A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.
The collective slump suffered by France’s elite clubs worsened in Week 2, with Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille all losing to leave them mired in the bottom five without a single win between them.
Marseille led the way with a 3-2 defeat at Valenciennes on Saturday, having fallen 3-0 down after barely an hour. Mamadou Niang (pictured), in his final game for the club before joining Fenerbahçe, spurned Marseille’s only chance of the goalless first half by falling over with only the goalkeeper to beat and was unceremoniously withdrawn in the 57th minute. Didier Deschamps said he had played “like he was trying to avoid injury”.
Injuries have crippled Marseille’s back line, with first-choice centre-backs Souleymane Diawara and Stéphane Mbia both out, and Lyon and Bordeaux are cursed with similar problems. Lyon went down 3-2 at Caen, despite a two-goal salvo from Bafétimbi Gomis, and lost Cris and Michel Bastos to matching torn thigh muscles for good measure. Claude Puel’s casualty list also includes Lisandro López (victim of a mysterious Achilles complaint) and Ederson, who somehow managed to badly tear his hamstring attempting to deliver a cross in Brazil’s friendly with the United States.
Bordeaux fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Toulouse and will be desperate to welcome back goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso and Michaël Ciani from suspension for Sunday’s trip to Paris, but Alou Diarra looks set to stay at the club for the time being after Deschamps said he was no longer looking for a holding midfielder.
Toulouse and Caen are the surprise joint-leaders, while Paris Saint-Germain demonstrated their new-found solidity in an impressive 0-0 draw at Lille. Nancy and Lorient proudly unveiled their controversial new artificial pitches and then made a mockery of speculation it would give them an unfair advantage by both losing.
After ceding Niang to Fenerbahçe and incurring the wrath of Hatem Ben Arfa for blocking his proposed move to Newcastle, Marseille were finally in a position to announce some signings of their own. Loïc Rémy (who joined on Thursday) and André-Pierre Gignac (who has agreed personal terms) may not be the world-class strikers targeted by Deschamps at the start of the transfer window, but they are both proven Ligue 1 performers and will provide variety in attack now that Niang has left and Ben Arfa appears destined for Werder Bremen. The combined fee for the pair is expected to be in the region of €33 million, which will flummox Marseille fans wondering why OM failed to raise the €7.75m needed to buy out Diarra’s contract at Bordeaux.
Elsewhere, rumour and counter-rumour were the order of the day. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said Yoann Gourcuff would be the “ideal” signing for his club but admitted that neither he nor Santos playmaker Ganso would be arriving at Stade Gerland. Tottenham were reported to be preparing an €8m offer for PSG winger Stéphane Sessegnon, while Rod Fanni’s long-mooted move from Rennes to Atlético Madrid inched snail-like towards completion.
Goal of the week: Ryad Boudebouz (Saint-Etienne 3-2 Sochaux)
Player of the week: Yohan Mollo (Caen)
Following closely in the footsteps of team-mate Youssef El-Arabi, Mollo produced a sensational attacking performance to set Caen on their way to victory at home to Lyon. He gave Anthony Réveillère such a headache that the experienced Lyon right-back was dismissed after just 46 minutes for two crude fouls on the on-loan Monaco winger. Mollo’s pass from the left set up Sambou Yatabaré for Caen’s second goal and he also created Ismaïlä N’Diaye’s delightfully taken 76th-minute winner with a delicate free-kick. He was awarded eight out of his 10 for his performance by L’Equipe – the highest rating of the week.
Quote of the week
“For me, this whole story of the commission of whatever is a nonsense, a masquerade so as to save face… They’ve played to the gallery. They should turn the page now, because Laurent Blanc needs to work peacefully. They’re real clowns, these people. I’m dying with laughter!”
– Nicolas Anelka pours scorn on the 18-match international ban handed to him by the disciplinary commission of the French Football Federation for his infamous outburst at Raymond Domenech during the World Cup
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Bordeaux’s Yoann Gourcuff has failed to complete any of his seven attempted dribbles in Ligue 1 this season.
2: Ismaël Bangoura (Rennes), Daniel Braaten (Toulouse), Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre), Loïc Perrin (Saint-Etienne), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
2: Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Sambou Yatabaré (Caen)
Week 3 fixtures
Saturday: Lens v Monaco, Lyon v Brest, Marseille v Lorient, Nice v Nancy, Rennes v Saint-Etienne, Toulouse v Arles-Avignon, Auxerre v Valenciennes; Sunday: Montpellier v Caen, Sochaux v Lille, PSG v Bordeaux
Auxerre were slightly unfortunate to lose the first leg of their Champions League play-off 1-0 at Zenit St Petersburg, having twice gone close through Ireneusz Jeleń and seen Dennis Oliech hit the crossbar after Aleksandr Kerzhakov had put the hosts ahead with an early header.
PSG took their good form into the European arena, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League play-off at a near-empty Parc des Princes, while Lille drew 0-0 at Romanians FC Vaslui.
The FFF’s decision to suspend the supposed ringleaders of the World Cup revolt was meant to draw a line under the affair, but served only to open a can of worms. Anelka’s heavy-handed ban seemed designed to turn him into a convenient scapegoat, particularly as he has made little secret of the fact he already considered his France career to be over. Eyebrows were raised at the fact Jérémy Toulalan was banned for just one game, even though it was his lawyer who drafted the statement announcing the infamous training boycott, while Franck Ribéry wondered aloud what he had done to deserve a three-game suspension when the rest of the squad had escaped scot-free.
Respected former Auxerre coach Guy Roux described the move as “stupid and mean”, Lorient boss Christian Gourcuff (Yoann’s dad) called it “hypocritical” and Marseille president Jean-Claude Dassier branded the decision “excessive”. In any case, Laurent Blanc will be unable to name Toulalan, Ribéry and Patrice Evra in the same starting XI until the friendly with Brazil on February 9 next year. Roux, meanwhile, suggested Anelka’s trademark beard would be white by the time he can be considered for selection again.