La semaine en France: Week 6

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
For the first time since February 20, 1982, Saint-Etienne are top of Ligue 1.

The 10-time champions won 3-0 at home to Montpellier last weekend to creep ahead of Toulouse on goals scored. Dimitri Payet continued his fine early-season form with two goals – a mazy dribble and finish followed by an inch-perfect free-kick – that also sent him clear at the top of the scoring charts. Toulouse slipped to second after a drab goalless draw at Monaco, while Rennes spurned the chance to go top when they drew 0-0 at PSG.

It all sets things up nicely ahead of Les Verts‘ trip to Lyon on Saturday for the 100th Derby du Rhône, particularly after Lyon’s miserable form continued with a 2-0 defeat at Bordeaux. Yoann Gourcuff, roundly booed on his return to Stade Chaban-Delmas, was unable to inject any invention into Lyon’s play and the visitors found Cédric Carrasso in superb form on the rare occasions they breached Bordeaux’s back line. Alou Diarra headed Jean Tigana’s side in front early in the first half and Jussiê made the game safe with a delightful goal in injury time.

Bordeaux climbed to 13th (four places above Lyon) and Marseille were also on the rise, jumping to seventh after putting three unanswered goals past rock-bottom Arles-Avignon. André Ayew scored twice against the side with whom he spent last season on loan and Arles have responded to their plight by sacking coach Michel Estevan, who said on Thursday that he found the experience “humiliating”.

Performance of the weekend was Sochaux’s 4-0 demolition of Nice. Les Lionceaux scored four beautifully constructed goals and are three points behind Saint-Etienne in fifth ahead of their trip to Marseille.

In other news, PSG goalkeeper Apoula Edel was cleared of wrongdoing by French police after allegations by his former agent that he is 29 (rather than 24) and really called Ambroise Beyaména.

Ligue 1 table

Coupe de la Ligue
There were a number of upsets in the third round of the French League Cup in mid-week, with Toulouse losing 2-1 at Ligue 2 Boulogne-sur-Mer and Rennes falling to a 3-1 defeat at Breton neighbours Guingamp, who won the Coupe de France in 2009 (beating Rennes in the final) but are currently languishing in the third tier. Sochaux were beaten 2-0 at home by Bastia, but Saint-Etienne maintained their good form with a 2-0 win at home to Nice and Bordeaux eked out a 2-1 victory at Nancy.

Goal of the week: Marvin Martin (Sochaux 4-0 Nice)

Player of the week: Marvin Martin
Martin already leads the way in the Ligue 1 assists table and on Saturday he claimed his second goal of the season with a succulent lob against Nice. “I saw the goalkeeper out of the corner of my eye but I thought he was further forward than that,” admitted Martin in L’Equipe. “For now it’s the best goal I’ve scored in Ligue 1.” Martin is the ringleader of a band of richly talented young forwards at Sochaux. The average age of the goalscorers against Nice – Martin, Ideye Brown, Ryad Boudebouz and Modibo Maïga – was under 22 and Martin, on current form, is the pick of the crop.

Quote of the week
“He’s opened our eyes and explained to us that the club doesn’t just revolve around us. There are the administrative staff, the gardener, the people who work in the kitchen… And they depend on us, because if we have poor results, it has repercussions for them.”
– Bakary Sako explains how Christophe Galtier has turned Saint-Etienne from relegation candidates into table toppers in the space of six months

Stat of the week
(courtesy of OptaJean)
Lyon are the only team in Ligue 1 who are yet to score in the second half this season.

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

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

Week 7 fixtures
Saturday: Auxerre v Nancy, Caen v Bordeaux, Lorient v Monaco, Marseille v Sochaux, Montpellier v Arles-Avignon, Nice v Rennes, Lyon v Saint-Etienne; Sunday: Brest v Valenciennes, Toulouse v Lille, Lens v PSG

Bonus material
Philippe Mexès was very harshly sent off in Roma’s 2-1 defeat at Brescia on Wednesday and reacted with an extraordinary tantrum that saw him forcibly restrained by his team-mates before leaving the pitch on the verge of tears. He was undoubtedly right to feel aggrieved about his dismissal, but his reaction may well have cost him the chance of becoming Laurent Blanc’s long-term France captain.

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