SPIRO: Bordeaux back in business

Ligue 1 Conforama > Spiro Blog

By M. Spiro

If Monaco and PSG are rightly being billed as clear title favourites, Matthew Spiro believes a resurgent Bordeaux could emerge as this season's dark horse.

On Friday evening, Lille will take to the pitch against Bordeaux needing desperately to avoid their third-straight defeat after surprise losses to Caen and Strasbourg. Both Lille and Bordeaux started the season with aspirations of finishing in the Champions League places but if the latter are looking strong, it is difficult to envisage the northerners realising that objective at this moment in time.


The Marcelo Bielsa revolution has not yet kicked in and there will be more than a little apprehension in the home crowd this weekend, not least when the fans see forward Nicolas De Préville - arguably Les Dogues' best player in August - lining up for the opposition following his deadline-day switch.

De Préville's €10m transfer has merely accentuated the contrasting moods at these two clubs. Lille embarked on an almighty overhaul this summer, bringing in 17 new faces (from a large variety of countries) and in particular placing a heavy emphasis on young players. The idea is that only young, athletic footballers will be able to execute Bielsa's high-intensity pressing game. It is still early days and the policy could well prove a success in the long term.

In the meantime, Les Girondins will reap the benefits of De Préville's talents. The 26-year-old is in the peak of his career and, after netting 14 league strikes last term, now appears ready to deliver consistently at the top level.



Furthermore, Jocelyn Gourvennec's charges are already looking strong. While many have been tipping Lyon or Marseille to finish in the top three, along with PSG and Monaco, Bordeaux must be considered serious contenders. Unlike Bielsa, Gourvennec has already had 12 months to work with his players. The six-time champions finished sixth in the Frenchman's first campaign at the helm, and they appear much stronger this time around.

In Malcom and Valentin Vada they possess two exceptional South American talents. The former was the subject of interest from Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg this summer, but has been convinced to stay on. Malcom, a skilful, penetrating Brazilian forward, has looked electric so far this term, and his stunning 25-yard leveller in the last minute away to Lyon could prove crucial come May.

Vada, meanwhile, is the kind of midfielder every coach dreams of having: a player with a fantastic engine, tireless work rate, a sound technique and, increasingly, an eye for goal. The 21-year-old Argentine has been at Bordeaux for seven years already but the time and money invested in him has undoubtedly been worth it.

All the ingredients

As well as keeping their best players, Bordeaux have added well, improving in the goalkeeper position with Benoït Costil, acquiring a strong midfield option in Lukas Lerager, and enhancing the strength of the attack with De Préville, Jonathan Cafu and Alexandre Mendy. Not since Laurent Blanc was at the helm back in 2009 have Bordeaux had such a strong unit - and Gourvennec is the best coach they have had in some time too.

Bordeaux have other advantages as well: their failure to qualify for the Europa League group stage - although a big disappointment - will ultimately work in their favour. When OL and OM are travelling back from Eastern Europe in the early hours of Friday morning, Gourvennec's men will be tucked up in bed.

They will enjoy a relatively pressure-free environment. In contrast to Marseille, and to an extent Lyon, Bordeaux's players will be left in peace and quiet if they lose a couple of matches. It's always been an advantage to the south-westerners and could certainly play a role at a time when Marseille fans are questioning the ‘Champions Project' and the Lyon faithful are pining for former favourites Corentin Tolisso, Alexandre Lacazette and Maxime Gonalons, all of whom were sold.

Dark horse

There will be fascinating battles throughout Ligue 1, but the competition for European qualification could be the most intense of all. Nice and Saint-Etienne have not yet been mentioned, but both could play a part. Lyon look strong for the moment. Yet Bordeaux - with their shrewd manager, their healthy dash of South American brilliance, and their ever-so-patient supporters - would be my bet.


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