“Our method is made of short training sessions and a big intensity”

Laurent Bessière is RC Lens Head of Performance currently 5th in Ligue 1 and in the race for the second spot behind PSG. His team showed an incredible display against the likes of Messi and Mbappé last Saturday. Laurent could not be happier with the intensity the players put on the pitch and the distance covered of 114 kilometers, only frustrated by Wijnaldum’s late equalizer (1-1).

Hello Laurent, after a game against PSG which data are you looking for as a priority?
Laurent Bessière : I rather look at how the players move on the pitch, if they had strenght, if they put intensity until the last kick of the game and if they replied in a proper manner to the manager’s (Franck Haise) plan of game.

Which they definitely did…

How many kilometers did your guys run a as team?
114… In my opinion the team’s performance has nothing to do with the distance covered though. We have to take into consideration the dynamic of the game, the score, our game plan and the rival’s one.

Is it the season’s record?
Almost. This season we reached the 117 kilometers against Troyes (a 4-0 win in November) and 125 kilometers against Rennes last season if I remember well.

Which player did run the most against PSG?
Both Frankowski and Clauss, our full backs (Lens usually play with a 3-5-2). They each reached the 12 kilometers milestone. What is the most interesting in this is the speed: they overall had 1 km over 20 km/h and 500 meters over 25 km/h which is quite impressive.

May you explain how the Performance cell is organized and what are the main targets?
I manage a team of 20 persons (physios, dietitans, doctors, data analysts) and we want the players to have everything available on site, to make their life easier. In France it is a still recent concept, the first Performance cells were created back in 2014.
Basically the manager decides which style of play he wants to implement and we are here to adapt all the fitness work to it. During the training sessions we adjust the pitch dimensions depending on what we want to work on. If we want to develop the pressing skills for instance we will have a smaller space. Big spaces are used to strenghten the stamina and repeat long runs. Everything we do at training is part of a game, we don’t do old school cardio tests anymore. The plan is to train maximum 90 minutes per sessions with some intensity.

This is a quite demanding method, does it work on a 3 games week as well?
The manager has always to do some players rotations, this is needed to keep the dressing room happy, but I would say this method would limit the rotations so that players can keep their habits and the team’s performance would not be altered. On a 3 games week we just have to reduce the training sessions to 30-45 minutes where we will focus on football skills mainly as the cardio is supposed to be high already.
In the end it’s all in the players’ hands, we are just here to help them but they need to eat properly, sleep properly while they are home… We make sure they all play a big part in the club and feel important.

Since Lens came back to the first division (one year and a half ago) the style of play has been quite similar to Atalanta: 3 defenders, very offensive full backs, plenty of runs in midfieldIs it an inspiration for you?
We are big fans of what they do and this is true that we play the same tactic as them. That said and from a fitness point of view we can play an attractive football whatever the tactic is. Our job is to have the players fitting any tactic and all the manager’s needs. It is not unusual to change strategy 2-3 times during a single game.


Big man to follow: Grejohn Kyei

NutmegMeIfYouCan met with Grejohn Kyei the 20 years-old Drogba from Reims. Read and watch this carefully the kid is very likely to join the English Premier League at some point in the next few years!


Man. United is the team I support” said the kid. Not the worst timing to say so on a time where the Red Devils struggle to put a single striker on paper. OK the kid has still a long way to go ahead of him before applying for a role this but with 3 goals on 14 Ligue 1 games and a goal with France U21 on his first appearance he might be on the right sprinboard at Stade de Reims (14th).

Under contrat until 2019 and valued at only €600.000 by transfermarkt (the price might and will go up subsequently) he has broken into Reims squad last season scoring at Parc des Princes against Paris (2-3). Please click on ‘Visionner sur YouTube’:

He then has impressed since pre-season friendly against Sevilla (1-2) when he came in and curled the ball into the bottom corner of the goal. After that performance his manager Olivier Guégan gave him his confidence to lead the Champagne-Ardenne forward line above the likes of David N’Gog (ex-Bolton) or Gaëtan Charbonnier (ex-Paris and Angers).

