As we reach the business end of the 2014/15 Ligue 1 season, it’s fair to say on reflection that it has been a very solid season for AS Saint-Étienne, currently occupying fifth position behind the likes of French giants, Paris Saint-Germain and both Olympique Lyonnais and Marseille, whilst sitting two points ahead of sixth placed Bordeaux. On the back of last seasons’ fourth place finish, you could argue manager Christophe Galtier will have approached this season trying to improve on their last league campaign and perhaps clinch a Champions League spot. And with only a matter of games remaining in the 2014/15 Ligue 1 season, a mere two points separates fourth placed AS Monaco and Saint-Étienne and only four points divides Galtiers’ side from third-placed Marseille.
With seven games remaining, their results and continued determination to challenge at the top would suggest that Les Verts certainly won’t be giving up without a fight. On paper, Saint-Étienne certainly have the squad capable to achieve this feat with the likes of Stephane Ruffier and Loic Perrin leading the side in their quest for a top four finish, but both their consistency and their form will certainly be in the spotlight as the season reaches its conclusion.
Admittedly, it’s quite clear that winning the league is highly unlikely this year for Christophe Galtier’s men, albeit only nine points that separates them from domestic glory, which seems nothing when you consider there’s still seven games to go and anything can happen. Their last game saw Les Verts come up against fellow title challengers and another one of the sides vying for a European spot AS Monaco and a 1-1 draw did little to split to the two challengers in their quest for a European spot. Although it’s fair to say that perhaps the games against league leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon in weeks to come will do much more to determine where Saint-Étienne will finish this season, providing all three sides perfect opportunities to cement their place as we near the end of the current Ligue 1 season. And should Saint-Étienne pick up as many points as they possibly can and flourish against the likes of PSG and Lyon, it will certainly be an entertaining finish to the 2014/15 season.
Whilst this season has witnessed a valiant team effort from all at Saint-Étienne, followers of Saint-Étienne, of Ligue 1 and of European football will tell you that a few players have most definitely caught the eye. Whether it be top goal-scorer Max Gradel who sits pretty with a tally of 10 league goals and two assists this season in under 1600 minutes or the clinical French pairing of goal-keeper Stephane Ruffier and club captain Loic Perrin, the latter who has attracted interest from FA Cup holders Arsenal, Saint-Étienne have been very fortunate to call upon the high quality performances of this trio throughout the season and it would be interesting to see where Christophe Galtier’s side would be without them. Max Gradel in particular continues to be linked with a host of sides throughout Europe competing at the highest level and it’s easy to see why having stepped up his game this year, with his to goals against Lille last week bringing his record into double figures for this current league campaign.
But the difference between ruling the roost at the top of the charts and simply remaining on the periphery of the top four in Ligue 1 centres on the difference between consistency and complacency throughout the ranks at Saint-Étienne. Whilst Max Gradel has been receiving all the plaudits due to his fine goal-scoring form, fans and pundits alike have pointed their finger at the likes of Ismael Diomande this season who if we’re honest hasn’t had one of his better seasons in a Saint-Étienne shirt. Of course injuries and suspensions have had a great impact on his impact in the side and at the tender of twenty-two years of age, like many I would say he still has a great deal of maturing to do, and by the looks of his recent-form, it would do the player a great-deal of good. It’s been quite simple maths for Diomande and for Saint-Étienne too – the six yellow cards he has received combined with his two red ones have equalled three suspensions this year alone. For me, I think if he wants to a rely on a regular spot in the team, it’s about time he paid more attention to his discipline on the pitch and this could therefore help Les Verts in the long term.
All things considered with seven games remaining, as we have learnt to expect in football, you can never predict what will happen. Current form would suggest a very close finish between AS Monaco and Saint-Étienne for the elusive fourth place finish in Ligue 1 and I for one, will be keeping a close eye on what could be a thrilling end to the French season not just for the eventual league title, but for what is often considered as important as a championship win in its own right, a fourth place finish. Watch this space.
Article written by: @MrCalliJ