Yes, come on! Make it worth leaving Luçon for them!!!
Best of luck in the final mate, some class signings in Benteke and Atsu there, a few more of that ilk and I'm sure it won't be long till you topple PSG.
Cheers guys, most appreciated!
Cup Final Day
Saturday 5th May 2018 was a momentous day in the history of both Nancy Lorraine and Saint-Etienne. Nancy had last won the Coupe de France in 1978, our opponents a year earlier, although both clubs had won the Coupe de la Ligue more recently. One club would end their four decade wait for the trophy, while another would leave disappointed. The pundits were split on the outcome prior to the match. Saint-Etienne were higher in the league but Nancy were in great form after a hit and miss first six months of the season.
Road to Saint-Denis
R9: Sochaux II (A) 4-0
R10: Dijon (H) 3-1
R11: Toulouse (H) 1-0
QF: Clermont (H) 6-0
SF: Montpellier (A) 3-1
R9: Gazelec Ajaccio (H) 2-0
R10: Valenciennes (H) 1-0
R11: Grenoble (A) 3-1
QF: Troyes (H) 3-1
SF: Caen (A) 3-2
On paper, Saint-Etienne have had the much tougher route to the final, having to see off three Ligue 1 sides, while Nancy have faced just one. Neither has faced a team in the upper echelons of the big league but there's no doubt that both deserve their opportunity today.
Nancy boss CMAdventurer is without a couple of first choice players. Defender Uros Spajic serves the second match of his suspension following his recent red card against Bastia, while midfielder Valentin Eysseric misses out with a shoulder injury. Christian Atsu will take his place on the left wing, with a conservative trio selected in the centre of the park. Modou Diagne, out of favour until recently, deputises for Spajic. CMAdventurer sticks with the same 3-5-2 formation that has been instrumental in turning Nancy's season around and they will fancy their chances of extending the unbeaten run in all competitions to 18.
Saint-Etienne coach Mauricio Pochettino is rather more fortunate and has no major concerns, although many will be surprised that a number of first team regulars are dropped for such a big occasion. Maybe that's something that Nancy can exploit. Pochettino keeps his preferred 4-5-1 formation, with lone striker Bafetimbi Gomes made skipper for the day.
As expected, the Stade de France was packed to the rafters, with a sea of red and white engulfing one side of the stadium, with the other all green. The atmosphere was electric and it was an occasion to rival the FA Cup final.
The game started and both teams were intent on attacking, in what was a very end to end opening. Ten minutes in, Ait Bennasser surged forward and slipped the ball in to Kerjean on the right side of the penalty area. He clipped in a first time cross and Benteke rose above his marker Sparagna. His header was on target but keeper Stephane Ruffier got a glove to it and diverted the danger. Appiah hoofed the ball downfield to set Saint-Etienne on the attack. Nangis picked up the loose ball and went on a fine run down the right wing. His cross was met by Pajot and Maignan did well to block his effort. Gomis later forced the goalkeeper into action again, while Ozyakup also shot wide when well-placed. The Nancy boys were not without their chances either, as we finished the half strongly. Bennasser's low drive had Ruffier at full stretch and on the stroke of half time, we came forward again. There appeared to be little or no danger when Berahino received the ball on the left wing with his back to goal. However, a brilliant piece of skill turned the opposition defender inside out, before his low cross picked out Lusamba. An excellent touch by the youngster laid the ball off to Atsu just inside the box and he had time and space to pick his spot. He curled the ball beautifully past the goalkeeper with his first time effort and it was a move that really deserved a goal. Sadly, the frame of the goal had other ideas. Would we rue that moment come the end of the day? Only time would tell as both teams headed back down the tunnel after and entertaining and even first half. Going in level seemed fair.
After the restart, the game developed into a scrappy affair with neither side able to find their rhythm. Passes went astray on a regular basis and the closest either side came to a goal before the hour mark was with a Berahino free kick which did not trouble the goalkeeper. After this, I made a double change, with Tousart making way for the more attack-minded Fourdiner and Coulibaly replacing the tiring Benteke. Neither had a significant impact for us and it was Saint-Etienne's substitute Sidiki Maiga who gave us a real scare when he drove against the outside of the post moments later. Ozyakup also tried his luck from way out but was way off target. Extra time loomed. In the 81st minute, Berahino found himself just outside the area and lofted the ball towards Coulibaly. The substitute tried to play a one-two with his strike partner but Assou-Ekotto just got a toe on it. He only succeeded in diverting the ball to Lusamba, who picked out Berahino, who finished superbly to spark wild celebrations!
