Dijon clinched a 2-0 win against Nantes on Saturday in a full and jovial Gaston Gérard stadium as they made their first home appearance of the season. Summer shines bright this year in Burgundy, as the arrival of star Yoann Gourcuff has been followed by a faultless start to the campaign.
The talk of the town was all Gourcuff, who started the game on the bench having reportedly felt some pain in his thigh over the week (we see you chuckling…). He replaced Naïm Sliti last night for the last ten minutes of a game that was already won. His first steps in the red shirt were discreet, with only a handful of touches of the ball. Interestingly though, he played quite high, almost as a forward, which suggests Olivier Dall’Oglio may be looking to goal-scoring ability as much as creativity from France’s underexploited talent.
The real man of the match was Dijon captain Julio Tavares, whose flying start to the season saw him add a brace to last week’s goal against Montpellier. In a match with desperately few chances in open play, he first pounced on a corner from Naïm Sliti and deflected by Oussama Haddadi. In the second half he tucked in a low cross from right-back Valentin Rosier, whose activity down the flank was phenomenal.
In between both goals, Dijon missed the only two other major chances of the match. Benjamin Jeannot seemed to panic as he found himself in a one-on-one situation, and Sliti, on a cross from Tavares, harrowingly missed from two meters out in a re-creation of Arsenal’s woes at Chelsea earlier in the day.
Tavares was denied a hat-trick when VAR intervened just as he was lining up for a penalty. The foul was brought back to a free-kick outside of the box, and Touré handed a red card which he seemed far from content about. From the free-kick, Sliti showed his confidence wasn’t shaken as he forced a save from the lanky Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Dijon, unfaithful to their reputation, played a very direct style looking to find Tavares up front. That is, when Cedric Yambéré or Runar Runarsson weren’t wastefully hoofing into touch. The Icelandic keeper, whose distribution was supposedly a reason behind his signing this summer, was ironically in fact the only source of danger for les Canaris. He was too patient on the ball and miscommunicated with his Dijon defenders on a few occasions. In fact, his alarmingly high positioning could be punished against more audacious players this campaign, I think back to Fékir’s 50 metre chip over Benoît Costil last season.
Dall’Oglio was delighted with the clean sheet, as his defence has perennially been the weak point, the 8-0 drubbing in Paris not long ago. He underlined the need for that improvement: “We can not repeat what we did last season defensively without there being consequences in the league table”.
Nantes, for all the bright ideas of new coach Miguel Cardoso, failed to make anything of their possession. Play largely passed through Samuel Moutoussamy, but he disappointingly seemed intent on showcasing his dribbles and sombreros rather than constructing team moves. Most shocking was substitute Kalifa Coulibaly though, who astonishingly incarnated the cliché of tall player (1.97m) with poor ball control.
After the game Cardoso encapsulated his philosophy by declaring, “The most important is not the results, but what we do on the pitch”. Yet he conceded that the manner was not there either: “We lacked the right decisions in the final third”.
In fairness, many of his players have just recently signed and the automatisms are not in place yet. Boschilia, on loan from Monaco, and his substitute Majeed Waris were both isolated, for example. In addition to this, the ambitions of Rio Ave’s former coach are quite distinct from Claudio Ranieri’s pragmatic approach, so the adaptation phase concerns the whole squad.
There had been promising passages of play against Monaco last week, before Radamel Falcao and his teammates led a late revolt. Nantes may have a bad day at Dijon but they can realistically hope to get their season started with the reception of Caen next week. Expectations will already begin to evolve for both clubs based on their starts to the season. Nantes may be feeling a bit of pressure, whereas with two wins, Dijon couldn’t have wished for a better kick-off and now have a foundation to build on in the coming weeks.