Lorient seizes the moment and challenges the Ligue 1 elite | League 1

Jhere was always going to be a club that made the most of the World Cup hiatus and challenged the top flight this season. A few clubs on the fringes of Europe made this calculation in the summer transfer window and, instead of selling players, they held on. Lens and Strasbourg were top of these teams in Ligue 1.

Lens have managed to keep their talismanic midfielder, Séko Fofana, despite signing demands from across Europe. They also secured equal replacements for Cheick Doucouré, Arnaud Kalimuendo and Jonathan Clauss, their three major starts in the window, and the team remains unbeaten after seven games, with the league’s third-best defense.

Strasbourg have also bet on the gamble, keeping the sought-after pair of Ludovic Ajorque and Alexander Djiku in hopes they can make the leap to continental competition. Things went rather less well on the east side. Injuries have decimated their backline and they are winless in seven games, with only Ajaccio on fewer points.

The rest of the teams that jockey at the top of the table are quite familiar. Marseille, who signed new manager Igor Tudor and another armada of veterans, are level on points with leaders PSG. Hot on their heels were Lyon, Rennes, Monaco and Lille, all European regulars who showed ambition in the summer window, even as they each let some of their biggest names go.

The exception among the top eight is Lorient, a lowly Breton club whose transfer record until the penultimate season was just €5m. Hakes (cod – a tribute to the importance of the fishing industry in Brittany) have lost just one of their first seven matches, despite their home game against Lyon being postponed due to the dismal condition of his land following a festival of Celtic culture.

This is a team that finished 16th last year, conceding 63 goals, then sold Armand Laurienté, the player many considered the most talented. The France Under-21 international joined Sassuolo for 10 million euros and was followed by a group of older faces: Jérémy Morel, Thomas Monconduit and Fabien Lemoine, among others. This trio had played nearly 1,000 top-flight games alone and their experience was considered invaluable to the team’s safety efforts last season.

The club also dumped coach Christophe Pélissier, who arrived with an impressive CV from the lower leagues, after helping Amiens play in Ligue 1 for the first time in their history following successive promotions. He also quickly won promotion from Lorient, and his methods had kept the club in the division for two seasons before he was fired, despite surviving, at the end of last season.

His replacement, Régis Le Bris, had no experience as a head coach at any level, but the way he overhauled the team worked. Le Bris joined Lorient 10 years ago as head of the academy, coming from Rennes, where he obtained splendid results with his young people.

Pélissier preferred a stiffer system last season – often a 3-5-2 – as he looked to give up the ball and hit opponents on the block, but Le Bris added dynamism to the whole team. Winger Dango Ouattara and attacking midfielder Enzo Le Fée have a much longer leash going forward. The pair, both academy products, have been well known to Le Bris since his time in charge of the reserves, but their rapid rise to be effective in Ligue 1 is impressive. He’s a manager who clearly knows how to get the most out of a young team.

The Lorient attack is full of young and enthusiastic players. Besides Ouattara and Le Fée, forwards Terem Moffi and Ibrahima Koné, playmaker Adil Aouchiche and winger Yoann Cathline are all under 23. in a myriad of combinations has made Lorient clumsy opponents, as Rennes and Lyon have already experienced.

There are still flaws. Goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo, signed this summer from RB Leipzig, is capable of both the spectacular and the infuriating in the same game, and they struggle to defend from set pieces – they beat Nantes 3- 2 on Sunday but managed to collect twice on corners. Lorient also haven’t been tested by any of the league’s top sides, apart from Lens, who beat them 5-2.

But, in a season when many other teams will feel the stress of a compact European campaign and the World Cup, Lorient could be well placed to continue their run. They’ll lose an element of surprise over time, but players like Cathline and Aouchiche will only get better as they learn Le Bris’ system. Their next five fixtures will be against teams that have struggled this season. The surprising start of Lorient could therefore continue.

Marseille 2-1 Lillen
Lens 1-0 Troyes 

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Quick Guide

Results Ligue 1

Spectacle

Strasbourg 0-0 Clermont

Ajaccio 0-1 Nice

Angers 2-1 Montpellier

Lorient 3-2 Nantes

Toulouse 1-0 Reims

Rennes 5-0 Auxerre

Monaco 2-1 Lyon

PSG 1-0 Brest

Marseille 2-1 Lille

Lens 1-0 Troyes

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Talking points

Benoît Badiashile celebrates after scoring in Monaco’s 2-1 win over Lyon. Photography: Sébastien Nogier/EPA

Monaco seems to have righted the ship. After a draw at PSG, they were quickly pushed around by Troyes and rumors about Philippe Clement’s job security – which were bubbling ahead of their brilliant run at the end of last season – resurfaced. However, wins over Nice in the derby, away to Red Star Belgrade in Europe and now over Lyon’s fellow European hopefuls at home have turned things around and Monaco appear to be back to living up to their expectations. pre-season.

Another weekend has passed and Strasbourg are still winless, a record shared only with newly promoted Ajaccio. As mentioned earlier, the club took a huge leap of faith in retaining Djiku and Ajorque, two players who are not only marketable but also not getting any younger. With largely the same staff, how much responsibility should manager Julien Stéphan have? Back then, many thought the way he was kicked out of Rennes was unfair but, now, with a similar situation unfolding in Strasbourg, one has to wonder how patient the club can be with him.

Rennes seems to be finding its rhythm. Despite the absences of Arnaud Kalimuendo and Jérémy Doku due to injury, they are looking back on their sparkling best, with three wins and a draw in their last four matches. Tougher tests loom, with Fenerbahçe on Thursday and Marseille on Sunday, but Bruno Génésio’s revamped squad are more of a threat than expected ahead of the season.

Table Ligue 1

This is an article from Get French Football News
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