Just nine minutes plus stoppage time to hold out and I desperately tried to bark out some orders from the touchline. Above all, we had to keep our heads and avoid complacency. Saint-Etienne had not given us an easy game at all and I expected them to keep plugging away until the very end. Still, I expected us to see the job through and secure just the third trophy in the club's 51-year history. The men in green were becoming more desperate, so more long balls came our defence's way. Ozyakup had been menacing all day, so when he superbly controlled one of them, there was always going to be danger. His lay off was picked up by Gomis 20 yards out, who still had a lot to do. His trickery made him half a yard of space and his shot was powerful. Maignan got a hand to it but it wasn't enough to keep it out and it was a real hammer blow to the entire team. I could not believe it. Five minutes away from glory and we had to do it all over again.
Nothing more happened in normal time, so we had to regroup after that sucker punch. I gathered the players in for a brief team talk and my message was simple. If we go on to win from here, the agony felt from Saint-Etienne's equaliser would all be forgotten. If we were to lose, every single one of us would feel it for the rest of our lives. Right from the kick off, the players seemed to have cottoned on to my message as they were straight out of the blocks. Withing seconds, Berahino had set up Coulibaly and the latter's powerful drive clipped the crossbar and went over. In keeping with normal time, it was end to end and danger man Gomis had Saint-Etienne's best chance but his drive did not come close to troubling Maignan. No further goals as the teams switched ends for the second period of extra time. Here's what happened in that time:
So, the dreaded penalty shootout would be required to separate the two well-matched teams. Both had given everything and it would be very harsh on the losers. I was hoping to avoid a repeat of our dismal shootout against Guingamp in the League Cup, when we were beaten 3-0. I rallied the troops one last time and we were off. Nothing I could do now but watch and pray.
Nancy would take the first penalty but in front of the Saint-Eteinne supporters. First for us was goal scorer Saido Berahino.
Kevin Theophile had the chance to give Saint-Etienne the advantage.
The pressure mounted on Christian Atsu and his facial expression suggested that he felt it. After a short run up...
If Lenny Nangis scored, Saint-Eteinne would have one hand on the trophy already.
Could Youssef Ait Bennasser at least get his team off the mark? The Moroccan took a long run up.
Vincent Pajot would take the third penalty for Pochettino's side.
The responsibility of keeping Nancy's ever-fading hopes alive fell to Yves-Marie Kerjean.
It was down to 34-year-old Benoit Assou-Ekotto to win the cup for Saint-Eteinne. The former Spurs defender looked nervous despite his vast experience. He took a long run up and Maignan did everything he could to distract him.
Last edited by CMAdventurer; 06-10-16 at 04:23 PM.
Hard luck mate, when it goes to penalties your powerless to do anything, but once Berahino gave you the lead in normal time for the second time I thought that would be enough.
Hey, this wasn't in the script...
European Qualification Plan B
We headed back to Nancy dejected but we could hold our heads up high. We had come such a long way in recent weeks and we received numerous messages of sympathy, including from PSV manager AMC.
The chance of silverware for the season had gone but at least there was still something to play for. Our cup final defeat meant that we wouldn't have to face PSG in the Champions Trophy at the start of next season, so every cloud. Our cup run had also boosted our bank balance considerably and I would aim to put it to good use in the summer. The immediate priority was to finish as high up the table as possible.
Three league games remained for us to revive our European hopes. Incredibly, the first of those games just happened to be a visit from the team who had broken our hearts, just two days after the final. I played down the media hype over the prospect of instant revenge and stressed that the opportunity to qualify for Europe next season was more than enough of an incentive. I was vaguely hoping that Saint-Etienne were suffering from a hangover but did not expect Pochettino to be the sort of manager to let that happen, plus they were still in with a chance of Champions League qualification. I did not expect any favours from them. I was right not to, and how.
