La semaine en France: Week 12

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 in many years, Sunday night’s ‘clasico’ between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille actually felt like an important game in its own right, as PSG’s 2-1 victory at the Parc des Princes took them above their hated rivals to third in the table.

Delays meant the Marseille team coach did not arrive at the stadium until an hour before kick-off and it appeared to take their players around 20 minutes to realise the game had actually started, with Mevlüt Erding and Guillaume Hoarau putting the hosts two goals to the good before Marseille responded through Lucho González.

Brest remain top, despite conceding their first goals in nine matches as they went down 3-1 at Lille. Moussa Sow’s close-range header brought Brest’s extraordinary clean sheet streak to an end after 832 minutes, but a magnificent volley by Romain Poyet (see below) provided some consolation for the promoted side.

Second-placed Rennes are now a point behind Brest – albeit with a game in hand against Marseille still to come on December 1 – following an engaging 1-1 draw at home to Lyon. Hugo Lloris had already been called into action three times before a well-taken strike by Jirès Kembo Ekoko put the hosts ahead in the fifth minute, but Rennes could not sustain their blistering early momentum and a deflected second-half free-kick by Michel Bastos earned OL a share of the spoils.

A Kévin Gameiro brace gave Lorient a 2-1 win at Saint-Etienne (who are now without a win in six games), which sent Les Merlus up to ninth. In the relegation zone, Lens and Monaco both moved to within a point of safety after beating Montpellier (2-0) and Nancy (0-4) respectively. Meanwhile, Arles-Avignon claimed their first success of the campaign, at the 12th attempt, with a 3-2 win at home to floundering Caen.

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Romain Poyet (Lille 3-1 Brest, 2:09):


Player of the week:
Nenê (Paris Saint-Germain)
Erding and Hoarau may have scored the goals that sank Marseille, but Nenê was without doubt the player who inflicted the most damage. Both goals stemmed from him, with Erding’s opener coming after Steve Mandanda had spilled a low shot from the Brazilian, who scooped a gorgeous pass over the visiting defence for Hoarau to dispatch PSG’s second. A constant source of invention and enterprise, he gave César Azpilicueta his most torrid game yet in a Marseille shirt and appeared to revel in his role of chief tormentor as Paris wound down the clock. If PSG really are on the brink of a return to former glories, Nenê is without doubt the symbol of their rejuvenation.

Quote of the week
“When you have Nenê in your team, it’s good; he wins lots of free-kicks. But watching him dive, dive and dive again makes you mad.”
– Souleymane Diawara  seemingly attempts to justify his appalling stamp on Nenê at the Parc des Princes, which looks set to earn the Senegalese centre-back a four-match ban

Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
There are 477 French players playing in Europe’s top five leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) – more than any other nationality.

Top goalscorers
8: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
6: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Nenê (PSG), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes), Moussa Sow (Lille)
5: Gervinho (Lille), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre)

Top assists
5: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
4: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)

Week 13 fixtures
Saturday: Bordeaux v Nancy, Brest v Sochaux, Marseille v Lens, Monaco v Arles-Avignon, Montpellier v Toulouse, Valenciennes v Saint-Etienne, Caen v Lille; Sunday: Auxerre v Rennes, Lorient v PSG, Lyon v Nice

Coupe de la Ligue
Auxerre stretched their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions with a 2-0 win at home to Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals on Tuesday. They will meet holders Marseille in January for a place in the final, after OM put their defeat by PSG behind them with a 2-1 win at home to Monaco. PSG’s all-conquering assault on every available piece of silverware continued with a 3-1 success at Valenciennes. Montpellier, 2-1 victors at home to Lille, complete the semi-final line-up.

Les Bleus
Laurent Blanc named his squad to face England in a friendly at Wembley on November 17 and the most notable inclusion was Éric Abidal. The Barcelona left-back has not played for his country since the World Cup but may be able to exploit the worrying recent form of Gaël Clichy and the continued absence of the banned Patrice Evra. Jérémy Toulalan and Lassana Diarra will be harbouring doubts about their international futures, however, after they were both overlooked despite the unavailability of injured fellow central midfielders Abou Diaby and Blaise Matuidi.

5 Responses to “La semaine en France: Week 12”

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Soccer Manager, Tom Williams. Tom Williams said: French football round-up – Week 12: PSG win the 'clasico', Diawara puts the boot in and Abidal earns France reprieve: http://bit.ly/a4nbdC [...]

  • [...] La semaine en France: Week 12 “For the first time in many years, Sunday night’s ‘clasico’ between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille actually felt like an important game in its own right, as PSG’s 2-1 victory at the Parc des Princes took them above their hated rivals to third in the table. Delays meant the Marseille team coach did not arrive at the stadium until an hour before kick-off and it appeared to take their players around 20 minutes to realise the game had actually started, with Mevlüt Erding and Guillaume Hoarau putting the hosts two goals to the good before Marseille responded through Lucho González.” (Football Further) [...]

