. If the Dane can stay healthy, there is every reason to suggest that he can keep his record up.

A contribution of fifteen or so goals would go a long way toward replacing the output of the departed Wissam Ben Yedder, and with the team’s young defence only set to improve, perhaps European football isn’t such an impossibility. – E.D.

10 | Jérémy Ménez not exactly replicating Hatem Ben Arfa…

It’s still very much early days in the Jocelyn Gourvennec reign at Les Girondins but during the draw with Rennes this Sunday the feeling of frustration continued to grow.

On paper their squad is capable of challenging the established top three of Monaco, Lyon and PSG but, despite flashes of excellence, they have largely yet to really impress with any consistently.

The experience and undeniable Ligue 1 pedigree of FCGB stalwarts Cedric Carrasso, Gerg Sertic, Diego Rolan and Jaroslav Plasil has been complimented by the international class of Jeremy Menez and Toulalan while the development of mercurial youngsters Adam Ounas and Malcom adds a degree of flair rare in the French top flight; not to mention a quality supporting cast with heaps of experience and street smarts from the likes of Diego Contento, Igor Lewczuk and Youssouf Sabaly.

However, it has not been so simple for Gourvenec so far; Menez has shown flashes of class but they have been rare and he has done little more than frustrate in recent weeks. Toulalan is yet to find his true role in the side due injury while Ounas continues to be forced out to the left where he far less effective.

For now, it is perhaps the least glamorous member of their starting eleven who leads by example; their warrior centre half Nicolas Pallois.

Pallois’ forceful, all action defending again caught they eye as his team salvaged a point in the Sunday lunchtime 1-1 draw at Park Roazhon.

It is no surprise that his long term injury last season saw the Bordeaux back line completely disintegrate in his absence and, despite the star names surrounding him this season, he is again proving to be just as crucial to the new managers (stuttering) revolution. – A.W.

Team of the Week: Cedric Carrasso, Girondins de Bordeaux; Ricardo Pereira, OGC Nice, Romain Thomas, Angers SCO, Nicolas Pallois, Girondins de Bordeaux, Dalbert Henrique, OGC Nice; Florian Thauvin, Olympique de Marseille, Jean Michael Seri, OGC Nice, Yacine Bammou, FC Nantes; Casimir Ninga, Montpellier HSC, Martin Braithwaite, Toulouse FC, Karl Toko Ekambi, Angers SCO

Goal of the Week: Casimir Ninga, Montpellier HSC

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