SEASON REVIEW: Coaches' Bloodbath
By S. Telford
The 2015-16 Ligue 1 campaign was not the safest of seasons for coaches in France's top division, with no fewer than 13 parting ways with their clubs. Stuart Telford takes a closer look...
"I cannot accept the unstable situation," said Marcelo Bielsa after Olympique de Marseille's opening day 1-0 loss to Stade Malherbe Caen. "I have finished my work here, I will return to my country."
Fourth the previous campaign, few would have guessed that the Argentine was so close to the Stade Vélodrome exit door on that August day. Perhaps even more surprising, though, was that it was simply a portent of things to come.
One thousand kilometres due north of Marseille, LOSC Lille had actually been the first to get their managerial merry-go-round spinning. Hervé Renard had only been appointed to succeed René Girard at the end of May with the remit of returning the club to the European places. Fast-forward 171 days and Renard was replaced by Frédéric Antonetti, with Les Dogues in 16th having taken only 13 points from 13 games.
Siege of Troyes
Like LOSC - and ultimately OM - ESTAC Troyes cycled through two managerial appointments over the course of the season. Jean-Marc Furlan had won the UNFP Ligue 2 Coach of the Year after guiding the Champagne club to promotion as champions. With no wins and 11 defeats from their first 16 Ligue 1 games in five years, though, Furlan was replaced by former youth academy director Claude Robin.
Between Robin's appointment on 8 December and his replacement by Mohamed Bradja, Michel Padovani and Olivier Tingry on 4 February, four coaches were either sacked or resigned, with Toulouse FC's Dominique Arribagé following suit soon after. Rolland Courbis left his position at Montpellier Hérault SC only to re-emerge as 'Sports Advisor' to Stade Rennais FC's president René Ruello three weeks later. He then replaced Philippe Montanier in the dugout after eight days in the role. Hubert Fournier made way for Bruno Génésio with last season's runners up Olympique Lyonnais in ninth; SC Bastia, hovering narrowly above the drop zone, swapped Ghislain Printant for François Ciccolini.
Nine coaches down, a further four heads rolled in the spring. Willy Sagnol won the UEFA Champions League as a player and was a runner up at the FIFA World Cup in 2006. That did not stop Girondins de Bordeaux losing 6-1 to OGC Nice in September. With that result still too fresh in the memory, Sagnol's job went to Ulrich Ramé on an interim basis following FCGB's 4-0 Derby de la Garonne loss to Toulouse - now under the leadership of Pascal Dupraz - in March, which left the club in 14th, five points away from relegation.
…which brings us back to Marseille. Franck Passi can barely have imagined that on stepping in for Bielsa as caretaker manager at the start of the season that he would be doing exactly the same thing again just eight months later. Bielsa's permanent replacement Michel arrived last August as a three-time Superleague Greece champion with Olympiacos FC. However, by April, he had overseen a club-record 14-game winless streak at the Vélodrome and was sacked on the eve of Marseille's Coupe de France semi-final with Sochaux-Montbéliard. Owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus put the club up for sale to boot.
Marseille would go on to escape relegation. The same could not be said for Stade de Reims, who parted ways with Olivier Guégan four days after Michel's departure, with the club's 17th league defeat - 2-0 against Nice on Week 35 - leaving the six-time French champions two points above the drop. Finally, Michel Der Zakarian bid an emotional farewell to the Tribune Loire after FC Nantes' penultimate day 2-1 loss at home to Caen. The man to replace him? René Girard.
>> CLUB PROFILE: Olympique de Marseille