Written by Dan Anjos
Before the season kicked off, 99% of fans would tell you that PSG would win Ligue 1.Whilst it is still true they remain favourites in the bookies, OG Nice are currently leading the table. How are a team with a smaller budget than the Qatari-backed PSG currently top with a gap of 3 points. Is this pure luck or is there more to it?
OG Nice have got some history behind them, winning the Ligue 1 title 4 times as well as the French Cup 3 times. Their last title was in 1997, when they won the Cup versus Guingamp. So whilst they do have history they’ve been missing the spotlight in almost 20 years. Last year they signed a certain Hatem Ben Arfa for the 2015/2016 season, with current Southampton’s manager Claude Puel in charge. What a great season Ben Arfa had, playing 38 games and scoring 18 goals with 6 assists too. He was a detrimental factor in their 4th placed finished last year. Ultimately as he was only signed on a one year deal due to his attitude worries by the club, he made the move for his boyhood club PSG this summer. Whilst another key factor to their season moved to Southampton, so surely how can losing 2 of the most important actors in last year’s success propel them into 1st place now?
OG Nice were very smart in the transfer market. They lost some key players such as Naumpalis Mendy, Ben Arfa, Jeremy Pied. They were picked up for small fees, players such as Wylan Cyprien, the 21 year old from Lens has been great for them. He has scored 5 goals and got 2 assists so far this year whilst his physical presence in the midfield is definitely felt. Being only 21 the future is definitely bright for him. Dante was certainly a big signing for Nice. A player with a lot of experience to add maturity to their young squad. He has been a rock this year for them, playing as well as he did for Borussia Mönchengladbach which gave him that transfer move to Bayern Munich. Dalbert, the 22 year old left back is very impressive going forward, full of pace and great dribbling. He is not small either, physically being strong enough and also tall enough to win headers. A full back with all the right attributes. One impressive signing was Belhanda on loan from Dynamo Kyiv. Belhanda along with Giroud were instrumental to Montpellier winning the title that year, with Belhanda bagging 12 goals and a further 8 assists that year from attacking midfield. He is an incredibly talented player, very technical with bags of ability. As soon as I saw Nice signed him, I was very impressed and it definitely showed their intent to remain up there. One of the most bizarre moves in the summer was Mario Balotelli’s to Nice, on a free transfer. Nice a summer before had made another risky signing Ben Arfa, it worked so well they risked it Mario. Mario has been playing well and seems to be enjoying Nice. He has not hit the levels of Ben Arfa, but the season is early and he has great competition in Plea up top. Nice after this summer, spent roughly what they earned in transfer revenues, whilst lowering their average age.
credit mustapha ennaimi
They lost Claude Puel this summer, a great loss. But they signed Lucien Favre, the man behind Zurich’s Swiss league title after a 25 year drought. He also guided Borussia Mönchengladbach to a Champions league qualification, despite the previous season just avoiding relegation. He is a manager that wants to attack teams, play football with full of energy. This year Nice are certainly doing that. They are great to watch and are winning games, they have only lost one game this year in the league. Their squad is full of talent. Starting in goal, Cardinale is 22 but an excellent ‘keeper already. The full backs are excellent, whilst Ricardo Pereira has been praised as the best right back in Ligue 1. The centre backs full of experience in Dante, Baysse, Le Marchand. Interestingly it has been a 17 year old Malang Sarr that has been starting along Dante. He has already been nicknamed the new ‘Kurt Zouma’ with a lot of BPL teams scouting him. The midfield is quick, combative,technical. It holds the likes of Belhanda, Seri, Cyprien, Eysseric, Koziello and the experienced Bodmer. Up top Plea and Balotelli are scoring goals.
I definitely think they are in with a chance of winning the league this year. It will be hard but PSG are not as strong as last year, Monaco are still prone to dropping points here and there so it is a great opportunity for Nice to win France’s biggest title.
Who do you think will win the French title? Let us know in the comments below!