Five things we learned this week in Ligue 1

The drought continues – Paris Saint-Germain go three away games without a victory

PSG fans“It’s a problem” replied an abrupt and clearly agitated Salvatore Sirigu in his Canal + post-match interview. The problem of course that the Italian international, who signed a new four-year contract with PSG this week, was referring to is his club’s lack of conviction on away trips this season. So far, PSG have performed impressively in their opening matches of the season, however they have failed to do better than drawing in their first three away matches.

An albeit injury-hit Parisien squad travelled to Brittany’s capital to play a Rennes side that, despite causing an upset last season at the Parc des Princes in beating PSG, they were really expected to record their first away win of the season against. However, as it has proved to be so far this season, recording a first away win of the season would be easier said than done.

PSG’s injury list included David Luiz, Serge Aurier and their skipper Thiago Silva, so replacements came in the form of Van der Wiel, Marquinhos and the veteran Zoumana Camara. Asides from their defensive switches, PSG remained unchanged from the side that thrashed Saint-Étienne on Matchday 4. Rennes were set up in a typical rigid 4-5-1 formation with Ola Toivonen on his own upfront, with some fans joking that their coach Philippe Montanier had at last-minute changed his mind from playing a 9-1-0 formation. As expected, PSG started the game on the front foot, with the Parisien midfield trio of Motta, Verratti and Pastore endeavoring to dominate proceedings.

However, as was proven in earlier matchdays, Parisien domination hasn’t always lead to goals and this was very much the frustrating story of the first-half for Laurent Blanc’s side. A break through was finally made on 41 minutes when a goal came through the most unlikely of sources, when Zoumana Camara stabbed home a Gregory Van der Wiel cross to put the French champions ahead.

An increasingly noisy Stade de la Route de Lorient began to help push Rennes out of their defensive comfort zone in the second-half. A pivotal moment in the game came when Paul-Georges Ntep came on for Pedro Henrique on 55 minutes. Just 34 seconds later, Ntep fired a ball low into the box and Doucouré, who initially appeared to be offside, stepped over the ball, deceiving Sirigu inadvertently and causing the ball to nestle into the PSG net. The LFP initially awarded Doucouré the goal, but this was a decision that was quickly reversed, granting Ntep the rights to his third-goal in five Ligue 1 games this season. PSG failed to create any clear chances afterwards and a petulant Verratti was then booked for the third time this season, which means he will miss les Parisiens’ away trip to SM Caen next week.

Lavezzi, Matuidi and Cabaye all came off the bench to no great effect, capping off what was a completely underwhelming Paris Saint-Germain performance, however Montanier’s Rennais said deserve credit for the solidity and discipline they demonstrated throughout the match. The post-match Parisien report card will definitely read ‘could do better’, with PSG’s away form desperately needing to improve, especially ahead of Wednesday night’s away trip to Ajax in PSG’s opening UEFA Champions League game of the season.

Stade de Gerland joy for Lyon but things get worse for Monaco

Ending what has been quite simply a terrible run of form for Hubert Fournier’s side, Olympique Lyonnais defeated Leonardo Jardim’s AS Monaco side with a two-one victory at home on Friday’s opening Ligue 1 game of Matchday five. Boosted by this week’s news that their talisman Alexandre Lacazette has signed a new four-year deal with the club, OL set out to prove that they could turn their poor form around. An inspired performance from their twenty-four-year old goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who pulled off a number of impressive acrobatic saves, helped ensure that the three points would stay in Rhône-Alpes.

With doubts being cast about the future of Monaco’s one-time envious sporting project, a study by the Swiss-based CIES statistics institute  published on Tuesday predicted that Monaco could hope to finish fourth in the league this season, however Friday’s result will make that task even harder, with Monaco having recorded just four points out of a total of fifteen available to them so far this season.

What was immediately noticeable throughout the match was the defensive fragility of both sides. Slack marking on the part of both sides could have easily afford opposing team goals, but it was Lyon who first capitalized on thirty-minutes, when Lacazette expertly controlled the ball to play in Nabil Fekir who, on his return to the OL squad from injury, dispatched the ball past Subasic with his left foot.

In an exciting game that appeared to be becoming a bit more stretched, les Monégasques managed the pull a goal back just eight minutes later when Ocampos met a good ball from Kondogbia to equalise with a shot that for once Lopes was unable to stop. The two sides headed to dressing room with a goal each, but Monaco appeared to be coming onto a stronger game towards the end of the half.

Fournier’s side used the half-time break to regroup, and they looked a stronger side in the second-half. Monaco threaten, with a Berbatov header being diverted by the on form Lopes. Though not the most orthodox of goalkeepers, Lopes never fails to disappoint in terms of his agility and this helped him to being named a well deserved man of the match. Monaco’s exciting Belgium U21 Ferreira Carrasco also forced another good stop out of the Lyonnais stopper, but the three points went the way of the home side when left-back Tolisso fired home with a powerful finish on 73 minutes.

On the whole, Lyon probably deserved to win the match as a result of their decisiveness in front of goal. The Lyonnais support were audibly pleased with the victory and they will be hoping that this result will act as a springboard by which they can attempt to get their season back on track.

Monaco created an equal, if not larger, amount of chances, but they failed to convert in the second period and this proved to be costly. It was however a better Monaco performance than their recent disasters against Lorient and Bordeaux, and fans will take comfort from the attacking positivity they showed throughout the match.

