Ligue 1: Dominant teams stay dominant, Paris Saint-Germain F.C. stays on top

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Poland’s Kamil Jozwiak, second left, fights for the ball with Italy’s Alessandro Florenzi, second right, and Italy’s Nicola Barella and Italy’s Federico Chiesa during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Poland and Italy at Energa stadium in Gdansk, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

“Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity, oh there goes Rabbit, he choked, he’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy? No…” 

I use the words of Eminem in his legendary song “Lose Yourself” to once again bring up a recurring theme in these Ligue 1 reviews: the return of dominant teams being dominant. From Paris-Saint Germain to Olympique de Marseille and beyond, we will discuss their expected return to form and the effect it’s had on the league table. 

PSG convincingly defeated Nîmes Olympique 4-0 at the Stade Des Costieres on Friday, Oct. 16. Manager Thomas Tuchel was able to use both of his new signings, Brazilian midfielder Rafinha Alcântara and Italian striker Moise Kean. Attacking midfielder Neymar Jr. was not included in the squad, with the German manager choosing to rest him after the international break, with eyes on their Champions League encounter with Manchester United on Tuesday, Oct. 20.  

Rafinha was welcomed to France’s premier footballing division with a vicious tackle by center back Loïck Landre, leading with his studs into the Brazilian’s abdomen, subsequently receiving a red card. The vicious tackle seemed to have awoken Rafinha, who began to take advantage of the creative freedom given to him due to Neymar’s absence, playing an excellent through ball from his own half to forward Kylian Mbappé, who was able to round the keeper and put it into the back of the net to make it 1-0 Paris. 

Poland’s Kamil Grosicki, right, is challenged by Italy’s Alessandro Florenzi during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Poland and Italy at Energa stadium in Gdansk, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Mbappé dedicated this goal to a young French PSG supporter named Lucas, who is currently battling cancer. He pulled up his shirt and displayed the following message to the eight year old, “Be brave Lucas, I am with you.”  

Fellow new signing Kean had a golden opportunity in the 40th minute, finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper from less than two yards out, inexplicably not putting it into the back of the net, with Nîmes goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet pushing it aside for a corner. Kean will have to take full advantage of these opportunities if he wishes to solidify his place in the squad. Regardless, the signing is beneficial to Paris, as it only adds to their much-needed squad depth.  

Right back Alessandro Florenzi continued to show what he can bring to this squad, especially on the attack. Former fullback Thomas Meunier struggled to make an impact on the attack; the same cannot be said for Florenzi however, with the Italian international hitting the post twice before finally heading it into the back of the net for Paris’s second goal. 

Left back Juan Bernat’s injury has allowed Dutch international and fellow fullback Mitchel Bakker to prove his worth. The 20-year-old had struggled to get playing time, but because of fellow fullback Layvin Kurzawa’s inconsistency, he is now the number one option. Despite being thrown into the fire, he is thriving in his new role, helping in the attack, and making the case that he should be the full-time starter.  

Netherlands’ Memphis Depay, left, challenges Italy’s Leonardo Spinazzola during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Italy and the Netherlands at Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo, Italy, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Mbappe would score the third, and winger Pablo Sarabia the fourth to finish it off. In the late stages of the match, Kean hit the crossbar after strongly heading it towards the net, showing the promise the Italian international has yet to take advantage of.  PSG moved to second in the table with 15 points, while manager Bernard Blaquart and his Nîmes squad fell to 16th with eight points.  

Olympique de Marseille finally got back to winning ways on Saturday, Oct. 17th, with André Villas-Boas’ men defeating FC Girondins De Bordeaux at the Stade Vélodrome.  

“Les Phocéens” went into the contest without a victory since matchday one. Manager Jean-Louis Gasset and his Bordeaux squad traveled to Marseille with wind in their sails, having just beaten Dijon FCO 3-0.  Although the team was expected to beat a team who sits last in the table, it was their first win since matchday one, and they would want to use it as momentum going into Saturday’s difficult match.  

Florian Thauvin scored a beauty in the fifth minute, curling one into the top-left corner from just outside the box. Despite the bad start, Bordeaux were able to test the goalkeeper and defense throughout the first half, with veteran keeper Steve Mandanda and company able to resist the pressure put on them by midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa, Yacine Adli and Rémi Oudin. 

Left back Jordan Amavi scored off a Thauvin free kick early in the second half, heading it backwards towards goal, with goalkeeper Benit Costil unable to get his hand on it. Despite the awkwardness of the goal, Marseille would take all they could get. 

Netherlands’ Memphis Depay, left, is challenged by Italy’s Danilo D’Ambrosio during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Italy and the Netherlands at Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo, Italy, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Soon after, Jordan Amavi’s shot inside the box would be deflected into the net by Bordeaux center back Pablo, giving “Les Olympiens” a 3-0 lead.  

