Amid reports claiming that his days in the Saint-Etienne dugout are numbered, Claude Puel prepares to welcome Angers to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard for Friday’s Ligue 1 battle.
Les Verts suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Strasbourg last time out, while Angers’ efforts against Paris Saint-Germain were ultimately in vain during a 2-1 defeat.
Many expected last weekend’s humiliation at Strasbourg to be the final nail in the coffin for Puel, with reports earlier this week speculating his imminent sacking, but the ex-Leicester City boss retains his position in the dugout at the time of writing.
An injury to goalkeeper Etienne Green and red card to Zaydou Youssouf – a few minutes after his own goal – in the first half all contributed to a Saint-Etienne implosion against Strasbourg, as Kevin Gameiro, Ludovic Ajorque, Habib Diallo and Maxime Le Marchand all struck for Julien Stephan’s side.
Wahbi Khazri’s penalty saw Saint-Etienne enter the break with only a 2-1 deficit to make up, but Les Verts were taught a footballing lesson in the second period and remain rooted to the bottom of the rankings after 10 games.
Six of Saint-Etienne’s last seven games in the top flight have now ended in defeat – with the outlier being that impressive 1-1 draw with Lyon just before the international break – and Brest are the only other side to have opened the season without a win in 10 matches.
With a league-high 23 goals conceded and only nine chalked up at the correct end of the pitch – the joint-fewest alongside Troyes – Puel’s tenure in the dugout could very well end before Angers make the journey to the Massif Central aiming to maintain their strong start to proceedings.
While PSG were without their superstar South American contingent in Friday’s game with Angers, Gerald Baticle’s high-flyers did not rest on their laurels and went into half time 1-0 up at the Parc des Princes thanks to Angelo Fulgini’s opener.
However, Danilo Pereira’s header and Kylian Mbappe’s controversial penalty – only awarded after a VAR review – ultimately sunk an inspired Scoistes outfit in the capital, but Baticle still has every reason to be pleased with his side’s start to the season.
Clearly not reeling from the departure of Stephane Moulin, Angers still occupy a spot in the top five of the rankings with 16 points taken from a possible 30 so far this term, although only one win from their last six does represent a slight downturn in fortunes.
Les Scoistes are also winless in four on the road since overcoming Strasbourg at the start of August but have scored in each of those games, while a trip to a confidence-depleted Saint-Etienne could represent a prime opportunity to kickstart a revival away from home.
Angers did ease to a 4-1 victory over Saint-Etienne as recently as September 2019, but that result represents their only win from 19 attempts against Les Verts, who kept back-to-back clean sheets in a 1-0 win and 0-0 draw with their opponents last term.
Saint-Etienne Ligue 1 form:
Angers Ligue 1 form:
We say: Saint-Etienne 0-1 Angers
In a game that is expected to make or break Puel’s time in the Saint-Etienne dugout, Les Verts will desperately attempt to exploit Angers’ misfortune on the road to finally get off the mark for the new season at the 11th time of asking.
The introduction of fresh blood could spark new life into the hosts, but if Angers perform as staunchly as they did at the Parc des Princes, they should have no problem keeping chase with the European pack by sinking the league’s basement side.