29/01/2018

2017-18: the story so far


Well, 2017-18 is turning out to be a strange season for the Girondins, although the arrival of new coach Gustavo Poyet may mark a turning point in the team's fortunes. We look back on the story so far. 

Before the season had even begun in earnest, things started badly for Bordeaux, who were knocked out of the Europa League in the preliminary stages on away goals by Hungary's Videoton. European football would not be on the agenda this time round... But the team managed to brush off that disappointment by making a bright start to their Ligue 1 campaign, producing a number of solid, attractive performances including a spectacular 3-3 draw away at Lyon which was as good an advert for French football as you're ever likely to see.

By the end of September, Bordeaux were sitting comfortably up in third and travelled to Paris as serious contenders for one of the top spots. But they were given a resounding hiding by PSG (losing 6-2) and went into the subsequent international break on a bit of a downer.

Over the following weeks, the Girondins were unlucky and, although they produced positive performances, results began seriously slipping away and defeats were suffered at the hands of Amiens, Monaco, Rennes and Caen. Intermittently, there were brighter moments such as a home draw against Marseille in which Bordeaux showed they could still rise to the occasion (Marseille pulled back to 1-1 with the last kick of the game) and a convincing 3-0 win against an ailing Saint-Etienne, but on the whole the team's collective confidence was on the wane.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, things went from bad to worse, with four straight defeats in Ligue 1, including two full-on embarrassments on home soil (against Strasbourg and Montpellier), and a lacklustre exit from the Coupe de la Ligue at the hands of Toulouse, putting a premature end to any hope of playing a part in the final being hosted in Bordeaux in March. To further compound the situation, the team's most effective forward Alexandre Mendy suffered a serious injury, in all likelihood putting an end to his season. 

By early December, the team had gone from simply being unlucky to losing any form of design, desire or coordination. The hardcore home supporters turned on coach Jocelyn Gourvennec, demanding his resignation/dismissal, but the club's management stuck by their man.

After the Christmas break, Bordeaux threw away a slender one-goal lead against amateurs Granville in the Coupe de France, where they had to contend with strong winds, dubious refereeing decisions and cynical tackles. The Girondins eventually went down 2-1 and had three players sent off in what turned out to be a humiliating afternoon.


Gourvennec's squad, which had now been strengthened by the arrival of creative midfielder Soualiho Meïté (on loan from Monaco) and the charismatic local-boy defender Paul Baysse (not to mention the return of previously-injured striker Gaëtan Laborde), somehow managed to secure an away win at Troyes but this was followed up by yet another home defeat at the hands of Caen. This time, there would be no way back for Gourvennec, who was relieved of his duties. Veteran captain Jérémy Toulalan, Gourvennec's closest changing-room ally, also jumped ship.

Under the guidance of interim coach Eric Bedouet, Bordeaux then shocked everyone by beating high-fliers Nantes 1-0 away, the goal coming from hitherto underperforming forward Nicolas de Préville. Immediately after the match, it was announced that the Girondins were bringing in the former Chelsea and Tottenham star Gustavo Poyet as their new coach.

Supporters were initially nonplussed by the appointment, given Poyet's meagre credentials as a coach: other than a good spell at Brighton & Hove Albion and a prominent rescue job at Sunderland, his track record is a succession of unglamorous stop-gap jobs. But, in Poyet's first game in charge, Bordeaux delivered the goods against a strong Lyon side who arrived on the back of wins against PSG in the league and Monaco in the cup. The Girondins looked solid and creative for the first time in months, they played with verve and energy, and proved effective on the break, most notably on the first goal, which was a case study in fluid, counter-attacking football.


The Girondins have struggled throughout the season but, at the time of writing, they have won three of their past four games, which no longer sounds like the makings of a team in crisis. They now lie 9th in Ligue 1 and might just start looking up at the teams in front of them rather than having to watch their backs and focus on the danger zone below them.

Will Poyet's arrival spark a full-on revival or will this prove to be a momentary new manager bounce? Only time will tell.

Lead photo courtesy of Girondins Autrement

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