November proved to be a fascinating month in Ligue 1. What promised to be a cakewalk for Paris Saint-Germain to another title in fact looks like turning into one of the most interesting title races of the last decade.
A combination of injury issues and a focus on the Champions League has seen Thomas Tuchel’s side take their eye off the domestic ball. Indeed, Marseille can go top of the table if they win their two matches in hand.
Beyond OM, though, there is a logjam of team jostling for position. The top eight teams are spread by just six points with nearly a third of the campaign played.
Pressure exerted financially and physically on the league’s top teams has seen the field concertina.
Lyon and Monaco have both enjoyed profitable Novembers.
Rudi Garcia’s side were as low in the standings as sixth after a five-match winless streak but they have bounced back in formidable style, winning five of their last six games. Among their victories were a derby success over Saint-Etienne and a fine win over Monaco, though that actually arrived in October.
Although Lyon’s performances during this run have not always been convincing, they have found the resources to gain points. Zimbabwean striker Tino Kadewere has proven their talisman during this run along with Karl Toko-Ekambi.
Monaco, meanwhile, are Ligue 1’s form team. They have won four matches from their last four, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Most remarkable among their victories was a rally from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against PSG. It was a benchmark success for Niko Kovac, whose decision to move away from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 has been inspired.
Further down the standings, the efforts of Brest deserve hailed. They have embraced their offensive qualities to record impressive wins over Lille (they are the only side in all competitions to beat LOSC), Saint-Etienne and Metz. Romain Faivre, Romain Perraud and Irvin Cardona have stood out.
Strasbourg continue to be Ligue 1’s most disappointing side. Thierry Laurey finds his job in danger after nine losses in 12 games. Having had pre-season disrupted by a major coronavirus cluster, his side have not found their feet this season.
A tough fixture card in November saw them lose to Reims, Marseille and Montpellier by a single goal, although they finished with a 1-1 draw against Rennes.
Another side to suffer similarly was Saint-Etienne, who lost seven straight matches before holding Lille to a draw last time out.
Perhaps the biggest losers in November, however, were Rennes. Third placed last term, they have buckled under the weight of European fixtures, just as they did last season. Julian Stephan’s side were defeated in four of four games in all competitions during the month and have apparently lost their way.
They suffered similarly last term and bounced back. They must do the same this time around.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
While there are several candidates for the title of Ligue 1’s outstanding player of November, Monaco forward Kevin Volland is undoubtedly the chief candidate.
A slow start to life in the principality suggested that the 28-year-old Germany international was in danger of being an expensive flop, though he has been the chief benefactor of Kovac’s decision to switch to a 4-4-2.
Moved into a more central role and given the freedom to drop deep, he has produced five goals and two assists over the last month, including a man-of-the-match display against PSG. In his first six games, he had a couple of decisive passes and no goals.
With a blossoming partnership with Wissam Ben Yedder, who has been adversely affected by Covid-19 over the last month, his future in the principality suddenly looks bright.