Christophe Galtier was thoroughly pleased with Saint-Etienne’s performance during a convincing win over Lorient on Sunday, saying there was a “collective awareness” from his side.
Les Verts demolished the visitors at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with four unanswered goals and subsequently closed the gap to fourth-played Lyon to just one point.
ASSE’s run of just two defeats since the turn of the year should be seen as ideal preparation ahead of the club’s historic trip to Old Trafford on Thursday evening.
Comprehensive victory for Saint-Etienne
The hosts were expected to get back to winning ways when bottom-of-the-table Lorient came to town.
An ineffable Wylan Cyprien strike for Nice saw the Rhone-based club suffer a league defeat for the first time in six matches and, with Lyon surprisingly losing to Guingamp the previous day, this fixture provided the club with a chance to close the gap on their rivals.
Captain Loic Perrin opened the scoring after 18 minutes after the centre-back prodded home a tremendous Jorginho cross. Jordan Veretout doubled the advantage just moments later as the Aston Villa loanee capitalised on some catastrophic defending.
A superb Romain Hamouma finish put Lorient to the sword while Jorginho added further misery as he fortuitously stabbed in a goal on his home debut.
Galtier savouring victory
Manager Christophe Galtier was full of praise for his team during his post-match press conference, focusing on their “determination, legs and will” against lowly Lorient.
Sainte harboured more shots, possession and crosses throughout the 90 minutes, thus producing one of the most complete performances of their current Ligue 1 campaign.
Many expected the home side to defeat Les Merlus due to their respective positions in the table but, with Lorient three unbeaten prior to kick-off, Galtier appreciates just what a fantastic win it was.
“We savour this victory by appreciating it at its true value.” The Frenchman said in his post-match press conference.
“Obviously all the viewers were focused on the table, but Lorient came out of an excellent run of ten matches, almost identical to ours. It was a team in form, although diminished.
“My players put in this match the ingredients that were necessary: a lot of determination, legs and will to thwart Lorient. Indeed, when they play in a posed way, they make you run after the ball. But tonight, we managed to thwart them, to open the score and to double the bet on blow. That gave a different match.
“This is what I also wanted in Nice but it did not work. Today, it succeeded because my players negotiated their match and did not relax in the second half.”
"I appreciate the expression of the team"
Saint-Etienne’s next five league outings come against teams in the bottom half of the table, three of which occupy the relegation zones, before their clash with leaders Monaco.
Having not lost to any in the reverse fixtures, the next month provides ASSE with an opportunity to extend their fantastic start to 2017.
The club are currently third in the form table due to a fantastic run which has seen them beat Lyon and Toulouse. Galtier puts their form down to work on the psychological, physical and tactical side to their game.
“During our three workshops at the beginning of the year, we worked on three aspects: psychological, physical and tactical. I think that there was a collective awareness and we have this willingness to harass the opponent by evolving quite high at the start.” Said the 50-year-old.
“I appreciate the expression of the team, the way it plays without any restraint, even if it's physically difficult because it takes a lot of energy.
“There is also the return of Romain Hamouma and the performances of Henri Saivet which evolves at a better level than during the first part of the season. We have also brought in competition. Players have integrated that you have to be good and performing to be able to play.”
Historic trip to Manchester on the horizon
Due to their comprehensive lead early in the second half, Galtier was able to bring off top goalscorer Romain Hamouma, Jordan Veretout and the in-form Kevin Monnet-Paquet ahead of their trip to Old Trafford.
Saint-Etienne’s meeting with Manchester United in the Europa League Round of 32 will only add to their strong European heritage, having reached the final of the European Cup in 1976, but Galtier insists that all his attention will be on securing a top four place.
Galtier stated: “As I have already said, if we wish to relive European evenings, it will pass through the championship. I think of the matches against Montpellier and Caen.
“We open a European bracket against Manchester, it will be the match of the players and the group. After getting first place in the group stage thanks to a heroic victory in Anderlecht, they deserve to live these matches intensely but with determination.”