The setting was Paris, 1796. The French Revolutionary Wars were raging, but I digress. A man drops a ball into a spinning segmented bowl. A gathered crowd eagerly looks on, hoping for fine dividends. The ball moves around and around and around the bowl. Or is it the bowl revolving under the ball? No matter. The ball keeps pinging around and around and around in this corrupted centrifuge, originally developed by Blaise Pascal in his quest to create a perpetual motion machine in the preceding century…but I digress. The name of the game is “roulette,” the French word for “little wheel”.
As of late, Ligue 1 has been spinning like a mad, little wheel. In a dizzying span of three games played in the normal span of two, unexpected results have Ligue 1 looking more like a game of chance, rather than skill. Every front-runner has stumbled once in borderline embarrassing fashion, though league leaders Nice maintained their undefeated streak and remained on top. A 1-1 draw to Montpellier in week 5 may not arouse much of a raised eyebrow, but consider that Montpelier would get blown out 5-1 by Lyon in week 6 and then lose 1-0 to the newly promoted Metz in week 7.
Speaking of Lyon, after playing out a goalless Choc des Olympiques, or “Olympico,” with Marseille in week 5, and then crushing Montpellier the next week, Lyon would lose 1-0 to lowly Lorient in week 7. Lyon’s current main rival, PSG, cruised in weeks 5 and 6, winning 6-0 over Caen and 3-0 over Dijon, as would be expected. Yet, after an early red card in week 7, the club would lose 2-0 to little Toulouse. Given PSG’s star power, it is somewhat hard to imagine they couldn’t give the purple-cladded men more of a fight.
Finally, Monaco notched yet another convincing win by a score of 3-0 over Rennes in week 5, before promptly losing 4-0 to Nice in week 6. Three of those goals were scored before Monaco went down to ten men. In week 7, Monaco barely squeaked by Angers, 2-1, with the help of a 76’ own goal. It appears as if destiny is a slippery thing for these top clubs vying to be the best.
In retrospect, the last few weeks have shown it is rather ridiculous to try to divine the narrative of a full season from a few early scrapings, as I may or may not have attempted in previous Ligue 1 articles. Right now, Ligue 1 is a crowded race, with heavily favored juggernauts, second-tier teams, and unexpected upstarts struggling to create separation. Somehow Toulouse find themselves in 3rd place after winning three consecutive games. Meanwhile Bordeaux and Metz are tied with PSG on points, each having one less than Toulouse.
In reality, odd results are always bound to happen when games are cramped so close together. Depth deficiencies and exhaustion will always be issues. Add in that many of these teams have been playing in their midweek European competitions and you will get a recipe for inconsistency. Then of course there are the “flukes” of statistical noise that happen in any sport throughout any season. But consider the general consensus of Ligue 1- that it is the largest bastion of parity (outside of PSG) in all of Europe’s main leagues (if Ligue 1 can be considered to be a main league)- and maybe the randomness is not so random.
After four consecutive years of PSG insufferableness, maybe we will finally get another highly competitive season in Ligue 1. Maybe not. Probably not. PSG remain the favorites. But, if there is one thing to extract from the past three weeks, it is that they provided a fair share of entertaining, lop-sided, surprising, story-halting outcomes: the essence of chaos. The chaos of a tiny white ball looking for home in a bewilderingly fast, red and black spinning world. And sometimes green.
Alas, Lille’s losing remains a comforting constant.