Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTop 5 to sit on the French throne - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Top 5 to sit on the French throne - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Top 5 to sit on the French throne

After 25 fixtures, five teams remain within four points and are still racing for the title in the French football top flight…

Tradition wants the richest to party on the first floor and the poorest to look at them from the bottom.

This season, La Ligue 1 disobeys this rule. Two more clubs invited themselves to the V.I.P lounge. Indeed, the usual square that comprehends Lyon, Marseille (2009/2010 champions) Bordeaux and Paris has welcomed Lille and Rennes, leaving Bordeaux (2008/2009 champions) with nothing to play this year.

Five teams stand within four points:

1. Lille 46 pts, 2.Rennes 46 pts, 3.Marseille 45 pts, 4.Paris 44 pts, 5.Lyon 42 pts

This has to be one of the fiercest battles in the history of French football. Often judged as goalless, deprived of stars and boring, who dare complaining with this year?… considering that elsewhere in Europe, Manchester United, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund seem sorted to get their crown?

Lille, the most attractive side of the Top 5, has been at the top since the end of November. They  have all the characteristics of a champion. They even won when they somehow did not manage to play at their best ability. With their Arsenal lookalike style of playing, Ruddy Garcia’s men have got an offensive weapon. Moussa Sow, the 25 year-old Senegal international, is the league leading scorer. The tough man netted 17 goals in 21 appearances for les Lillois so far and he is showing his critics that his poor previous seasons at Rennes were just an accident. Eden Hazard, the 19 year-old Belgium international, who is likely to get away with the ‘’Player of the season’’ award is already on the books of Europe big-money spending clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Eden has initially adhered to Lille long-term plan until 2014 and signing this week end for two additional seasons until 2016. The wonder kid is performing at his best potential ever this season, flying on the pitch and providing tremendous passes. To complete that offensive armada Gervinho, Cabaye, Obraniak, Frau, Demelo etc… are all descent assets. However, Lille who has the background of dropping to Europa league places in the final part of each season has been showing some fatigue during the last few weeks. They have been easily kicked out of the Europa league by Dutch leader, PSV Eindhoven and managed to get only 1 point from their clash with Lyon on Sunday night (1-1).

Rennes, often criticised by French media for their physical style of playing with their Hulk-lookalike army (Mangane, Dembele, Kana-Biyik …), is the league youngest  team (23 year-old of age average) and the surprise of the Top 5. They keep up at the second spot, since beating Paris-Saint Germain three weeks ago (1-0), even though they have been struggling to gather a proper starting eleven. Indeed, they sold Jimmy Briand, Ismael Bangoura and Asamoha Gyan, who is having a descent for Sunderland in the Premier league, leaving them with frequently- injured Colombian Montano as only proven goal scorer. Moreover, their solid defence which is their main asset has been at the surgery more than on the pitch this season. Consequently, as the budget is tight on Coach Antonetti, the only solution is to rely on the youth system. Indeed, Rennes gave their first appearance to 9 youngsters since 2010, most recently Boukari, Jebbour, Camara and Boye . This inexperience is nothing near being a burden for Rennes. The freshers fill the boots easily and show a great example of hunger and responsibility-taking, like 20 year-old French international Yann Mvila who is now a regular starter. With their full effort focused on the league and experienced players coming back from injuries, “le Stade Rennais” have got all the chances to play the troublemakers.

Marseille and Lyon, ‘’les deux Olympiques’’, the big dogs of the French league share similarities. Difficult start of the season, controversial press conference (Yohann Gourcuff public rant over his own coach’s vision about football), star-players not playing at their best abilities (Gourcuff himself and Lisandro Lopez for Lyon; Loic Remy and Lucho Gonzalez for Marseille). Only slight credit to give to Pierre Andre Gignac who has been terrific for Marseille since January 2011, scoring 5 goals in 4 appearances, but whose form has been upset by an injury contracted two weeks ago against Sochaux. And like Man City in the EPL, it is proven that ‘’money cannot buy trophies’’.  Lyon, once 7 consecutives-times league winner from 2001 to 2008 have seen his side weakened over the last four years, selling top players like Essien, Mamadou Diarra, Malouda, and Benzema at huge price and compensating with low quality recruitment. However, thanks to a well-experienced business-minded chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, the boat is still floating and you can never write them off. On a better note, Marseille is on a great run, ending up beating Nancy (2-1) on Sunday thanks to an inspired young Ghana international World cup star André Ayew’s late brace. They even managed a draw against Man U in a first-leg boring Champion’s league tie. The advantage for both teams is the quality on the bench, which is a valuable asset considering those fixtures are going to pile up soon.

Paris Saint Germain, the prestigious club of the capital, who have not won the league since 1995 and who suffered a decade of hooliganism, is definitely back in. With a mix of Academy youngsters and experienced players (Makelele, Coupet, Guily), they remain in the race. They look more solid than ever, responding each time the football specialists wrote them off this season by winning, like on Sunday night away (1-2) against a difficult Toulouse side. With NéNé, the 29 year-old talented Brazilian offensive midflielder, still on top form and even with an attacking pair (Turkey’s Mevlut Erding and France’s Guillaume Hoarau) missing a huge percentage of scoring chances, they have good odds. Another asset is 6 ft 3 young but excellent Mahamadou Sakho, from the PSG academy and settled in the French A team by Laurent Blanc since the World Cup disaster. Already on the books of many big-money spending European squads like Aresenal, Sakho has got it all as a centre-back:  strength, positioning, tackling, focus, hunger and maturity. However, as they still compete in the French Cup who gave them most of their silverwares and have kicked Bate Borisov out on away goals to reach the Europa league last 16, will a poor bench ,emphasized by the departure of Stephane Sessegnon to Sunderland and no spending during the winter transfer window, be a burden for ’’le club de la capitale’’?

Which prince will be crowned King of France?  Lyon or Marseille the favourite,  Lille , the attractive; Rennes, the young tough rebel, or Paris the silent.

Does such an open league hint that French football’s quality is slipping? Debate to be continued…

Lionel Jérémie VILMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *