Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vive le Foot!


Editors note: Due to technological problems, the first issue of Vive le Foot was delayed until today. Today's column should have run last Friday, before the season began. Not to worry, we're now caught up and our Fearless Frenchman shall return on Friday to preview the upcoming weekend's fixtures. -Sanford

Vive le Foot! is a new column that addresses the hot topics in French football through the national league, national team, and players playing abroad. The column also provides previews and picks of Ligue 1 games every Friday. This will also be a useful crash course in knowing who’s who in a pre-World Cup season and in a league that includes several underrated internationals.

Nothing much to be said about Auxerre, the Green Bay Packers of French soccer, but Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen should provide the goals and help them effortlessly remain in Ligue 1 while staying away from the top of the table.

The home of carmaker Peugeot, Sochaux lost striker Mevut Erding (TUR) but will welcome the interesting addition of American striker Charlie Davies from Swedish team Hammarby. I see them surviving this new campaign somewhere around the 15th spot.

Auxerre - Sochaux 2 - 0

Olympique De Marseille is this year’s favorite and arguably Ligue 1’s own “Galactiques” following the aggressive recruiting of Porto playmaker Lisandro Lopez (ARG), ex-PSG (via Manchester United and Real Madrid) Gabriel Heinze (ARG), veteran striker Fernando Moriantes (SPA), Rennes defender Stephane M‘Bia (CAM) and Souleymane Diawara (SEN). Add France # 1 goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and World Cup winner Didier Deschamps at the helm and Marseille is already the team to beat.

Grenoble did very well in its first season in Ligue 1 and much can be attributed to its Bosnian coach Mehmed Bazdarevic and attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli (FRA). But with little
reinforcement this year it could be a very trying campaign for the Isere side.

Grenoble - OM 1 - 3

Everybody seems to be a little too convinced that the hegemony of Olympique Lyonnais is over with the loss of the title for the first time in eight years (!!!) and the departures of Karim Benzema (FRA) to Real Madrid and L1’s superstar Junínho (BRA) to a Qatari side. Lyon has splashed the cash on nothing less than Lille midfield genius Michel Bastos (BRA), dental liability Aly Cisshoko (FRA), and Euro 2008 disappointment & St Etienne striker Bafetimbi Gomis (FRA).

Difficult to know what Le Mans will be up to this year since the constant bleeding of its talent doesn’t seem to impact its strength to remain in the first division, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team having difficulties finding points on a weekly basis.

Le Mans - Lyon 1 - 2

Toulouse took a surprise fourth place thanks to revelation Andre-Paul Gignac (FRA) and his nineteen Ligue 1 goals. If able to repeat such a feat, Gignac would certainly be heading to the Premier or the Liga next year…expect the southwest team to battle again for a European Cup spot this year but probably dropping out of the Top Five.

Monaco
has been criminally uneven the last few seasons and Guy Lacombe could possibly give the team the discipline and focus it needs, especially with its crop of young talent. Maybe a return to a Europa spot would then be attainable.

Monaco - Toulouse 2 - 2


Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) had somewhat of a renaissance last season battling until March for the title only to find themselves out of the Europa League by the end of the season. With Paul Le Guen gone to coach Cameroon and replaced by PSG semi-legend Antoine Kombouare, the summer recruiting saw the crucial extension of the two revelations of last season, top scoring runner-up Guillaume Hoareau (FRA) and Benin Number 10 Stephane Sessegnon, a player whose future shall belong to a top European team very soon. The recruiting of ex-International Gregory Coupet (FRA) in goal as well as young Turkish striker Mevut Erding from Sochaux and defender Christophe Jallet (FRA) from Lorient shall strengthen the group following the fall from grace of Jerome Rothen (FRA)…Meanwhile uber veterans and Champions League winners Claude Makelele (FRA) and Ludovic Giuly (FRA) will provide dressing room guidance.

Montpellier is making a comeback in the top flight and despite the disappointing firing of its overachieving yet loudmouthed coach Roland Courbis, they might be able to stick around next year due to a smart yet conservative policy of hiring experienced L1 players.

Montpellier - PSG 0 - 2

Let’s face it, Boulogne was about to be relegated to third tier National just over a year ago so the North team will have a hard time playing the big boys and avoiding relegation. Besides, can the region (that is also home to Lille, Lens and Valenciennes) really support four Ligue 1 teams?

Rennes replaced coach Guy Lacombe with Nice wizard Frederic Antonetti so it should be interesting to see the team possibly still battle for a Europa spot with a solid formation featuring French internationals Rod Fanni and Jimmy Briand, as well as American international Carlos Bocanegra.

Rennes - Boulogne 1 - 0

While Nice managed to hang onto its striker extraordinaire Loic Remy, St Etienne managed to get an amazing 15M euros for underachieving and chronically out of shape Gomis. But overall I find it difficult to imagine St Etienne doing much, especially after the 07/08 Ligue 1 winning coach Alain Perrin showed so little last year. As for Nice they should once again find themselves in the upper mid-table causing all sorts of trouble for the well-established teams.

St Etienne - Nice 1 - 1

Maybe Valenciennes’s most serious loss this year is that of coach Kombouare. And while the team has given itself the means to succeed, this could be the year when the squad’s feisty blandness finally shows it colors.

Hard to say where we will find Nancy at the end of the year but Isaar Dia (FRA) might have somewhat of a breakthrough season and help the team reach midtable.

Valenciennes - Nancy 0 - 0

Lille
lost one of the five best players of last year in Michel Bastos but will still battle for a European spot this year and might do well thanks to the addition of Gervinho (IVO) from Le Mans, the rise of defender Adil Rami (FRA), as well as talented midfielders Rio Mavuba (FRA) and Ludovic Obraniak (POL).

Year after year tiny Brittany side Lorient led by Yohann Gourcuff’s own father Christian manages to comfortably survive in the rough seas of the top flight despite zero budget. This summer they lost Abriel and Jallet to Lyon and PSG, respectively, and this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended somewhere mid-table as they routinely seem to do.

Lille - Lorient 1 - 0

Champions Girondins de Bordeaux have been rather timid this summer and Laurent Blanc has subtly complained about the lack of money to strengthen his side, besides the great coup of landing International goalkeeper #3 Carrasso (FRA), keeping a bitter Marouane Chamakh (MOR) -forbidden to move to lesser club Sunderland and deemed too expensive by Arsenal. Yohann Gourcuff (FRA) shall follow up on his breakthrough season with the help of great defending hope Michael Ciani (FRA) from Lorient.

RC Lens is back! But with very little money to spend, the Sang & Or (Blood & Gold) will have to count on their legendary supporters and proud history to hope getting enough points to finish above the 18th spot.

Bordeaux - Lens 3 - 0

Overall Ligue 1 has hired a strong Argentinean contingent, pillaged the nest of talent that is Porto and placed faith or extended the contracts of its most promising youngsters. Last season somewhat changed the league’s reputation as a goal famished one so let’s hope that the trend continues and the likes of Marseille, Bordeaux and Lyon challenge the existing European titans.

In the end Bordeaux wins again, Marseille and PSG catch the 2 other CL spots followed by Lyon, Rennes and Toulouse. Disaster strikes in the North - much like Normandy last year - because Boulogne, Valenciennes and Lens go down.

2 comments:

Jackie Manuel said...

based on the higlight shows...PSG will win le championet.

The Editor said...

And The Frenchman is off to a slow start. He got three matches correct, seven incorrect and no perfect scores. Let's hope he keeps his head up going into Week Deux!