What will follow is for the Paris suburb youngster to tell: “First game this season away to Bordeaux we are 1-1 and within 5 minutes to go I managed to make an assist to my close friend Jordy Siebatcheu along who we reached Gambardella Cup (U19 French Cup) final in 2014. We could not dream better! I am 20, he is 19 and we gave the clubs the first win of the season away to Bordeaux in their new stadium!” Please click on ‘Visionner sur YouTube’:

Then comes France U21 first call-up last September against Iceland (defeat 3-2): “I am very proud of being part of this very skillful team alongside players like Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munchen), Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao), Enzo Crivelli (Bordeaux) and many others. I had the luck to score on my first selection (last goal of the game below) and hope we are going to qualify for the U21 Euro because it has been 10 years France has not played there!

Unfortunately his progression has been put on hold until about next February due to an injury picked up (ankle ligaments) at the training ground 3 weeks ago after an undeliberate bad challenge from one of his teammate. But the guy is patient and knows he still has steps to follow before making his Premier League dream come true.

To score over 10 goals each single season in Ligue 1 is the target that can help him to impress scouts. After all Anthony Martial never ever managed it (9 goals a season max)!


Who is the team to watch in Ligue 1?

If you are a football punter and your strategy is to back the 0-0 correct score on Ligue 1 matches fair enough but NutmegMeIfYouCan would not advise to include any of Nice games in your betslip. 6-1 to Bordeaux, 4-1 away to Saint-Etienne and Rennes so don’t wait before watching Hatem Ben Arfa’s friends. 

HatemWith 25 goals scored in 10 games, Nice lead French attacking sides levelled up with Paris but with one game in hand the game Nice v. Nantes being actually stopped at half-time due to waterlogged pitch and it was already 2-2! They are 6th in the table having still to replay this match. Ben Arfa’s revival has helped a lot the Southwest side by scoring 6 goals of which the following typical Ben Arfa’s ones:

Another explanation comes from the technical midfield built with 3 small boys: Nampalys Mendy (23 years-old) who was Claudio Ranieri favorite during last transfert window, Vincent Koziello (20 years-old) and Jean-Michaël Seri (24 years-old), all 3ft2! That’s a Barça inspired model… relatively speaking.

Even thought Claude Puel has been criticized in France by making his teams play too defensively he has done a good job anywhere he trained at beingtwice Ligue 1’s runner-up in 2005 with Lille and in 2010 with Lyon, Champions League semi-finalist the same year and already finished 4th for his first year with Nice in 2013.

However the club has been through a lot of tensions last season when the team finished 11th but spent the entire season fighting against the relegation. The chairman Jean-Pierre Rivère was targeted by the fans during the game in the presidential box area and had to leave at half-time but the most significant role has been played by Grégoire Puel (23 years-old) the manager’s son.

The main point of disagreement was that even thought he did not demonstrate great skills on the pitch his father kept him in the first XI. That situation led the club to the Puel family being booed at every single home game and the player being asked to leave in the summer by the direction against the manager decision. He has finally landed at a Ligue 2 side Le Havre not being yet a key player over there. At least calm has come back to the Cote d’Azur now… Until Claude brings his other son Paulin (18 years-old) and already within the squad into the first XI?

Tip of the day: Nice is @11 (Bet365) to finish Ligue 1 Top 3.

Kerlon: “Man. U was the first club to get in touch”

NutmegMeIfYouCan has caught up with the famous seal dribble inventor: the 27 years-old Brazilan Kerlon. Now in Malta he answers the questions about his trick and his career struck by several serious injuries. But the man still has some hopes…

IMG-20150926-WA0000NutmegMeIfYouCan: Hello Kerlon, you signed for Sliema Wanderers about one month ago, how does it feel to be back to Europe?
Kerlon: I am very thankful to the club that gave me a chance to prove what I am capable of. I have signed a one-year deal here in Malta and hope I will score a lot of goals and most of all having a season without injury.

This has been the main problem of your career… Expectations were very high since you shone during the U17 South American Championship back in 2005 where you have been best players and best scorer of the tournament…
Yes, unfortunately since I have been starting to play professionnal football in Cruzeiro I have always been slowed down by injuries. I have made my ankle over there and after moving to Inter Milan in 2008 I have broken twice each knee.

Were any of these injuries due to the trick you have showed the world: the seal dribble?
No, I never got injured because of this.

Do you have a certain form of regret having being famous due to this dribble rather than your players skills?
No, I don’t make it to show off or to entertain the fans. This is a form of creativity that can help the team to creates chances. That is a gift I am very proud of, my father got it as well by the way.

“I played U17 Brazil with Denilson, Marcelo… Willian was out of the squad”

How many successives touches are you able to make with your head?
I have never counted! But I could go easily from a goal to another juggling. And standing… I don’t know… I could do it until my neck cannot handle it!

