Arsenal, Chelsea & Newcastle six-hitters leave French dreaming

Salut!’s Nice corner, our regular look at French football and in particular the exploits of our team of choice Nice, finds a club manager casting an envious gaze across the Channel …

No sexy football please, we’re French. After all the fun the French have had over the years at the expenses of the supposedly sexless British, it is our turn to gloat.

As Arsenal, Chelsea and – whisper it – Toon won their weekend games with an aggregate of 18-0, Ligue 1 stuttered to a customary cluster of scoreless draws and low-scoring wins.

One especially tiring ecnounter saw Rennes held 0-0 at home by St Etienne, a club that once had a swashbuckling air (record number of away goals for Ligue 1: 41 in 1969-70) but now limits its ambition to stopping other people scoring (Ligue 1 record for lowest number of goals conceded at home: four in 2007-08).

All of which had poor Frédéric Antonetti, the Rennes manager, weeping into his Breton cider. “St Etienne just played with everyone behind the ball,” he said. “In France we don’t get those 6-0s of Arsenal and Chelsea (Toon-Villa hadn’t by then happened). Why? Because there’s this culture of defence. I love to see two teams playing football, and it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, it was a match taking place in the French Ligue 1.”

Nice, as alert readers will knows, attracted Salut! Sunderland support in honour of its appointment as manager of Eric Roy, whose finest hour in a Sunderland shirt came on the day we got two-thirds of the way to hitting six ourselves, against Chelsea.

Nice are unbeaten after three games in Ligue 1, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Nancy on Saturday night, Eric said it was the weakest of his team’s opening performances, though there had been chances to wrap up the game before Nancy equalised.

Marseille, the champions, finally won a game, the only one that ended with a margin of more than one goal (2-0 against the very modest Lorent) and so, I am sorry to have to relate, did the appalling Jean-Louis Triaud’s Bordeaux, 2-1 away at Paris Saint-Germain. New readers perplexed as to why Salut! Sunderland should regard Bordeaux in the same light as Newcastle United need only consult the archived material about Triaud and Laurent Blanc’s insults when we were in for Marouane Chamakh.

L’Equipe could hardly contain its joy at Chamakh’s performance for Arsenal. Arsène Wenger is quoted as saying his new recruit is still adapting to the Premier while adding: “:Just look at his impact: he provoked apenalty, provoked a red card and scored a goal.”

En passant, Salut! Sunderland raises its eyebrows at the glee taken by Wenger – for whom admiration has loudly been expressed here – at his man’s success in getting an opponent sent off (Ian Holloway thought it harsh, but then the Dutch probably thought every card in the World Cup final was harsh).

So it was, for France, a weekend of relief for the champions, in front of 53,000 fans, and a lot of boring stuff elsewhere in front of rather few fans (all of 30,000 at PSG-Bordeaux). And the French, who have died laughing at the Anelka “died laughing” quote, were left to look wistfully towards their compatriots and honorary compatriots plying their trade in England.

Colin Randall

* With the usual thanks to Kamini-le-ouf for his Chamakh caricature

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