Keep Up With All The Action in Ligue 1: Neymar’s Exciting Debut, Lyon’s Renovated Attack, Monaco’s Easy Win

Ligue 1

Nantes-Marseille

Claudio Ranieri had an unfortunate debut in Ligue 1 against Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille. Last weekend, Ranieri’s home debut would be against French giants Marseille. Nantes decided to change their usual 4-4-2 to an innovative 5-3-2, both of which were regularly tested in pre-season by the Italian manager. Rudi Garcia’s side began with a similar lineup as their first game against Strasbourg, except Morgan Sanson started on the bench and Maxi Lopez acted more as a central attacking midfielder than as a regular centre midfielder. This significant change meant Marseille began with a 4-2-3-1 rather than their debut 4-3-3.

Although both team’s enjoyed periods of superiority throughout the match, Nantes’ bad luck heavily conditioned the match. An incredible 3 injuries in the opening 26 minutes forced Nantes to adjust to a system adaptable to the newly fielded squad players. Marseille took slight initiative with the ball after these injuries occurred, however, the match remained levelled for most of the game. The winner would come late in the match, with substitute Lucas Ocampo firing past the Nantes GK to score the only goal of the match. Ocampo, who came on for Clinton Njie, forced manager Rudi Garcia to rethink his starting lineup for next weekend, as his impact upon entering the match was highly noticeable. Marseille went on to win 0-1, as they are off to a near perfect start. With 6 points in 2 matches, they are one of only 5 teams to start off the Ligue 1 campaign with a perfect record. Aside from having two wins, Rudi Garcia’s squad has looked solid in defence, not conceding to either Strasbourg or Nantes. Ranieri’s side, on the other hand, started off the league campaign with two straight losses and no goals scored. Let’s see how much work Ranieri has to put in before seeing significant results with his new team.

Nice-Troyes

With last weekend’s loss to Saint Etienne, Nice were looking to turn things around at home against newly promoted Troyes. Lucien Favre’s side have high expectations for the new campaign after finishing in a comfortable third place last season. Crucial midfielder Jean Michael Seri returned to action after missing the first match due to a suspension carrying from last season. Favre began with his usual 4-2-3-1, with Vincent Koziello and J.M. Seri forming the midfield duo. Both complement each other very well, giving balance to Nice’s midfield and dominating most matches which both feature in. Young Sarr began as a left-back, again, as it looks like he might play there for this upcoming season. Sarr played as a CB last year, however, Dalbert’s departure to Inter Milan has the youngster playing as a full-back; whether the move is permanent or not, only Favre knows. Young signing Allan Saint-Maximin played as a left winger, being a constant threat down the flank with his speedy dribbling skills. Troyes stuck to their first fixture’s 4-2-3-1, which got them a draw at home against Rennes.

The match was scoreless until the 53rd minute, when Adama Niane opened the score off an assist from veteran playmaker Benjamin Nivet. OGC Nice’s top scorer last campaign, Alassane Plea, would level the score from the penalty spot. Upon numerous rumours linking him to Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal, Jean Michael Seri was arguably the best performer on the pitch. Depending on the match situation, he would shift from a defensive role to a box-to-box, also providing stages of midfield domination. He created space for his attackers, played penetrating through balls between the lines, was always ideally positioned, and showed signs of elite spatial awareness. It would be substitute Saif-Eddine Khaoui who would score the winning goal after just a minute on the pitch. Adama Niane also participated in Troyes’ second goal, this time with an assist for his teammate in the 85th minute to seal a 1-2 victory for Troyes. The blue side are off to a great start, earning a significant 4 out of 6 possible points. The home side, however, have not managed to add a point to their Ligue 1 tally.

Rennes-Lyon

Upon drawing their first match, Rennes hosted Lyon on Friday at the Roazhon Park, in front of nearly 25,000 spectators. Lyon were looking to continue their perfect start to the campaign, after a home victory against newly promoted Strasbourg. Aside from Lyon using the same 11 men from the opening match, Rennes did make some minor changes to their lineup. The only significant innovation was Ismaila Sarr’s positioning. Rather than acting as a left winger, he played as a striker, possessing a more advanced and central role. His new position had him a little uncomfortable throughout the match, as Sarr genuinely needs space to be a real threat. His superior attacking qualities, however, helped him enjoy a few scoring opportunities against Genesio’s side. As for Lyon, Marcal and Rafael provided width, while Traore and Memphis had freedom to operate both in half-spaces and near the wings. Once again Fekir and Mariano were the two most notable performers for Lyon, both being directly involved in their team’s scoring tally.

