A disappointing start
Montpellier tend to keep the ball during their league appearances but you should expect a compact team against Arsenal, they know how to do that too.
Montpellier started with a draw against a good Toulouse side then lost two consecutive games against Lorient away and Marseille at home. They secured their first three points against Sochaux, a team already in ‘crisis’. Then they were defeated by the newly-promoted from league 2 team of Reims on the clear score of 1-3. Reims has been a terrific team, but only during the 50s.
Montpellier now lies at a disappointing 17th place with 6 goals scored and 8 conceded. Five games might not be enough to judge if they’ve become worse in the long term but there are certainly worrying signs.
Players to watch
Their neighbors and now the leader of the league, Marseille, are the biggest side they’ve faced so far. They couldn’t step it up in this highly disputed game that can be considered a South-East derby. But will the expected transcendence of a first Champions League game in history be enough? There are reasons to doubt that.
The offensive midfielders Younès Belhanda and the young and talented Rémy Cabella are the ones to look out for. They have career plans and they know there is no better moment to get a name in Europe than playing well in the Champions League. At the back we can’t forget that Yanga Mbiwa is competing with Laurent Koscielny for a central spot in Didier Deschamps national team.
The most surprising is that they’ve been very stable during the summer with only two players departing! Giroud wasn’t only Montpellier’s top scorer last season but also had the most assists. He has left a hole behind him. His ability to keep the ball up-front has been lacking and opposing defenders have not been challenged as often. Surprisingly, Montpellier hasn’t replaced Giroud with a genuine goal scorer.
The ‘Devil’s Pot’
The Stade de la Mosson was renovated for the 1998 World Cup in France and currently has a capacity of 32,900. Montpellier’s stadium is typical of those in the South-East — such as Marseille or Nice — when it comes to atmosphere. The nickname of the stadium “La Marmite du Diable” or “Devil’s Pot”. It won’t be a Turkish-like atmosphere but far more intimidating than the silent cathedrals of places like Stamford Bridge.
As a French football follower I’ve been surprised by they very poor start this season. As I said before the starting eleven is almost identical from last season so there must be something behind the dip. Is it the loss of Giroud or the inevitable drop after a successful season? Ligue 1 is a tough championship, one you don’t win relying on a miracle. Good sides don’t suddenly become bad and the most dangerous that could happen — from an opponents point of view — is this game becoming a turning point in Montpellier’s season.
But then again you don’t really know what to expect from this team and to what extent they will trouble to Arsenal on Tuesday. Things get even more confusing when charismatic president Loulou Nicollin tells l’Equipe on Monday that Montpellier will certainly play this season not to get relegated in L2. A bluff?