After promotion was achieved for Les Crocodiles, all eyes were on the formidable strike partnership of Umut Bozok and Rachid Alioui. A strike partnership that had yielded an impressive 45 goals in helping Nîmes secure the 2nd automatic promotion spot last season.
The question on everyone’s lips was would the partnership produce goals in the top flight. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while to find out, Alioui picked up a long-term injury that ruled him out of his World Cup with Morocco and even though he’s begun training recently, he may not feature this calendar year. As for Bozok, he has struggled to adjust in his first two games and was dropped to the bench in what seems to be a great decision by coach Blaquart. The 21-year-old scored and assisted in the exciting 3-3 with Bordeaux on Sunday.
This huge output last season predictably overshadowed the other attributes and weapons that the side have in their arsenal. Perhaps most prevalent in their early fixtures has been that of Sada Thioub who has been the best representation to date of the club’s start to the season.
Starting out professionally with Nice, Thioub only ever featured twice for the side before moving on a free to Guingamp and was instantly loaned out to third tier outfit, CA Bastia, where he helped the Corsican side avoid relegation. After returning from loan, he moved across to the South coast to join Nîmes who had also been fighting to stay up after receiving an 8-point deduction at the start of their campaign due to match fixing in the 2013/14 season, but in Ligue 2.
Thioub was integrated into a team who only just missed out on promotion the following season in the annual promotion/relegation chaos that almost always ensues towards the end of a season in Ligue 2. In the following 17/18 campaign they did one better and clinched the second promotion spot far behind runaway winners Reims. Thioub was involved in 8 of the record best 75 goals in Ligue 2 that season, hardly eyebrow-raising. But this season, the 23-year-old has already attained half that total and has done very well to replace the creative and goal-scoring threat of both the injured Alioui and an out-of-form Bozok.
The Franco-Senegalese right winger provided a fantastic introduction to the top flight for his club just 4 minutes into their first game. Picking the ball up just inside the opposing half, there didn’t seem much of an imminent threat for opponents Angers, that was until Thioub bypassed three players with a quick shift of movement and pace before driving through another challenge and running the ball through the last defender’s legs.
All this was topped off by a composed chip over the onrushing keeper. The first of a 7-goal thriller that stole all the headlines in the first game week of Ligue 1 as Nîmes came back from a 2-goal deficit away at Angers to win 4-3. The man of the match without question was Thioub. His tricky, driving runs caused havoc for the hosts all game so much so that the opposing left-back was dropped for the next match.
It was a display of Thioub’s best qualities. His great strength and power, along with his almost unconventional style of dribbling make him very difficult to dispossess. It’s no surprise that Nîmes look mostly to him if opportunity of a counter attack arises as the stocky winger is clearly adept at carrying the ball up field. But once Thioub gets into the final 3rd he doesn’t stop there, his clever vision and impressive final ball/delivery have already produced 2 assists so far.
The Nîmes side he fits into have had an entertaining start to life in the top flight to say the least. The 5 games played so far have averaged 4.8 goals each, from an exciting 4-2 loss where they gave reigning champions PSG a huge scare to their most recent 3-3 away draw against Bordeaux. It’s easy to see that if you want goals in a game you should tune in any featuring Les Crocodiles.
Thioub’s energy and effort is replicated throughout the team and it shows in their results so far, coming back from 2 goals already twice already (vs Angers and PSG). This ability to pull results back and increase their intensity when needed will be a key attribute if they hope to stay in the division come May.
Nîmes have already indicated how exactly they aim to play this season. Relying on their entertaining brand of football to perhaps overpower the defensive weaknesses they currently possess. Similar comparisons to the current Dijon side are therefore well founded; and sets up what should be an exciting fixture between the two that is sure to host to a few goals. Les Crocodiles look to have the goals sorted for this campaign, but it’s further back where they may struggle to keep them out. In this case, attack may be the best form of defence for a side who are not just wanting to be known as the birthplace of denim and look to secure their place amongst the top flight.
As for Thioub, he has many more games in which to prove and reinforce his qualities; and will be an important component if his side are to avoid relegation. A good season here may spark interest in a call-up to the Senegal squad.