The first half seemed full of scoring opportunities, yet it ended 0-0. Genesio’s side already showed patterns of positional play that have significantly improved since last season, as his attack is more versatile and quick. Memphis Depay would open the score with a free-kick into the bottom corner, while Mariano Diaz would double the score in the 74th minute with a bullet header from Fekir’s clever cross. After Mariano’s goal, Genesio’s side logically relaxed a bit. While they held a comfortable 0-2 lead, Rennes kept attempting to get numbers forward. Such perseverance had a positive outcome, as a late goal by Benjamin Bourigeaud gave the home side a little opportunity, however the match ended in a 1-2 win for OL.

OL are off to a fantastic start, as they lead Ligue 1 with 6/6 points and a 5 goal differential. Rennes, quite on the opposite head of the coin, started the season with 1 point after 2 games, after drawing to Troyes and losing to Lyon at home.

Dijon-Monaco

Leonardo Jardim’s side had a difficult opening match, as Toulouse made Monaco work hard for the 3 points last weekend. Monaco began the match with a slightly different formation from last season, as Mbappe was replaced by Diakhaby, making Jardim switch to a 4-2-3-1 rather than his usual 4-4-2. Kylian’s absence could be because of two factors: either because he got a knock to the knee last weekend, or because of all the rumours linking him to Real Madrid and PSG.

Diakhaby’s performance ranged from periods as a right midfielder with other stages as a centre forward behind Falcao. Like all of last season, ASM’s centre-back pairing was not only crucial in defence but also accounted for a lot of danger at set pieces, with a goal and an assist to help Monaco defeat Dijon. Glik assisted Falcao for the games opener, while Jemerson scored Monaco’s second goal with an outrageous overhead kick from Moutinho’s corner kick. Thomas Lemar was also regularly active down the left, as he accounted for an assist to Falcao. The Colombian striker, aside from Neymar, would be the biggest news from the second fixture in French football. ‘El Tigre’ scored a hat-trick with all sorts of goals. His second goal of the match resulted in one of the most beautiful goals in all of 2017, with a perfectly placed curved shot from outside of the box. The final score was 1-4, with Jardim’s side taking an easy 3 points home to secure a perfect start to the campaign. Monaco are one of 5 teams to win both games, while Dijon are point-less as of now.

Guingamp-PSG

All eyes last weekend where on Neymar, who after missing the opening match due to working permits, was now able to take part in PSG’s second league fixture against EA Guingamp. Emery began with his regular 4-3-3, with the only variation being Neymar’s positioning. The Brazilian was granted total freedom of tactical discipline, as he was seen all over the field. He occasionally received in between Rabiot and Verratti, sort of like Messi did with Barcelona, playing as a ‘false 9’ next to Xavi and Iniesta. Other times he acted as a centre forward behind Cavani, and occasionally started his plays from the wings (both left and right).

After a levelled 0-0 draw in the first half, an own goal by Jordan Ikoko would facilitate PSG’s struggle of opening the score. After the first goal, everything went according to plan for the French giants. Cavani scored in the 62nd minute to make the score 0-2, as Neymar picked up his first ever assist in Ligue 1. In the last 10 minutes of the match, however, Neymar was able to find the back of the net after a fancy play by Cavani, completing an incredible debut in Ligue 1. The match ended 0-3, as PSG cruise controlled for their second win of the season.

PSG have struggled a bit with opening the score, however after doing so they look unstoppable. They have 6 out of 6 points, with 5 goals for and none against. They share the top of the table with Lyon, for they are the two teams with the highest goal differential (+5). Monaco, Marseille, and Saint Etienne are the other sides to start off the campaign with a perfect 6 out of 6.

Other Scores:

Amiens 0-2 Angers

  • Enzo Crivelli, Thomas Mangani

Caen 0-1 Saint-Etienne

  • Romain Hamouma

Toulouse-Montpellier

  • Jimmy Durmaz

Bordeaux 2-0 Metz

  • Valentin Vada, Younousse Sankhare

Strasbourg 3-0 Lille

  • Jonas Martin, Dimitri Lienard, Jeremy Grimm

Top-Scorers:

  1. Falcao – 4
  2. Mariano Diaz – 3
  3. Nabil Fekir (& others) – 2