Ligue 1 has more eyes on it than ever before with the wealth of talents gracing the pitches every weekend. France’s 2018 World Cup win has opened the door for a multitude of players and country’s top tier is finally getting the respect it deserves. There is so much to look out for as we enter the second half of the season with action and drama dotted all across the league table.
Some teams return to action this weekend with the Coupe de France but we’re going to take you through some of the main talking points likely to develop in 2019.
You don’t have to be a French football expert to predict PSG finishing the season top of the table. Their immense financial backing paired with Thomas Tuchel’s ‘all-or-nothing’ style of play has combined in quite the partnership this season with the capital club currently sitting 13 points clear of 2nd place Lille. They have only slipped up twice in domestic competition with Bordeaux and Strasbourg giving them a run for their money but this has hardly affected the ignorance of the champions as they scored seven goals in the three games after these tricky draws.
2 – The two players with the highest passing accuracy in the Top 5 leagues in 2018 (min. 200 passes attempted):
Thiago Silva – 94.9% (1824/1922)
Presnel Kimpembe – 94.6% (1566/1655)
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 30, 2018
They still have their unbeaten run in France intact and quality all over the pitch making it clear they could go invincible this campaign. PSG have scored a whopping 73 goals in their 25 games this season with them scoring at least three goals in 14 of these matches. The usual suspects of Mbappé, Neymar and Cavani have been ripping up shop and they share 34 goals between them just in the league. They have no players outside of this trio with more than three goals which is slightly worrying but the general performances have just been outstanding from the rest of the side in the absence of goals. Angel Di Maria is the second top assister in the league with six and Julian Draxler has turned his career around with him finding joy in the middle and left of midfield after a long spell out of the squad.
Adrien Rabiot has obviously been upsetting the harmony slightly with his links to other clubs but the team has a plethora of young talents coming through who will soon replace the midfielder should he leave. Moussa Diaby (19) has impressed and is already on two goals and five assists. Colin Dagba (20), Timothy Weah (18, son of George) and Stanley Nsoki have all been fluttering in and out of the team but there is even more waiting in the reserves with Arnaud Luzayadio (19) consistently performing in their defence, Metehan Güçlü has 11 goals for the season and Moussa Sissako five assists. PSG are pretty much guaranteed the Ligue 1 title at this point and continue their plight for the Coupe de France on Sunday but the real excitement is a little further down the table.
The Race for Second Place
As is stands, there are about five or six teams capable of finishing in 2nd place with Lille’s clutch on the standing lessening by the day. Christophe Galtier’s side have been fantastic these past few months but much of the squad that finished 17th last season is still in this team and the signs of that are beginning to show with their rather average defence catching up on them. Nicolas Pepe, Jonathan Ikoné and Jonathan Bamba have been one of Europe’s best attacks this season with the former two sharing 20 league goals but the club’s shaky backline have kept just three clean sheets in their last 17 matches. They lost their last match against relegation battlers Toulouse but it will be interesting to see how they bounce back following the winter break.
A more known name in Lyon sit just two points below them and they have been in scintillating form recently with just one loss in their last 14 games. This has lifted much of the stress on Bruno Genesio’s back and the team are now firmly set on 2nd place Houssem Aouar leading the team forward.
Montpellier also stand a chance just two points below Lyon but they have won just one of their last five games and will come under some strain if they can’t bounce back in their first matches of 2019. Other suiters include Saint-Étienne, Marseille and Rennes who have looked fantastic under new management. Sabri Lamouchi had taken the team as far as they could go after last year’s 5th place finish and Julien Stephan has taken over the reigns in fine fashion. He has only managed five games so far but they have won every one and only conceded one goal in that time, so good times may be on the horizon for Rennes if they can hold on to hot prospect Ismaila Sarr and Benjamin Bourigeaud who have looked fantastic under the new coach.
Incredible transformation for Rennes: Julien Stéphan (son of Deschamps' assistant), never managed professionally before, on course to maintain his 100% record as boss tonight, leading 3-0 vs. Nîmes. Team has conceded just once in 5 games & qualified for Europa League knockouts.
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 22, 2018
Misery for the Monégasques
Although Monaco have only been in the league a number of year following their promotion back into Ligue 1 in 2013, few expected them to perform as poorly as they have. They currently sit second from bottom with just 13 points to their name and are struggling to shake the conversation of relegation. It would be a unprecedented occurrence for a club of their magnitude to go down after their title win in 2017 and continuous European participation but Vadim Vasilyev’s horrible transfer period over the summer has landed the club in hot water and rookie manager Thierry Henry has been handed the incredibly difficult task of sorting the situation out.
AS Monaco are the 1st team to fail to win a Champions' League group stage game in 2 seasons back-to-back since Dinamo Zagreb 5 years ago. (Opta)
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 11, 2018
They have consistently had to play without at least 13 first team players which has seen the door open for players like Benoit Badiashile (17) and Ronael Pierre-Gabriel (20) but this has also resulted in poor performance after poor performance. The team finished 2nd last season but are now facing relegation. They have lost crucial games against the likes of Guingamp and Montpellier but with key players like Rony Lopes returning from injury and Naldo joining with the possibility of also Cesc Fabregas, the situation could quickly turn.
Henry has looked a man capable of the challenge in some respects with him holding a lot of potential for the future but he isn’t going to get a better footballing education than in this job, as he has already found out. Fortunately for the team, they have time on their hand with 18 games left to play and a fantastic band of players due to return like Danijel Subasic, Stevan Jovetic and Djibril Sidibe but they still actually have to go and win games which has proven so difficult even against the weakest of teams. This year could prove one of their most important yet and it will be intriguing to see how the club go about their business.