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FEATURE | For Dijon, There’s No Place Like Home

14 Ligue 1 matches at the Stade Gaston Gerard this season, nine have ended in victory including eight of their last nine. An impressive record that puts them fourth in the home table behind Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and Marseille.

However, they have the worst away form in the division and lost 8-0 to PSG just a month ago. So, what has made them cut the mustard when playing in their own backyard? And why hasn’t that translated to form on the road?

First of all, it is certainly not because of the atmosphere their stadium generates. Their stadium is open to the elements, their crowd does not add an incredible amount of noise and in fact, some sections of their fanbase have recently shown themselves to be a detriment to them.

Mario Balotelli was racially abused by some Dijon supporters in their game in February, which could lead to partial closures should the LFP react similarly to what they did with Bastia last season.

At least on the field, that will not worry them too much, because it is their positive attitude that wins out.

At the start of the season, many predicted the Cote-d’Or side for the drop. They lost top goalscorer Loïs Diony to Saint-Étienne and with his goals vital to their survival last season, things looked a little grim.

Unfazed, Olivier Dall’Oglio has continued their remit from last season and has even improved on the formula. Regardless of opponent, play fast, attacking football and in what can be an overtly-defensive league down the bottom, it has been sensational to watch.

For starters, everything surrounds their main man up top in Julio Tavares, who was somewhat of an unsung hero in Diony’s rise last season. He holds up play so well with his big frame, allowing all of his attacking teammates to run off him and frighten the opponents with the sheer numbers.

He then has the clever feet to play it simple and then get into the box to finish things off himself. 10 goals and two assists will attest to that, with just two of those strikes coming away from home.

In and around him, everyone has contributed their little bit to take some of the goalscoring burden that vacated in the summer. Benjamin Jeannot has popped up with important goals, including a stunner in an eventual loss to PSG at home, Wesley Said looks much more comfortable after joining from Rennes in the summer and Kwon Chang-hoon has been a revelation with his bright, positive runs in behind.

Added to that is the midfield duo of Naim Sliti and Xeka. Inexplicably annexed from Lille, both have added that extra dynamism to Dijon many thought they were missing and what vital signings they have shown to be.

Mix that with more experienced campaigners like Romain Amalfitano and Frederic Sammaritano and suddenly you have options in attack. They never seem to get tired, they can continue playing in the same way regardless of what combination they have and more importantly, it has led to results.

In fact, they have not failed to score less than twice at home since late October and on five occasions have netted three in the game. That wonderful do-or-die attitude can be so refreshing, but it is also what must be hindering them away from the comforts of their own bed.

Heavy defeats to PSG, Monaco and Marseille combined with teams well below them like Angers, Amiens and Troyes taking points from them just exacerbates the issue. Against those big teams, their willingness not to sit back has cost them dearly, leaving too much room for sides with much vaster resources to simply overwhelm them.

Those below them are buoyed by their own home crowd, with Dijon’s jitters well known. It has become a recognisable psychological problem, they play a little too within themselves or tense up in situations that at the Gaston Gerard they would relish and relax in.

Regardless of that, it looks likely that their recent form will be enough to keep their heads comfortably above water, given the dogfight taking place between them and the trap door. It is a true testament to both their manager for cultivating their attacking attitude to the game and their recruitment in bringing in the right players within their limited budget to make it all work.

In fact, it is a little sad to think they only have five more matches in their stadium left this season. The comforts of home have truly brought the best out of one of the most entertaining sides to watch in Ligue 1.


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