It’s now official, the Girondins de Bordeaux will play in Ligue 2 next season. The second club having played the most seasons in Ligue 1 in the history of French football will therefore play in the second division. A drama for Girondin supporters who experienced a nightmarish exercise, chaotic even, in which the outcome seemed inevitable. If, for Bordeaux, everything really changed after the takeover by the American investment funds GACP and King Street in 2018, the club has never seemed as low as this season despite the takeover last July by the former owner of the LOSC Gerard Lopez. Because in this 2021-2022 exercise, nothing has ever gone as planned for the club with 6 French Champion titles.
At the end of a disappointing end to the 2020/2021 season with a maintenance torn off in extremis on the last day, the club with the scapular finally hoped to start again on good bases with a new investor and thus turn the page King Street and Frédéric Longuépée, who had created many worries within the club. After a summer spent in total limbo while waiting for a happy ending in front of the DNCG and a preparation spoiled by the uncertainty of the maintenance or name of Jean-Louis Gasset as coach, Bordeaux was finally officially bought by Gérard Lopez on July 23. 2021, just a few days before the start of the Championship.
Early casting mistakes
The former president of Lille arrived with in his suitcases, Admar Lopes scout of Luis Campos for several years and who discovered for the first time the role of sports director. A not easy role because with an already very weak squad at the end of last season, the 38-year-old man aimed to completely renew the group, separate himself from undesirables and strengthen the collective, to try to start on a new cycle and all that in less than a month. With its president, the first strong choice was that of the coach. And the lucky winner was Vladimir Petkovic. The former coach of Switzerland, executioner of the Blues at the Euro a few weeks before, landed in Gironde to treat a sick workforce. Described as a pragmatic coach, but with skills in the field of mental preparation, the Bosnian technician quickly understood that the task was not going to be easy.
A few days after his arrival on the Bordeaux bench, Petkovic and Bordeaux lost to promoted Clermont (2-0) on the first day of Ligue 1. An almost logical result since the former Lazio coach had relied on the same team and the same players who had delivered disappointing performances during the last exercise. “I did not imagine that we were so fragile mentally, two or three errors took us out of the match. You have to work on that, be positive even after a mistake, know how to bounce back. There is too much fear of making mistakes. Clermont was strong in using their speed and our naivety, but I don’t think they were the ones who dominated. We have suffered our own mistakes. I don’t know if reinforcements are needed, but I know that the whole squad must do more to honor the shirt.” explained Petkovic after the meeting. Reinforcements, precisely, Admar Lopes was going to try to offer some to his coach …
A fractured group
After the takeover of the club by Gérard Lopez, the sports policy was clear: bet on young players with high potential to make a capital gain on resale afterwards. So the club, which also did not have much room for maneuver financially and which had made a commitment to the DNCG to sell first before buying, therefore made the bet to bet on loans of young players. . Ricardo Mangas (23 years old), Gideon Mensah (23 years old), Timothée Pembélé (18 years old), Javairo Dilrosun (22 years old) and Jean Onana (21 years old) landed in particular in Gironde, but almost all at the end of the transfer window. Striker Alberth Elis, midfielder Fransergio and defender Gregersen completed the list of rookies. But as a symbol, with a crying lack of experience for the first cities, and knowledge of the French Championship and these requirements for the others, the recruits were absolutely not satisfactory and Bordeaux still experienced disappointments on the ground. The newcomers were very far from the expected level and in particular Fransergio, ghostly with each appearance.
After several weeks of acclimatization for the coach and the recruits, the level displayed by the Girondins did not bode well at all. Result, still disappointing performances and only one small miraculous victory against Saint-Etienne in 11 Ligue 1 days. But not enough to worry the management which comforted a Vladimir Petkovic, passive on his bench, and who seemed to be more helpless as in a press conference where he continued to see progress in his team. On the pitch, Petkovic’s choices were also questioned as he still failed to create a backbone and defensive solidity. Recruits in this sector were not at all satisfactory. The repeated injuries of Laurent Koscielny, the disappointing performances of a Benoît Costil, irreproachable until his call for the last four of the League of Nations with France and a little concerned Otavio, did not help and the first tensions were born. even internally and in the locker room.
The chaos of January and the defeat against OM
On the ground, hope is reborn for a moment after a comeback in the last moments against Reims. Led 2-0, Bordeaux equalized then won three precious points at the very end of the game. And if the leaders, the players, the supporters and the coach hoped that this scenario would be a click for the rest of the season, it was not the case. A few days later, the Girondins fell again against PSG and were also hit hard by the Covid. More than twenty cases in the workforce, injuries and a 3-3 draw against FC Metz after leading 2-0 in numerical superiority ended up truly plunging the club into a deep crisis.
