Is Caen in trouble? Brest catching up.

Steeven Langil: Can't handle cold weather.

Sixteen matches into the Ligue 2 season, SM Caen looked destined to return back to the top flight of French football. They had a ten point lead over the second place team going into matchday seventeen. That was a better record than Bordeaux had over it’s closest rivals in Ligue 1 during the same period.

But now Caen is only three points ahead of their closest rival for the Ligue 1 title, Brest.

Have Caen lost it? Are they starting to fall. Are Brest just playing better? Well, it is kind of a mixture of both.

Still, this was a point that the team knew that the would eventually come to. Caen’s captain Nicolas Seube said back in September ” “We must remain vigilant because the success can turn at any moment. Regarding the quality of play, there are still gaps,” said Seube.

First, lets look at Caen. They started off the season on fire. After dropping their first match to Sedan, they went on a twelve game unbeaten streak. In that span, Caen pulled off some impressive wins Nantes and Arles Avignon. Then they hit a snag, with a 2-0 loss to Brest on the road. Still, after that defeat, Caen picked up the pieces and tried to put their season back on track with another string of impressive wins, including a 4-0 win away to Nimes and a 2-0 win at home to Le Havre.

Therefore, while Caen continues its stellar play, something isn’t right. They haven’t been losing, yet they are now in a tight race for first place. So what is the problem?

First, in recent matches, they have produced more draws than wins. Similar to the case at Manchester City, tying matches doesn’t  push you further down the table. Yet, it doesn’t help you climb up it either. In their last five matches, they drew against Laval at home and Dijon on the road, two teams that they should have had maximum points against. They also suffered a 2-1 loss to 19th place Istres. Right there, Caen lost an easy seven points.

The second part of their problem is offensive.

When Caen went on their first unbeaten streak, putting the ball in the net was quite easy for the Normandy side. Steeven Langil has been a large part of their offensive, scoring eight goals for the team so far this season. But that was when it was warm outside. Now France has been hammered by strong snow storms in the last month and Langil has publically stated that he does not like the cold. This can explain why since December 4th (where the temperature was 5 degrees Celcius) , Langil has rarely finished a match.

On the other hand, offensively minded midfielder Benjamin Nivet doesn’t have a problem with the cold. Nivet just as well in 2 degree weather as he does during the summer time. And so far this season, he has produced 6 goals for the team and is on track to score the highest amount of goals of his career. And when he isn’t scoring, he is helping produce the goals, with eight assists this season. And of those eight assists, four of them have been to Steenen Langil. And if he isn’t producing, Nivet need to punch the goal in the net himself and cannot rely on his fellow teammates.

Still, in order for Caen to push forward, the 33-year old Nivet cannot do it alone.

Which brings us to Youssef El Arabi. The 22-year old joined the team last season from the CFA, and so far has been quite impressive. It is too early to see if El Arabi is a flash-in-the-pan or the real thing. Still, he has scored four Ligue 2 goals this season, with two of those being against Nimes and Le Havre. Still, like Langil, he seems to not like the cold weather as much. While he seems to be able to stand the cold longer than Langil, his production since the cold season started has been quite poor.

Julien Toudic, the other striker for Caen, has also had a lack of production since the winter spell. Yet, he did score a goal yesterday against Dijon.

While the offensive has been a big part of their problem, it almost seems to collate with the bad weather in the region. Caen is located in a place that has been hard hit by the recent storms, and the effect the snow is having on SM Caen’s play is starting to show. So snow would be the third reason for Caen’s recent form.

Finally, the fourth reason is, well, Brests has just been playing some good football. Like Caen, Brest has the perfect combination of scoring a lot of goals (29 so far this season, second to Caen) and not allowing the opposition to score (18 goals allowed, again, only second to Caen).

The situation in Ligue 2 is not unlike the current situation you have in Ligue 1. Caen is similar to Bordeaux. Everyone expects Caen to win Ligue 2, and they started off the season well. They had a few snags, but all and all it has been a good season. On the other hand, Brest is similar to Lille, the team who started off the season poor, but with a string of impressive wins, not find themselves within striking distance of the top spot.

Brest lost four of their first six matches this season. But after their draw to Chateauroux, Brest has only lost once and a string of impressive wins. On the 14th of this month, Brest pulled off a 2-1 win against Le Havre, the team most people expected to hold second place at this point of the season.

Later in the week, we will be taking a closer look at the Brest team.

As of right now, Caen isn’t in too much trouble. Could they possibly lose their top spot in the next few weeks? Maybe. They do have a harder schedule in the next month compared to Brest. But if they can hold off their opposition and secure victories, especially against Metz, Arles Avignon, Ajaccio and Strasbourg (who have finally moved out of the relegation zone in 16th place), they should be in good shape to continue on their road to Ligue 2 dominance.

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