Coupe de France 32emes : Angers SCO v FCL Lorient
Firmly in the ‘need this fixture like a hole in the head’ category are Angers, 19th in Ligue 1 – the lanterne ambre? – and yet to win a home game in the league.
What looked at the start of the season like a more positive and creative approach from manager Stephane Moulins has turned out to be not so much – while their goals scored figure (21) isn’t terrible, and their conceded (29) ditto, they have contrived mostly to do those things in the same match, so have 9 draws from their first 19 games.
A number of promising young players – Angelo Fulgini, Enzo Crivelli, Baptiste Guillaume – have not clicked, and they are further threatened by the fact that top-scorer (nine goals) and best player Karl Toko Ekambi is being heavily linked with moves away, mostly to mid-table Premiership clubs. While the club have apparently already turned down one big-money offer for him, and he is insisting that his priority is saving the club, if potential purchasers keep chucking money in Angers’ direction, it may become tricky to hold them off.
ASCO have recently picked up Prince Oniangue in on loan from Wolves, and welcome back goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle after two seasons at Club Brugge, which may take some pressure off the clearly frazzled Alexandre Letellier, but scoring will be a big problem if KTE moves on.
Add to all this that Angers are playing Montpellier in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter final on Wednesday, before travelling to Lyon next weekend, and things look a little awkward for the club that seems riddled with individual errors, unlikely to keep the ball, and vulnerable to counter-attacks.
At which point, in step Lorient. Relegated last year after losing to Troyes in the play-offs, they had a solid start to their Ligue 2 season, aiming for immediate re-promotion. Now seventh, this has proved to be more complicated than anticipated, but their next match will be against 14th place Gazelec at home next Saturday, so Mickael Landreau and his men will be able to focus on this, hoping for a positivity boost before the league campaign restarts.
So far les Merlus have dispatched two regional sides with expected but still pleasing efficiency, beating Dournenez 4-0 with a hat-trick from Pierre-Yves Hamel and one from Jimmy Cabot, all inside the first 30 minutes, and following that with a 6-1 win over Sene, with braces from Denis Bouanga and Gael Danic, bookended by contributions from Sylvain Marveaux and Abdul Majeed Waris. There is quality all over their squad, particularly in attack, where only the top two Reims and Nimes have more goals in the league, but also grizzled experience in midfield from Danic, Marveaux, Arnold Mvuemba and Fabien Lemoine.
This could be a long afternoon for Angers’ occasionally beleaguered back-line, and shaky midfield. If Lorient can impose themselves early on, they stand a good chance of prevailing, and booking a seat in the next round.