The first half performance was possibly the worst that any of my sides has produced in all of my time in management. I could point to the fact that I made mass changes due to fatigue but the truth was that our opponents had a smiliar problem. I probably over rotated and we paid the price for it. The big guns would be back for our final home fixture of the season. It was a crucial match against fellow European hopefuls Monaco, who sat in 7th, a point and a place above us. It was a match we simply had to win.
An expectant crowd gathered at the Marcel Picot and willed us on from the start. They almost witnessed the perfect start after six minutes as Benteke headed just wide from Eysseric's excellent cross. We continued to probe but struggled to break down Monaco's well-drilled defence. Then, on 28 minutes, the stadium fell silent. Falcao may not have been able to score in a brothel in England but his excellent finish from El Shaarawy's cushioned header demonstrated that he still knew where the net was. The goal visibly knocked us and the game was devoid of any goalmouth action until the interval. We somehow needed to find two goals in 45 minutes or else a European adventure might have to be postponed for at least one more season.
We started the second half with renewed purpose and within ten minutes, a neat pass by Atsu found Kerjean in acres of space but the winger shot wastefully at goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Benteke came closer a few minutes later but this time the post denied us the equaliser. On 78 minutes, Eysseric squared a cross from the left and found Atsu. The Ghanaian returned the pass and Eysseric's curling effort was heading for the bottom corner but Muslera had other ideas, pulling off a brilliant save. Eysseric and Atsu were soon involved in some more slick interchange play down the left flank and the former's wicked cross was too awkward for the Monaco defence to deal with. Kerjean connected superbly to fire in the equaliser we deserved. Ten minutes left and everything to play for.
The visitors, who had been on the back foot for the entire second half, were suddenly woken up by the setback. It was a game that they needed to win too, so they were not going to settle for a point. Both teams would have to go for broke and it would make pleasant viewing for the neutrals. Just three minutes after surrendering their lead, Monaco had a chance to regain it. They say you're at your most vulnerable when you've just scored and we certainly appeared to switch off for a moment. Sloppy defending allowed Sessegnon room in the box. He drove the ball goalwards.
Falcao headed over for Monaco moments later. Youssef Ait Bennasser had our best sight of goal at the other end but his piledriver failed to test the keeper. 1-1 was not really good enough for either side. It was therefore encouraging for both when the fourth official's board displayed a 4 at the end of the 90 minutes. Three of them passed without further incident. Then Monaco came forward. Fabinho tried to get them going with a forward run down their right flank. It took an excellent tackle from Diagne to stop him in his tracks. Monaco had thrown everyone forward so the defender opted for the direct route to Eysseric on our left. Suddenly, we had a break on and Monaco were struggling to backtrack. The winger just had to pick the right pass. He picked out Bennasser over Benteke and the Moroccan found himself on the edge of the area, with just Raggi to beat. He did well. A good touch saw him find half a yard of space just inside the box, although the angle was not easy. Perhaps squaring it to one of our strikers was a better option. Instead, he set his eyes on the bottom corner...
There could not have been a greater contrast of emotions at the end. Our fans celebrated as if they had won the league. Who says that no one cares about the UEFA Cup? Qualification was certainly moving onto the horizon for us as we would head into the final round of fixtures just a point and a place behind Bordeaux. 6th place would see us qualify automatically, thanks to PSG beating Nice in the League Cup final. 7th or 8th would be good enough for the Inter-Toto, which would really not be desirable. There is another twist, though. The race for the final two Champions League places is still wide open and Marseille and Lyon are currently in pole position to join PSG next season. Should either slip up, Saint-Etienne could gatecrash the party. But why is this relevant to us? Remember that Saint-Etienne beat us in the cup final. If they qualify for the Champions League (and not the UEFA Cup, I tested this), we will automatically qualify for the UEFA Cup as cup runners-up. Here's the table and relevant final day fixtures:
Marseille v Bordeaux
Monaco v Nantes (10th)
Nice (12th) v Lyon
Rennes v Lucon (18th)
Saint-Etienne v Metz (20th)
Troyes (19th) v Nancy
The relegation battle is done and dusted, so on paper we have a favourable fixture. Saint-Etienne have the easiest fixture they could wish for against our neighbours who have endured a thoroughly miserable season. The good news is that if we both win, the Nancy boys will be in Europe next season one way or the other. Marseille v Bordeaux is a double-edged sword. If Bordeaux slip up, we can overtake them and qualify via our league position but this will count for nothing if we don't do our own job. That could open the door for Rennes and Monaco to overtake us and potentially see us miss out on Europe all together. Of course if Bordeaux win, it helps Saint-Etienne's Champions League cause greatly. Plenty of permutations to get your head around. It could be one hell of a final day.
