At the risk of tempting fate, everything’s going fucking swimmingly for AJ Auxerre at the moment. We’re top of the league, unbeaten in 7, starting to sweep lesser teams aside, Xavier Lenogue’s a single clean sheet away from equalling a league record and now we’re apparently the subject of a takeover, courtesy of a mysterious “Former footballer”.
The owner Mr James and Chairman Mr Chabod are very much keeping me in the dark with regards to the identity of the potential buyers, so I’ve been spending my downtime speculating about this mysterious consortium. My leading theory so far is that Auxerre favourite Eric Cantona, together with his contacts at Stella Artois, the second shittest lager on the market, is coming back to his old club to lead us into a glorious new era.
We’ve got several players in the Domino’s Ligue 2 Team of the Week again, including 3 of our starting defenders Issa Samba, Mamadou Doucouré and Mike Kakuba, along with Abdoulaye Sissako, Joël Soumahoro and Zoun. The 4-0 win over Nîmes really was a walk-over and it’s great to see so many of the lads get recognition for their performances.
Corentin Tirard’s ruled himself out for a couple of weeks with a groin strain, but I think at this point I’ve made my indifference towards him perfectly clear, so I’m not counting his being crocked as a grey cloud in Auxerre’s perfect blue February sky.
We’re taking on 18th placed US Créteil-Lusitanos today at the Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps. It’s a match that the visitors won’t have been looking forward to at all but it’s one that I’m eagerly anticipating. To be fair I’m excited for every match at the minute because I get to watch this Auxerre side’s scintillating football.
Créteil shouldn’t pose a major problem today so I’m sticking with our all out attacking Project: Meatloaf. Mike Kakuba’s giving me a bit of a headache at the minute as he barely put a foot wrong in the absence of Captiste last week and I’m struggling to think of a reason to recall my captain to the side. It’s a great headache to have though. I am making one change for today’s match however and that’s Hicham Aidir, who I’m resting in favour of Florian Ayé. Hicham was quiet in the Nîmes game but I’m not dropping him for that. I just want to give Florian a run out and I reckon we can take care of Créteil without our talismanic Moroccan. The absences of Captiste and Hicham mean that Issa Samba gets the armband. The full back’s stood in before and I trust him to do a job as our skipper.
The first half an hour is slow on the pitch but is by no means quiet in the stadium. The home fans are in fine voice, buoyed by the team’s recent form. Belief and expectations are high and rightly so. After 20 minutes I tell the team to try to exploit the flanks as we’re finding it tricky to break down the Créteil defence. They’ve started with 2 holding men in front of the back 4 and a midfielder in front of them, so the centre of the pitch is very congested. The change pays dividends quickly when in the 32nd minute Joël passes the ball short to Zoun 20 yards out, who turns and blasts it over the keeper, against the underside of the crossbar and in. Take a bloody bow mate.
I want to press our advantage. The goal means that the visitors need to come out of their half and actually try to score so we’ll play with more width, we’ll roam from our positions and we’ll play some expressive football like the Project: Meatloaf of old. If they try to get at us I want us popping up in the gaps and pulling their defence apart. We don’t manage another first half goal but on the hour we double our advantage. After setting up the opener Joël tries to bag himself a goal and shoots from 20 yards, but his shot’s immediately blocked. The ball only rolls away a few yards as far as Raf though and he puts his laces through it, nearly bursting the net with a fantastic effort. We’ll need to make a DVD of this game or something because these goals have been excellent.
In an effort to give us even more width, Foden and Zoun swap flanks and will play as out and out wingers, staying wide to stretch the defence even more than our overlapping full backs have been doing so far. With 20 minutes to play though Créteil win a corner. Berthier whips it into the box and although he rises well, Kakuba can only flick the ball on towards the far post with his head. Niakaté gets there quickest and heads towards goal, bringing a good save from Lenogue, but he can’t keep hold of the ball and drops it at the feet of Jimenez. The Créteil man shoots desperately from a narrow angle but captain Issa Samba dives in to knock it behind for another corner.
About 10 minutes later I make a rare triple substitution, giving Aidir, Ba and Fomba chances to impress me. Ayé, Foden and Raf make way. With 5 minutes to go Hikem brings the ball forwards and gets a cross in from the left wing. Leca clears the ball but not far enough and it falls for Abdoulaye Sissako, who thumps a Di-Canio-esque volley towards goal from the edge of the area but can only watch it crash against the far post. Zoun’s beaten to the rebound and the ball’s cleared. I feel somewhat for Abdoulaye, who very nearly took his recent tally to 5 goals in 5 games, which would’ve been pretty astonishing for a midfielder whose skillset is primarily based around defence.
We do manage to put the cherry on top though. Just a couple of minutes after Sissako hits the post, Aidir holds the ball up and tries to slip Ba in behind the defence on the left. He’s thwarted by an absolutely superb slide tackle by Bangoura, but the ball only rolls back to Aidir, whose shot deflects in off Boyer. They all count, Hicham. Another extremely pleasing 90 minutes ends 3-0.
