Saint-Etienne was the second team to fire it’s manager this season in Ligue 1 with Alain Perrin being replaced by Christophe Galtier on 15 December. It took a while, but it now seems the 43-year old former Marseille player has finally gotten his side to play.
Before last Sunday the Saint-Etienne faithful last saw a league goal scored by their team at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in October. A shock 3-1 win over defending champions Bordeaux and under Galtier the team had only scored in one league match from five.
This duck was broken by a 3-0 romp over Monaco and the team can again breath a little easier, as before there was a danger of falling into the relegation dog fight. After 23 rounds, the bottom three now seem to have transpired and it will take a miracle for Le Mans and Boulogne to get out of the danger zone, while Grenoble, even though they ran riot over Auxerre last weekend winning 5-0, probably need planet Earth to start moving backwards.
But for a side, which has won a record 10 league championships, more is expected. As a twist of fate, another traditional underachiver PSG, who I earlier in the season tipped as potential title challengers, are now the team in front of Saint-Etienne at 15th. But it seems no matter what the dominating team of the 70’s try, it just doesn’t seem to work out.
A lot was expected when Alain Perrin arrived at the club. The man had delivered the league title to fierce rivals Lyon just only a couple of season’s ago, but even he couldn’t get the club with huge stature and following in France, to perform.
While the club finished 5th in Ligue 1 in 2007/08, earning itself a place in the UEFA Cup for the following season, it now seems that rather than going forward, the club is again fading away from the top. It seems like the danger of facing the prospect of falling back into the 2nd tier of French football, where the got promoted in 2004, seems to be over with Galtiers philosophy starting to get an effect among the player. A place in next year’s Ligue 1 should be secure, even though the record doesn’t show it. Even after the 3-0 triumph over Monaco, still only Boulogne have scored fewer goals than Saint-Etienne. Having failed to score on 13 occasions out of 23 boldly sticks out.
And it’s not like the team doesn’t have quality attacking players. Gonzalo Bergessio have been part of the Argentina set up. Dimitri Payet is a former French U-21 international, who has a good reputation in France. Kevin Mirallas is a former wonder kid and part of the Belgian international team. Boubacar Sanogo has a record of 13 games, 8 goals for Ivory Coast. The team even had the luxury of letting go Brazilian Ilan in the January transfer window as the man just wasn’t getting enough games. Ilan, who’s also been capped by Brazil, of course went to score on his debut for West Ham.
So it’s a bit of a mysterious story with the one time dominating force in France. At least the hopes are now once again raised with a chance for Christophe Galtier to build his Saint-Etienne side for next season.