1. Could lackluster end of season leave a bad taste in people’s mouth? - Usually around the end of a season, teams at the top of the table start elevating their level of play to try to either win the league or make a run for a Champions League position. But right now it doesn’t seem as if any of the teams really want the Ligue 1 title. Marseille, Lyon, Rennes, Lille and PSG have all played “less than average” games over the past few weeks, and one must really ask if any of them have the drive to win the championship. Instead of the best team pulling ahead of the rest, it is starting to look like “the team that doesn’t play the worse” might win this championship, which could damage the reputation of Ligue 1.
Because of this, we really can’t say who is the favorite to win the championship. We can’t pick out one team (like we did with Marseille last year) and say “ah ha, that is the team that will win it, they have the drive.” Instead, the end of the season might resemble the end of The Blair Witch Project, where people will be scratching their heads while leaving the theater saying “that’s it?”
So please, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, PSG or Rennes, can one of you please pick up your play so we can have at least a little bit of an idea on who really intends to make a serious run at the top spot in the table?
2. Benoit Cheyrou the outside favorite for player of the year? – Of course, with Lille being 1st place and Moussa Sow notching 21 goals already this season, both Sow and Eden Hazard are considered front-runners for the “Player of the Year” award. And if Lille can hold on and not hit “the wall”, like they always do at some point in the season, one of those players should win it. But if Marseille are able to sneak past Lille and take the title, Benoit Cheyrou should seriously be considered for this award. Throughout the year, Cheyrou has proven to be the best midfielder (at least this year) at Marseille, even with stiff competition like Lucho Gonzalez and Mathieu Valbuena.
The funny thing about Cheyrou is that he really hasn’t changed anything. He continues to be one of the most predictable players in Ligue 1. He usually charges up the left side of the pitch, and at about 30 yards out, he fires it into the box. Last year, much of the play was brought up the center of the pitch with Lucho and Mamadou Niang hooking up. But this year, Cheyrou has been the one creating the plays, passing it to a number of people within the box. And yesterday’s pass by Cheyrou to Gignac (though a little longer and on the counter attack) shows how valuable he is to the team.
3. Lyon becoming a predictable team? – As far as their play, they aren’t exactly predictable. They can come at you in all different ways and switch players without even blinking because of the depth of their team. But there is one thing that strikingly stands out when Lyon plays. When Lisandro or Gomis play well, Lyon wins. When Toulalan plays well, Lyon loses.
Take yesterday’s match against PSG. Both Lisandro and Gomis were non-existent. Jimmy Briand did have a few good looks and was the most productive of the three strikers. But the other two just were not there.
Rarely do these two players play well at the same time. Either Lisandro has a big game or Gomis has a big game. Both of them having big games is rarely in the cards. But, like I said, both were not around last night.
As far as Toulalan, he has to make up for the lack of the ball being in the attacking part of the pitch. And with Gourcuff being less than impressive in the midfield offensively, he has pretty much become the only player between the three forwards and, in some cases, Hugo Lloris. In the last few months, after getting a lot of his problems off of his shoulders, he has been able to play well. Unfortunately, when he plays well, the guys up front aren’t, and Lyon usually loses.
4. Players worrying about their future at Monaco- The last thing that Monaco needed was a lost to their rivals Nice. Yet that is exactly what they got. After this loss, and a continued threat of being relegated, players like Chu Young Park and Stephane Ruffier really need to consider their future.
Of course, a drop to Ligue 2, which sounding bad, might not be the worse thing in the world. For example, take two of Le Mans (who was relegated) top scorers last year. Anthony Le Tallec made the move to Auxerre so he could stay in Ligue 1. And even before his injury, he wasn’t looking like the best player on the pitch. Now, he has been relegated to subsitute status and has been a very small part of Auxerre’s plan. On the other hand, Thorstein Helstad, who stayed with Le Mans, is one of the top scorers in Ligue 2 with 16 goals. True, people will look at Helstad’s age (at 33 years old), but how old is Pierre-Alain Frau? Not much younger.
But, of course, Helstad isn’t trying to be the number three keeper for the French National team like Ruffier.
5. Where have they gone? – Remember the good old days when Nene was lighting it up, Dimitri Payet was knocking them in every which way, and Kevin Gameiro looked like he could push Lorient into European competition. Where have these players gone?
Of course, regarding Payet, we know the issue there. After his appearance at the Parc des Princes yesterday, he has pretty much made it apparent that he has no intention of staying at St. Etienne, and that his move will be to PSG. Still, does PSG want another loose cannon on their team? They just sent one packing to Sunderland.
But what is the deal with Gameiro and Nene? Gameiro still continues to be a strong part of the Lorient offense, but seems to be slipping in performance, with his play being inconsistent. He is starting to get, what I like to call “Chamakh Syndrome”, which is when a player knows that he is leaving at the end of the season, so his level of play starts to slip? It is hard to tell with Gameiro because he still does have the passion to win, and you can tell both in the way he speaks and in his play. Maybe he is just having a bad time.
And what about Nene? This guy was knocking in goals all over the place in 2010. But since the new year has started, Nene has only netted one goal. Of course, we know that he has the talent to take the ball to the net, but he just doesn’t seem to be showing that drive as much. But to all the Nene fans out there, don’t worry. During last night’s game against Lyon, he showed that he still has it. But instead of playing a goal scoring role, he is playing more of a playmaker role. While he did charge for the net a few times, he seems to be laying back just a tad. Not much, but a little. Therefore, Nene could still be the key to PSG making a end-of-the-season push for the title.
Filed under: AS Monaco FC, FC Lorient, Le Mans FC, LOSC Lille, OGC Nice, Olympique Lyonnais, Olympique Marseille Tagged: | Anthony Le Tallec, Bafetimbi Gomis, Benoit Cheyrou, Dimitri Payet, Jeremy Toulalan, Kevin Gameiro, Lisandro Lopez, Nene, Stephane Ruffier, Thorstein Helstad