As deadline day approaches I’m not stressing or fretting about deals still to be finished like some of the other managers in the league. I’ve had a quiet window. Well a silent one really. I don’t think we need bolstering at the minute though, if anything we’re still a little bit flabby. We’ve got good cover in every single area of the pitch, except arguably at left back, but I’m not especially worries about that. More on that in a second though because I do allow some outgoings in the final days of January. Georges Bailly and Tristan Dubois both head out on loan to JA Drancy and Le Mont LS, while I turn down an approach from Southampton for young defender Nicholas Charlet. They initially come in with the insultingly low ball figure of £150k and after some really frustrating negotiations they still don’t come close to his £500k asking price.
We’re making the trip to USBCO in the league before the window slams shut though. They’re having a tough old time of it so far this season and are currently propping up the league, while we’re 2 points behind the league leaders Bourg-en-Bresse. You’d think because we’ve recently comfortably beaten the latter that a victory over the former should be a breeze, but doesn’t it seem so entirely football that we should lose this one, lulled into a false sense of security after our recent form?
Hopefully not though. I mentioned before that we’re light at left back and we’re certainly going to see if I should have signed back up today because Faouzi Hikem’s suspended after reaching 3 yellow cards in his last 10 matches. I’ve got faith in Ruben Aguilar though, our backup right back who’s currently unhappy with his lack of playing time. He did a job at left wing back against Zlatan’s Valenciennes, even scoring the winning goal, so I reckon he’ll do a job today. Abdoulaye Sissako also comes back into midfield after his suspension at the expense of Lamine Fomba, who’s still not showing me what he can really do. We’re also going back to our attacking Project: Meatloaf system which may be tempting fate, but on the other hand… Come on, they’re bottom of the bloody league. We’re going to play wider than usual, we’ll press them hard and get our attackers running at the defence. I want us to tear these apart, ideally.
It seems I needn’t have worried too much. 11 minutes in a USBCO throw next to their own penalty area is fumbled by David Charles and Zoun heads it straight into the box for Aidir. Obviously he thumps it past Thuram-Ulien. It’s 1-0 but we can’t afford to relax. 2 minutes later we can though when Foden receives the ball 20 yards out, draws the centre backs out of position and slips the ball casually through for Aidir, who takes a touch and places it firmly past the keeper for 2-0.
By the 26th minute it’s 3-0, this time from a Foden corner that’s flicked on by Doucouré and volleyed by Captiste straight into the crowd of bodies in the box. A quick game of pinball ensues and ends when Sissako stabs the ball home from 6 yards out. A couple more minutes pass and we have the chance to extend our lead further, but when Aidir gets in behind the defence courtesy of a good long ball from Loïc Goujon, his shot is turned behind brilliantly by Thuram-Ulien.
It almost slips my mind, such is the action at the opposite end, that our young loanee Brahim Ferhat is on USBCO’s left wing. He makes me sit up and pay attention with about 10 minutes to go before the break though when he bursts down the flank, leaving Issa Samba for dead. He approaches the byline and whips the ball back to the edge of our bo, where Loquet arrives to place it beautifully, first time into the bottom corner. I allow myself a wry smile. We’re in such good form that it makes sense. The first goal we’ve conceded in 2022 is created by one of our own.
Half time passes and I bring off Joël at the hour mark. He’s been OK today but he’s struggled to make a real impact, finding himself isolated between USBCO’s 2 holding men. Lamine Fomba comes on and I want him to throw his weight around a bit up there as more of a destroyer. Just seconds later we grab ourselves another goal. It’s not Fomba, although I would have been extremely smug if it was. No, Ruben Aguilar, solid again at left back so far, whips a cross in towards the far post from deep on the left. It’s a flat, angled cross and it’s easy for Foden to anticipate. Phil arrives to tap the ball home from close range for 4-1. A few minutes later Fomba takes a potshot from 30 yards but it drifts harmlessly wide. I choose to ignore it.
Still not content for some reason, I bring Adama Ba on for Zoun on the left with 20 minutes to go. He does nearly make an immediate impact, receiving a brilliant chipped pass from Fomba and crossing from the byline, but Aidir’s heavily outnumbered in the box and the ball’s headed clear. Lamine cushions it down for Ba though who volleys it first time – Against the far post. Unlucky.
With the game dead we drift into injury time. I don’t know if complacency drifts into our ranks but in the 91st minute the hosts’ goalscorer Arnaud Loquet crosses from deep on the right and who else but Brahim Ferhat pops up to poke the ball in at the far post. I give Brahim a subtle thumbs up as he runs past and he grins back at me. He’s not been prolific this season and that’s only his 3rd goal in 25 games, but he’s certainly impressed me today.
We’ve not lost in 5 league matches now, including 3 wins and a goal difference of +7. It’s extremely promising form but annoyingly it’s not enough to take the top spot back from Bourg. I wish they’d just stop bloody winning.