Bordeaux miss out on top spot as they suffer first defeat of the season

Willy Sagnol BordeauxWilly Sagnol’s Bordeaux missed the chance to go two points clear at the top of France’s top-tier after they suffered a disappointing two-one away defeat at the Stade de Roudourou at hands of Guingamp on Sunday afternoon.

In a game in which Bordeaux’s game really failed to come together, Guingamp capitalized with a highly spirited performance which will have enthused their support greatly. Last season’s French cup champions will take great confidence from the result ahead of their away Europa League match on Thursday against Fiorentina.

The Guingampais 4-2-3-1 formation proved effective from the off, with Willy Sagnol’s side, who were organised in their now habitual 4-3-3 formation with their dynamic duo of Sertic and Khazri acting as the engine room of the midfield three.

However, Bordeaux failed to implement their usual style of play, with les Girondins’ looking disjointed between defence and attack. An early warning call came on ten minutes when Bordelais goalkeeper Carrasso had to block a strike from Mandanne, and moments later former Chamois Niortais defender Nicolas Pallois had to act decisively to thwart another Guingamp opportunity, using his strength to tackle.

However as the first-half progressed, the influence of the on-loan Newcastle United midfielder Sylvain Marveaux began to tell, with the 28-year-old looking every-inch the classy midfielder he had once been tipped to be as a Stade Rennais player. Marveaux got his first assist of the season when he used his cultured left foot to pick out Mustapha Diallo from a free-kick which the Senegalese international hammered home with his head past a helpless Cédric Carrasso.

Marveaux’s influence was felt again just eight minutes later when, on yet another well worked Guingampais counter-attack, he slipped the on-loan Nice winger Jérémy Pied in, but the former Lyon player was brought down by Mariano. Mandnane then coolly pushed the ball past Carrasso to make it two-nil.

Bordeaux, who were ultimately losing the midfield battle, responded by taking the uncharacteristically quiet Khazri off for Plasil, leading to Sagnol’s side shifting to a 3-5-2 in an attempt to try to win the ball back. In the second-half Bordeaux became more present in the match. Diabaté lifted the ball past Samassa on 83 minutes to score his third-goal of the season. With the outcome resting on the tightest of margins, a courageous Guingamp side managed to hold out to seal the three points. Samassa made an important save from a Diabaté shot in stoppage time to make sure his side would prevent Bordeaux going top of the table.

Marveaux’s performance was the highlight of what was an interesting and at times entertaining match. The Breton midfielder, who has a point to prove this season after being frozen out of his parent club’s plans, will be hoping that his form will continue and he will no doubt receive great plaudits if that turns out to be the case. Bordeaux should be disappointed with what was a performance which lacked any real tenacity or bite.

Perhaps slightly ironically, one of the most important consequences of les Girondins’ defeat is the fact that the result relieves pressure off their former coach Laurent Blanc, with the result keeping Paris Saint-Germain just two points off top LOSC in top position. A Bordeaux win would have seen Blanc’s side fall a full three points behind the Aquitaine-based club in the Ligue 1 standings.

Unbeaten LOSC in pole position

Lille LopesA confident and logical LOSC home victory at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy saw les Lillois maintain their so far unbeaten record in Ligue 1 this season, as well as taking top position in the Ligue 1 ‘classement‘. With goals at the earliest stages of the season looking hard to come by for René Girard’s side, things have taken a positive turn with Lille now scoring five times in their last three league games. A well-balanced and dominant Lille performance paid off with two early second-half goals earning LOSC the three points in a two-nil win.

It was LOSC’s two high-profile Premiership loan signings who fired the two vital goals. After sustained pressure from kick-off, on loan Liverpool attacker Origi met a cross from Florent Balmont to head his side one-nil up.

The goal was quickly followed up three minutes later when Origi was involved again. The Belgian set Manchester City’s youth starlet ‘Rony’ Lopes with a well weighted side-foot pass when he then dispatched with relative ease into the Nantes net, ending all Nantais hopes of winning points. LOSC are now one point ahead of Marseille in the Ligue 1 standings, having drawn twice and won three matches.

Marseille sink Evian to go second in Ligue 1

It took little more than thirty seconds for Marseille to open the scoring in a three-one victory which saw Marcelo Bielsa’s side move up to second place in the Ligue 1 table on goal difference, pushing ahead of their bitter rivals PSG. A rare appearance for the rumored Leicester City transfer target Rod Fanni, whose inclusion in the starting line-up came as a result of the changes brought about Benjamin Mendy’s hamstring injury, paid off immediately as he found Gignac with a ball over the top. Gignac mercilessly hammered home to point OM one-nil up. A deflected long-range Imbula goal then put the visitors two-up ahead of the half-time whistle in Annecy.

A surging second-half run from Payet proved crucial, as the former Saint-Étienne man, who has been on inspired form this season, managed to feed the ball through to Florian Thauvin who sealed the three points for Marseille with the third-goal. Nsikulu pulled a stoppage time goal back to restore some pride for Evian with a looping header which found its way past Mandanda.

Marseille fans will be delighted with the fact that, despite apparent arguments behind the scenes at the Vélodrome, Bielsa’s side now appear to be in consistent form. OM fans will be keen to note that they’ve been able to do something twice this season that PSG haven’t been able to do so far this season – win away from home.

The Author

Brendán MacFarlane

I'm a massive French football enthusiast, having fallen in love with all aspects and levels of the sport in France whilst working for a year in the town of Niort. As a French studies student, I'm constantly following what's going on in the French football media and bringing stories to the English-speaking world.

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