Nantes, currently in 17th place in Ligue 1, trail Auxerre, the first non-relegation-placed team, by a single point as they prepare to face Lille on Saturday. With only two matches to play, Les Canaris find themselves under immense pressure, with coach Pierre Aristouy looking for help anywhere he can find it to pry his team out of a streak of thirteen winless league matches and fight for their Ligue 1 survival.
Acknowledging the issue, Pierre Aristouy expressed his frustration with certain players following the team’s 0-3 defeat against Montpellier at La Beaujoire last Saturday. Consequently, before their upcoming clash with Lille, who currently sit in 5th place with 63 points, the Nantes coach attempted to boost morale and instill confidence in his players. Aristouy emphasized the significance of maintaining a positive mental attitude, explaining, “The mental dynamics are very important in these anxiety-provoking moments. You have to play your game without looking at what is happening in Toulouse and Auxerre next Saturday. And you have to reach out to these men, because you can say things, but another thing is what you do.”
The coach inherited a difficult situation. With that in mind, he has been preparing a video of the Europa League draw against Juventus to show the squad what they were capable of just months ago, and that now they must deal with their reality: “It can also remind us that two months ago, we were playing Juve and that we are playing for survival today. The first thing I said to players this week is that to fully commit to a mission, you have to accept the situation. I have the feeling that some are in denial about playing survival when just two months ago they were playing Juventus and a Coupe de France final.”
The French coach also emphasised the need to avoid dwelling on a painful past for too long. Instead, he reminded the players of their ability to achieve remarkable results, citing concrete examples from the current season and the previous year. In doing so, he aimed to hold them accountable while simultaneously instilling confidence that they possess the capability to rise to the occasion.
The Nantes coach was also questioned in his press conference about whether he asked certain players, who had appeared apprehensive, whether or not he could not rely on them: “I didn’t say it like that. We made a comeback. I listened to and analysed their reactions to the press after the match. We must not draw important conclusions from them, but there are attitudes and words that can say a lot”
The coach’s words and tactics may have come across as harsh, with reports of some players being unhappy. “No. I asked them the question: ‘If any one of you no longer feels you want to continue on this mission, say so, in front of everyone, it’s better. If that’s not possible, come and say it in private.”
Aristouy may have found players and bad habits that are causing issues. But the alternative of playing young and inexperienced players with two very important games on the line may be too big of a task, and there is not enough time to make any real changes. Nantes will need to be at their best and hope luck is on their side to play in Ligue 1 next season.
GFFN | Tony DesRois