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The very top of the Ligue 1 table has a familiar look to it with PSG seemingly romping towards another title. However nobody could have predicted that it would be newly promoted Angers who would be their closest challengers as we head into mid-December.
The club from North Western France have been one of the stories of the season in Europe so far. Angers were promoted from Ligue 2 last season after a third place finish to seal their first season in France’s top tier in 21 years. Most pundits considered them to be in for a long battle against the drop but they have far exceeded any expectations.
They are in second place in Ligue 1 above the likes of Marseille, Monaco and Lyon who were expected to be PSG’s closest challengers. Already they might just be dreaming of European football next season and the way they are playing right now, they have every chance of maintaining their challenge.
Secret of their success
The secret of their success has unquestionably been a defence, which has only conceded nine goals in 17 matches so far. In Europe’s big five leagues, only Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and PSG can better that record so it is a really incredible achievement for such a small club with previously unheralded players to be so solid at the back.
Angers had to rely predominantly on free transfers and loan signings as they prepared for their return to Ligue 1 so this is by no means a situation where a club has bought their way to the top. Hanging on to their players could be their biggest problem especially after their last two results where they drew 0-0 against defending champions and run-away leaders PSG before winning 2-0 away to Lyon, who finished second last season.
They were results that made people who perhaps previously had a dismissive attitude towards Angers, really stand up and take notice. Centre-backs Ismael Traoré and Romain Thomas have been particularly impressive while it is surely only a matter of time before manager Stéphane Moulin, who has spearheaded the club’s rise, is courted by other clubs.
Their prospects for rest of season may be dependent on whether or not they are capable of ensuring nobody leaves the club in January.
If they can manage that and can avoid any serious injury problems, then there is no reason why Angers can’t make a serious challenge for European football given the big sides apart from PSG are all struggling.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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