With the conclusion of Week 20, it appears the great tectonic plates of Ligue 1 are finally making their move in their slow, yet inexorable course. For the first time since Week 5, Monaco find themselves on top of Ligue 1, even if it’s by the slight dint of goal differential. With their explosive offensive firepower stringing together weekly rampages over the course of the season, and though they have certainly had their off days, it is difficult to imagine Monaco not ending the season holding the championship trophy.
In Marseille, Monaco’s 4-1 thrashing of the home side not only took the Monegasques up top to conclude Week 20, but also featured the breaking of a benchmark from the previous season. In the 2015/16 season, Monaco scored a modest 57 goals, the fourth highest tally that year, good for third place overall. This season, barely past the halfway mark, Monaco have already scored an astonishing 60 goals, with a garish goal differential of +39. With exactly three goals per game, Monaco’s formidable offense should be as terrifying for future opponents as it has been terrorizing to past ones.
Nice, even though somewhat handicapped without Mario Balotelli and others, played a surprisingly drab affair against struggling visitors Metz, who collected a very valuable point for themselves with a scoreless draw. While Nice remain tied with Monaco on points, their goal differential *differential* with Monaco is a staggering -18. On the other side of the table, though Metz have the league’s worst goal differential with -18, their glorious point allowed them to climb into a four-way tie for second-to-worst place, with 20 total points.
On the subject of struggling sides, Ligue 1’s relegation battle is currently shaping up for something epic. Clubs as high as 13th placed Montpellier (23 points) could be caught in a single game by one of the four aforementioned languishing clubs. Even Toulouse (26 points), in ninth place, could be caught with two straight victories! In addition, last place Lorient (18 points) has been showing some much improved form lately, grabbing three wins in their last six matches, good for 50% (!) of their total points. Before this run, Lorient were on a seven game winless streak.
Meanwhile in Rennes, though PSG firmly outclassed their opponents, they were only able to muster a 1-0 victory. Of note was newly acquired Julian Draxler’s first time finish from the top of the 18-yard box off of a sharp cross-field pass from Marco Verratti. Draxler’s worm burner curled neatly just inside the far post, just past a diving Benoît Costil.
In this somewhat disappointing first domestic season under coach Unai Emery (admittedly, the Champions League is their main objective), though PSG have suffered some memorable results and some flat out shocking ones at that, the club has displayed the staying power of title contenders, now sitting only three points behind Monaco and Nice. However, despite notching a few heavily lopsided victories in the season, PSG lack the soul-crushing talent, skill, and mindset which characterized the team in the previous season, and which Monaco now alone seems to possess.
It is especially important to note Monaco’s socialistic goal scoring as a factor in their chances for taking home the Ligue 1 title. Any major injury to one or two starters likely will not impact their high-flying momentum. However, I am doubtful the same can be said for either PSG or Nice. An injury to Edinson Cavani or Verratti would throw major problems at PSG and Nice have already shown poorer performances in Balotelli’s absence. Regardless, Week 20 has set a grand stage for some high drama; the next few gameweeks (see: PSG vs. Monaco – Week 22) the acts, and Monaco, Nice, and PSG the star performers.