Ajaccio, praise of solidity

Ajaccio, praise of solidity

#Ajaccio #praise #solidity

Winner of the leader of Toulouse on Saturday night (1-0), AC Ajaccio retained its second place in Ligue 2 and will therefore evolve on the top floor in 2022-2023. An outcome that could surprise more than one, since Olivier Pantaloni’s band was not, a priori, scheduled to meet at such a party. But the Corsicans, who have made solidarity a cardinal value and have made their solidity a considerable asset, have by no means robbed them of their promotion.

A yo-yo. Certainly, here is the object that best illustrates the sinusoidal trajectory of AC Ajaccio for five years. One season to play maintenance, the next to dream of promotion, and so on without stopping. The soft belly, very little for the Bears, who happily go from one end of the classification to the other, but who never get bored when spring arrives. Having slowly managed to save itself in 2020-2021, the Corsican club was supposed to be at the forefront during the financial year that just ended. Won. What we did not suspect, however, was that despite his limited budget (thirteenth in the division) and his unremarkable squad, he would go on to steal direct access to Ligue 1 defeated by Toulouse, Olivier’s men. Pantaloni validated his second place on the night of the final day, on Saturday, by arriving precisely at the end of the TFC in a packed François-Coty stadium (1-0). “We never would have thought about that at the beginning of the season. With our small means, here, we had to have all these strengths of character and this solidarity to get there. Is incredible. It was an extraordinary adventure that the players will remember for the rest of their lives.” The 55-year-old coach admitted excitedly, on the microphone of beIN Sports after the match.

No admittance

Of course, this promotion of the ACA doesn’t just make people happy. As well as the supporters of the clubs in question, many longed for the D1 of the 1990s to hope for promotion at Auxerre, with its often exciting game, or Sochaux, finally coming out of its deep lethargy. Others also counted on Paris FC, so the French elite finally have two formations from the capital in their ranks. These three will have to take the path of the playoffs, before an always delicate barrage against the eighteenth of L1. But throughout the season, it is the Ajacciens who, behind Toulouse, have been the most consistent. They also held the leader’s chair during the truce, showing that they owe no one anything. Others will point to their poor attacking record (39 goals in 38 games, the eleventh attack of the championship), and it must be admitted that the games of president Christian Leca’s players were rarely the most spectacular. However, you have to know how to trust their strengths, and that of the Corsicans was quickly identified: defensive solidity.

With only 19 small goals conceded throughout the season, Ajaccio have thus broken a new record for impermeability in the division. His goalkeeper scored 23 clean sheets, total PFC (2018-2019) tied. Gaëtan Courtet’s teammates never lost after opening the scoring and won 1-0 eleven times. It’s not very sexy, it’s true, but the truth is that achieving such a collective performance during ten months of competition is exceptional. And if you don’t have the players to put on a show and score four goals a game, you can also make sure you take as few as possible. “If Ajaccio conceded so few goals it is thanks to the entire block of their teamPhilippe Hinschberger, the Amiens coach, told us a few weeks ago. They have two tight rows of 4, and finding space in there is very, very complicated. When you arrive against the defenders you are already happy with the work that has been done before, because the attackers work a lot. Shorty, he is no longer 20 years old, but he is enormously generous! » The former Auxerrois and Rémois did not particularly scare the accountants in 2021-2022 (seven goals, three assists), but he perfectly symbolizes the fighting spirit and sense of dedication that his team has shown throughout practice.

The old guard and the local coach

It would be very difficult to bring out an individuality. Without a doubt we can talk about the goalkeeper Benjamín Leroy (who at 33 years old was chosen as the best goalkeeper in the L2) or the revelation Oumar González, a real rock of the hinge. Above all, we see that the backbone of this team has been evolving in the ACA for a long time. From Cédric Avinel to Riad Nouri, passing through Mathieu Coutadeur and Mohamed Youssouf, without forgetting Courtet or Leroy, it is a group of grognards that constitutes the hard core of the Ajaccien squad. By adding a downtown kid, Yanis Cimignani, and cunningly unearthed recruits (González, Jean-Philippe Krasso), Olivier Pantaloni has found the right formula.

The Bastia-born coach also features prominently in ace’s magnificent season. It was he who, very soon, understood that he was interested in building a very compact team unit. His experience in Ligue 2 and his knowledge of the Corsican context have also proven invaluable, whether it’s to avoid turning on fire when everything was going well or not to second-guess everything in moments of doubt. On a personal level, this is the third time he has seen promotion in Ligue 1 on the Ajaccio bench, after 2002 (then he was assistant to Rolland Courbis) and 2011. His next mission will be to keep the club from the l Island of the Beauty at the highest national level. It will not be easy. But there is no doubt that his team will be a bit of an annoyance to many of his opponents.

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