On Sunday night, Olympique de Marseille put in an impressive performance at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, beating Saint-Etienne 2-0 to move up to 12th in the Ligue 1 table.
It was Michel’s third consecutive away win. They may still have problems when it comes to playing at the Stade Velodrome, but with away wins usually thin on the ground in France, this is a great run of results for the Spanish coach.
Sunday’s win also come on the back of Remy Cabella finally starting to find his form since his return to France. Playing in the No. 10 playmaker role, he was lively and involved – his decision making could still drastically improve, but the Newcastle United loanee looked much better than his early season performances.
After joining the French club on deadline day, Cabella, who won the 2012 Ligue 1 title with Montpellier HSC, has looked off the pace and has struggled physically. All of these problems he also found in Newcastle, seeing him lose his place and the fans lose their patience.
As Marseille struggled at the start of the campaign, so did Cabella. It was expected that back in the loving arms of Ligue 1, the tricky midfielder would jump back to the player that found so much success with Montpellier – but with no goals and just one assist, it hasn’t been quite so simple.
Sunday was a step in the right direction for Cabella, in contrast it came on the back of a weekend where the NUFC fans are questioning the efforts of their own players – including summer signing, Florian Thauvin.
There is little doubt that NUFC’s French love affair has ended. There have now been more failures than success, and any future signings from across the channel will be met with scepticism and less optimism.
Cabella is still only on loan from the North-East club, and if he doesn’t continue to improve, Newcastle could be landed with both Thauvin and Cabella next season.
Graham Carr’s halcyon days as a Ligue 1 sage look to be over, and when you look around the Premier League – especially right up at the very top, it’s clear to see that it’s not a problem of buying players from France – you just need to make sure you are buying the right ones.
Leicester City, currently top of the Premier League, have both N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez in their very successful squad – both have made an impact this season and both, only a few years ago, where playing amateur football in France.
Mahrez was plucked from Le Havre in Ligue 2, and after impressing in the Championship, he has hit the ground running this campaign. The step up to the next level has looked effortless.
Last season, Kante caught the eye after making the leap from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 with SM Caen. His high-energy, box-to-box style made him a very important part of the Normand team – leading to interest from Marseille this summer. The Foxes won the battle, and now they are reaping the benefits.
"He is fantastic because he reads the situation very well," Claudio Ranieri told The Express earlier in the season. "He attracts the ball. He is very smart and very fast in his movement. He can be a favourite, not only for the fans but also for his teammates. When we all watch the video of him chasing the ball everybody says 'wow!'"
With the right attitude and the right talent, players from France will adapt and thrive in the Premier League. There are definite similarities physically: "I think my game suits the Premier League,” Kante told the Leicester Mercury. ”It is a big step up and it is really hard work. There are no easy matches.”
"I didn't realise how intense it was. It wasn't something I expected until I played. I realise I still have a long way to go and there is plenty of room for improvement to become a Premier League player."
English clubs will continue to plunder Ligue 1 for talent youngsters, with deals to be done on the cheap. The TV money makes it easy pickings, with clubs able to double and triple salaries without a second thought.
The contrasting success of both Leicester and Newcastle United shows that it’s not just a matter of picking up anyone that catches the eye. Research must be done, and the right players bought. There are no guarantees in football, but you have to reduce the risk factor – and not makes moves based on reputation.
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