Eight games into the 2016 Ligue 1 campaign and we are not seeing PSG leading the Ligue 1, this is somewhat unusual given the last four years in France. Unai Emery took the job at the job PSG during the summer in a bid from the club to really propel themselves into true contention to win the Champions League, but have they taken their eye of the ball when it comes to the French league? It looks that way with two defeats and a draw already in the league, losing to potential league challengers Monaco and suffering an away defeat to Toulouse has not went down well with the fans and has sent an air of optimism to the rest of the clubs within the division. Watching this current PSG team they do look a different side under the leadership of Emery rather than his predecessor Laurent Blanc, they look to go from back to front somewhat quicker and this looks to be having a knock on effect on his central midfield area of the pitch. Marco Verratti and Angel Di Maria do not see as much of the ball as what perhaps they have been accustomed to and the continual change to Di Maria moving into a three man midfield into a three man attack has looked unsettling on the Argentina international. The last two games has however looked the PSG team that we as viewers have been more accustomed to, Cavani looks like he is adjusting to life as the central striker once again and Grzegorz Krychowiak the Unai Emery favourite looks to be really adjusting to life in the French capital.
The biggest surprise at this early stage in France is the team leading the way in France, which just happens to be Lucien Favre’s Nice. Monaco is in second and has also started the season very impressively after a summer where they were able to hold onto their best players while also adding quality to their team. Mario Balotelli’s Nice team look to be real contenders at this early stage to be in the mix come the end of the season for a chance of success in Ligue 1. The team possesses a fantastic balance within the squad pitching experience with young players and also having a real adaptability within their team. Favre has become a popular figure amongst his squad of players and with the fans of the club, and the former Borussia Mönchengladbach has a real tactical knowledge to the game, how impressive is it to watch a team especially a less reputable team like Nice change systems mid match, this takes a lot of work and a lot of background work with his team to achieve this. The Nice squad does have some highly regarded talent such as the seventeen year old Malang Saar, young Frenchmen Wylan Cyprien, experienced Brazilian defender Dante, the highly rated Vincent Koziello and of course the famous Mario Balotelli, amongst others. They have a real collective spirit at Nice and if Favre can continue to manage and get the best out of Balotelli they could really surprise the odds and take away that Championship from the hands of PSG this season.
Monaco is another team that are really making Ligue 1 an extremely interesting league this season. In Europe they look such a dangerous outfit as well and with this are helping to enhance the interest in the Ligue 1 this season. Portuguese wonder-kid Bernardo Silva is the pick of the bunch for the French club however, the left footed attacker operates down the right hand side of the Monaco attack and has put teams to the sword this season (with the exception of Nice). The highly rated Brazilian Fabinho was a massive keep this season for manager Leonardo Jardim and this Monaco side, after a summer being pursued by Manchester United. Add Tiemoué Bakayoko alongside Fabinho in the heart of the Monaco midfield and they have a real platform to allow their frontline go and express themselves, and in truth their attack is looking highly impressive. The return of Falcao after his failed exploits in the England could be a massive positive for the club, despite still struggling with some injuries at the start of the campaign. Valère Germain and Thomas Lemar are very much enjoying a strong start to the season within the Monaco attack. Jemerson and Glik form a strong centre half pairing to help compliment the balance of this Monaco team.
The season has started well in France and there could very well be upturns in fortune for the likes of Lyon and Marseille to try and get themselves amongst the top bracket of the league, however if there is a case of Nice/PSG/Monaco fighting for the league, it would be fantastic for the French game. Watching these early stages of the season there is no reason why Nice cannot build on such a great start and cement a place in the top reaches of the table, the concern for the league now would be that this PSG side under Emery do look to be adapting and settling. The issues surrounding the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Surge Aurier have brought the club some negative headlines, they are adapting to life without their main man Zlatan Ibrahimovic for four years so it will take time. The big concern for Emery would have to be in defence, the loss of David Luiz has exposed his backline to a partnership of Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe which has not looked overly convincing, especially with Silva expressing his desires to return to Milan. Expect Emery to look to improve this backline in the January transfer window and perhaps a movement for another player in the final third. At this stage though despite an indifferent start, PSG would have to considered the favourites for the league, a good race is what we are looking for as fans.