So, a heavy loss to St-Etienne improved your chances of UEFA cup qualification.
As for the final day
(Can I have a geography question instead please)
The artist formally known as The Eejit
Didn't you see the other two goals? That's what I get for being on the site when I should be working (like now actually ).
A great turnaround against Monaco, what a last day it promises to be, I expect your position to change just the 5 times while the games are in play!
Final Day Drama?
The following statement may be a cliché, but there was no better way to put my message across to the players. We could not affect events elsewhere and could only concentrate on our own job. I was confident that if we were to beat relegated Troyes then something would go for us elsewhere. The battle for the remaining European places was certainly intriguing and gripped most of the French pundits, although most of the focus was on the battle for the two remaining Champions League players. The title race had been a non-event again and the relegation battle was over, so there was at least something to look forward to on the final day. We had no major injury or suspension concerns, so I was able to name a full-strength side for this must-win game.
In true final day fashion, fans were using their phones, radios and any other device to get a picture of what was happening elsewhere. Nothing happened in the opening minutes of our game but almost immediately, there was news of an early breakthrough at the Stade Velodrome.
If Bordeaux were to hold on, we would not be able to make the top six, but it would give Saint-Etienne a great opportunity to make the Champions League and give us the alternative route into the UEFA Cup. After an uneventful start in our match, we cranked up the pressure and Benteke forced Troyes goalkeeper Remy Pillot into a diving save. Around the same time, there was another goal scored in a crucial match affecting the Champions league and of course news filtered through rapidly.
It wasn't great news for us but there were still plenty of options for us. In the 23rd minute, Kerjean whipped a low cross into the Troyes area. Berahino picked it up but was in no position to shoot. He played it back to Atsu, who expertly fired us into the lead. Just what we needed and I was confident of victory from this position. As things stood, we would remain in 7th place but that would change if Marseille were to equalise. Rennes and Monaco would also be unable to catch us if we could see the job through, which was just as well as Rennes took the lead against my old club Lucon on the half hour mark. Before that, there was news from Saint-Etienne. Would it go according to the form book or would Metz be inspired to dent their rivals' European bid?
Our travelling supporters greeted that goal with a huge roar and things were looking good for us. Surely after the cup final heartbreak, they would do something good for us. You'd have been foolish to believe that was the end of the final day drama and that was proved just a few minutes later.
Back in Troyes, we looked comfortable without seriously threatening a second goal. I demanded that we went for the kill because as poor as Troyes had been all season, they were always in it at 1-0. And so it proved. With the interval looming, left back William Mattheus outwitted our defence and hung up a cross towards Traore at the far post. The striker had escaped from his marker and it was only thanks to a miraculous save by Maignan that we maintained our lead. It was an indication that we could not afford to rest on our laurels. Bordeaux held on to their narrow lead to half time, as did Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Rennes. Monaco v Nantes was the only goalless game of the six we were interested in.
Determined to kill off the match, we began the second half on the front foot. Eysseric's trickery brought himself a sight of goal. Pillot beat it away but not very well, with Atsu pouncing on the rebound to make it 2-0. From this position, we were always going to leave with three points as Troyes heads dropped and Nancy poured forward looking for more. Saido Berahino bagged himself a brace in stoppage time to stake his claim for either an extension to his loan deal or a permanent move in the summer. A 4-0 victory was an emphatic way to round off our season and it meant that Rennes's 2-0 victory over Lucon and Nantes's late winner at Monaco were meaningless to us. We would be in Europe next season but would it be enough to avoid having to play in the dreaded Inter-Toto?
With victory assured, it was now in our interests for Marseille, who still trailed at home to Bordeaux, to get something from the game. A draw would do for us. A few minutes after Atsu put us 2-0 up, there was further news from the Stade Velodrome.
That was followed by...
