Dijon surprised everyone by beating PSG on Friday night. They were bottom of Ligue 1 when the game kicked off, but goals from Mounir Chouiar and Jhonder Cádiz gave them a 2-1 win over the league leaders. PSG had won their last six matches in a row, scoring 19 goals in the process, but they found Dijon hard to crack at the Stade Gaston-Gérard.
Dijon have defended fairly well so far this season. Summer signings Bruno Ecuele-Manga and Alfred Gomis have been impressive, as has the young Moroccan Nayef Aguerd. Since Stéphane Jobard took over as manager in the summer, the team has developed a hard-nosed defence, something that was sorely lacking under previous boss Olivier Dall’Oglio, whose attacking philosophy neglected the value of a bit of solidity at the back.
Scoring goals has been Dijon’s problem this season. Prior to their victory over the champions, Dijon had played 11 league matches and scored just five goals, the joint-worst record in Europe’s top five leagues. To make matters worse for fans, the club sold attacking players in the transfer window this summer and turned a €20m profit. Kwon Chang-Hoon and Naïm Sliti departed, leaving Dijon short of experience up front.
The young attacking players they signed in the summer have struggled to hit the ground running and the one player they could rely on for goals – club captain Júlio Tavares – has missed a month of the season through injury. Dijon played three games while Tavares was injured and did not score in any of them. Despite that absence, he is still their top scorer this season. In fact, he is the only player in the squad to have scored more than one goal this season.
The 2-1 win over PSG was only the second time this season that Dijon have managed to find the net more than once in a single fixture. They have been shut out more often than they have scored. But, if Jobard’s young strikers need a story of redemption to inspire them, they should look no further than their manager.
This is not Jobard’s first spell at the club. He captained Dijon as a player before working his way up the coaching staff at the club, taking charge of the reserves and then becoming an assistant to Olivier Dall’Oglio. When Jobard left Dijon in 2018 and took over as Rudi Garcia’s assistant at Marseille, it looked as if he was just advancing his own career prospects.
However, it was revealed last month that there was more to Jobard’s departure than first assumed. He was forced out of the club for stealing money from another member of staff. There were regular poker matches between staff and the club’s physio, Nicolas Didry, often cleaned up. Didry kept his poker money in his locker but, as the weeks went by, he realised someone was stealing a portion of his winnings. He informed a security guard, who quickly discovered with his own eyes that the culprit was none other than Jobard, who was the assistant manager at the time.
The players – many of whom viewed Jobard as a big brother, serving as a bulwark between them and the manager – were stupefied by his actions and quickly took the side of the physio. When confronted with CCTV evidence of Jobard’s theft, club president Olivier Delcourt was left with no choice but to release the assistant manager.
The situation was complicated by Jobard’s status at the club. He had played for Cercle Dijon, one of two clubs that merged to form Dijon FCO in 1998, and was a legend with fans. With this in mind, Delcourt ushered Jobard out the door quietly, so as to protect his reputation – especially as no criminal proceedings had been brought against him. Marseille’s interest came at the right time for everyone to save face.
When Dijon were searching for a new manager to replace Antoine Kombouaré in the summer, they considered former Lyon boss Bruno Génésio but, in the end, chose to give Jobard another chance. “His love for the club prevailed,” said Delcourt. When the news about the theft emerged last month, the president addressed the issue, saying: “That is in the past. I am not denying the claims but I will not get into details. It all pertains to the club. Stéphane lost his head. He apologised to his colleagues, the players and to me too. In life, we all have the right to make mistakes.”
It was a bold decision by the president and one that looked unwise after the first few weeks of the season. Dijon lost their first four games of the campaign and were still without a win after seven matches. Things have turned around of late, though. The defence has held firm and the attack has shown flashes of improvement. Chouiar, who became the club’s second most expensive when he joined this summer, has looked particularly sharp. They rode their luck in a goalless draw against Lyon, but showed reasons for optimism in their wins against Reims and Strasbourg. Their next two fixtures pit them against the rickety defences of Monaco and Rennes, which gives more grounds for hope.
Their prospects are not exactly rosy though. Despite only losing one of their last six league matches, they are just one point above bottom side Nîmes, who have a game in hand after their trip to Rennes was rained off on Saturday. However, after scraping survival in recent seasons, there is at last a bit of optimism around the Stade Gaston-Gérard. As Jobard’s story shows, people can change when given a chance to redeem themselves. A lesson for us all.
Ligue 1 talking points
• Memphis Depay’s brilliance is exceeded only perhaps by his inconsistency, but his performances under Rudi Garcia may be a new high for the Dutchman, who scored a brilliant brace against Toulouse on Saturday, propelling Lyon to a second straight win. There were a handful of scuffed chances as well but, after being rested against Dijon, Depay has now scored in every match in which he has featured under Garcia. Tougher tests are still to come, with Benfica in midweek and a trip to Marseille on Sunday in the offing, but yet another resurgence on Depay’s part could go a long way to righting Lyon’s previously listing season.
• Nice beat Reims 2-0 on Sunday to ease the pressure on Patrick Vieira. After losing 3-2 to Ligue 2 strugglers Le Mans in the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek, the manager’s seeming inability to integrate the club’s summer signings has not worn well. Prior to Sunday’s win, Nice had picked up just one point from their previous five league matches. Had Reims winger Moussa Doumbia not been sent off for dissent, this encounter could have easily have gone the other way. Nice’s next two games are against Bordeaux and Lyon, both of whom are in good form, so Vieira is not in the clear yet.
• After PSG’s defeat on Friday, Amiens now hold the league’s longest unbeaten run. It is a modest five matches but, after being hammered at home by Bordeaux in late September, things looked difficult for the northern club, but Luka Elsner’s restructured backline has improved and Stiven Mendoza (four in six matches) seems a badly needed goal threat. It’s a long old season, but Amiens again look like the canny and dangerous opponents they were so often under Christophe Pélissier.
Ligue 1 table