While teams like Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and AS Monaco have grabbed the vast majority of the attention in Ligue 1 so far in the 2013-14 season given the amount of money they have spent to fill their squads, the exploits of other teams can be overlooked. One of those teams whose play has been overlooked is FC Nantes.
After their 3-0 win on Sunday in a local derby against Girondins de Bordeaux (Bordeaux), Nantes find themselves sitting fourth in the Ligue 1 standings on 23 points. This is all the more remarkable given that Nantes spent the 2012-13 season playing in Ligue 2 and unlike Monaco, they did not reinforce themselves through a splurge on world-class talent like Monaco did upon promotion to Ligue 1.
While unexpected, the formula for Nantes’ success so far is no secret. Defensively, Nantes has been a very solid squad as they have only given up 10 goals in the first 13 games of the season. This has spared them from the fate that many promoted teams face, which is having to contend with teams whose attacking players play one or two steps faster than opponents in the lower league.
While the defense has done its job, Nantes are lead by Serbian Filip Djordjevic on the attack. Djordjevic has scored eight of Nantes’ 19 goals so far, and he has served as the point man to lead his team to a win or help salvage a draw.
Like any team that is surprising with their play upon its first season of being promoted to the first division, the work of the coach can’t be overlooked. In Nantes’ case, Michel Der Zakarian, who played for Nantes back in the early 1980s and won a league title with the club, has so far helped to romanticize the story of Nantes and their play in Ligue 1.
While FC Nantes may be a team who many are unaware of, this is a club with a rich history in French soccer. Nantes have won Ligue 1 on eight occasions, doing so last in the 2000-01 season. While they have struggled in recent years, the history of French football cannot be written without mentioning them. Whether or not they can sustain this success for the final two-thirds of the season remains to be seen, but the fact that Nantes are playing as well as they have has been a pleasant surprise.