Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) are overwhelming favourites to retain their French Ligue 1 title for the 5th consecutive season. But like Montpellier in 2012 or Leicester in 2016, OGC Nice are threatening PSG’s hold on the league title. Below are five reasons, why the club from the South-East coast should be taken seriously.
OGC Nice managed an impressive 4th place finish last season but lost four of their key players to other clubs – domestic and international in the summer transfer window.
Valere Germain and Hatem Ben Arfa are now with more glamorous clubs in France, while Jeremy Pied and Nampalys Mendy left for the allure of the Premier League.
The Eaglets reacted to these departures by making some bold moves of their own in the transfer market. Wylan Cyprien was brought in from Lens, and Younes Belhanda a former Ligue 1 winner was signed on loan from Dynamo Kiev.
But the real steal for OGC Nice this season was signing of the experienced defender Dante, and the gamble on the vastly talented but very eccentric Mario Balotelli, both of which has paid dividends so far.
Many football teams are making the switch from the 4-2-3-1 formation to the 3-5-2 formation. Tacticians believe the latter is the most difficult formation to defeat in football if implemented correctly.
Three defenders make the team less susceptible to counter attacks; five midfielders means they can’t be outnumbered in midfield and ensures they always have a presence up front.
The Nice manager has favoured this formation this season, and results see his team sit atop the Ligue 1 table after ten rounds of matches.
Style of play
Nice started this season playing possession football. Most teams who succeed with possession football have enough resources to stock their squad full of quality players who are comfortable playing out from the back.
The less glamorous teams that have found recent success do so by playing counter attacking the football. Leicester City’s title-winning squad averaged only 42.3% of possession over 38 games.
The Nice team last season were a brilliant attacking outlet, riding on the coat tails of the immensely talented Hatem Ben Arfa. The new manager’s decision to switch to a more direct, counter-attacking style has paid dividends, as the team is yet to taste defeat in the league this season.
Regardless of tactics, the aim in a football game has always been the same; outscore the opponents. Attack-minded teams try to score as many goals as they can, defensive minded teams prefer to keep things compact and try to nick a goal if they can.
OGC Nice is currently operating as a complete football side, scoring goals while still managing to keep things tight at the back.
After ten rounds of games, Nice have scored 20 league goals, an average of 2 a game, while conceding just 7, less than a goal a game.
They are the 2nd highest scoring team in the league and have the joint best defensive record. If Nice can keep things up like this, PSG has a lot to worry about.
The success or failure of a football team ultimately depends on the manager. Tactics, substitutions, motivation, disciplinary action, transfers and so on all depend on the musings of the man in charge.
Lucien Favre has earned his reputation as a smart, forward thinking manager, and his exploits with Borussia Moenchengladbach over the last four years highlights his quality.
The Swiss-born gaffer, who has won the league title in his home country also has an eye for talent. The likes of Granit Xhaka and Marco Reus have come into the limelight under his tutelage.
The 58-year-old manager has a reputation for being a perfectionist, at times, even attempting to be too perfect. If anybody can threaten PSG’s dominance in the league, or at the very least take Nice to the UEFA Champions League, it’s Lucien Favre.