What if there is no Bordeaux?

Bordeaux have shown they can beat the best, but is that enough?

To those of you that have been listening to our podcast, you might have learned that we have mixed feelings about Montpellier possibly being a Ligue 1 representative in the Champions League. Even though they are not in one of the top three spots right now, they still can make a late charge toward the end of the season and at least secure a third place spot, where they would have to qualify through a playoff. And for Lyon, that third spot hasn’t hurt them at all.

But we will see how Montpellier will fare the rest of the season. While they do have some easy games, they will have to close out the season playing Lorient, Lyon and PSG.

And while we might debate who “will” represent Ligue 1 in the Champions League, the new question that has to be asked is “who won’t represent Ligue 1 in the Champions League?”

While they do still have a game in hand, Bordeaux, if the season were to end today, would not qualify for any European competition whatsoever.  They currently lie in 6th place, just one out of the Europa League qualification spot. Usually the 6th place team would qualify as well, but since either PSG or Monaco are going to win the French Cup, that last spot will go toward the victor.

So, how would the world look at Ligue 1 if a French team, who made it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, didn’t even finish in European competition? Would that hurt the reputation more than, lets say, Montpellier actually qualifying for European Competition?

Bordeaux are in a really tricky spot right now. Not only have they played less than impressive in the second half of the season, they also lost the League Cup final, they were knocked out of the French Cup, they lost to Lyon in the Champions League, and they are in danger of losing their coach to France and their top striker to, as of right now, Arsenal. The only good news  in the last few weeks is that they re-signed Marc Planus to a new deal.

Therefore, is Bordeaux going to slip back into obscurity? If they do not even qualify for Europe, will they become the Bordeaux of the 1970s, that just happened to be just another team that lingered in the midtable? It is still hard to tell.

And what is sad is that we have seen many Championnat teams slip into this slippery slope. Nantes is the perfect example of this. They won eight league titles. They won four French Cups. They have a number of other honors as well. But from 2004 until today, Nantes has slipped into Ligue 2. If they do happen to make it back to Ligue 1, they don’t stay very long. But the revolt of players and fans is what eventually lead to the downfall of Nantes.

Now I am not saying that Bordeaux is in a position like that whatsoever. I am just using Nantes as an example of a team that in 10 years went from winning the Ligue 1 title to falling into Ligue 2 midtable mediocrity.

Luckily for Bordeaux, they do have two things going for them. First, Yoann Gourcuff. Even if the team does lose Blanc and Chamakh, they can build a team around Gourcuff. Usually successful teams build around one player. And when that player is someone who has skills like Gourcuff, then it is a lot easier to transfer players into the system.

Second is their schedule. For the remainder of the season, Bordeaux is looking at quite a weak schedule. While they do play Lorient this week (which you never know which Lorient team will show up), they will close out the season with Toulouse, Nice, Sochaux, Valenciennes and Lens. So, the remainder of the season looks to be pretty good for Bordeaux to get into a European competition spot.

So another question that I ask (and that is what I seem to be full of in this post, is questions), is if the UEFA coefficient is worth a crap. Should a team like Bordeaux, who many people say is one of the top teams in Europe, be absent from European competition? While, on the other hand, England will have teams that can easily be beaten in both competitions. If Bordeaux only qualifies for the Europa League, they could be in a group with either Liverpool or Manchester City. While I do like Man City, I still think Bordeaux is a better team. And while I hate Liverpool, I KNOW that Bordeaux is a better team.

But lets say in the last days that Aston Villa gets the last qualifying spot in the Europa League and, or the sake of argument, Bordeaux remains in 6th place and fails to qualify. Does this mean that Aston Villa is a better team? I hardly think so.

And as long as we have this type of system for European competition, that constantly overinflates English teams, good teams like Bordeaux will be left out of the competition. Plain and simple, the UEFA coefficient was made to protect the top leagues and it is hard for any smaller league, like Ligue 1, to move to the top, or even top three, of the coefficient chart.

So, what if there is no Bordeaux? Is this the end of a good thing for both Ligue 1 and the club itself? Maybe. Hopefully they will qualify. Sorry Lille and Montpellier, but one of you will have to go, for the well-being of Ligue 1.

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6 Responses

  1. If Montpellier finish 3rd they will mostly likely draw a tough opponent in the qualifier and get knocked out anyway. I’m more worried about Auxerre finishing 2nd since they are a low budget team with less than decent fan support. Auxerre 2nd and MHSC 3rd would be a disaster. I really hope Lyon and Bordeaux get 2nd and 3rd place but thats looking bleak right now.

  2. 3 points here Dave –
    1) If Auxerre, or Montpellier for that matter, finish in the top 3 – why don’t they deserve (after a gruelling season of league play) the chance at playing in Europe. If you view it from a club perspective – what do they have to inspire them to improve other than continental football.

    2) I agree entirely about this system – that it protects the big leagues and the coefficient system is inherently unjust – however from this be grateful that you don’t follow a small league in Europe (I’d consider Ligue 1 middling) and

    3) Your argument seems a bit disjointed – It is unfair that the Big Leagues are protected in Europe – but the big clubs in any given country have some form of divine right to participate. I don’t think you can argue both ways coherently.

  3. t’OM, I understand where you are coming from. But, this year, I think Ligue 1 has moved to the next level. And at this next level, Ligue 1 teams need to continue to finish in the top 4 in the Champions League, in my opinion.

    Now do Montpellier or Auxerre deserve to be in the CL if they finish in the top three? Yes they do. But once they play in the CL, will they be able to keep up in the competition like Bordeaux and Lyon have? I don’t think so. And if we have two teams knocked out in the group stage, assuming that the third team makes the third stage, then Ligue 1 has taken a step backward. But that is how the system is set up.

    So, if Auxerre keep their current spot, they need to put up in CL. But, honestly, I think that Montpellier would be great in the Europa League. Hopefully they will do better than Toulouse.

  4. I expect Marseille to possibly make the quater finals next year like FCB and OL did this year. If that happens, it would offset Auxerre and Montpellier’s probable lack of success in the Champions League next year should that scenario happen.

  5. Well, I do think Lyon will be in the top three as well.

  6. Hi Dave – who is to say that Auxerre and Montpellier will not spring a surprise or two – I say if they’ve earnt the right to be there, you, Marcel or anyone else doesn’t have a right to write them off. If the big teams are always succesful – football loses its lustre – and Lyon wouldn’t be in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

    What is wrong with Nantes struggling at the moment – Leeds are a big club in England and they’re in League 1. I think that this says more for the strength of English football than most other things – that it is a meritocracy (unlike my own A-League or your own MLS) and that, to me, is the point of football.

    Portsmouth can go bust if they’re mismanaged – Man Utd can sustain debt at the moment but if it becomes unsustainable they’re in strife – l’OM can spend squillions of Francs/Euros, yet they look likely to win the title after spending over 40m Euros again this season. If it is the same every year it’s no fun.

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