From week 4 to week 9, Team A had the following record: WWLWWL with wins against Guingamp, Lille, PSG, and Monaco. Team B had the following record: LWWWLW with wins against Lille, Rennes, Angers, and Metz. Which team is better? While the cherry-picked sequences above were specifically chosen to manipulate the reader into having a less dramatic and biased experience, they portray a world where Team A is the slightly better club, having had more noteworthy conquests. You may be surprised to find out that Team A is Toulouse FC and Team B is AS Monaco.
In the first game of the weekend, Monaco took to the field in Toulouse surely aiming to put the hosts in their place. From holding their own in the Champions League to setting club records with a 7-0 win against Metz, Monaco looked to be the solid favorites on paper. In only the 3rd minute, the natural order of things appeared under way, when Valère Germain deftly nodded on a long-range free kick from Gabriel Boschilia into the net. Unlike Metz, Toulouse would not crumble. The score remained 1-0 at halftime.
But, the second half was a different story. In the 65th minute, an innocent corner kick from Óscar Trejo would jumpstart Toulouse and captain Martin Braithwaite’s big day. After the in-swinging ball found its way back to Trejo, the Argentinian would collect it calmly before dipsy-doodling the defense and working a one-two with a floater at the back post to the awaiting Dane. Braithwaite returned the favor, allowing Trejo to beat the keeper with a header back at his own post.
In the 84th minute, Braithwaite skillfully redirected a grounded cross from Wergiton Somalia in the run of play. Three minutes later, the on-fire Dane would beat an exasperated Danijel Subašić once again, making the most of a seemingly harmless free kick from his team’s half. Aided by a Kamil Glik flinch, Braithwaite trapped, turned, and sent the ball to the bottom left corner to cap off his big day.
By WhoScored’s average game rating metric, Braithwaite ranked 14th for Ligue 1, as of the completion of week 9. Notably, each of the thirteen players ranked above him are described as having at least one “significant strength,” with many acknowledged for a litany of exceptional skills. Yet, a click on Braithwaite’s profile reveals a player completely devoid of any significant strengths, but with three significant weaknesses to boot. However, despite Braithwaite’s evidently unassuming skillset, he has netted six goals in as many appearances on the Ligue 1 season.
But, Braithwaite’s unnoteworthiness may not be the most noteworthy thing about him. Look at his puffy coiffure. Not quite spectacular, but still quite memorable. Neither as condensed as Marouane Fellaini’s nor as shaggy as Malcolm Gladwell’s, Braithwaite’s sprouts are a unique emanation. In spite of a receding hairline, his carefree mop says “I’m not afraid to be myself and let it all hang out. But I’m not going to invest time and money into looking like a prima donna.” In any other setting, Braithwaite could easily be mistaken for a mad scientist. But on the pitch, Braithwaite is the fierce, confident, purple-cladded talisman of Toulouse.
With recent wins against PSG and Monaco, both by two goals, Toulouse have proven themselves a team to be reckoned with. Though aided by an early red card in their game against PSG, Toulouse have shown their real potential with this solid win over Monaco. With wins of these caliber, it is difficult to imagine Toulouse finishing outside of the Europa League qualifying window. Meanwhile, Monaco is left to lick their wounds as they fell further away from league leaders Nice, who comfortably beat Lyon 2-0.