I seem to be stretching a wee bit ahead of John here, given that I’m halfway through season 5. But I’m definitely falling behind in terms of the competition. A nice new job at SS Lazio is a massive step in the right direction, and I have some catching up to do. In stature, if not in games played.
The first thing to say is that my first season in the top division did not start well. Not at all.
The opening 4 games were all tough, and I managed a solitary point, in a 4-4 draw on matchday 4. Nice bit of numerology there. Prior to that tie, we’d lost 2-0, 5-0, and 3-0, giving us a worryingly poor start to the season, and a goal difference of -10. Not really what we were hoping for.
A couple of wins against Stade Rennais FC (1-0, Karim Azamoum with the goal) and OGC Nice (4-1, Isaac Mbenza, Billy Ketkeo, Giuseppe Panico, and an OG) gave us 7 points from the opening 6 games, and allowed me to breath a slight sigh of relief.
It didn’t last long, though, and we then went on a run of 3 straight defeats, scoring only one goal in a 4-1 defeat against AS Monaco – Warren Tchmimbembe scoring for us). This run of games saw us lose to an aggregate score of 9-1 and gave me cause for concern all over the pitch.
A couple of tweaks to the formation, and a run of games in which I tried to keep to the same 11 followed. This seemed to help, as we reach the end of November after a further 6 games, all of which were unbeaten, apart from an unfortunate 1-0 defeat at home to Bordeaux as the month ended. That run included 2 wins and 2 draws in the league. Toulouse FC, 3-1 (Panico 2, Hugo Rodriguez); FC Lorient, 0-0; Angers SCO, 2-1 (Simone Edera, Tchmimbembe); and AS Nancy Lorraine, 2-2 (Edera, Rodriguez). On a side note, I spotted now 33-yo Marouane Fellaini plying his trade for Toulouse. He didn’t do much in the game against us, except get himself booked.
During this run, we also managed to squeak through to the 4th round of the Coupe de la Ligue, in a penalties victory against Racing Club de Lens. They’d beaten us 4-0 in one of those early season games, so this felt like we’d turned a corner. The 4th round was the board expectation, so we’re on track here. We’ve since drawn Paris Saint-Germain, so we ain’t going any further.
Another thing to point out is that every game we’ve played this season, league or cup, has been televised. I’m not sure what the attraction is, but it’s helping the bank balance to the tune of £1m per month.
As December starts, we’re 12th in the league, on 15 points. Last season, FC Nantes survived in 17th place on 32 points. We’ve played 13 games, so if we continue at this pace, we should finish with around 43 or 44. Last year, that was good enough for 13th.
Now that we have a 44-point target in mind – a more difficult one than the board have, since they’ll be happy with me finishing 18th – that’s what we’ll aim for.