Posts Tagged ‘Claude Puel’

La semaine en France: Week 28

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
And then there were four. After defeat at Auxerre and a draw at home to Montpellier, Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 loss at Marseille in last Sunday’s ‘clasico’ effectively ended their hopes of pipping Lille to this season’s title.

A lively encounter at Stade Vélodrome saw OM prevail through a header from the irrepressible André Ayew, after Gabriel Heinze’s 16th-minute free-kick had been cancelled out by Clément Chantôme. It left PSG 10 points behind Lille and five points below the Champions League places. PSG’s fatigue was plain to see during a second half in which they never quite managed to put Marseille under pressure and Antoine Kombouaré was quick to point out that it had been their 11th game in five weeks. Worryingly for the Coupe de France semi-finalists, the last five of those have all ended in defeat.

With 10 games to go, Lille are four points clear of second-placed Marseille after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Brest. Their new-found ability to grind out results, as opposed to blasting teams off the pitch like they did in December and January, only strengthens the conviction that the leaders are not about to collapse with the finishing line in sight.

An 87th-minute header from Kévin Théophile-Catherine earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at Lyon that left the visitors third and the hosts fourth. Lyon are now six points off the pace and Théophile-Catherine’s goal could have far-reaching ramifications for the 2002-2008 champions, with Monday’s L’Équipe openly speculating that this season will be Claude Puel’s last.

Lens stunned Montpellier 4-1 at Stade de la Mosson but remain second-bottom, four points from safety. Monaco, one place higher, are also in serious peril of sliding into Ligue 2 after a 1-0 defeat at home to Nancy left them three points beneath 17th-placed Auxerre.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 2-0 Sochaux, Brest 1-2 Lille, Lorient 0-0 Saint-Etienne, Montpellier 1-4 Lens, Toulouse 1-1 Nice, Valenciennes 2-2 Bordeaux, Lyon 1-1 Rennes; Sunday: Caen 2-0 Arles-Avignon, Monaco 0-1 Nancy, Marseille 2-1 PSG

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Tactics: French sides flock to worship at altar of 4-2-3-1

A peculiar tactical phenomenon has been witnessed in France in recent months. In a microcosm of global trends that have shaped the game over the course of the last decade or so, Ligue 1’s top sides have all – without exception – begun to ditch their preferred formations in favour of a 4-2-3-1.

Marseille, whose title and Coupe de la Ligue successes last season were founded on a pragmatic 4-3-3 shape, were the first team to make the switch. For the crucial Champions League group game at Spartak Moscow in November, Mathieu Valbuena was moved infield from the right flank and allowed to adopt the central playmaking role that he covets. Didier Deschamps wanted to capitalise on the fact that Valbuena “is very accurate with his shooting” and the France international proved as much in the 18th minute when he put OM ahead with a precise, curling effort into the top-right corner. Marseille went on to win 3-0, in what was their most coherent performance of the season to date, and their 4-2-3-1 continues to emerge for high-pressure encounters, such as Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.

Another team synonymous with the 4-3-3 in recent years has been Lyon. Towards the end of the first half in their 4-1 win at Saint-Etienne last month, however, Yoann Gourcuff was allowed to advance a little further forwards and occupy the role of the classic number 10 that was his at Bordeaux. With Jérémy Toulalan and Kim Källström retreating into deep, central positions, it meant Lyon were playing a 4-2-3-1 and Claude Puel reflected that it gave the team “a certain balance”.

The switch brought the best out of Lisandro López, moved to the left flank in support of central striker Bafétimbi Gomis, in much the same way that André-Pierre Gignac’s best form for Marseille has coincided with the times when he has played from the left in support of Brandão. Occasionally isolated when used as lone strikers, both López and Gignac appear to relish seeing more of the ball and both men are particularly adept at cutting inside and shooting at goal with their stronger right feet.

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Report: Lyon old boy Benzema gives Real Madrid edge

“LYON, France — Karim Benzema scored against his former club Lyon to earn Real Madrid a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report can be read here.

