“Well, we know where we’re going…”
Rob Canavan from The Final Third reviews the season of Saint-Etienne, who narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification.
The margins between success and failure have always been slim. Similarly, the way in which people judge whether a campaign/manager has been a success can sometimes be based on the end result, rather than an objective look at the strides the club have taken in that season. In this specific instance, I am referring to Ligue 1 side, Saint-Etienne. One of the most successful clubs in French football, Les Verts had not won any silverware since 1981 (in that year they completed a league & cup double). They have spent the last three decades yo-yoing between Ligue 1 & Ligue 2, a shadow of their former selves. This season has seen a dramatic Renaissance at the Stade Geofforoy-Guichard. Les Verts have played attractive, attacking football, with a young squad, spearheaded by the likes of Aubameyang, Clement & Brandao.
Despite finishing 5th in the table, Saint-Etienne were the leagues’ third highest scorers and prior to the Winter break, they were looking like genuine contenders for an automatic Champions League place. A blip following the Winter break ensured that this would not happen. The season overall was an improvement on the last campaign, in which the club finished 7th. Saint-Etienne also won their first Coupe de la Ligue, ensuring a Europa League spot before the end of April. Add in a run to the quarter finals of the Coupe de France and the season suddenly looks rather impressive. Credit should be given to coach Christophe Galtier and his players.
The only glitch on Saint-Etienne’s season was the failure to secure a Champions League place. Their fine form this season had given them a chance of joining Europe’s elite. However, just 3 wins in their last 8 games, some of them against top 6 rivals such as Lille, Lyon & PSG cost them dearly in the end and Lyon ended up in the final Champions League place.
When you look back on the season as a whole, the club are heading in the right direction. They are back winning trophies and competing for European places, which is ultimately where the fans will feel they belong. Judge the season in an objective manner and remove the fixation on failure to get into the Champions League. Les Verts have taken the first steps on the road to redemption.
Sport Is Everything. Rob Canavan.