Rennes are a side rejuvenated over the course of the last week. Since Julien Stephan took over at least until Christmas as head coach from Sabri Lamouchi, the Breton side have scored 2-0 wins over Lyon and Dijon.
Perhaps the key to Stephan’s success has been his ability to get the best from Hatem Ben Arfa. Having endured a difficult start to the season, often playing a peripheral role, the former Newcastle, Nice and Paris Saint-Germain attacker has risen to the fore in last couple of games and has rekindled the level that made him such a strong candidate for France’s Euro 2016 squad.
Indeed, though there were only four Ligue 1 matches played at the weekend because of postponements, Ben Arfa was the division’s outstanding player according to the Opta Performance Index, which measures how well every player in the league managed.
Ben Arfa’s score of 94.4 would have been enough to push him to the upper echelons of the standing even if all 10 games had gone ahead.
Indeed, his position is thoroughly deserved after he created Rennes’ opening goal midway through the second half before he capped a virtuoso performance, punctuated by dashing individual runs, with a late second for his team.
During that encounter, Rennes were aided by the introduction of Benjamin Bourigeaud, another player who had struggled to find his best at the beginning of the season. His cameo performance, though, was important as he grabbed the opening goal and mustered a score of 94.2, which puts him second in the weekend’s chart.
The overall level of Rennes’ performance, though, is highlighted by the fact that they dominate the Top 10, with five players in the ranking in total. Coming in at eight, nine and 10 are Hamari Traore, Abdoulaye Diallo and Clement Grenier.
Players from five different clubs take up the other five spots, with the most impressive of these being attacking midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui, who played a critical role off the bench for Caen in their last with Strasbourg on Sunday.
He played only the last quarter of that match but had a decisive say in the encounter, grabbing an equalising goal with 10 minutes left.
Until that point, it seemed that South Africa international striker Lebo Mothiba had won the match for Racing. His eighth goal of the season after 23 minutes had put the Alsace side into a 2-1 lead, which seemed would be sufficient to give them the points.
One man whose goal was enough to secure a vital victory in the relegation dogfight was Colombian forward Stiven Mendoza, whose strike nine minutes from time gave Amiens a precious three points thanks to a 2-1 win over bottom club Guingamp.
The 26-year-old’s first Ligue 1 strike saw Amiens jump over Monaco, who did not play, and Caen out of the relegation zone.
Guingamp, meanwhile, remain in deep trouble, eight points from safety and with only one win to their credit. Etienne Didot’s performance earned him fifth spot on the ranking this week, but that will come as little comfort to the midfielder, whose side face an uncomfortable Christmas, particularly if results against Rennes and Monaco in the next fortnight do not go their way.
Ligue 1 is slated to have a full card next weekend, with Lyon’s hosting of Thierry Henry’s men on Sunday one of the highlights along with Bordeaux’s trip to Marseille later that same day.