French football quotes of the year 2010

The World Cup

“As I’m an optimistic person, I’m going to say that I have a 100 per cent chance [of going to the World Cup].”
– Pride comes before a fall for Patrick Vieira

“I read the letter. I don’t think the players wrote it. It was typed out on a computer and there were no spelling mistakes.”
– French Football Federation general secretary Henri Monteil lets the world know exactly what he thinks about the intellect of the average footballer after reading the statement released by the France squad explaining their training boycott

“Go on Yoann, you’ll be alone on the pitch. Everyone will see you and you’ll be a media star.”
– What Franck Ribéry allegedly (emphasis on the allegedly) told Yoann Gourcuff on the France team bus after he threatened to break the training strike

“He sullied my name without trying to find out what happened. Lilian thinks he’s the new coach, the president of the federation and the president of the [French] Republic… Walking around with books on slavery in glasses and a hat does not turn you into Malcolm X.”
Patrice Evra on Lilian Thuram, after the France 1998 stalwart called for him to be banned from the national side for life

“They’re real clowns, these people. I’m dying with laughter!”
– Nicolas Anelka pours scorn on the unprecedented 18-match international ban handed to him by the FFF


“You should see him in the changing room: he sings French rap. He’s even learnt the song the Bordeaux fans chant to wind me up: ‘Oh, Diawara, go fuck yourself/You have got no loyalty!’”
Souleymane Diawara on Lucho González’s successful integration in the Marseille changing room

“The baguette. It’s amazing how good it is, the baguette.”
– Lyon’s Argentine attacking midfielder César Delgado, when asked what he would remember most fondly from his time in France

“Steve makes me laugh with his fake Marseille accent. A black guy from Normandy with a Marseille accent – it sounds wrong to be honest!”
Guillaume Hoarau upbraids former Le Havre team-mate Steve Mandanda for his efforts to blend in at Marseille

“We don’t talk. We played one year at Arsenal without talking. There were other people who didn’t talk to him either. The collective cause was more important, though, and we got on with things.”
Samir Nasri lifts the lid on his (non-)relationship with former Arsenal team-mate William Gallas

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La semaine en France: Week 16

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
Just as Marseille looked to be gathering momentum, a setback arrived in the form of a 1-0 defeat at Nice. Little matter that OM dominated the game at the home of their Mediterranean near neighbours. They barely created a chance of note and were punished in the second minute of injury time when former Reading man Emerse Faé side-footed home unmarked from Anthony Mounier’s cut-back.

Defeat saw Marseille drop to fourth, a point behind Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain and two shy of leaders Lille, who rompted to the top of the table – and the scoring charts – with a scarcely credible 6-3 annihiliation of Lorient. The game, postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to snow, was chiefly remarkable for a perfect hat-trick from in-form Moussa Sow (see below), but Kévin Gameiro was unfortunate to finish on the losing side after claiming a smartly taken brace.

Rennes won 1-0 at home to Monaco on Saturday and PSG joined them on 27 points a day later by beating Brest 3-1. Nenê, again, supplied the breakthrough, with Mathieu Bodmer and Ludovic Giuly re-establishing the hosts’ lead after Nolan Roux had equalised. Bodmer was operating in a new role as the central attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, but PSG coach Antoine Kombouaré played down the significance of the tactical shift. “If we win, it’s because it’s the right formula. But I prefer 4-4-2.”

Lyon are fifth, level on points with Marseille, thanks to an injury-time winner from Lisandro López – his second goal of the game – in a 2-1 win at Montpellier. Bordeaux, eighth, also needed a late goal to salvage a point at Saint-Etienne, with Fernando’s 89th-minute header stretching Les Verts‘ winless streak to nine matches. Meanwhile, Sochaux’s 2-1 win at home to Valenciennes took them up to seventh.

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La semaine en France: Week 10

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
Setbacks for all of their major rivals allowed Marseille to move into second place last weekend and victory at home to leaders Rennes on Saturday night is guaranteed to take the defending champions back to the top of the pile for the first time since the end of 2009-10.

OM have yet to set anyone’s pulse racing this season, but in their 3-1 win at Lille they showed some of the pragmatism and composure that took them to their first league title in 18 years last term. On the back foot throughout the first half, they fell behind to a Yohan Cabaye effort in the 26th minute and would have been out of contention by half-time had it not been for a string of excellent stops from Steve Mandanda. Loïc Rémy scored twice in the second half, either side of a deflected strike by Lucho González, to extend Marseille’s run without defeat to eight games.

Rennes misfired once again in the continued absence through injury of striker Victor Hugo Montaño, losing 1-0 at home to Montpellier to cede the league’s last unbeaten record. Saint-Etienne slipped a place to third after Dimitri Payet ballooned a last-minute penalty over the crossbar in a 1-1 draw at home to Caen. Promoted Brest are now level on points with Marseille and Les Verts in fourth, having registered their fourth straight away win with a 2-0 victory at Bordeaux.

