Week three saw another glut of goals in Ligue 1, but the most surprising result – and the biggest thumping – of the weekend saw Patrick Vieira’s Nice concede four goals at home to Dijon. That leaves les Aiglons without a win in their opening three games, and yet to score in front of their own supporters, who are starting to become frustrated.
It’s not been a happy to start to life coaching in Europe for Vieira after making the move from New York City FC. Joining up with Nice seemed to make a lot of sense as they were an established Ligue 1 side, had challenged for the European places in recent seasons, and had a solid infrastructure in place. Sadly for Vieira, he also joined at a time when key players were departing; with both Jean-Michel Seri and Alassane Plea having left, it looked likely that Mario Balotelli would follow as well. Plea and Balotelli were such significant contributors of goals to the team last season that their loss would have been significant without fresh faces. That seemed even more obvious in the opening day home defeat to newly promoted Reims. That was followed by a fairly drab draw away at Caen, which required a late equaliser.
Coming into Saturday night’s game against Dijon, Vieira could at least be encouraged that Balotelli had performed a surprising U-turn and signed a contract extension with the club. He was unavailable for the game, but there was hope that news of him remaining would spread positivity throughout the team. This would not be the case. After a first half with few chances, Nice imploded in the second period, conceding four second half goals, with each effort demonstrating new and ridiculous ways for the Nice defence to look incompetent.
Credit to Dijon for putting away the chances, but the marking from Nice was atrocious. The final goal, scored by 20 year old Jules Keita, encapsulating the dreadful defending. The forward received the ball surrounded by three Nice defenders, all of whom were bigger, stronger ,and more experienced, yet Keita somehow bundled through all three before firing home. Vieira has recalled goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale to the team, but he has looked suspect in each of the matches so far. Lucien Favre’s first choice shot-stopper Walter Benitez remains on the bench, and it may be time already for Vieira to make a change.
In Wylan Cyprien and Allan Saint-Maximin, Nice have some skilful players, and new signing Myziane Maolida, whilst very raw, is also talented, so maybe the return of Balotelli will help galvanise the team going forward. However, at the back, the team look a shambles, and with less than a week of the transfer window remaining, Vieira may wish to consider fresh faces in defence too. If not, then Vieira could find himself facing a number of questions very early on into his managerial career.
In other games:
- With Gus Poyet currently “suspended”, Bordeaux went into Sunday’s game against Monaco with little expectation. Caretaker coach Eric Bedouet, however, saw his team put in an excellent performance which saw them score a fantastic late winner from Francois Kamano. 17 year-old Pietro Pellegri had earlier equalised for Monaco on his debut.
- Lille continued their impressive start to the season in a 3-0 victory over Guingamp. Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Bamba are starting to forge an impressive partnership full of pace, with the latter notching a double. Lille will be desperate to keep hold of Pepe before the transfer window closes.
- Newly promoted sides Reims and Nimes had a reality check this weekend after their unbeaten starts, as both lost away to Amiens and Toulouse respectively.
- Marseille’ desperate need for a striker continued to look obvious at home against Rennes. Valere Germain was anonymous, and his replacement, Konstantinos Mitroglou, whilst a handful, is not a reliable source of goals. With Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet not at their best, Marseille did well to fight back from being two down at the break to claim a 2-2 draw against Rennes.
- Elsewhere, there were wins for PSG and Lyon against Angers and Strasbourg respectively, whilst Montpellier and Saint-Etienne, and Nantes and Caen played out draws.
Goal of the weekend
Kylian Mbappe demonstrated further, if it was needed, just what a talent he is with a lovely finish against Angers. Angel Di Maria curled over a perfect cross from the left, which found Mbappe facing a tight angle on goal. With a flick of his boot, Mbappe volleyed the ball low, back across goal, and into the net as PSG re-took the lead.