Ligue 1 so far, seven games in
While it is only seven games into the Ligue 1 season, we are starting to see how things about starting to pan out. As predicted Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille are the top three and Grenoble is struggling. Yet there are a number of teams that are playing over and under their potential. The same thing can be said about some players as well.
The under achievers?
There is one team of note that is playing way under their potential. Lille entered this season with a lot of promise, and a lot of talent as well. Players that might not be known outside the Ligue 1 world, like Pierre-Alain Frau, Robert Vittek, Florent Balmont, Ludovic Obraniak and Eden Hazard (though that is changing) are stars within France. And, with these players, Lille had a great chance to make it to the top five this year.
But playing from behind and a lack of goal scoring has lead to a team that is currently lying in 17th place, only two goals away from relegation. If the Northern France side plans on getting back to their winning ways, they have to continue to work the ball to Beglian international Eden Hazard. Hazard, who many link to a move elsewhere soon, has proved in his short time in Ligue 1 play that he is amongst the best offensive midfielders in the game. He also plays striker as well, and can really move around the pitch. Yet, much of their play seems to be coming from Vittek, who is a great player in his own right.
This week Lille will play against a struggling Boulogne, who are starting to slide down the league table.
The over achievers?
Easily, Montpellier. A team that most people expected to be in the relegation zone this year has impressed so far with a number of good results. Last week they beat fellow promoters Boulogne to remain in a strong 4th place, 8 points clear of the relegation zone.
Part of their success has been from 24-year old midfielder Alberto Costa. Costa has already scored three goals this season, and is looking to add more. Even with Costa playing so well, Montpellier has done a great job distributing the ball to other players in the past few games.
Still, even if many people expect them to fall back to earth, their play against Marseille last week was quite impressive, even if the score was 4-2.
Will they be relegated? I don’t think so, but it will be a challenge for them to stay in the top half.
Olympique Marseille was the team at the start of the season that everyone expected to win it all. And, so far, they have looked far from impressive. While they are still in 3rd place in the league standings and have only one loss so far, the team from the South has looked very unimpressive so far this year.
With a number of great players on the team, only Mamadou Niang and Benoit Cheyrou have looked impressive. Lucho Gonzales has had a slow start since coming back from injury, but is looking better with each passing game.
Still, while the team looks like a great group in individuals, they don’t seem to gel together well as a team. Unlike Bordeaux, who seem to know where everyone is on the pitch and can really read the plays, it seems like Marseille players try to do all the winning plays by themselves. Even players that should be holding and distributing the ball are trying to put the ball on target, even when they are yards away.
I put this lack of concentration and cohesiveness on the shoulders of Didier Deschamps. I think he was a great player and he did a good job as manager of Juventus. But getting out of Serie B with a powerhouse team is a lot easier than staying on top of Ligue 1 with equal competition at the top. I don’t know if there is a struggle between players and coach, but the players seem to want to be on the highlight show more than at the top of Ligue 1.
They have the talent, but just don’t have the ‘team’. Maybe Deschamps isn’t the guy for the job, but we shall see.
While they did pull defeat from the jaws of victory last weekend against Lyon, Toulouse has to be the most underrated teams. They are sitting quietly in 11th places while playing a under their potential season so far.
The reason that I consider them underrated is because everyone concentrates around Andre-Pierre Gignac. Gignac is an amazing player and can do wonders with the ball, both scoring and passing. But there are more players on the team than Gignac, and Lyon realized that last week.
Toulouse have a number of great players that I mentioned in a previous post from the preview of the Lyon vs. Toulouse game. Braaten, Didot, Berson, Cetto and goaltender Pele have all been solid players. Their play will continue to get strong as the players get healthier. Still, if anyone watched the first half of the Lyon vs. Toulouse game on Saturday, one could see why Toulouse could have been up 3-0 just after a few minutes.
Watch Toulouse this year, they might just sneak up there.
Though he started off the season injured, and he has worked his way back into the Paris St-Germain lineup, striker Guillaume Hoarau has looked far from impressive so far. For being the almighty scorer that he has been the past two seasons, this year he looks to be falling back to earth. His play has been far from impressive. He doesn’t seem to handle the ball well. When he does shoot, it has been way off target a number of times.
The last four games he has played all 90 minutes, and is usually outshone by a number of his teammates. With Ludovic Giuly playing well on the right-wing and Mevlut Edring (though he is injured) looking impressive in the few games that he has played, Antoine Kombouare might be hard pressed to sit a healthy , when he is 100%, over a healthy Hoarau. Could PSG play a 4-3-3 with Edring, Hoarau and Luyindula as the forwards?
Still, Hoarau needs to show that he is the player that PSG fans raved about last year. As of right now, I don’t see it.
Nice has looked horrible this year. Along with Lille, I think many people had expectations for Nice this year. Their play has look far from great this year.
Except for one player. It seems that the only player that has any drive to win on Nice is striker Loic Remy. In the few Nice games that I have watched this season, he could have scored a number of goals. He could have also assisted on number of them as well, but usually he was the only player moving up the pitch.
Remy could be a player that is on the move soon. As of today, Nice has done an overhaul of their team (which we will report later), where majority shareholder Gilbert Stellardo has decided to restructure the team, which has lead to the release of chairman Maurice Cohen. How will this change effect not only Nice, but the future of Loic Remy? We shall see if he is a player that is mentioned during the winter transfer window.