6 Things We Have Learned from This Ligue 1 Weekend
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It was a massive weekend of Ligue 1 action, with Paris Saint-Germain pulling clear of their title rivals for the first time thanks to the defeats of Lyon and Marseille. Before that, though, PSG fired an ominous warning to the chasing pack with a dominant 4-0 destruction of Toulouse in the Pink City on Friday.
Lyon and Marseille meanwhile lost their games, OL going down 3-1 in Corsica to Ajaccio in a shock result and OM losing 1-0 at home to Nancy who move off the bottom. The results mean that Carlo Ancelotti’s side have moved three points clear of Remi Garde’s men and six clear of third-placed OM.
Elsewhere, Saint-Etienne continued their good form with a 2-1 win over Sochaux, and they are marching towards a European qualification place. As are Nice, they won 2-0 at Brest to stay level on points with Bordeaux in fourth and one point clear of les Verts who trail in sixth.
There was movement at the bottom, too. Nancy moved off the foot of the table with that win in Marseille, Troyes take their place despite claiming a brave point in Lille. Reims are now slipping even closer to hitting rock-bottom after a heavy 3-1 defeat at Montpellier that leaves Hubert Fournier’s side without a win since October.
PSG Are Now in the Driving Seat
PSG's win at Toulouse on Friday was a big statement of intent
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Even before the Lyon and Marseille results, Carlo Ancelotti’s side had given their title rivals a clear indication of what to expect from the second half of the season. PSG destroyed Toulouse with a sublime performance from the capital club’s attacking gems Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore.
The manner of the destruction seemed almost symbolic. David Beckham arrived in the capital just days before, and there were les Parisiens, putting in one of their strongest performances of the season without him. His arrival alone seems to have forced the players to raise their game.
PSG laid down the gauntlet to their rivals with that win against a Toulouse side that are difficult to beat on the road. Lyon and Marseille will have watched on wondering how they can keep up.
Joey Barton’s Past Was Bound to Catch Up with Him
Barton, who was so often in trouble in the UK, was in hot water again on Sunday
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It was going to happen eventually. Everybody following Joey Barton’s French adventure has been waiting to see when the Englishman would get himself into trouble, and it happened on Sunday. Two harsh yellow cards within the space of four second-half minutes saw Barton dismissed and OM struggling with 10 men against a team proving very difficult to break down.
It would be unfair to blame Barton’s red for Marseille’s struggles on the pitch against Nancy, they were poor even with him on the field, but being down to 10 men made it impossible for them. Now with the 30-year-old out for a match, coach Elie Baup will need to utilise his team’s newfound depth following their January dealings. Barton will be absent for one match for his actions.
Lyon’s Lack of Experience Is Beginning to Tell
Remi Garde's side struggle against smaller opposition
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It has been said on a number of occasions this season that OL’s consistency is undermined by their inability to dispose of the smaller teams in Ligue 1. That proved to be the case once again on Sunday as Remi Garde’s side went down 3-1 in Ajaccio to an Adrian Mutu-inspired ACA side.
The team’s lack of experience was best illustrated in Dejan Lovren’s sending off for a clumsy challenge on Kenyan Dennis Oliech when bearing down on goal. They were perhaps missing the influence of Michel Bastos too, though, with less of a direct threat in the side without him.
Lyon had a goal disallowed early on, but even after taking the lead OL looked like they were lacking fight. The result is a big blow for les Gones who until now looked every bit as good as PSG in the title race, but this looks like a telling result.
David Beckham Is Joining a Team That Does Not Necessarily Need Him
Beckham won't just walk into PSG's starting XI
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Based on Friday’s evidence, David Beckham is arriving in Paris with a team there that do not need him to be able to play well. PSG comprehensively dismantled Toulouse on FrIday with superb midfield showings from Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi. While they may try to crowbar him into the side, he is not actually necessary given this performance.
It is games like these that demonstrate Beckham’s likely role. The team race into a strong lead, and the former England captain can then come on and join the action around the hour mark. He’d unlikely start many games like the Toulouse one given the many potential physical battles in midfield against dominant athletic players such as Etienne Capoue, but the midfield coped well even without a Beckham cameo.
Marseille Are Not Genuine Title Contenders
Further frustration for Marseille who have started to struggle
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Elie Baup’s side have dropped too many silly points this season to be considered genuine title challengers any longer. The Nancy result comes after heavy defeats to Valenciennes, Lorient and Sochaux over the course of the season, hardly championship form.
Instead OM are likely going to battle it out for the third Champions League spot against a surprise package team like Nice, or the likes of Bordeaux or Saint-Etienne. They don’t have the depth or the focus to maintain title-winning form, and the same could be said of Lyon to a degree.
The Relegation Battle Is Not Done and Dusted
Andre Ayew's own goal against Nancy on Sunday has breathed new life into the relegation battle
Many people wrote off Nancy’s chances of survival under Patrick Gabriel once Jean Fernandez had left, but they have sprung to life winning two games on the bounce and losing only one so far this year. Next up for them are Reims at home, and they have a real chance to push themselves closer to safety given that the pair can change places, particularly as the visitors have not won a game since October.
ASNL have looked reinvigorated under Gabriel, whilst their rivals are still short of the necessary quality needed to stay in Ligue 1. With Sochaux picking up some form, Evian and Brest are looking nervously over their shoulders as the bottom three start to catch up with them.
Although Troyes and Reims look destined to stay there, Nancy, as is their custom in season where they are battling the drop, look like they will make a fist of survival once more.