Going into a weekend of Ligue 1 action, there was one question on everyone’s lips: could Lille arrest their horrific start to the new campaign against Marcelo Bielsa’s former club Marseille? Les Dogues home clash against Rudi Garcia’s men was the pick of the action from Gameweek 11.
Elsewhere, PSG still found a way past Mario Balotelli’s Nice in spite of the absence of Neymar, whilst a Nabil Fekir inspired Lyon sought to keep up the pressure on unlikely Champions-League-chasing Nantes, who found a Dijon a tough nut to crack.
Peter Rutzler brings you the five main talking points from this weekend’s action.
1 Too little too late for Bielsa?
Lille may have lost again last night but their performance at the Stade Pierre Mauroy was one of their finest under Marcelo Bielsa.
Les Dogues lost out courtesy of a well-worked set-piece routine, coolly put away by Morgan Samson after he was found by Florian Thuavin, but the home side peppered Les Olympien's goal, only to be denied by an irrepressible Steve Mandanda.
Lille's voracious pressing game showed signs of being effective for the first time, underpinned by Marseille's pass completion rate at the interval, which stood at a dismal 55%.
But is this too little too late for Bielsa? Lille's loss made it nine games without success, their worst run for 14 years, leaving the club marooned in 19th. For the Argentine, it looks like the green shoots of recovery will be snapped by a looming frost.
2 Neymar-less PSG brush aside Balotelli’s Nice
Nice may be in a bit of a rut at present but their trip to the French capital, spearheaded by a rejuvenated Mario Balotelli, was hoped to cause a Neymar-less PSG a fair amount of problems. It wasn’t to be.
Instead, the perennial Parisian prince-in-waiting Edinson Cavani again shone light on his Neymar-imposed shadow with two first half goals in a 3-1 win. Poignantly, Angel Di Maria, in only his second start to the season, made a statement to manager Unai Emery with two assists in an all-round impressive display.
Despite the forward selection headaches, Emery will be pleased to see that PSG could be so dominant without Thiago Motta, who, at 35, cannot be permanently relied upon, especially with a dearth of back-up options in holding midfield.
3 Bordeaux’s stagnation continues
Before Jocelyn Gourvennec’s Bordeaux side visited the Parc des Princes at the end of last month, many were tipping Les Girondins to upset the applecart and make a Nice-esque challenge for the top three this season.
Three defeats from four games later, you would be hard-pressed to find talk of Bordeaux and the Champions League places in the same breath. It seems the battering in Paris, where they were pummelled 6-2, has knocked them - literally - for six. Their stagnation continued against Monaco this weekend who secured victory without goal-fiend Radamel Falcao.
Gourvennec has plenty of talent at his disposal, but the side’s success seems to hinge on the whims of star-man Malcom, and his current lull in form has not been compensated for by his teammates. They travel to recovering crisis club Rennes next, a game they will be expecting to win.
4 Ranieri undone in Dijon
The tinkering Italian loves a fairy-tale but Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes express was brought to a juddering halt this week. After resting a number of key players for their Coupe de la Ligue clash with lowly second division side Tours in the week, Nantes conceded three goals inside the opening 20 minutes, before going on to lose 3-1.
Despite the opponents for their return to Ligue 1 action on Saturday, it seems some of the magic has worn off for the Canaries, who lost to lowly Dijon by the fitting score-line of a single goal to nil. A Julio Tavares header earned the home side their third win of the season, a result that takes Olivier Dall’Oglio’s side out of the bottom three.
For Nantes, the result brings their eight-match unbeaten run to an end, and will once again raise questions about their goal-scoring impotence with Ranieri's side having only netted nine times in 11 games so far this term.
5 Strasbourg make it four in a row, but frustration persists
There is good reason as to why Thierry Laurey so very rarely cracks a smile. His Strasbourg side have extended their run of good form to four games without defeat, five if you include their impressive penalty shoot-out win over Saint-Étienne during the week.
However, once again, Laurey left La Meinau brimming with frustration. The former Gazélec Ajaccio coach described their 2-2 draw with Angers on Saturday as a 'bad dream', but it would perhaps be more apt to describe it as a recurring one.
Against Angers, the home side were the better side but missed opportunities and sloppy defending again cost them a precious three points, just as it did against Marseille two weeks ago at La Meinau. Of their four games unbeaten, they have drawn three, and they remain stuck in the bottom three on goal difference.
Laurey, though, will find some solace in the positives; they remain undefeated, and most importantly, previous criticisms regarding their goal-scoring incapacity have, for now, relented, with Strasbourg having scored in each of their last five games. With Martin Terrier again on the scoresheet: he is one to watch.
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