Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review: Mid-Season Reflections

Because I know that all of you follow my Ligue 1 ramblings quite judiciously (stop laughing), I decided that I would take a look back at my season preview to get some sense of where I stand. Was I way off in my predictions? Spot on? Fair to middling? Ligue 1 doesn't start back up for another 2 weeks, so this is all you'll get until then.

I tapped some individuals to be difference-makers among those who had been transfers this season. Let's grade those choices, shall we?

(1) Cedric Faure (Le Havre AC) - umm, moving on (I mean, 1 goal in 10 matches?)

(2) Anthony Le Tallec (Le Mans UC 72) - Le Tallec has looked dangerous at times, although the majority of his presence on the pitch has been in the capacity of being juuuuuuuuuuust out of position; his 1 goal in 18 matches trails the pace of Gervinho (5 goals in 17 matches) by far

(3) Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyonnais) - the young GK has come up huge time and time again for Lyon, giving up only 12 goals this season

(4) Jean Makoun (Olympique Lyonnais) - the Cameroonian has just 2 goals in 19 matches; although he has been in the starting line-up 15 times, the weight of the offense has been on Karim Benzema, with Juninho and Fred providing additional pressure

(5) Milan Baros (Olympique Lyonnais) - Baros had actually been on loan to Pompey, and was supposed to rejoin Lyon for this season, but instead he was shipped off to Galatasaray where he leads the Turkcell Süper Lig with 14 goals

(6) Hatem ben Arfa (Olympique de Marseille) - the French international has easily made the switch from Lyon and looks comfortable at all times on the pitch; his 6 goals is actually tied for first on his own club with Bakari Kone and Mamadou Niang, but it is ben Arfa's presence that has allowed for the more equitable goal-scoring

(7) Sammy Traore (Paris Saint-Germain) - the aging defender has played in 12 matches and picked up 1 yellow card; his presence on the pitch has been largely uninspiring although he has at least managed to avoid making any huge noticeable gaffes

(8) Claude Makelele (Paris Saint-Germain) - the Chelsea reject has more cards (6) than goals/assists (umm, 0 - as in, zero) in 16 matches, and has made almost no difference for PSG this season; the ancient French international will likely only get 1 more season in the capital

(9) Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennais FC) - the former Fulhamerica star has anchored the backline for Rennes, starting every match and leading them to 3rd in Ligue 1 while conceding only 13 goals

How about my predictions for individual clubs?

"Bordeaux may struggle to make the same sort of push they did last year..."

Oops. Les Girondins currently sit 2nd in Ligue 1 and looked poised for an easy Top 4 finish after significant draws against Lyon, Marseille, and Rennes. Just so Joe doesn't feel like a front-runner, remember that the last time Bordeaux were truly good (other than last season) was the 1998/1999 season, so they aren't exactly ManUre here.

"However [Marseille's] defense are untested, and Mandanda has looked shaky..."

Considering some of the goals that Mandanda has let in, this was spot-on. While Marseille are at 5th in Ligue 1, this is mostly in spite of, not due to, the French Calamity James and his defense.

"...look out for Saint-Etienne seeking to regain their old-school form with the play of new-school striker Bafetimbi Gomis."

Saint-Etienne are fighting relegation in 17th place in Ligue 1, and Gomis has a grand total of 4 goals.

"look out for Monaco looking to give Freddy Adu some run..."

Freddy has logged an astounding 97 minutes as a late substitute in 9 matches - hey, I said some run.

"look out for Rennes building off their 4-4 tie with L'OM..."

I was spot-on here as well. Rennes have stunned Ligue 1 with a streak of 18 unbeaten, and are sitting pretty at 3rd in Ligue 1.

"look out for Paris Saint-Germain...playing off new imports Makelele and Giuly..."

Not so much for Makelele, who has been largely ineffective, but Giuly has provided a soothing presence up top for PSG, chipping in with 3 goals and 1 assist.

"The relegation battle looks to consist of Le Havre, Le Mans, Grenoble, Lille, and Caen."

I was spot-on about Le Havre, but that's about all that I can say for myself here. Le Mans, Grenoble, and Caen are clustered at 11-13 and sit 8 points above the drop-zone, while Lille are 6th and only 6 points behind Ligue 1 leaders Lyon. It seems pretty clear at this point that relegation will befall Le Havre (20th, with 12 points on a 3-3-13 record), Sochaux (19th, with 14 points on a 1-11-7 record; 1 win!), and Valenciennes (18th, with 15 points on a 3-6-10 record). If Valenciennes begins to perform somewhat better, Saint-Etienne (19 points) and Nantes (20 points) are poised to take their place in the gutter.

So who have been the brightest stars and biggest disappointments in Ligue 1 so far?

While Karim Benzema was expected to be near the top of the goal-scorers' table, the Ligue 1-leading 12 goals of Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse FC) and the presence of Lille strike tandem of Michel Bastos (9 goals) and Ludovic Obraniak (7 goals) are quite the surprise. Guillaume Hoarau (PSG) and Fernando Cavenaghi (Bordeaux) are exciting young talents, and the latter has been linked to a January transfer to Spurs or Celtic.

As for disappointments, there are 2 that stand out. Makelele, despite his advanced age of 35, was expected to provide a significant contribution to PSG, both on the pitch and in the locker-room. Instead, he picked up 5 yellow cards in his first 7 matches and demonstrated how to sit on the bench and sulk, which he most likely learned from Anelka. The second is Bafetimbi Gomis who, after being given some run in French international matches, was expected to keep Saint-Etienne near the top of Ligue 1. Instead, he has looked listless on the pitch and appears poised to finish near the bottom of the table with his club.

Alright kids, that's all from Ligue 1 for now. In 2 weeks we'll find out whether Lyon can hold on to 1st place as they are pushed by Bordeaux, Rennes, PSG, and Marseille.


jjf3 said...

Nice job NYK. A few slips here and there, but as I've repeatedly taught myself, guessing the future is for people with millions to burn...

I'm liking being a Bordeaux semi-fan, but I'm not stupid either...they remind me of Blackburn 2 years ago...and I recognize that nice sense of surprise in the crowd when they're winning...

Regardless, nice wrap-up...

The Fan's Attic said...

I sure wish Adu was good enough to make the field in Europe, but, alas, he is not.