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Ligue 1 not just about PSG

Ligue 1

Marseille and Monaco woeful to start

Whether you are a Monaco fan, a Marseille fan or a supporter of neither, watching both teams in their league matches was embarrassing.

Of course, it must have been worse if you were actually a fan.

Imagine if you traveled from Monaco to Bordeaux (just over 400 miles), as a few did on Sunday evening. Or if you had been waiting for weeks in excitement to attend the first Marseille game at the beautiful and renovated Stade Velodrome.

Each occasion offered promise, but both ended in shambles. Monaco and Marseille are almost already in crisis, with two defeats for the former and one draw and a loss for the latter. It is embarrassing, and things will have to get better quickly.

Let's start with Marseille, the better ranked team in the table (15th ahead of 18th). So much was expected of Marcelo Bielsa, and so little has come so far.

L'OM were beaten too easily by an average Montpellier side on Sunday 2-0. The visitors took advantage of the poor defending -- again -- of the home side. Bielsa played with four at the back after the failure of three at the back in the first league game at Bastia, a 3-3 draw, but also because he lacks quality centre halves.

New managers Marcelo Bielsa of Marseille and Monaco's Leonardo Jardim have struggled with their new clubs.

Despite the changes, nothing changed. It was still poor defending. The players were booed off the pitch, and this defeat will be remembered forever as the first in the new stadium and also the first in Bielsa's career at the club.

Nothing worked for Marseille, as their underwhelming offense, led by Andre-Pierre Gignac, Florian Thauvin and Romain Alessandrini, managed only to hit the post.

More concerning, this loss, which leaves les Olympiens with just a point in two league games, comes after a controversial week. Bielsa had his first clash with a player and criticized (already) his chairman for the first time.

He had a massive argument with midfielder Morgan Amalfitano (on loan at West Bromwich last season), who wanted to join the squad for training when Bielsa had asked him to train with the reserves. The Argentine manager was not happy and abruptly ended the training session.

The next day, he laid into his directors, saying he was promised things that didn't happen.

"The club told me that it would invest 35 million euros, 15 from the sales of players and 20 from proper funds," said Bielsa in his news conference on Friday. "But you need to adapt and realise that sometimes there could be something unexpected happening."

He added, "Defensively, we wanted eight players, and we only have five. I think it will be very difficult to find good players now."

Bielsa never thought, for example, that he would have only one proper centre half at the start of the season when everybody at the club knew he would play with a back three.

Marseille's star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac hasn't given the club much offensively.

The former Athletic Bilbao manager has no choice but to accept the new rules, but he is not happy at all. He said he noticed some improvement from his team compared to the Bastia game, but that was surely not to be all negative.

Monaco's Leonardo Jardim also tried to stay positive on Sunday after the battering at Bordeaux. "I am not worried," he said despite the defeat. He should be though.

Last season, under Claudio Ranieri, Monaco won comfortably 2-0 at the Stade Chaban-Delmas. On Sunday, they had a solid first half, leading 1-0 at the break. And then they imploded, conceding four goals in 30 minutes in the second half.

They were all over the place tactically but, most worryingly, ran totally out of steam. They were shattered physically, and it's not just down to the fact that the tunnel at the Chaban-Delmas is the longest in the world. It's surely due to their preseason.

Jardim doesn't do a normal preseason. His players don't run. They don't vomit because of all the fitness work. For the Portuguese manager, it's all about the ball. Every exercise is with the ball, even the running ones, even in preseason.

The problem is the Monaco players are not fit. If you add this factor to the poor tactical choices Jardim has made, both against Lorient and at Bordeaux, it explains a bit better why Monaco are second from bottom.

Jardim is not the only one to blame, though, very much like in Bielsa's case. His star players, apart from Dimitar Berbatov, are underperforming.

Joao Moutinho has been poor, and Falcao has not played much to protect his return after his bad injury. Most importantly, Jardim is still waiting for the club to reinvest the money from the James Rodriguez transfer.

Since the Colombian joined Real Madrid at the start of August for 91 million euros, only Maarten Stekelenburg, on loan from Fulham as cover goalkeeper, and Bernardo Silva, a young creative midfielder from Benfica with hardly no first-team experience, have arrived.

It's not enough, and the results have showed it. It's time to back the new manager with some new signings, which would also act as a vote of confidence.

Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.


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