Paris Saint-Germain’s defensive frailties unexpectedly returned as they lost 3-2 at home to Auxerre, despite Nenê’s sweet curler having put them ahead after just 50 seconds, while Lyon’s recent momentum petered out in mystifyingly meek fashion in a 1-1 draw at Arles-Avignon.

Marseille’s fans were celebrating, meanwhile, after a court in the city suspended the Professional Football League’s (LFP) decision to ban away fans from this season’s two games between OM and PSG.

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Report: Perfectly placed Payet deepens Lyon gloom

“PARIS — Dimitri Payet scored the winning goal and cleared two shots off the line as Saint-Etienne earned a 1-0 win at local rivals Lyon on Saturday to pile the pressure on OL coach Claude Puel.”

My AFP match report can be read here.

Tactics: Lyon paralysed by chance of a lifetime

With 53 minutes to play and their opponent a man down in last night’s Champions League semi-final first leg in Munich, Lyon spurned the chance of a lifetime simply by failing to react. Franck Ribéry’s dismissal handed the visitors the initiative in a huge and unignorable way, but rather than reacting, Claude Puel’s side froze.

Ribéry’s sending off ultimately served only to highlight Lyon’s lack of tactical flexibility. Set up to be compact and strike on the counter-attack, as they did so magnificently against Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bordeaux earlier in the competition, when initiative and imagination were required they were found lacking.

Puel failed to do anything to exploit Ribéry’s absence. When Lyon returned to the field after the interval they did so in the same 4-1-4-1 they had adopted at the start of the match, with Lisandro López and the wide players César Delgado and Ederson working hard but with no-one taking a grip of the game in the middle of the pitch. Miralem Pjanić made some tentative forward forays but just nine minutes into the second half Jérémy Toulalan, unfortunately, saw red and the chance was gone.

Bayern, spared, sensed the momentum swinging back in their favour and they, crucially, capitalised by making changes. With Anatoliy Tymoshchuk anchoring the midfield after coming on for Ivica Olić, Bastian Schweinsteiger took it upon himself to push forward in support of Thomas Müller and Louis van Gaal profited from the change in tempo by introducing Mario Gómez to provide a focal point for the Bayern attack.

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A tactical guide to the Champions League semi-finalists

When it comes to surviving in the latter stages of the Champions League, it seems versatility is the key to vitality. One of the most notable things about the four sides that have made it to this season’s semi-finals is that all four have, to a greater or lesser extent, deployed formations and tactical systems that they do not use in domestic competition in order to reach the last four.

Defending champions Barcelona romped to an unprecedented six-trophy haul last year using a fairly classic 4-3-3 system that featured three narrow central midfielders and two goalscoring wingers (Thierry Henry on the left, Lionel Messi on the right) either side of a central forward (Samuel Eto’o).

This season, however, their shape has morphed into an assymetrical 4-3-3 that more closely resembles a 4-2-4. Messi has abandoned the right flank in order to occupy a roaming central role, from which he wreaked such havoc in Barça’s 6-2 humiliation of Real Madrid towards the tail-end of last season and the 2-0 Champions League final victory over Manchester United last May.

“Last year we won six titles and he played wide but we need him involved and sometimes he sees more of the ball when he plays more in the centre,” said coach Pep Guardiola after the 4-0 demolition of Stuttgart in the second leg of their last-16 encounter.

Messi’s place on the right flank has been taken by Barcelona B graduate Pedro Rodríguez – himself a capable goalscorer – with Bojan Krkić playing as the central striker in Zlatan Ibrahimović’s absence in the 4-1 quarter-final second leg win against Arsenal last week (right).

Seydou Keita, a goalscoring carillero in La Liga, plays almost as an orthodox left-midfielder, with both he and Pedro instructed to put pressure on the opposition’s full-backs when they lose possession. The attacking instincts of right-back Dani Alves allow Pedro to abandon the right flank when Barça go forward, with Messi also drifting into his former role on the right from time to time.

Internazionale, who will meet the La Liga leaders for a place in the final, have exchanged their 4-3-1-2 standard Serie A shape for a 4-2-3-1 that accommodates playmaker Wesley Sneijder and three strikers in the form of Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito.

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