Round six of the Ligue 1 season served as a reality check for all teams looking to take away the league title from Paris-Saint Germain. Despite the slow start, the Parisians demonstrated that it is going to take an extraordinary feat to dethrone them as champions of France’s premier footballing division.
The richest club in France hosted Angers SCO at the Parc Des Princes on Friday, Oct. 2, absolutely decimating them 6-1 in a game which saw new signing Alessandro Florenzi score his first goal for the club, an extraordinary volley from just inside the right side of Angers box.
Attacking midfielder Neymar Jr. then scored his first two goals of the season, with forward Kylian Mbappé and right back Alessandro Florenzi able to square it back to him at the top of the box, slotting it into the back of the net. Midfielders Julian Draxler and Idrissa Gana Gueye, along with Mbappé, scored the last three goals of the match to make it 6-1 for Paris.
Despite the great result, the headlines were stolen by a continued feud between PSG manager Thomas Tuchel and sporting director Leonardo Nascimento de Araújo. Tuchel expressed his discontent about the club’s lack of activity in the transfer market after the match. “If we stay like this, with this reduced squad, we cannot expect to have the same objectives, even though we could still reach them. In general, we lose too many players for nothing…” he said. Leonardo was questioned about the comments made by the German coach after the match. “We did not like these statements. The club did not like them, neither did I personally like them … If he decides to stay, he needs to respect the board’s strategy, the internal rules and the moment that the club is going through, which is delicate.”
This comes after reports from British media outlet The Daily Mail, which claimed PSG players were “losing faith in boss Thomas Tuchel.” Although this article was published after back-to-back losses to RC Lens and Olympique de Marseille — with form improving since then — players inside the dressing room are still very critical of the German, stating his only tactic is to “give the ball to Neymar.” Furthermore, relationships between key players have deteriorated, with Tuchel’s relationship with main striker Mauro Icardi said to be “cold.”
If Tuchel is able to get results, all will be forgotten. However, any slip-up will be used to get rid of him, with former manager Borussia Dortmund beginning his third season at the French capitol.
Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais met Sunday, Oct. 4 in what can only be described as anticlimactic. The “Choc Des Olympiques” may not be the biggest rivalry in French football, but it’s definitely a unique battle between two historic sides.
Undoubtedly, these two teams have the best squads they have had in quite some time. Lyon were able to keep the likes of midfielder Houssem Aouar and forward Memphis Depay, which only bolster an already solid team with players such as center midfielder Maxence Caqueret, right midfielder Karl Toko Ekambi, left midfielder Maxwel Cornet and striker Moussa Dembélé.
The opposing side has veteran fullbacks Hiroki Sakai and Jordan Amavi, who consistently go up and down the pitch, maintaining their tactical discipline in defense while serving in balls into the box in attack, attempting to find the head of strikers Darío Benedetto and Nemanja Radonjic, respectively. Moreover, right winger Florian Thauvin is a veteran member of the squad who has appeared more than 150 times for “Les Phocéens.”
Transitioning to what occurred in the match, the beginning stages showed Marseille coming out very sluggishly, something that does not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched them play in the past three weeks. Despite Lyon putting Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda under pressure, Thauvin took advantage of a Lyon loss of possession, finding attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet, who was able to slide it into the back of the net.
Payet’s solid performance would be cut short, however, as he was shown red for a reckless tackle on Lyon right back Léo Dubois, stepping on his ankle with the studs of his cleat. Although originally shown a yellow card, a VAR review would see the yellow card exchanged for a straight red. Like the beginning of the match, Lyon once again took control, with quick play around Marseille’s box leading to a penalty for “Les Gones,” after center back Álvaro Gonzalez stomped on left back Melvin Bard’s right foot.
Lyon continued dominating the match, testing Mandanda, who came up big for Marseille and arguably kept them in the game. However, it was Lyon that ultimately proved to be their own worst enemy, not taking advantage of the multiple chances they created, particularly a Memphis Depay cross that rolled across the six yard box and somehow was not put into an empty net by Thiago Mendes, who hit the post.
Marseille should definitely feel lucky to have left the Groupama Stadium with a single point, as the wasted opportunities by Lyon prevented this game from being a four or five goal defeat.
Manager Rudi Garcia and his Lyon squad will leave disappointed that they were unable to claim the three points, but content with the fact they finally seem to have found a style of play, revolving around possession and quick build-up play in the opposition’s half.
The pressure on manager André Villas-Boas will only continue to mount. His team has been performing dreadfully as of late, not winning their last four matches and looking very lost on the pitch. They should be eager to change things before the Champions League group stage, unless they wish to be embarrassed by Europe’s elite.
Marseille now stand 10th in the table with nine points, while Lyon stand 14th with seven points. The draw ultimately did not benefit either team, with both falling in the table as a result.
Niko Kovač’s men encountered a hurdle they were not able to overcome, and that would be Olivier Dall’Oglio and his Stade Brestois 29 squad when they traveled to the Stade Francis Le Ble on Sunday, Oct. 4.
Monaco continue working with a relatively young team that is still maturing before our very eyes, with center backs Benoît Badiashile and Chrislain Mastima, right back Giulian Biancone and defensive midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni all below the age of 20.
This inexperience ultimately led them to concede their first goal early in the match after not being able to handle an intense press from Brestois, losing the ball in their half and conceding off a cross put into the net at the far post by right midfielder Romain Faivre.
They commited this same sacrilegious error less than 10 minutes after the first, with veteran midfielder Cesc Fàbregas uncharacteristically losing the ball in his own half. Brestois striker Steve Mounie then took a shot on goal, just barely being cleared off the line by Monaco center back Chrislian Matsima.
Midfielder Sofian Diop and left winger Gelson Martins were two of the most creative players in this squad, moving the ball from side to side in the second half and finding fullbacks Giulian Biancone and Ruben Aguilar, putting crosses into the box that Stevan Jovetić — who came in for the sub-par Wissam Ben Yedder — was not able to connect on.
Aguilar continued to be the outlet for Monaco throughout the second half, but he could not put effective balls into the box, consistently missing the target or sending it out for a goal kick.
The best opportunity of the day came from center back Benoit Badiashille, who was one-on-one with the goalkeeper from less than a yard out, with his shot sailing into the stands. Despite putting Brestois under pressure for the majority of the second half, Brestois would hold on to the victory, taking all three points.
This result moved Brestois up to 11th in the table with nine points, while Monaco fell to sixth with 10 points.
Veteran players Fabregas, Ben Yedder and Jovetić have not been able to make their presence felt in a very average squad. It’s as if the inexperience and schoolboy errors made by these young players are toxic, with Ben Yedder playing below his usual standard, and Fabregas making uncharacteristic errors. Jovetić simply has not been able to find a rhythm with this young squad, once again demonstrating how difficult it will be to make an impact on this team.
Monaco’s faith will continue to trust in the former Croatian International, as they understand this rebuild will be a very grueling process. They’ve gone through three managers in the span of two years and understand that a job like the one Kovač did at Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany — revitalizing them and making it one of the Bundesliga’s best clubs — will not happen overnight.
Despite this, football fans are impatient. If Kovač does not show some sort of improvement in the squad by the end of the season, his stint at the club may well be over by next summer.