It was always going to be an uphill task for Bordeaux to find two goals and our supporters were in full voice, anticipating a first European adventure in a decade. Even news of a shock equaliser for Metz against Saint-Etienne didn't do anything to dampen the spirits. The hosts retook the lead just a few minutes later to further cement our position. It would take extremely dramatic developments for us to miss out and Nice helped us out further with two second half goals to beat Lyon. Ander Herrera sealed victory for Marseille in stoppage time, while Saint-Etienne held on to finish third at the expense of Lyon. The Nancy boys were going on a European tour!
At the turn of the year, it looked like we were destined for mid-table mediocrity. However, a great turnaround in form has seen us lose just one of our last 21 (not counting two penalty shootout defeats). 6th place and cup runners-up for a team touted as relegation candidates at the start of the season is a superb achievement and next season, I will be looking for us to challenge for a Champions League place, as well as hoping for a good run in Europe. Lucon did not disgrace themselves by any means but Ligue 1 and losing their legendary manager proved to be a bridge too far for them. Hopefully I've laid the foundations for a period of stability and I will be keeping an eye on their progress. After an amazing haul of 104 points last season, Paris Saint-Zlatan (might be the last chance I get to call them that) finished with a modest 101 this time, with a 100% home record to boot, but they're still looking untouchable.
Fantastic way to end the season, given the way you took over!
Better make sure your matches outside France next season don't disturb your main task.
Fuck me PSG demolished that league!
24 points difference...
Will be interesting to see what threat you'll make cometh the nex season.
KUTGW and, hope this is right, come on you Nacy boys!
Great 2nd half to the season mate, such a shame about them two penalty shootout losses.
3 pts less than last year for PSG, they're on the slide mate!
Have to put that down as a good season. Certainly positives for next year, especially with that form since new year.
38 points to find on PSG. Might be a bit much to do in 1 year.
The artist formally known as The Eejit
Thank you all for your feedback!
2017/18 Season Review
The Gaffer's View
Certainly a season of two halves but on the whole, there are plenty of positives to take for future seasons. This is only the beginning of course but we are making the right moves. The first half of the season was very hit and miss and ultimately frustrating. However, once we switched to a 3-5-2, our form was sensational and we never looked back. I haven't checked this but I'd be willing to bet that during this period, only PSG picked up more points than we did. Although only a relatively short period of time, this has to give us real optimism for challenging for a Champions League place next season, should we bring in the right personnel. I feel that AS Nancy-Lorraine is heading for a golden period in its history.
Player of the Season
Only one man for me and that's Christian Benteke. Mysteriously, his goals dried up dramatically once the team hit top form but that's probably as a result of the system change, which allowed for goals to be spread more throughout the team. His purple patch before then was vital and without his contribution, I'm not sure where we would have been. There were plenty of consistently strong performers towards the end but being able to do it when the rest of the team failed to function was what stood out about Benteke in my view. I'm glad the fans agreed and voted him as their player of the season.
Elsewhere in Europe...
In each case, the highest-placed team still searching for a maiden title will be shown in bold italics.
England: This Premier League title race was possibly the most exciting in history with only five points separating the top four! Chelsea (76 points) edged out the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal, with West Ham in 5th just eight points behind the blues.
Germany: Inevitably, Bayern (89 points) won their sixth straight Bundesliga title, a whopping 17 points above runners-up Leverkusen.
Italy: Juventus (76 points) regained their crown just one year after losing it to Inter. They did so by a convincing margin of 11 points. Serie A has not seen a first-time winner since Sampdoria in 1991 and that does not look set to change any time soon. Chievo came closest (9th, 47 points).
Spain: Barcelona (90 points) cruised to the title by 13 points ahead of Madrid. The only surprise was that it was Atletico who pipped their neighbours to second place by a point. Villarreal were 5th and 21 points off the summit.
Head to Head RecordsSpoiler!
Last edited by CMAdventurer; 04-11-16 at 09:11 PM.
2018/19 Season Preparation
A crucial season lay ahead for the club, with a return to European football after a decade away, so I had to stamp my authority. The first thing I did after returning for pre-season training was call my assistant Vincent Hognon to my office.
“Hey Vincent, I have an idea for improving the fortunes of the club this season.”
“Oui, boss?”, he said excitedly.
