Thursday, October 25, 2012

Montpellier - Predictions for January. Quiet month.

Bottom of their CL group after chucking away last night's match against Olympiakos, and currently 16th in the Ligue after nine games with only two wins (Sochaux and Nancy, both in the relegation zone), the defending champions aren't doing a hell of a lot of defending at the moment.

Back in July, I assessed their squad situation after the departure of Olivier Giroud, and concluded (briefly):

  • replacing Olive at CF would be key (obviously) 
  • they needed cover at left-back 
  • otherwise, there were options in every position
So, how's that panning out? Erm...

Two CFs were brought in over the summer, Emmanuel Herrera from Chile and Gaetan Charbonnier from Angers. Herrera has failed to make an impact and has dropped to the bench, Charbonnier has been sparsely used and I think last night was his first competitive start. He scored, and it's useful to have a hulking presence somewhere in the team, but he's very raw still. And that's not a dig at his complexion. 

So, Souleymane Camara has been used as the CF. He's done a decent job, but that then leaves a vacancy on the right (he's also played there, and, somewhat surprisingly, on the left against Schalke after Tinhan was stuck upfront).  Cabella can cover that, but he can also be needed in the centre, when Belhanda was out, and also to play with him.  And on the left. 

Winger Anthony Mounier came in from Nice, but has been a bit underwhelming - usually playing on the left, he was put on the right against Olympiakos where he was frankly shocking.  The left-wing berth looked to be a little crowded, pre-season, with Mounier, Utaka, and Ait-Fana all having that as their preferred position, but the first two were injured early in the season, and Ait-Fana is now out for six months with a knacked anterior cruciate ligament, so fingers crossed that John Utaka doesn't trip over anything and do himself a mischief.

And Daniel Congre came in from Toulouse - a CB to cover for Mapou and Hilton, also able, allegedly, to play RB. Yup. That hasn't really worked out either - Bocaly was injured in the Ligue, and then suspended in the CL, and Girard preferred first Jeunechamp (a walking booking) and then Benjamin Stambouli (mostly used last season as a defensive midfielder but who has also covered at LB for Bedimo as Jeunechamp managed to injure himself trying to do that too) against Olympiakos.

So - summer signings were two strikers who haven't been used much, a winger who routinely gets subbed off because he's not doing very well, and a defender who hasn't really managed much at either centre- or right-back with the result that he's dropped behind a 36-year-old hatchet-man and a 22-year old defensive midfielder in the pick-list.  What looked decent business on paper has turned out to be a bit problematic on grass.

A couple of people have said that Montpellier need to buy in the January transfer window, and that would be a very good idea, but there's a few problems with that.

1) In the summer, they were French Champions, offering CL football - pretty attractive.  Now, they're looking in trouble in the Ligue and almost certainly out of European competition after shanking the Olympiakos game, where a win would have been a big step towards a third-place finish - the January window is an odd beast at the best of times, but it seems even more unlikely that quality will want to move in a Mosson direction under the circumstances.
2) I'm not sure they have any money.

3) Some of the rotation employed by Rene Girard has been enforced, due to a spate of injuries and disciplinary issues, but some has been plain weird. The manager looks to have reacted in panic to bad performances by constant dropping, tweaking, shifting, and generally buggering about with the selection so - by the looks of things - the players don't know where they're going to put from one moment to the next (some of the 'in-play' changes have been wing switches, etc). The lack of consistency in both selection and position seems to be blocking the team developing the automatisme that served so well last season.  Slagging your team off in public is also, while understandable, not massively helpful.

The next match is at home against Nice, also down in the danger zone, where it will be interesting to see the backline. Mapou is suspended, so will Girard risk Congre in the centre or put Stambouli back there? Up-front, will we see Charbonnier get a second start, or will Camara be used (or even Utaka, now he's back)? It seems unlikely that Herrera will get the nod but hell, anything seems possible. On which - benching your goalkeeper for criticising the rotation 'policy' might have been meant as strong management but ended up looking rather petty, and just proving Jourdren's point. We're not even sure who'll be in goal.

Possibly Stambouli, he's played everywhere else in defence.

Ho hum.