January would present Patrice Evra with his first fixture crunch, the possibility of seven games in one month would put the team’s fitness and depth to the test. Getting that full schedule meant winning at least two games in the Coupe de France, there won’t be many Championnat National teams left so the likelihood that Evra ends up across from a much better team would be good.
“We are excited, well rested, we are ready to put Valenciennes behind us” said Evra prior to facing Le Havre FC in the 9th round.
Putting Valenciennes behind them would be a small yet important step, prior to the break the 1-0 loss broke a twelve game unbeaten run that ended with eight straight wins. It also helped that the loss was at Stade Sébastien Charléty, the same venue for Le Havre FC, so a good win would exorcise some ghosts.
As things turned out, RB Paris was ready to return to their winning ways and it extended well beyond Le Havre FC. An emphatic 4-0 win would earn a draw against Montpellier in the 10th round, a game that would see Wilson Isidor score yet again along with a Julien Lopez double. Lopez would earn PoM honors thanks to his two goals and the assist on Isidor’s game, a textbook example of what Evra has been trying to develop with the AS Monaco loanee crashing the back post to head in a cross from Lopez. The big win would come with a serious downside, LB Florin Hanin would suffer a hip injury that early reports had him missing up to seven months with. RB Paris announced that he would be sent to a specialist and the timetable on his return would be adjusted to four months, things seemed even worse as Evra had allowed Marcel Lavinier to go out on loan so LB was now razor thin.
The Hanin news was little more than a speed bump as RB Paris thumped SM Caen 3-1 in Ligue 2, Lopez would score again with Diaby-Fadiga getting back on the scoresheet. This was a comprehensive win even with SM Caen’s Caleb Zady Sery scoring at 68’ to make it 2-1, 63% to 37% possession advantage made it very difficult for the hosts to come back and a stoppage time goal from Cody Drameh made it impossible. Montpellier would put up even less resistance in a 3-0 win in the 10th round of the Coupe de France, a fortunate draw as the Ligue 1 side was in the midst of a terrible season that might have them swap places with RB Paris in Ligue 2.
That initial run of great results must have used up all of RB Paris’ energy as the good times came to a screeching halt over the span of three games. First a 2-2 draw with EA Guingamp where Les Taureaux were able to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead before giving up a goal to Yannick Gomis on a set piece to give the visitors a point. That would be followed up by a 1-1 draw with RC Lens that saw a tight 1-0 lead evaporate at 88’ when Ousmane Kanté clobbered Corentin Jean in the box well away from the ball for a controversial penalty. Two limp results rolled right into the revenge of SM Caen, still sore about the 3-1 league loss, that saw a depleted and exhausted RB Paris fall apart in extra time. A tightly contested 1-1 draw, with SM Caen leading most of the game, went into extra time after Kanté seemed to redeem himself with a 78’ goal to bring the score level. Extra time was a completely different story, a flat and disinterested RB Paris side would surrender twice in a three minute span and Jessy Deminguet would add a third at 120’ to close out a satisfying 4-1 win for the hosts. Evra was clearly upset over the extra time performance, a frustrating end to their Coupe de France run.
“I blame myself as much as the players” admitted Evra after the game “we played a lot, I could have tried to rest our players more, but we gave up. Yes, we were tired, but giving up is not acceptable.”
Getting eliminated from the Coupe de France wouldn’t be the only wound suffered. RB Costinha would be taken off just before the half with a cut on his leg, RB Paris would announce that his injury would keep him out for up to two weeks. Evra has worked hard to build depth and skill at wing back, but at this rate he won’t have anyone left.
While getting dumped out of the domestic cup would leave the team disappointed, it wouldn’t last long. RB Paris had one more burst of energy, perhaps taking out their frustration on Grenoble, a 5-2 win would close out the month to keep things on track in Ligue 2. Evra’s side would explode on offense, with Diaby-Fadiga and Florian Martin lodging doubles, but they would also continue to be weak on set pieces. Both of Grenobles goals would come off them, neither of them corners, something that doesn’t seem important when you score five but will be concerning against better teams. Diaby-Fadiga’s double would pull him into joint 2nd in Ligue 2 with (9), still well back of Rodez Aveyron’s Pape Sané with (12).
February should be much easier with no Coupe de France games to deal with, four fixtures ending in a touch rematch with FC Metz will give the squad time to recover.