Only Marseille were the team on top of the pile, and remained there after the teams’ 2-2 draw, signifying quite a turnaround from this time last year.
Marseille took 11 weeks to get to 12 points last season. This time around, they were there in four, and won their first six. Those six wins were the first time that a team had done that since Monaco over 50 years ago. Defeat to Valenciennes has interrupted a superb start to the season, but Elie Baup has made an instant impact.
Last season Marseille experienced a torrid campaign, finishing 10th and at one point they lost seven games in a row, winning just one in sixteen in all. The club seemed paralysed from the top with sporting director José Anigo at loggerheads with Didier Deschamps. Deschamps left in the summer, the team sold their defensive midfielders, brought in the suspended for twelve games Joey Barton and barely recruited.
Baup, despite that, has turned the team around by instilling some defensive solidity into the club. One goal conceded in their first six games attested to that, while they also saw Rafidine Abdullah come through to fill that role in the midfield that was vacated by Alou Diarra when he joined West Ham. The team seems more united. Even Pierre Andre Gignac is scoring. He did not get on with Deschamps, having been brought in by Anigo, but has been on fire already, scoring five in eight so far in the league. Last time he scored that many so early in the season he was the league’s top goalscorer at Toulouse.
It all adds up to quite a challenge for Paris St Germain, who were hoping to win the league this year and underline the growth of the Qatari owned club. They may be in the Champions League already and competing well, but the French league continues to elude them. The Parisians were expected to cruise to the league title but so far there are no signs Marseille will allow them through easily.
It is quite fitting, given the rivalry between the two biggest clubs in France, and the fiercest battle in French football. So fierce is their rivalry that fans have not travelled with the away side to the derby between them since 2009, until last weekend when a small contingent of Parisians were allowed. The pairing developed their rivalry in the 1990s when they were vying for supremacy. Again they are battling for position now. But Paris is threatening to break away and Carlo Ancelotti’s side look like they could dominate for years to come. You can be sure that Marseille will give them quite a fight first.