La semaine en France: Week 5

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.

Ligue 1
It was a case of plus ça change for the big clubs as Ligue 1 resumed after the international break, with Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux all failing to win again. Leaders Toulouse lost their 100 percent record when they fell 1-0 at home to Saint-Etienne and Rennes are now a point off the lead after beating Sochaux 2-1.

Lyon were much improved against Valenciennes at Stade Gerland on Saturday and took the lead in the 26th minute when young midfielder Jérémy Pied nodded in his first Ligue 1 goal. Lyon handed home debuts to Yoann Gourcuff and Pape Diakhaté but were pegged back 21 minutes from time when Gaëtan Bong climbed above Maxime Gonalons to equalise. With five points from five games, it’s Lyon’s worst start to a league season since 1995.

Things are no better for Marseille, although they, too, played some good stuff in a 2-2 draw at home to Monaco. The hosts twice went behind, only for Mathieu Valbuena to dig them out of a hole on both occasions. He cancelled out Daniel Niculae’s opener with a superb rising shot into the top-right corner and then produced OM’s second equaliser with a low cross that Adriano turned into his own net. Park Chu-Young had put Monaco 2-1 up by capitalising on a mistake from Stéphane Mbia, who looked less than assured on his return to action following a month out through injury.

Bordeaux remain in the bottom three after they went down 2-1 at Nice. Arles-Avignon continue to prop up the table following a 4-0 thrashing at Paris Saint-Germain – pushing coach Michel Estevan towards the exit – while Lens are second-bottom after losing 4-1 to Lille in an extremely spiky Derby du Nord. Former Toulouse man Laurent Batlles ended TFC’s winning streak with the winner for Saint-Etienne, who are now up to third.

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Nenê (Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Arles-Avignon)

Player of the week: 
Nenê (Paris Saint-Germain, pictured)
Christophe Dugarry admitted over the weekend that he didn’t think Nenê would be a success at PSG following his €5.5 million summer switch from Monaco. The former France international was convinced the 29-year-old Brazilian would quickly be distracted by the bright lights of the French capital, but Nenê’s performance against Arles suggests he’s having no problems with off-pitch distractions at the moment. His audacious dribble down the right paved the way for Guillaume Hoarau to volley the hosts ahead and it was from Nenê’s right-wing corner that Mamadou Sakho doubled PSG’s lead. The former Real Mallorca man got onto the scoresheet himself in the second half, first with an inch-perfect free-kick and then a delicate chipped finish, and even managed to squeeze a goal-line clearance into his repertoire in the dying minutes. Nenê was to prove PSG’s match-winner again on Thursday, when his second-half goal secured an impressive 1-0 win at Sevilla in the Europa League. Not a bad week for someone whose name roughly translates as ‘booby’ in French.

Quote of the week
“There were hundreds of objects on the touchline. The Lille players could quite easily have been hit as well. I could hear people shouting behind my back from the stands: ‘We’ve hit you, now we’re going to finish you off!’ … I’m having trouble sleeping. I wake up every two hours, I see the stadium again, I feel a kind of vertigo. The stadium spins around me.”
– Assistant referee Emmanuel Boisdenghien, who felt the wrath of the Lens fans during Lille’s 4-1 victory at Stade Félix-Bollaert. The home side finished with nine men after Sébastien Roudet and Issam Jemâa were sent off either side of half-time.

Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Bordeaux have lost 11 times in Ligue 1 in 2010, which is worse than any other team in the top tier apart from Sochaux (13).

Top goalscorers
4: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
3: Daniel Braaten (Toulouse), Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Nenê (PSG), Daniel Niculae (Monaco), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre)

Top assists
3: Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Anthony Mounier (Nice)
2: Henri Bedimo (Lens), Jimmy Briand (Lyon), Julien Feret (Nancy), Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux), Sambou Yatabaré (Caen)

Week 6 fixtures
Saturday: Lorient v Caen, Monaco v Toulouse, Nancy v Brest, Saint-Etienne v Montpellier, Sochaux v Nice, Valenciennes v Lens, Arles-Avignon v Marseille; Sunday: Lille v Auxerre, PSG v Rennes, Bordeaux v Lyon

Lyon opened their Champions League account with a 1-0 win at home to Schalke in Group B on Tuesday, but there were narrow defeats for Marseille and Auxerre. Lyon prevailed thanks to a Michel Bastos goal mid-way through the first half at Stade Gerland. Schalke never recovered from the 38th-minute dismissal of Benedikt Höwedes, who was shown a baffling straight red card for a high foot on Jimmy Briand.

Marseille were extremely unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Spartak Moscow – a result Didier Deschamps described as a “nightmare”. OM dominated much of the game and saw Lucho González head wide of an open goal from all of four yards before César Azpilicueta cruelly deflected Dmitri Kombarov’s cross past Steve Mandanda for an own goal in the 81st minute. Spartak returned to Russia with all three points despite failing to register a single shot on target, while Marseille must now brace themselves for a trip to Chelsea. Auxerre manfully took the game to Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday, hitting the crossbar through Dennis Oliech in the first half, before a Zlatan Ibrahimović brace secured a 2-0 victory for the hosts.

In the Europa League on Thursday, Lille went down 2-1 at home to Sporting but Paris produced one of the results of the night to win 1-0 at Sevilla through a deflected strike from man of the moment Nenê.

Bonus material
For reasons known only to himself, Ludovic Giuly decided to perform an impromptu striptease while watching France’s 2-0 win against Bosnia earlier this month in a Paris bar. Someone in attendance managed to capture the whole thing on video, but the fact they didn’t appear to have noticed Giuly was in the bar until he started taking his clothes off suggests there may be more to this stunt than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, my interview with the superb European Football Weekends blog on French domestic football can be found here.

3 Responses to “La semaine en France: Week 5”

  • Martha:

    Have heard the Giuly video is part of a campaign for a video game of some sort, but it’s so great on its own, I think I will choose to ignore any proof that surfaces that it is, indeed, something else entirey.

  • Roland:

    Again Tom, some great tidbits. Long time reader here.

    Although you are being modest, I really do think you should promote your interview more as a way of “learning more about French Football.” The interview was fantastic and very insightful – especially to those that have demonstrated some interest in Ligue 1. As a sociologist who is interested in cultural studies, I definatley would like to hear more of your thoughts on the PSG Supporters. Personally, I don’t understand how Lyon and particularly Marseille are not considered “major” clubs on the world front – their talent is astounding!

    While I am sure your very busy, I think many of us would like more information on why Eden Hazard has chosen to stay at Lille OSC – is this not a breath of fresh air? More importantly, and I DEFINATLEY will hold you accountable – I think we all would like to know how you would describe the French and Ligue 1 Style. The Premier League and Serie A have their own styles, how about the Ligue 1?

    • Tom:

      Thanks for your comment Roland.

      I think if I had to describe the Ligue 1 style, I’m afraid I’d have to say it’s overly defensive and low on high-risk attacking play. The dominant formation is 4-2-3-1 (although Marseille won the title with a 4-3-3 last season), with most sides packing the midfield and hoping for moments of inspiration from a couple of creative wide players. There are a few sides who play decent, enterprising football though. Bordeaux have played some good stuff over the last few seasons, Lille were terrific going forward last term and Sochaux have looked good at times this season – the quality of their football in the 4-0 win against Nice on Saturday was particularly impressive.

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