October 17, 2016
For the defence
Spectacular going forward, uncompromising at the back. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Le Gym are scoring goals, but not conceding. Organised, compact and disciplined the central defence features three players and a mix of youth and experience: Paul Baysse, Dante and Malang Sarr. Let’s take a closer look at the tip of this collective iceberg that has only conceded five goals in nine league matches – the most miserly defence in the land...
Baysse: the captain
His first season was one of adaptation. His second, the confirmation. At 28 years of age, Paul Baysse looks at the summit of his game and his leadership and fighting spirit is contagious. On the right side of a solid three-man defence, the No.4 inherited the captain’s armband for the first friendly match of the season against Servette FC. He has had it ever since.
In the starting line-up for all the warm-up matches, he has played every minute of Le Gym’s 11 official matches this term (nine in L1 and two in the Europa League). The most-used outfield player, the man from Bordeaux has already scored twice from set pieces, against Monaco and Lyon. And hasn’t received a single booking. "We never give up and that will serve us well this season," he said looking ahead. And the future is coming up very fast, with Le Gym taking on Salzburg in the Europa League this Thursday.
Dante: the tower
A new face, but already a leader. The Brazil international Dante boasts an impressive CV and is already a strong voice in the Rouge et Noir changing room. One of the men that sets the tone. He speaks French and Portuguese and is a bonding element. It hasn’t taken the man with the afro haircut long to make his mark. In the middle of the three-man defence, he is the last line ahead of the ‘keeper. It’s his job to hold the line and lead by example, aggressive in a tackle and calm and composed in his passing.
In six Ligue 1 matches, he is one of Les Aiglons with the highest percentage of successful passes (90%). "What we’ve done is excellent so far, but it hasn’t got us anyway so far," tempered the former Wolfsburg man. "We all need to stay focused, keep demanding more of ourselves and keep working hard to progress. We have to look ahead, because it’s not going to be easy."
Sarr: the precocious talent
"This was my first preseason with the first team and my first aim is to make a place for myself in this squad because in modern football, age doesn’t really mean anything anymore." The first words last summer seem a long time ago now... Malang Sarr (17yrs) is on the left-side of the back-three and plays with authority and precociousness. Born and raised in Nice, he’s a pure product of the OGCN Youth Academy and his form this term has been excellent. Scorer of a goal against Rennes and provider of an assist against Lyon, he is also proving decisive in both penalty boxes.
A member of Generation 1999, Malang is one of the most-used players in the squad (with 793 minutes in L1, just behind Paul Baysse). But coach Lucien Favre isn’t getting carried away with the young man’s promise and wants to protect his prodigy, give than "he hasn’t even stopped growing yet."