So, PSG are going to run away with Ligue 1, as we always knew they would. But, if you ignore first place, the French top flight is still one of the most competitive around, with several evenly matched teams competing throughout the season for European places and to avoid relegation. Ignore the PSG cakewalk, and stick with us to enjoy the 19-team league-within-a-league!

In Short

The competitiveness is borne out by the fact that Monaco vs Rennes – which many would have touted before the season started as a match between candidates for Europe – took place as an early bottom-of-the-table clash.

Rennes began the match fourth from bottom – the result of having taken the lead in all but one of their matches thus far, but only converting two of those into wins. Monaco’s record is worse, having failed to win in any competition since a (slightly lucky) win over Nantes on the opening day of the season. They began this match in a shocking 18th place.

Monaco’s first half was as poor as their season so far; the team played like strangers, and Rennes took the lead through Damien da Silva, while Monaco’s Andrea Raggi was sent off for an elbow fling before the break. Leonardo Jardim did get a reaction immediately after the break with Falcao equalising, but Rennes reacted better to being pegged back – Hatem Ben Arfa scored a late winner with a little help from Monaco keeper Danijel Subašić.

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So Rennes leap up to 11th and can breathe more easily, but Monaco remain in trouble. Their strategy of buying young, cheap, and full of potential, and selling less young, expensive, and the close-to-finished article has worked excellently so far – but it places a hell of a lot of pressure on Leonardo Jardim to work his magic. This season may be one too far, with the players coming in as part of another huge overhaul of the squad over the summer even younger and more inexperienced than before.

Jardim is a genius, but not a miracle worker. It also doesn’t help when it is two of his more experienced players – Raggi and Subašić – that are making errors. He has so far used 28 players trying to find the right combination – and the starting line-up against Rennes contained ten internationals, so inexperience can’t always be the excuse.

Jardim is too good a coach not to eventually find a solution. But the Champions League places are becoming increasingly distant, and he needs to settle on his starting team and allow them to begin to develop an understanding as soon as possible.

 

In Other Games

The big match of the weekend was PSG vs Lyon. For an hour or so, Lyon matched their hosts, trailing only to a penalty, and should have been awarded one themselves. They also saw PSG descend to thuggery, with Presnel Kimpembe seeing red and Neymar lucky not to follow. But then Kylian Mbappé – who had been poor until then – blitzed OL with four goals in 13 minutes, and PSG secured a 5-0 win – their ninth straight victory, scoring a minimum of three goals in all of them. Mbappé’s match was the PSG performance – indeed PSG in general – in a nutshell: at times unimpressive, but able to go up a gear or two that no one else in Ligue 1 has. Today, it was arguably their closest rival that was put to the sword, despite putting in a decent performance. It’s cruel.

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Now comfortably in second place are Lille, who continue to excite with their BIP-BIP (the French name for the Road Runner) super-fast attack of Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan Ikoné, and Nicolas Pépé. They followed up last week’s 3-0 win over Marseille with a 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne. After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, les Dogues look like genuine Champions League contenders with their exciting attacking football.

Nantes this week sacked coach Miguel Cardoso and brought in ex-player and ex-PSG coach Vahid Halilhodžić to arrest the slide. Seven minutes in and les Canaris were already 2-0 down to Bordeaux, with the half-time (and final) score 3-0. Vahid has work to do!

After their free-scoring starts to the season, Nimes’ and Dijon’s shooting boots have vanished. Dijon, who lost 1-0 at Amiens, haven’t scored in their last four – and have scored one in their last six. Nimes have not scored in three, plus 70 minutes of the fourth, and drew 0-0 at Reims – who themselves have scored one in their last six.

All three of those teams, along with Caen and Amiens, are on 10 points, with Nice, Rennes, and Angers only one point ahead. Eight teams within one point of each other – as alluded to earlier, this is still one of the closest-matched leagues around!

Goal of the Weekend

Yann Karamoh’s early opener for Bordeaux vs Nantes was a cracker.

But Saman Ghoddos’ match-winner for Amiens vs Dijon was even better. Look at the movement!