For his first on the bench of OGC Nice, Didier Digard lived a dream: his team spent its nerves on an unanswered Montpellier and finally won the benchmark victory of its 2022-2023 season.
If the Allianz Riviera was far from full this Wednesday evening against Montpellier, it was not simply because it was a weekday match. The last catastrophic weeks des Aiglons on the accounting level certainly did not help to bring people to the stadium and even pushed the leaders to kick Lucien Favre out. It was therefore in a relatively complex context that Didier Digard took on the role of first-team coach for the first time at the age of 36, and in a club where he played 165 matches between 2010 and 2015, even if President Jean -Pierre Rivère wanted to reassure him by saying at a press conference on Tuesday that “the coach has no pressure on the results” . And everything finally happened like a dream for the temporary worker in the hoodie, who saw his men pass six to a weak Montpellier team (6-1) during his baptism, and deliver the best collective performance of the OGCN since the start of the season.
A tangible unity and an effective bench
“I’m here so that everyone has fun, that we are united, and that the team turns” , Digard assured reporters on Tuesday. And all these ingredients were seen the next day on the meadow. His 4-2-3-1 completely asphyxiated an unresponsive MHSC, Khéphren Thuram and Nicolas Pépé largely contributed to making this game easy for their friends, the second city even scoring his first double under the Nice tunic. The expected unity was reflected in the celebrations, with players coming almost systematically to fall into the arms of their new coach, obviously closer to his group than his predecessor. The squad review for the second period also bore fruit: entering together at 67e minute, Ross Barkley and Andy Delort were both decisive. The Englishman stung twice (his first double in seven years!), the Algerian found the net once and gave a caviar to his attacking midfielder on the last goal of the game. The striker, who was also whistled when he entered the field – his name having been associated with a possible departure from Nantes in recent days – was finally cheered by the whole stadium when he scored. Only positive points therefore, but the fire was not yet in Didier Digard’s mind after the match: “The hardest part is ahead of us. I took this team on the eve of the match and I took advantage of Lucien’s work. It’s cruel to him. I want to pay tribute to him. The players did everything well tonight. »
Hope and Time for Leaders
Beyond the river score acquired at the end of the match when Montpellier had already let go, this victory suggests several reasons for hope for the second part of the season in Nice. First, this workforce, which has sometimes been questioned on its true value, showed that it was able to turn on the switch when necessary and that it was full of qualities on all lines. Secondly, this success gives meaning to the next deadlines since it allows the club to find the top 10 and to believe that a European place at the end of the year is no longer totally unthinkable. Finally, this team has just won a reference victory, which should give the leaders a little more time than expected to choose their future coach, even if the name of Régis Le Bris has already been mentioned this week. With the recent arrivals of Florent Ghisolfi and Jean-Claude Blanc in the upper echelons of the club, a sign that the INEOS project is slowly but surely taking shape, everything suggests that the best is yet to come for Nice. It was time.
By Alexandre Lejeune