- Francesco Farioli was appointed as head coach of Nice in June of 2023. Nice currently sit in second-place in Ligue 1 after 12 games and are just one point behind French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
- The new Italian coach has guided Les Aiglons to a phenomenal start to the 2023/24 campaign and they are yet to suffer a single league defeat this term.
- They finished in ninth-place last season under former Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre and caretaker coach Didier Digard.
Despite dropping points in all three of their opening matches, Nice have gone on to win all but two of their nine outings since. They are currently hot on PSG’s tails in Ligue 1 and look like one of the most impressive sides across Europe so far this season.
Not only is their current league standing incredibly imposing, they have also picked up victories over PSG and third-placed Monaco. Farioli’s side look the real deal and the 34-year-old coach is making waves in the French top-flight.
However, what is the secret to his success so far at Allianz Riviera? Below, I will be breaking down just exactly how the Italian boss has managed to get off to such a flyer with Nice.
Conceding just four goals across 12 league games this term, Nice have managed to keep nine clean sheets in the process. That has also seen them keep seven straight clean sheets as well. Not only can Nice not be beaten, but you will have a very difficult time even getting a goal! They have the best defensive record across Europe’s top five leagues.
That said their offensive game has been far from fruitful this season. They have scored less than half as many goals as PSG. It is their strong defensive abilities that have seen them sit near the top of the table.
40-year-old veteran Dante has been the stalwart at the heart of defence. It has been eight years since his ‘glory days’ at Bayern Munich, but his performances for Nice this season have proven age is just a number.
From Dante, to 29-year-old Morgan Sanson in the midfield, to the youthfulness of Kephren Thuram and Jean-Clair Todibo. It is the blend of experience and young talent that has allowed Farioli to create a fine balance amongst his squad.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Classified Apprentice
Think of Farioli as the more defensive Roberto De Zerbi. Both coaches rely on the pressing situation of their opponents for success and, at times, struggle to break down opposition that maintain a deeper defensive line. Nice’s pass percentage of 87% is the second highest in the division, behind leaders PSG. The Italian has previously worked with the current Brighton & Hove Albion boss, too, as a goalkeeping coach at the likes of Benevento and Sassuolo.
De Zerbi faces similar issues at Brighton, like he did at Sassuolo. His teams look phenomenal when playing stronger sides who like to play on the front foot. They can build out from the back well and they have the speed and technical ability to hurt defences.
However, coming up against a team that will sit back and park the bus poses additional questions. Frequently, Brighton have shown that they lack the extra quality going forward and in the final third to break down those sorts of teams.
That is a similar situation at Nice. They have shared the points with the likes of Lyon and Lorient this season, who both sit near the bottom of Ligue 1. They also drew 0-0 away to Montpellier last time out who sit in the bottom half of the table. Offensively, they have struggled at times too. They have scored just 13 league goals this term, only the joint-ninth most in the division.
Certainly, they lack an out-and-out centre forward. Terem Moffi is their leading goalscorer in the league but he has just three goals to his name from 12 appearances.
What is Stopping Nice From Being Crowned Ligue 1 Champions?
The club also began the 2016/17 season by going their first 11 Ligue 1 games unbeaten. However, they ended up finishing third and were beaten to the title by Monaco.
The level of competitiveness in the Premier League makes De Zerbi’s task with the Seagulls extremely more difficult. The talent in England means that Brighton are susceptible to conceding. That is the opportunity cost of their impressive attacking exploits.
Perhaps Farioli’s Nice is set up for more stable success. They have established a system that is based on the foundations of Catenaccio. But, they do lack elements of the modern game, especially going forward.
The competition in France is nowhere near as strong as the Premier League. Nice will have to somehow beat PSG to the title, still, but they have already defeated them at Parc des Princes this season. They showed they could get goals that day too, scoring three in Paris.
However, you get the sense that they will start to ship more goals soon. What is the backup plan then once their defensive structure is compromised? Of course, the hope is that Moffi will be able to light up the attack. They signed him for €30 million over the summer but his highest Ligue 1 total is just 14 goals.
Luis Enrique is starting to get things going for PSG and they look back to their best. However, Farioli is building something special here at Nice. There’s a good chance that they run out of steam and don’t win the title this season. However, either way, it seems as though there's a new Italian prodigy on the scene.
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