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Ontheminute.com: Montpellier woes continue

Montpellier woes continue

Published: 27.10.12 / Written by: David Gold

Montpellier’s achievements last year were remarkable, and no one expected them to repeat those this year after winning the French title.

It was a pleasant aberration of statistical probability, but Montpellier had already done more than enough. This year, they could go back to being the plucky underdog.

However the scale of their fall seems rather sharp. Montpellier are 15th and have eight points from eight games so far this season. They even lost at home to a previously struggling Evian in their last game.

Rene Girard’s men can justifiably point to the stats and say that actually, they have played rather well, and have been quite unfortunate at times. Against Evian, against Marseille and others their good play has not been rewarded with the points they perhaps deserved. Then again, that is also an inevitable consequence of losing your top scorer.

Olivier Giroud was so crucial last season, the man who would so often score the winning goal in a significant 1-0 victory. His ability to finish off Montpellier’s good play, and sometimes fashion chances almost from nothing, were fundamental. Emmanuel Herrera has shown promise after being brought in from Chile to replace Giroud, but is yet to convince, let alone fill his sizeable shoes.

In the Champions League Montpellier certainly have not been embarrassed. Against Arsenal they were more than a match for the Londoners ,and in reality were only undone by a lack of experience and composure in front of goal – Younes Belhanda’s penalty notwithstanding.

But against Schalke they got a well deserved point in Germany to get their campaign off and running. It was an illustration of what Montpellier are capable of. A tough defence, impressive and enterprising midfield, make for a solid and effective unit. But this season they have been breached too easily, and have lost some of the edge that gave them such remarkable success last season. They have also suffered through injuries, which did not particularly afflict them during their title success.

All of this adds up to a difficult conundrum Rene Girard. In winning the league he has set the bar high – not necessarily to live up to that lofty finish, but to at least compete for Europe and possibly to get back into the Champions League. Ultimately, they will struggle in that goal against Lyon, Marseille, Paris St Germain and Lille if they can get their own campaign back on track. But then, that people can talk of being surprised at the struggle of Montpellier this season is a wonderful statement of how far this small and fascinating team have come, and just how impressive an achievement it was to win the French league in May.

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