  • Hi Tom. I have a few questions.

    I have watched Sochaux play a few times and they seem to play a mad formation with three attacking midfielders and two strikers. It was great to watch at the beginning of the season when they were banging in goals for fun(remember that 4-0 ? ) but now their defensive weaknesses are being exposed. Am i seeing things correctly and will they persist with the madness? Broken teams are not sustainable, just ask Maradonna.

    I am still not impressed with Lyon. The team just seems to be waiting for Gourcuff to produce some magic, no real team play. Does Gourcuff offer ANYTHING that Pjanic couldn’t do ? What are they thinking playing Kallstrom at left back when they have Bastos in the team ? Toulalan seems off his game and has rightly not been called up for France.

    Why are France so good at producing defensive midfielders? It is ridiculous how deep they are at that position. Any thoughts?

    • Tom:

      Hi defensiveminded. Thanks for your comment.

      I must admit, I’ve not watched Sochaux properly for a few weeks, but they’re still using the 4-1-3-2 formation that saw them put four goals past Nice in September. They’ve now gone five games without a win, however, so it’ll be interesting to see if Francis Gillot elects to change tack. I think the fact they managed to enjoy success despite deploying a seemingly unbalanced formation is down to the inherent defensiveness of most Ligue 1 teams. Almost every side in the division lines up with only one striker and a packed midfield, so loading your team with attacking players probably isn’t as risky as it would be in a league where attacking football was more common. Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti has long complained about teams whose only objective seems to be to keep a clean sheet, while Yoann Gourcuff said this weekend that Lille were the only team in the league who actually try to play decent football.

      Lyon’s situation is an interesting one. The way they set themselves up means that their system effectively lives or dies by the form of the playmaker, and as Gourcuff is struggling a bit at the moment, they’ve not been playing particularly good football. It’s also been a criticism of Claude Puel since he arrived at Lyon that the team has no unique style of play and they do often give you the impression of a team of richly talented individuals standing around waiting for something to happen. I rate Gourcuff very highly though and I expect him to come good in time. He was the driving force behind Bordeaux’s title success in 2009 and some of his performances in the second half of that season were positively Steven Gerrard-esque. Pjanic is unquestionably a very gifted player, but I’ve never seen him grab a game by the scruff of the neck in quite the same way. It also strikes me that he’s consciously trying to establish himself as a deep-lying midfield organiser, due to the competition he faces for the playmaking role at both club and international level. Regarding the left-back situation, Kallstrom was only filling in there because Aly Cissokho was injured and because Bastos tends to be used purely as an attacking midfielder. Toulalan has been out of form, but the game against Nice on Sunday was the first league match he’d started in almost a month due to injury.

      I think France’s success at producing talented holding midfielders boils down to the very structured format of youth coaching in the country. Unlike in the UK, where exceptional players grow up bossing weaker kids around on full-size pitches, elite youngsters are exposed to formal coaching much more quickly in France. They get split into age groups from the age of six onwards and there’s an awful lot of focus on the basic skills, such as touch, control and awareness. These are clearly key skills for defensive midfielders, and young players in France tend to have a better understanding of the need for players with different skill-sets to specialise in different positions. France’s colonial heritage also means they have been able to call on players of African descent such as Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele and Alou Diarra, who possess a muscularity and an athleticism that have come to characterise the role of the modern defensive midfielder.

      • Wow, epic response. I didnt expect so much detail. Thanks a lot man.
        Do you know where i can read more about player development in France? Even in French ?

        I love watching Lille play but they do not always take their chances which is frustrating. Maybe Sow can change that ?

        I don’t agree with Gourcuff about defensive play.This is the first year I have been able to watch the French league but Sochaux, Rennes, and PSG with their very attacking wingers play attacking systems. Lyon, Auxerre and Marseille are actually more defensive in their approach, probably because they have learned harsh lessons from playing Champion’s League football.

        Lyon are trying to take the next step in their evolution as a big club but they do not have the defensive depth needed to do so. If Cris, Cyssokho, Ravellier are out who do they have to come in? They should have spent that Gourcuff money on defenders and let Pjanic continue his development. I like Gourcuff but he was not a necessary purchase and now they HAVE to play him all the time and build the team around him even when he is off form. According to Swiss Ramble they are moving away from their tried and tested approach but world class defenders are still undervalued so why not buy them first ?

        Teams are going to have to start double teaming Nene because he is embarrassing every fullback he plays against.

        Anyway, thanks for the reponse.

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