Perhaps a little harsh as his commitment was never in question, but I'm not in this business to make friends. I had a far more tactically astute replacement lined up and soon persuaded Angers assistant Pierre Royer to make the step up.
Hognon was one of four staff members to have their contracts terminated. Among them was scout and former Arsenal stalwart Gilles Grimandi whose next assignment was to search for a new club.
The real priority was to improve the playing squad. A number of players were surplus to requirements as Diallo Guidileye, Roman Bauchet, Maurice Dale, Albert Baning and Mickael Chretien Basser all left for free. Only Michael Bosqui (£575k to Pau) and Nathan Fourdiner (£825k to Dunkerque) raised our bank balance. That wasn't too much of a problem, though, as last season's cup run and TV rights money for the new season had given me well over £15 million to play with.
I continued with the policy I had set from day one, by focusing on value for money. The first of those was a perfect example of this. I had attempted to sign him when I arrived at the club for £5.5 million but he wasn't interested. Although disappointed at the time, it looks like I dodged a bullet as this time Dusseldorf's asking price was just £3 million, following their relegation from the Bundesliga. I was hoping that Jhon Cordoba and Benteke would rip up a few defences in Ligue 1 and Europe.
The next task was to find a new keeper. Lorient snapped up Mike Maignan, who had been on loan to us last season but I decided against making his move permanent. Having tried and failed to sign some top keepers, Granada's Ivan Kelava would have to do. £1.7 million brought him to Nancy. Also arriving from Spain was left winger Pablo Valcarce (£3.5 million from relegated Nastic). Other new signings who were not intended to be regulars included defender Moussa Niakhate (free transfer from Valenciennes), right-sided utility man Denzel Dumfries from Sparta Rotterdam (worth a punt at just £45k, although his lack of pace is a concern) and midfielder Ben Sangare on a free transfer.
The loan system was also utilised. Saido Berahino's deal was extended after he impressed in the second half of last season. The deal also meant that he would be closer to the fitness camp that parent club West Brom had sent him to. Man City's Olivier Ntcham should boost our attacking options as he's pretty adept in either midfield or up front. Finally, two more young defenders joined and both look very promising. If they impress, a permanent move could be on the horizon. Dayot Upamecano (19) and Laurent Texier (20) arrived from Red Bull Salzburg and Rennes respectively. A fair amount of money has been reserved in case I decide to act. Lyon were unwilling to allow Lucas Tousart a second season with us but I was not too disappointed, as he wasn't outstanding last season.
I was very happy with our business over the summer but that could not be said of everyone at the club. I received a visit from Lorraine, one of the club's financial managers.
Lorraine: Monsieur, why are you being so reckless with the contracts?
CMA: What do you mean? We're not overpaying for any player, unlike most clubs these days.
Lorraine: Everyone you sign now has a clause in their contract saying they can leave for free if we get relegated.
CMA: We won't.
CMA (think): And if we do, I'm buggering off anyway so it's not my problem.
Lorraine: Don't be so arrogant! You think you are the best but you have a lot to prove.
CMA: One defeat in 19 games at the end of last season, 6th in the league and some excellent signings this season. You're just being extremely negative and you clearly know nothing about football, so stick to what you're good at! By offering them these clauses, we can get away with offering them slightly lower wages. As I said when I arrived, everything we can save financially helps.
Lorraine: But the club president insists we will be in a relegation battle.
Clearly the message of positivity I tried to convey when I arrived hasn't caught on yet. At least I shouldn't have too much of a tough time keeping my job, although Lorraine might if she continues to interfere.
The fixture computer has been quite generous to us in the early weeks of the season, as we begin at home to Toulouse and don't face any of the big boys for a while. We travel to Paris in October. We suffered a blow when midfielder Valentin Eysseric suffered a serious injury in training and was ruled out for an estimated seven months. Still, I feel we have the squad depth to mount a serious challenge for a Champions League position, so let's see what the new season brings. Hopefully not a relegation scrap like the doomsayers in the boardroom are predicting!
During the summer of 2018, there was a FIFA World Cup taking place in Mexico, after the Russians had been stripped of their hosting rights. England amazed everyone by reaching the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners Italy, who beat Brazil in the final. However, the biggest story of the summer was...