Although victory was almost certainly assured, goalkeeper Mandanda did not let his guard down, saving a rocket of a free kick by center midfielder Toma Basic late in the second half. Bordeaux would get a consolation goal, with Josh Maja taking advantage of a disorganized backline to put it into the back of the net.  

Marseille moved up to sixth in the table with 12 points, while Bordeaux fell to 12th with nine points.  

It is perfect timing for Marseille to get back to winning ways, as their Champions League campaign begins Wednesday, Oct. 21st when they travel to Greece to face Olympiacos. It is the first time they are in Europe’s premier footballing competition since 2013-14.  

Olympique Lyonnais defeated RC Strasbourg Alsace in a nail-biting encounter that finished 3-2. 

Lyon traveled to the Stade De La Meinau having failed to win a match all season. Rudi Garcia was no doubt on the hot seat and needed to get a result. Moreover, they would be expected to defeat a team that had only won once this season.  

Strasbourg’s Ludovic Ajorque shoots the ball during the French League One soccer match between Strasbourg RCSA and Olympique Lyonnais at Strasbourg’s stadium La Meinau in France, Sunday Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

“Les Gones” came out hungry, viciously attacking the backline of Strasbourg and demonstrating their willingness to create offensively and look for goals. Forward Memphis Depay received a through ball that set him free, allowing him to run into Strasbourg’s final third. The Dutch international’s shot would be saved, however, with goalkeeper Bingourou Kamara making sure the score stayed 0-0 for the time being.  

Kamara would not be able to keep out winger Tino Kadewere’s strike, failing to save a simple shot that was struck right at him, deflecting off his legs and into the net. Memphis Depay would be the catalyst for the second goal, dribbling all the way into the right side of the box and playing a ball to the far post that was connected on by winger Karl Toko Ekambi.  

Ekambi would find the back of the net for a second time thanks to Depay, who squared it back to him inside the box, tapping it into the net for Lyon’s third of the day.  

Center midfielder Thiago Mendes’ efforts in these attacks cannot go unnoticed, making crucial passes that allowed the offense to flourish, and players to free themselves in the final third.  

Strasbourg would not go out without a fight, however. Left back Habib Diallo would score immediately after Ekambi’s second goal, and center midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou would make it a one goal deficit in the 55th minute. However, these goals would ultimately serve only as consolation, with Lyon dominating and causing mayhem in the attack thanks to a strong midfield that includes the likes of new signing Lucas Paquetá, and veteran French international Houssem Aouar.  

France’s Houssem Aouar, right, challenges for the ball with Ukraine’s Mykola Shaparenko during their friendly international soccer maths between France and Ukraine at the Stade deFrance in Saint Denis, north of Paris, Wednesday Oct. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Lyon moved up to ninth in the table with 10 points, while Strasbourg now sit in the relegation playoff spot at 18th with three points.  

The transfer window’s ending has allowed Depay and Aouar to put their full attention on Lyon. With interest from FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC distracting Depay and Aouar respectively, they can now perform to their best knowing that they will stay at the French club for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Garcia will be very happy this distraction has ended, as not only can they perform to their best, but the whole team can as well, as they now know both players are committed to the club.  

AS Monaco was saved at the death by veteran French forward Wissam Ben Yedder. Montpellier Hérault SC traveled to the Stade Louis II, having failed to win in their previous two encounters. Monaco lost a frustrating match to Stade Brestois 29, and would want to return to the promising form they had at the beginning of the season.  

Midfielder Téji Savanier would receive a red card in the 19th minute after going studs first into attacking midfielder Florentino Luís’s abdomen. Despite being a man down early, Montpellier were able to find themselves a goal after a terrible defensive mistake by Chrislain Matsima, losing the ball in his own half. 

The ball would be snatched up by forward Stephy Mavididi, who ran towards the Monaco goal and put it past goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte. Once again, we see the childish errors that are commonplace in this young squad inherited by Croatian manager Niko Kovač. 

Porto’s Luis Diaz, left, fights for the ball with Sporting’s Pedro Goncalves during the Portuguese league soccer match between Sporting CP and FC Porto at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Veteran Porteguese winger Gelson Martins would put “Les Monégasques” level. His quick, agile dribbling would make Montpellier wing-back Arnaud Souquet commit a careless challenge inside the box when attempting to take the ball off of him. Ben Yedder would slot the penalty home and level it up. 

Monaco lacked creativity on attack and relied mainly on individual efforts. Combine this with the fact Montepellier was content sitting back and taking a point from the match, we see why Monaco were not able to score a second. 

Monaco fell to eight in the table with 11 points, while Montpellier fell to seventh with 11 points.  

Monaco’s rebuild was bound to run into these “road bumps,” and will have to continue working on eliminating careless mistakes, and being more clinical in attack, if they wish to return to the form which saw them reach the semifinals of the Champions League in 2017.   

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