Looking back to 2005 and the time you received offers from the big European clubs. Which club was the first to get in touch?
Manchester United made a bid right after the U17 South American World Championship in 2005. But at this time Cruzeiro raised my buying option and I had to stay at the clu quite a long time. Then Inter Milan bought me in 2008.

Who were your teammates in this young Brazilian team?
Denilson (ex Arsenal) was in the line-up, Marcelo (Real Madrid), Renato Augusto (ex Leverkusen)… Willian (Chelsea) is from the same generation but has not been picked by the manager for this tournament.

What are your expectations for the future now?
I would like to spend an entire season without injury here in Malta and then hopefully to keep on playing within the European football!

Please find below the highlights of his skills:

England to rescue France

According to L’Equipe this morning the English clubs have offered 215 million Euros (over £150 million) which is worth a third of the French TV rights. Merci !martial
Manchester United, Aston Villa, Newcastle, West Ham have helped very much French presidents annual accounts. The good news is that British did not hire the top of the basket apart from one or two players as mentioned below.

The lights are all green for French football seing the likes of Di Maria (ex Manchester United), Sergi Darder (ex Malaga), Quintero (ex Porto), Coentrao (Real Madrid) joining the Hexagone. OK Paris to sign a top player is not something new but the other names show how Ligue 1 is improving. On top of this the very big promises have stayed one year more: Lyon’s magic duo Lacazette-Fekir is still here backed by the French international Valbuena (ex Marseille), Bernardo Silva (Monaco/Portugal), Thomas Lemar, Adama Traoré (Monaco) and hopefully Gourcuff back on the pitch soon (free player).

No, no, France has not been plundered this summer…

New Frenchies: who is the best?

As usual now a couple of French Ligue 1 players have crossed the Channel this summer to try their luck in the Prem. Wich ones have the best rate to success? NutMegMeIfYouCan has ranked the new comers.


1- André Ayew (Swansea): This could be the best value for money in the past 10 years even though Premier League clubs are not really looking for this kind of business! On a free transfer from Marseille the 25 years-old Ghana captain has already impressed scoring twice in 3 games. He will not stay long in Wales…

2- Dimitry Payet (West Ham): Another former OM player to complete the podium. New Hammers playmaker gives North London side the technical touch they needed so badly. Unfortunately they are still missing a bit of quality around him.

3- Jordan Amavi (Aston Villa): Very promising left-back but probably too young to go abroad after only one full season completed in Ligue 1. That is not his fault if the Villains overpaid for him (circa £9 million). Now he is there the 21 years-old will show his attacking skills and probably confirm all the good that experts are thinking about him. Will apply for the French national team soon.

4- Gana Gueye (Aston Villa): The Senegalese holding midfielder has impressed during his time at Lille and was monitored by the big French clubs. He decided to go to England in order to attrack biggest clubs. Will probably manage to…

5- N’Golo Kanté (Leicester): He is the player in this list we are the most uncertain about due to the lack of references. The central midfielder has burst into Ligue 1 just last season after having played in Ligue 2 with Caen. The way he plays is pretty similar to what Mulumbu or N’Zonzi do.

6- Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa): André’s little brother has still plenty to learn from him especially in terms of attitude. Misses a bit of determination and focus from time to time to be fully efficient in front of the goal and depends a lot on his relationship with the manager. Hopefully Tim Sherwood has the keys.

7- Jordan Veretout (Aston Villa): The signing of the offensive midfielder from Nantes to England has been a surprise. We would more have expected him to go to Spain or Italy. This said Villa believes in him and makes him play so let’s see if he can manage to stand out in the league. Question mark on this though.


Why Spanish football is the best

This season will be the first time ever a country qualifies 5 clubs (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla & Valencia) for the final round of the Champions League. This country is called Spain and this is not really a surprise. NutmegMeIfYouCan explains why.


Spanish academies work better

The Spaniards manage to renew themselves very well especially on the two most important positions on attacking football: center midfielder & striker.
Looking at the numerous great midfielders they shape the Spanish tradition has been revealed and maintened with the likes of Vicente Del Bosque, Michel (80’s), Guardiola (90’s), Xavi (2000’s), today Iniesta/Dani Parejo/David Silva and tomorrow Thiago Alcantara & Isco.
With regards to strikers Di Stefano, then Butragueño passed their skills over to Raul sharing them with Morientes before the burst of David Villa, Negredo to Morata now most likely.