Can't see the pics as in work so can't see the big story
I'm also a firm advocate of the £0 relegation release clause, helps snap up those players who insist on a minimum fee release (and stupidly low ones at that!) and I'm never going to get relegated
Last edited by AMC; 19-12-16 at 03:21 PM.
I'll leave it till I'm home, you better not have built it up now!
Time to Deliver
Toulouse arrived at the Stade Marcel Picot as firm underdogs. They did not make life easy for us, though, as we laboured throughout. It took a 71st minute Kerjean strike to settle a scrappy affair. It was not a vintage performance by any means but we started our campaign with three points which was the most important thing. We would have to improve if we were to challenge for the top three, though.
Caen 1-4 Nancy
Nancy 4-1 Rennes
Tours 3-4 Nancy
Nancy 0-0 Laval
Christian Benteke went through a frustrating spell at the end of last season but he rediscovered his goal scoring touch with a hat-trick against Caen. The performance against a decent Rennes side was possibly the best since I took over a year ago. We could have had more and Rennes scored their consolation in the 88th minute with their only shot all match. Cordoba got off the mark for his new club with a brace. The match against newly-promoted Tours was easy on the eye, but not on my heart. We quickly found ourselves 2-0 up, before being pegged back to 2-2. We restored our two-goal advantage before long but a late penalty for the hosts set up a nervy finish. Thankfully we held off a spirited Tours fightback to continue our perfect start. I was hoping it would continue for a few more games but Laval had other ideas. We lacked our usual spark and Laval deserved their point. They are becoming a bit of a bogey side for me, as I have also lost to them with both Lucon and Nancy. Still, I was delighted with 13 points from a possible 15.
Lens 2-3 Nancy
Nancy 3-0 Dijon
A quiet month in the league but maximum points gained. Again, we edged a thriller away to another newly-promoted club, while victory against Dijon was as easy as the scoreline suggested. Our next league assignment is at home to Gazelec Ajaccio, before we head to PSG, who once again look unbeatable and are heavily odds on to make it seven titles in a row. With a bit of luck, they'll sack Laurent Blanc soon and hire Unai Emery to mess everything up. That game will be a true test of how far this team has come in a short space of time. An interesting three-way battle for the other two Champions League places is developing between ourselves, Lyon and Marseille. The top four are all unbeaten, so Champions League qualification will be no easy task, although there's still plenty of time for things to change.
There was also the small matter of Nancy's first European campaign in a decade. In the First Round, we would face Faroese giants IF Fuglafjordur. Who the are they?
We were away for the first leg, to be played at their dazzling stadium.
With just four professionals on their books, IF were expected to be outclassed by their French opponents, who on paper were far superior in every department. The early stages saw plenty of possession for Nancy but we struggled to break down a dogged home side, who were determined to give a good account of themselves in the biggest match in their history. Eventually, we got into our stride but it took 36 minutes to turn our pressure into a lead. A fierce Christian Atsu strike did the business and we could afford to relax a little. The one-way traffic continued in the second half and goals from Coulibaly, Cordoba and Ntcham gave us an emphatic 4-0 lead to take home. Overall, it was a professional performance but difficult to rave about against such poor opposition.
The second leg was a formality. An early strike from Youssef Ait Bennasser extended our aggregate lead, before Ben Sangre scored his first Nancy goal in the 34th minute. We were embarrassingly comfortable and I felt sorry for our stand-in goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon who did not have a single save to make in the entire 180 minutes. So I decided I'd give him something to do. On the hour mark, we were awarded a penalty and there was only one man to take it. He was understanably a little nervous but he made no mistake in adding our seventh of the tie. Unsurprisingly, it was his first career goal. Bennasser made it 4-0 late on as we repeated the scoreline from the first leg.
There were some big names in the hat for Round 2 and a few of them were drawn to face each other. With that in mind, I was quite happy with our draw. They will provide a much sterner test, but that's not saying much. At least I'd heard of them before.
That gift to Gallon still does it for me!
I hope you know what you're doing .... Royer with Youngsters 1 and Fitness biased looks like a risk, but I guess the rest of his attributes look fine.
Some very good signings in there and Dumfries might well be the best bargain. He did fine for me at Gronningen. Good set of results to start with, but I guess the bigger tests are yet to come. This pundit disagrees with the board and does not expect any relegation concerns.
The artist formally known as The Eejit