At this time, in the locker room, Vladimir Petkovic seems to lose his group almost completely and has no framework to get his speech across. On the ground, nothing reassures and the defeats are linked with ever larger scores and the slap received against Strasbourg (5-2) is the first of a long series. Because at the winter break, despite the catastrophic results in the Championship, the president Gérard Lopez reiterates his intention to aim for the top 10 at the end of the season and maintains his confidence in Vladimir Petkovic while the supporters are starting to demand his departure. And the month of January appears to be the sporting turning point of the Bordeaux season. Still weighed down by the covid, Bordeaux begins its second part of the Championship without preparation and receives OM in a special match. Undefeated for 44 years at home against Marseille, the Girondins are under pressure for results while OM know that the opportunity to finally break this series has never been better. Especially since the match is being played behind closed doors. Due to the Covid, a limit of 8,000 supporters was set for this meeting, but in protest against this gauge, the club’s ultras had decided not to go to the stadium. And what should have happened. After a sad match, Bordeaux lost to OM (0-1). A historic defeat. And the descent into hell will continue.
Costil and accusations of racism
This defeat will do a lot of harm to the club since in the process, Bordeaux literally collapsed against Rennes (6-0). A correction in a collectively cataclysmic match which should logically mark the end of Vladimir Petkovic’s adventure. But it is nothing. The Bordeaux management continues to maintain the coach and gives him one last chance. The following match, the Girondins miraculously won against Strasbourg (4-3) but did not go far from disappointment despite having led 3-0 in this match. Further proof that despite the three points, the team remains too fragile and the following match was the perfect example. Without Koscielny dismissed from the group by Gerard Lopez because he did not fulfill his role as a manager, the Girondins travel to Reims with recruits claimed by Petkovic. The former OL Marcelo arrives just like Josuha Guilavogui or the big hope of Bosnian football Anel Ahmedhodžić. But that will not change anything and Bordeaux is once again corrected (0-5).
The slap too much for Gérard Lopez and Admar Lopes who decide to dismiss Vladimir Petkovic who will be replaced by David Guion a few weeks later, Jaroslav Plasil taking care of the interim in the meantime. Problem, the former Reims coach arrives alone, without an assistant and relies on the same staff as in recent seasons. Not ideal therefore to oxygenate his group and have this click for the future. For his first on the bench, Guion gets a draw against Monaco which is not encouraging. In numerical superiority and leading to the score, the Girondins are strolled at home and concede the equalizer very logically. A sign that shows that the season is going to be very long for the supporters. Because even against Troyes, relegated at that time, Bordeaux was beaten at home, helpless. A defeat that hurts and that slowly but surely buries the hopes of maintenance. At the same time, a conflict broke out between the supporters and Benoit Costil, just after his return from injury. The latter is accused of racism by the Ultramarines group. After internal investigation, no proof is found and the French goalkeeper even receives the support of his teammates. The fracture with the public is deep and David Guion decides to leave his porter on the bench to trust the young Gaetan Poussin, inexperienced.
Gaëtan Poussin’s nightmare
The number goalkeeper of the Girondins therefore becomes a starter by default even if his coach continues to explain that his tenure is a purely sporting choice and has nothing to do with the conflict between Costil and the ultras. But problem, the young doorman of 23 years does not seem ready at all for Ligue 1 and it must be said that his defenders do not help. Even if he gets the first clean sheet of the season in a miraculous match against Lille (0-0), his nervousness and lack of composure will play tricks on his team. After his goal gag conceded on a penalty against Troyes, he is the author of a chaotic performance against OL (1-6). The Girondins bowed heavily in a match where the Bordeaux goalkeeper was guilty on 4 goals including a huge ball after having completely missed his recovery.
After the match, even if he explains that he wants to move on quickly, Gaëtan Poussin is marked by his performance and in the process against Saint-Etienne, he is once again guilty on the equalizing goal (2-2) while his team led in the score against a direct competitor for maintenance. In this meeting, the goalkeeper trained at the club does not make any saves and therefore concedes two goals in … two strikes. A new disappointing performance which will force David Guion to send him to the bench and therefore to call on Benoit Costil for the rest of the season.
An inevitable end
Against Nantes (3-5) during the 35th day, the Girondins once again showed their mental and defensive weaknesses. While leading 2-0, they once again collapsed. The match against Angers (4-1) did not help matters and it is therefore logical that Bordeaux is officially relegated to Ligue 2 after this 38th day. It could have been the case much earlier this season but the results of the competitors still held out some hope.
This 2021/2022 season is therefore definitely to be forgotten for this monument of French football which, as a symbol, with one of the squads with the highest payroll in Ligue 1, ended the season in last place in the Championship. It will be necessary to rebuild an entire club both sportingly and administratively to succeed in performing in Ligue 2 from next season because the economic survival of the club depends on it. Fourth most indebted club in France currently (-67 million), Bordeaux could hardly survive if it remained more than a year in the second division… Bad news, especially since this descent comes just before the transition to 18 clubs in Ligue 1 where only 2 clubs will go up at the end of the season…