Football is about passing

Football is still a simple game where the simplest things are the hardest to put into action. The technical skills are the ones that pay off on a long term basis. Spanish football never lost this identity building his style of play all over the country at any level. Recruiting a Spanish gueezer could be a very good idea should you look at having the ball possession.

English clubs waste money

Why La Roja have got the skills while Britain have the money and nothing changes? English scouts may have some instructions while looking at potential good players (in terms of power for example which is not really an attribute of Spanish players) but still it is always the pace that is rewarded in the end. Running fast with (and without) the ball is something very useful nowadays but don’t forget that a pass can see off 2 or 3 players, break the lines and make the game go faster. That is the field in which Spaniards do best. A Spanish has rarely let down in the Prem and even an average/good player in La Liga can stand out in the Prem (i.e Juan Mata) given what he has learnt back in his country.

Problem is that Prem sides don’t hesitate to overpay promising French player. Of course their attributes can suit the Premier League at first sight there is no mistake in spotting these players but most of the Spaniards have this extra skill : thinking ahead and being able to apply it on the pitch.


Ligue 1: which players for the Prem?

It is now obvious that the French market is highly monitored by scouts from all over England seeing the likes of Gueye, J. Ayew, Amavi, Veretout (Aston Villa), Payet (West Ham), Ngolo Kanté (Leicester), Tabanou, A. Ayew (Swansea) or Gradel (Bournemouth) crossing the Channel this summer. From now on not only best Ligue 1 players but promising ones are targeted by Premier League clubs and with this unlimited financial power both parts are winning! Who will be the next ones? Nutmegmeifyoucan has investigated. Forget about the famous ones i.e. Lacazette, Njie, Rabiot,… It is all about discovering new players!

Joie de Wissam Ben Yedder - 22.03.2014 - Toulouse / Evian Thonon - 30e journee Ligue 1 Photo : Manuel Blondeau / Icon Sport

Wissam Ben Yedder – 22.03.2014 – 
Photo : Manuel Blondeau / Icon Sport

Valère Germain (Nice): Former Monaco forward was bored of Principauté bench and requested to his direction more minutes. They then sent the 25 years old striker to their Cote d’Azur rival Nice. This could have proven costly not later as last weekend when he opened the scoring against them. Monaco won 2-1 at the end and Germain is only loaned with no buying-out option.
Main attribute: Composure.

Thomas Lemar (Monaco): One of the most promising French midfielder. He just signed to Monaco from Caen. Great passing skills, great free-kicks taker and fast.
Main attribute: Passing

Corentin Jean (Troyes): Another striker who now belongs to Monaco. The 20 years-old Troyes goal scorer ha been bought by Monaco this summer for the sum of £2.75 million and loaned back for one year. Small, efficient and fast.
Main attribute : Pace

Sofiane Boufal (Lille): Signed last winter from Angers Boufal (21 years old) had burst into the Ch’tis side: full of tricks (nutmedgs included) but with efficiency most of the time (3 goals, 5 assists in 14 appearances). He will be leading Hervé Renard’s attacking system.
Main attribute: Dribbling

François Kamano (Bastia): The Bastia offensive midfielder is a gem. He has started his second term only aged of 19 years old and just scored the winning goal on the first round against Rennes (2-1). Already decisive.
Main attribute: Stamina

Adrien Thomasson (Nantes): Recently transfered from Evian to Nantes for… £500.000 he straight had an impact at La Beaujoire showing all his passing and shooting skills. Nantes can’t lose money on him!
Main attribute: Passing

Grejohn Kyei (Reims): This 19 years old striker is a monster in any sense of the term. Strong and gifted, this make us a bit concerned regarding ex-Liverpool 1 Bolton Ngog’s seat at Stade de Reims. He has to be polished but definitely made for Premier League.
Main attribute: Power

Diego Rolan (Bordeaux): Bordeaux Uruguayan international forward (22 years old) has revelated himself last season with a 15 league goals season which has not been at Bordeaux since Portuguese legend Pauleta back in 2003. Rumors sent him successively to Newcastle 1 Aston Villa but is more considered as a plan B though. Another successful season and it will undoubtedly become more than this.
Main attribute: Efficiency

Wissam Ben Yedder (Toulouse): The 25 years old star has been holding Toulouse on his back for 4 years but still no club want to take him. He is worth around £7 milion and this does not look unreachable! Worst scoring sheet out of 4 seasons: 14 goals.
Main attribute: Composure