Oh for fucks sake, can somebody ask Ruben Aguilar to stop ruining my excellent mood? As Captiste and I have explained to him many times, there’s no way I’m dropping Issa Samba or Faouzi Hikem unless their form drops. Or they get suspended. Which they almost certainly will do sooner or later actually, so I don’t know what he keeps whinging about. Luckily, we all know how this goes: Aguilar kicks off, Captiste steps in, puts an arm round the full back and makes him see sense. God, I love Captiste.
Just the 3 players in the Team of the Week this time, too. If I didn’t have such a naturally sunny disposition I’d be starting to feel a bit crestfallen. Mike Kakuba, Raf and Joël are our trio, although I reckon Zoun’s unlucky to be left out. I’d stick him in there for that goal alone.
Now don’t get me wrong, as Matthew Wilder once said: “Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride”, but do you remember Alessandro Bassani, the promising young winger that I was planning on blooding into the squad this season but who broke his ankle early on? Well he’s back! And he’s picked up a bloody sports hernia, ruling him out for another 4-5 weeks. It really is lucky that I’m so fucking chipper, isn’t it?
Now here’s some good news: Xavier Lenogue has levelled the Ligue 2 clean sheet record of 15, meaning another in our next match will set a new league record. Good lad.
Speaking of our next game, we’ll be playing AC Ajaccio away from home today and they’re another club that are struggling to beat the drop at the minute. I’ll not show any mercy though. Bourg-en-Bresse have latched right onto us at the top of Ligue 2 and just won’t piss off, staying level with us on 55 points but behind because of their inferior goal difference, and I want us to keep winning until we shake them off. Incidentally though, a 7 point gap’s opened up between the two of us and Stade de Reims in 3rd, which is extremely promising in terms of our promotion bid.
The only change I’ll make today is bringing Hicham Aidir back in. I was hoping that Ayé would put in a performance to give me something to think about against Créteils-Lusitanos, but he went missing an awful lot and will have to wait for another chance. Benjamin Valette, the youngster who was sold to Marseille in the Summer and loaned out to Ajaccio, starts against us for the second time.
This is all becoming too easy. It only takes 20 minutes for Joël, who’s now officially in superb form, to pass short to Aidir on the edge of the box and for our captain to stroke the ball firmly past the lesser Mandanda to give us the lead. It’s another dominant half of football and we nearly go 2-0 up in first half injury time when Sissako picks out Samba charging up the wing on the overlap. Samba chests it down and lays it off for Foden, who plays it on to Aidir and he shoots on the turn, but can only scuff the ball wide of the near post.
I keep it simple at half time and send the lads back out with smiles on their faces. Smiles that are wiped away only 5 minutes after the restart, when Vincent scoops a beautiful pass over the top of our defence for Vasseur, who cuts in from the left, controls the ball with his first touch and half volleys it into the far corner of our net with his second. Huh. Still confident in our ability to retake the lead though I sacrifice the more defensive Raf and Zoun, who’s had a quiet game, for Fomba and Ba 5 minutes later. Less than a minute after the duo come on, a Vincent cross is floated towards our far post from the right byline and Mike Kakuba brings down the goalscorer Vasseur in the box. Huh. The referee points to the spot and awards a penalty to AC Ajaccio, which Legchilin converts, sending Lenogue the wrong way… Huh.
We’re behind. We’re losing. To a bunch of bloody relegation strugglers. I honestly don’t know if I’m shocked or furious. Maybe I’m both. But it’s lucky I’m still in such a good mo… 10 minutes after Ajaccio’s 2nd goal, Phil Foden takes an elbow to the chest jumping for a header and has to go off. Huh. Yeah I’m fucking furious. Everything that could have gone wrong in this second half has so far gone wrong. I throw Florian Ayé onto the right as a makeshift wide target man but I’m beginning to lose hope.
It’s not until injury time at the end of the game that we start to show signs of fighting back. In the 91st minute Adama Ba tries his luck from 25 yards but Mandanda catches the shot easily. 2 minutes later we’re really pushing though and Aidir’s holding the ball up 25 yards out. After that it all happens in slow motion: A centre back is drawn out of position… There’s a gaping hole in the Ajaccio back line… Lamine Fomba charges into the space and receives the ball from Hicham… He’s got all the space in the World… And he spoons it wide from 6 yards out with his weaker foot. I think we’re done for today.
Now let’s be rational about this because I want to know if I’m going over the top here. Am I annoyed that we’ve lost against a side that we were heavy favourites to beat? Sure. Am I frustrated that we allowed both of their 2 second half shots to find the back of the net? Yes. Am I vexed that we were unable to add to our only goal or record more shots on target ourselves? Definitely. Am I angry that Bourg-en-Bresse also lost today and a win would’ve lifted us 3 points clear at the top for the first time this season? Take a fucking guess.
In fact, no. Do you know what? Yes I’m angry with how this game’s unfolded. Fuck Ajaccio, fuck their 2 shots, fuck Bourg-en-Bresse, fuck Mike Kakuba and fuck the brute that jabbed poor Phil Foden in the chest.