The Ligue 1 table has a more familiar look to it currently than when the teams broke up for October’s international break.
At that point, Rennes were leading the way, yet they have since been overhauled by Paris Saint-Germain, who have established a five-point advantage over Lille at the summit of the table. Should Marseille win a game in hand against Lens, that will be trimmed to three points, but there is already a sense that the Parisians will again be unstoppable after an early-season hiccup.
All is not well in Paris, though. Amid a backdrop of hostility between head coach Thomas Tuchel and sporting director Leonardo, the team is struggling in Europe, with two defeats from their opening three Champions League matches placing them in a perilous situation. It is a volatile situation.
No other side has managed to muster the consistency to allow them to make a run at first place. Between Lille in second and Metz in 10th, there is a logjam of sides differentiated by only four points.
The likes of LOSC, Marseille and Lyon are all proving too prone to drawing matches to breakaway in second. While that is understandable for the European sides, whose squads are stretched to breaking point, more was expected of OL. With three wins and a draw in their last four, there are at least some signs of consistency.
Monaco, too, have been on an improving trend. Niko Kovac’s decision to switch formation to a 4-4-2 has reaped immediate dividends, with strong wins over Bordeaux and Nice coming in impressive weeks, inspired primarily by Wissam Ben Yedder and Sofiane Diop.
Angers and Metz in the middle of the table have also stumbled into some form, in the latter’s case remarkably after losing top scorer Ibrahima Niane for the season due to injury. The Senegal connection in Metz remains vital, with Lamine Gueye and Pape Yade having rapidly made a positive impression in the first team.
In contrasting form, though, are Saint-Etienne. Now 15th in the table, they have lost their last six. Claude Puel’s side at least showed some positive signs in Sunday’s derby against Lyon, when they were unlucky not to take a point.
They remain two points clear of the drop zone. The bottom three are all ailing. Strasbourg have not recovered from the shock of numerous Covid-19 infections during pre-season, while Nimes have lost each of their last four Ligue 1 games.
Dijon, meanwhile, sacked manager Stephane Jobard last week and promptly drew at Metz. They are still winless through 10 matches, and while they have drawn four of these, it will take a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes to secure survival.
Looking ahead to the incredible run before Christmas, which will see every team play seven matches in the space of a month, it promises to be the survival of the fittest. Teams that are able to keep their strongest team on the field will thrive and those that cannot face major difficulties.
This will prove to be a vital period of the season – and one in which fortunes are sure to rapidly change.