Ligue 1 Review | Metz fury as collapse closes door on late escape from bottom three

I don’t know whether to scream, cry, or laugh.” The anger was palpable as Laszlo Bölöni took to the mic to field questions from the press. FC Metz had seen their chances of escaping the bottom three go up in smoke after a contentious penalty and a harsh red card on talismanic forward Georges Mikautadze saw them collapse to a 3-2 defeat at home to Stade Rennais. 

The press conference was white hot as the manager exploded with a stinging critique of the referee’s performance. “These judgements,” he began, “wouldn’t even pass in amateur football. It’s not easy to referee and usually, when they make a decision it’s understandable. But when someone is blind – and I’m not referring to anyone specifically – they have a white cane. If we have VAR, use it!” 

This was hardly the first time that the Metz manager had lost his temper in recent weeks as signs that the pressure of attempting to guide the club away from the drop was beginning to take its toll on the experienced head. Only last weekend, Bölöni’s ire was focused on Paris Saint-Germain fielding a weakened team against their relegation rivals, Le Havre AC. 

Metz can see safety from where they’re standing 

The manager admitted to being annoyed by Luis Enrique’s decisions believing that it had helped Le Havre pick up an important point at the Parc des Princes something that would only damage Metz’s chances of survival. “How can I express myself? Who can talk about it? Maybe it’s intelligent if I shut up,” Bölöni vented. 

This weekend Le Havre had won just a few hours before Metz took to the field meaning that there was an imperative for Bölöni’s side not to drop any more points. A victory would only have allowed Les Grenats to draw level with Le Havre, and while they would not have escaped the bottom three, there would have still been a sense of hope to take into the final two games of the season. 

A defeat to Rennes means that Metz cannot lose either of their remaining games if they have any chance of escaping the relegation playoff spot, and with a visit from PSG scheduled on the final weekend of the campaign, there is the assumption that this will be a difficult task for a team that have lost half of their last 10 games. Hope has not quite been smothered out of existence yet, but it definitely has taken on the appearance of being crushed. 

Hope not pride cometh before the fall

It makes an easier narrative to point towards the Rennes game as the turning point in Metz’s season. However, it would put an unfair onus on the weight of the referee’s actions. The real reason why the club is in this position is not because of one game, but because financially Metz look ill-equipped to deal with the demands that have come with the jump from Ligue 2 to the top division of French football. 

They were not in a financial position to keep hold of Mikautadze during the summer when Ajax came in with an offer of around €13 million, and could only retain his services when a disastrous first six months in the Netherlands carved a path for a loan back to Les Grenats. Nor were they able to sack Bölöni despite a winless run from the 26th of November until the 3rd of March seeing the club plummet into the drop. 

The club have acted for much of the past six months with a flicker of belief that against all odds they would be able to escape the relegation zone. Mikautadze has played like a one-man rescue mission since returning in January, having scored 12 in 18 appearances for Metz, and there was a feeling that perhaps a minor miracle could happen. It can be cruel when that hope is damaged and the oasis is proven to be a mirage. 

This week’s Ligue 1 subplots
  • There were chaotic scenes of crowd trouble in Ligue 2 when ESTAC Troyes’s match against Valenciennes FC was suspended. Troyes owned by the City Football Group sit on the edge of two successive relegations. Read the full story HERE

  • Patrick Vieira was highly critical of RC Strasbourg Alsace’s performance against Le Havre over the weekend. The manager gave both barrels to his side, “I’m not even disappointed. I’m furious…” Read Viera’s post-match reaction reaction HERE.

https://twitter.com/GFFN/status/1787163808948978046

  • AJ Auxerre celebrated a promotion that has been nearly sealed as they defeated Paris FC 2-0. The team have not quite mathematically clinched promotion back into Ligue 1 but that did not stop the party starting at the Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps. Read more HERE


GFFN | Nick Hartland

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