Positive beginnings for new coaches in the French league

PSG, Bordeaux, and Montpellier have exciting and challenging seasons ahead of them as their new staff attempt to make an impact, writes Martin Whiteley.

‘Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’ doesn’t seem to be a mantra many Division 1 Féminine teams have subscribed to this season. Despite the numerous successes achieved by the leading French clubs over the past year, there have been plenty of managerial changes, with a host of new faces amongst their coaching ranks.

Olivier Echouafni led PSG to their first league title, breaking the stranglehold of 14-straight championship wins by Lyon. The coach, however, still decided to walk away when his contract expired.

As well as having to implement a new coaching structure, PSG have also seen a number of players exit. These include goalkeeper Christiane Endler, defender Perle Morroni, and attacker Signe Bruun, who all left to join Lyon.

Didier Ollé-Nicolle was the choice to take the reins on an initial two-year deal, despite having recently been associated with teams further down the men’s pyramid that need to get back on track.

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Although the starting point is the summit, with significant changes to the personnel the ability of Ollé-Nicolle to keep the title-winning players’ hunger as well as integrate the new additions will be key.

The champions did however begin positively with a 5-0 home win against Fleury 91.

Bordeaux may have qualified for Europe for the first time in their history, but that was still not enough to keep hold of coach Pedro Martínez Losa. The Spaniard moved on to become the permanent replacement for Shelley Kerr as boss of the Scotland Women’s national team.

New man Patrice Lair has coached Division 1 Féminine sides Montpellier, Lyon, and PSG in the past, and has accumulated a good collection of silverware along the way.

At both Montpellier and Lyon, Lair was appointed in the early years of a project. Although Bordeaux have been one of the leading French sides domestically, recently they are still finding their bearings on the continental stage.

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Despite missing the services of last season’s top scorer Khadija Shaw, who left to join Manchester City, the European adventure for Bordeaux started well. In their bracket semi-final, the southwestern French side defeated Slovácko from the Czech Republic 2-1. Group hosts Kristianstads were then seen off 3-1.

Lair’s return to the women’s game domestically, however, did not start as hoped. Despite taking the lead, Bordeaux had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Saint-Étienne.

Up next in midweek for Bordeaux is a trip to Germany for the first leg of their Champions League Round 2 tie against Wolfsburg.

With an extra European spot now on offer in France, it has made the race to claim the third position a more rewarding experience.

Whilst Bordeaux has managed to cement its place as the leader of the pack of Division 1 Féminine teams not named PSG or Lyon, their usual closest rival for that honour, Montpellier, struggled badly last term.

After Frédéric Mendy was relieved of his duties towards the back end of last season due to poor results, Montpellier also start this campaign with a new person at the helm. The man now charged with taking them at least back into contention for a place in Europe is Yannick Chandioux.

The coach has been overseeing Dijon’s rise to the top flight, which they accomplished in the first year of his four-year tenure back in 2018. Dijon are known as a team that opponents find difficult to break down. All connected with Montpellier will be hoping that those qualities can be instilled into a side that conceded 35 league goals last term.

Montpellier also had trouble putting the ball in their opponent’s net last season. Lena Petermann led the way with six Division 1 Féminine tallies and Mary Fowler bagged only five.

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In one of those quirky twists of fate that gets thrown up by the so-called ‘random computer’, the first match of Chandioux’s reign was a trip back to Dijon. It was a pleasant reunion for the coach, as his current charges came out as 2-1 winners, thanks to a very late strike from Sarah Puntigam.

Although not strictly a new coach, Sonia Bompastor will be hoping her first full season in charge of Lyon will see them return to their winning ways.

A player during their early trophy-laden years, Bompastor has been the Lyon academy director since retiring from playing in 2013. When Jean-Luc Vasseur left Lyon after their Champions League exit to PSG in April, Bompastor was soon named as his replacement.

The deposed champions certainly put down a marker first up. In the opening Division 1 Féminine game of the season, the hosts defeated Stade de Reims 3-0.

After seeing their run of Champions League victories end at five, Bompastor will also be hoping that Lyon can get back on top in Europe too. The first leg of their Champions League Round 2 tie against Levante is the next game on the agenda this midweek.

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