Photo Credit (Fragbite)
The French scene is currently stacked with talent. With legendary players like Richard “shox” Papillon and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub still in the scene, a French team should be contending for the title of best in the world. Unfortunately, we have to travel to late 2015 to find a French team that is considered the best of the best. Even the formation of the so called “French super team," the venture was unable to take France back to the top of the CS:GO landscape. With the lack of success of the new NBK-lead G2 Esports and EnVyUs not even being able to make it back to ESL Pro League, the “shox project” looks like the last chance for the French scene to get back to the top.
Last week it was reported that G2 Esports are likely to change their lineup once again. The new lineup would comprise Richard “shox” Papillon, Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux, Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub, and a 5th member yet to be determined. This comes after back to back group stage exits at DreamHack Masters Marseille and IEM Sydney from the current G2 lineup lead by Nathan “NBK” Schmitt.
Now the question becomes if this is the right decision? Is this as far as NBK’s team could go? The NBK lineup was flawed from the beginning. Bringing in a player in the form of Oscar “mixwell” Canellas who, despite his talents, has never competed in a French-speaking lineup was a massive question mark. On top of that, the role of in-game leader was given to NBK. A role where he hasn’t succeeded in the past. Once we got to see them play, it didn’t get much better. On home soil at DreamHack Masters Marseille, they took last place in their group, losing to Cloud9 and EnVyUs. At IEM Sydney, things didn’t go much better, as their only victories came against MVP PK and NRG Esports. In addition, their chosen home map was Dust2, a map they had only practiced for 2 hours, according to an interview by mixwell. Something that certainly says something about the confidence they had in the rest of their map pool.
It has to be said that the proposed shox lineup has its flaws as well. The biggest question mark in the lineup has to be SmithZz. After limited individual success in 2016, SmithZz retired as a player and became the coach of G2 in 2017. It has already been made clear in interviews that SmithZz will not be going back to the AWP role. A role where he had a lot of struggles in 2016. Instead, he will be a rifler, and most likely the support player of the team. Still, with both SmithZz and Ex6TenZ in the team, you immediately have to question the firepower in the lineup. Something that other teams might exploit, especially on their CT side. But despite that, the lineup also has some big potential upsides. The previous G2 super team was the first time we saw the star duo of shox and kennyS, but they never managed to hit top form at the same time. With Ex6TenZ back at the helm, this is the perfect opportunity for the duo to be set up for success. In the past, both players have hit peak form under the leadership of Ex6TenZ, and if they can do it again, this team is looking scary.
A lot of the new G2’s performance will come down to the 5th player. With 2 clear star players and 2 clear support players, you need more of a hybrid player to fill the last spot. There is no question that G2 Esports would prefer to keep their spot at the upcoming FACEIT London Major. To hold on to the spot, they would have to keep either Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire or Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro in the lineup. According to an interview with shox, the original plan was to have bodyy be the 5th member, but bodyy went with the NBK lineup instead. I don’t believe adding bodyy to the lineup would have been a good move anyway. While he is a good role player, he doesn’t add the extra firepower that the lineup needs. Adding apEX would give the lineup some much needed aggressiveness on their T sides, but in terms of their CT sides, the team is lacking a site anchor. NBK is arguably as good of a fit for the team as you will find in the entire French scene. He can anchor sites on CT side, and on T side he is a very versatile player who can do almost any role you need him to do. If none of them agree to join, a name that comes to mind is the up-and-coming star, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut. While he would add firepower to the team, the star player positions are more than occupied, and he wouldn’t get much room to shine in the lineup. With EnVyUs getting relegated from ESL Pro League and having limited success overall, players like Cedric “RpK” Guipouy and Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey could also be good options in their own right, but with the big buyouts we see in today’s CS:GO scene, who knows if they are even realistic options.
Many things have to go right for the new G2 lineup to work out. Both shox and kennyS have to be in great form, they have to get the right 5th member, Ex6TenZ has to show that he still has what it takes to lead a team to the top, and finally SmithZz needs to be a capable player at a high level. But with only a few top teams playing at their best, entering top 5 in the world rankings should be doable if things go right. Winning a major and becoming the best team in the world is an entirely different matter. With Astralis firing on all cylinders, and dangerous teams like FaZe and Mousesports near the top of the scene, the lack of firepower from Ex6TenZ and SmithZz might be too much. There will be a lot of pressure on shox and kennyS to frag out in every game, but if they can do it, it's the best chance France has to be on top of the CS:GO scene once again.
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