Anyway, deadline day is here and we’ve already lost our first player of the day. Phil Foden… Has a cold and won’t be fit for arguably the highest profile match of my career against Bordeaux tomorrow. Come on, Phil.
We have actually lost our first player of the day though. Nicholas Charlet is going to Southampton after all after they come back in with a £750k bid with future incentives for the 15 year old. He can’t move until the Summer when he’s 16 but it’s all agreed. To be fair, it’s a big move for the lad and I hope he makes the most of it.
Godspower Tower’s leaving too, as much as it pains me to lose a player with such a fantastic name. He’s joining Diósgyör in Turkey for £500k, where hopefully he’ll get a bit more football. Godspeed, Godspower.
And finally Crouchie lets me know that young midfielder Paul Lefevre is off to Fethiyespor on loan, again with first team football in mind to aid his development. I’ll keep a close eye on him. Well, Crouchie will, when he isn’t watching Isaac Sohna.
And with that the deadline slams shut. I’m glad of it to be honest. The window’s nothing but an annoyance if you’re not planning on buying anyone and I’ve mainly been ignoring it over the last few days, because I’ve been focussing on this: Our French Cup 10th Round match away at Girondins de Bourdeaux.
Only a madman would attack such a big team away from home, so I’m reverting once again to our counter attacking Project:Meatloaf Mk II. Foden’s out with his… Cold… And Samba’s suspended for (All together now) picking up 3 yellow cards in his last 10 matches. I’m never going to play a full strength side again, am I? But luckily Hikem’s back from his suspension so he comes in at left back, while Aguilar finally gets to play in his favoured position of right back. Adama Ba will cut in from the left after briefly impressing against USBCO, while Zoun moves over to the right wing. Let’s see if we’re ready to take on a Ligue 1 club.
We threaten early on when Zoun leads a counter attack, darting with the ball through the centre of the pitch. He shoots from the edge of the area and sends it over the bar, but he gets an ovation from the travelling support even so. Our fans fall silent a minute later though when Bordeaux do some breaking of their own. Andersen feeds the ball through for young striker Gnago, who slams his shot against the near post. It’s a close call.
A few minutes later they’re starting to pen us into our own box. This time the ball’s on the right with Vida, who gets a cross in from the byline straight onto the head of Lo Faso at the far post. He powers a header – Against the angle from close range. Bloody hell. For a moment I get flashbacks to a certain bombardment in Stockholm, but our luck doesn’t last like it did that day. In the 17th minute Coco slides the ball across the edge of our box and Gnago turns the ball in under Lenogue at his near post.
The next 8 minutes are a painful watch. We stay under the cosh and concede not once, but twice more before the 25 minute mark. First through Andersen, who dribbles forwards and powers it in from the edge of the box, and then through Gnago again, who receives the ball from Acosta and beats Lenogue at his near post. Again.
And that’s how my first half of competitive football against a Ligue 1 club ends. 0-3 and utterly, thoroughly outclassed. Seeing as we’re pretty much out of the cup at this point anyway though, I choose to see this as an opportunity. How does our attacking Project: Meatloaf hold up against a much better side? I bring off Ba and replace him with a sniffling Phil Foden, who swaps with Zoun and moves onto the right. If we’re going to lose I’d like us to at least play some decent football and in the last few games we’ve played some brilliant stuff.
It bloody works within 2 minutes. First Zoun cuts in from the left and shoots, forcing a good save from Dimitrievski, and from the resulting corner Foden swings the ball right onto the penalty spot, where Sissako’s waiting to lash it home on the volley. Unfortunately though, Bordeaux take control back after that, perhaps realising that they let their guard down after the break. With half an hour to go we go 4-2-4, with Florian Ayé replacing Joël and joining Hicham up front and the 2 wide men swapping wings so that they can stay wide and float some crosses in on their favoured feet. A few minutes later we get at them again. This time a long ball from Hikem is brought down by Ayé and slipped through the defence for the onrushing Foden. He pokes the ball at goal but Dimitrievski saves well.
With 20 minutes to go we’re back against the wall though. Gnago goes close to completing his hat trick but is denied by a parried save by Lenogue, and then a close range free kick is bent just over the bar by Lo Faso. 10 minutes later that nuisance Gnago goes close again, receiving another great Acosta through ball and shooting just wide of the near post, but a few minutes later it’s Acosta himself that bags the final goal, firing past Lenogue from 20 yards after a good Bordeaux break. We go close with a couple of minutes to play when Foden’s corner is cushioned down by Hikem and volleyed goalwards by Captiste. The ball crashes against the underside of the bar but stays out. In all fairness, the better side has won.
It’s quite troubling, really. I’m aiming for promotion here and although Bordeaux are admittedly a good Ligue 1 team and not one of the strugglers, we were so thoroughly outplayed today that it really makes me wonder whether this team would cut it in the top flight. Or maybe it’s my system? Either way, if we hit our target this year I’m going to have to give this a lot of thought.