Following a scoreless draw on the road to Nice, Stade Brestois 29 have continued their impressive start to the Ligue 1 campaign, falling behind within a half-hour via Toulouse’s Frank Magri, only for Martín Satriano to come off the bench and equalize in the 93rd minute. It was the Uruguayan striker’s sixth goal for the club and his first since April 3, 2022 — having played at Brest for the second half of the 2021/22 season, Inter loaned Satriano out to Empoli before sending him back to the French side for the entirety of 2023/24.
Led by the enigmatic Eric Roy, Les Pirates sit fourth in the table, level on 15 points with PSG, one behind Nice, and two behind Monaco. Like many fixtures this season, their goalless stalemate at Nice was a dogged affair for the Brittany side. Cheered on by their loyal travelling support, opportunities arose at both ends, as two of French football’s top-four sides went toe-to-toe throughout.
The game’s best opportunity fell to the visitors, as a sensational solo effort from Jérémy Le Douaron rattled the woodwork from the edge of the box within the opening quarter. Ultimately, a point was a fair reflection on the day, though, as Nice marked their 10th anniversary at the Allianz Riviera in a stalemate.
The performances of Roy’s side have raised plenty of eyebrows throughout the league, as supporters of the domestic game have identified a collection of remarkable players led by a truly impressive manager. With an upcoming match against Lille – before a mouth-watering clash with PSG – rampant excitement is building in the region.
But, to understand this meteoric rise in performance that has seen widespread acclaim, we must identify the turning point and what an extraordinary turning point it is. Following the club’s return to the elite of French football in 2019-20, Brest has achieved an average final position of 14th in the table, with a leading high finish of 11th in the 2021-22 campaign. When attempting to determine the nature of the upsurge in form at the club, one must cast an eye toward their 56-year-old manager.
The man born in Alpes-Maritimes assumed control on January 3, 2023, with the club in peril and heading toward relegation to the second tier. Before his appointment, the side had won three games and lost 59% of their fixtures that season, collecting 13 points from a possible 51.
He immediately galvanised the group, cementing a stern reputation within several weeks. The progress was remarkable, and following an impressive display in defeat against Les Parisiens in March, his side would remain unbeaten in 82% of their fixtures until the end of the season, winning 55% of games played.
The astonishing turnaround in form would inevitably lead to a 14th-place finish, nine points and three positions above the dreaded drop zone. The fluidity of the squad was immediately transparent, with a regular variety of a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 frequently utilised. A stubborn, battling midfield complemented a willing collection of attackers who often swapped roles during transitions.
The success of this squad was attributed to a collective goal and a shared effort within the group. However, at times of need, players such as Le Douaron were regularly sealing valuable points with critical strikes for the side. A collective vision of team over individual is an endearing trait I have witnessed as a spectator.
Unsurprisingly to many within the French game, Brest completed a successful pre-season campaign and began 2023-24 with the same energy, determination and drive their manager demands. Roy has achieved this with a shoe-string budget and the departure of the highly impressive Frank Honorat to Bundesliga outfit Borussia Mönchengladbach.
When focusing on incomings to strengthen the side, many have come via short-term loan deals. Julien Le Cardinal, Jordan Amavi, Kamory Doumbia and Billal Brahimi have joined Martín Satriano in making the temporary switch to assist Les Ti’Zef’s assault on the perennial powerhouses in the Country.
Additionally, promising 21-year-old Bradley Locko made a permanent switch from Stade Reims, and the talented 25-year-old midfielder Mahdi Camara signed for the minuscule fee of €3 million. Both have featured heavily in each fixture played so far, as the manager continues to shape this side in his image.
A solitary 2-0 defeat against nine-time Ligue 1 winners Marseille in game week three is the sole blemish against a staggeringly entertaining campaign. Les Phocéens benefitted from an underwhelming display on the day, as Gennaro Gattuso’s side were fortuitous to collect three points on the day.
Further to the shift in success on the field, supporters anticipate the much-sought-after construction of their new state-of-the-art stadium. The architectural masterpiece has been brought forward by brothers Gérard and Denis Le Saint, as the current Stade Francis-Le Blé stadium is incapable of further development. While construction has hit an inevitable stumbling block, the club owners remain confident of opening the 15,000-seater stadium by 2026.
Ultimately, as we witness the growth of this fascinating football club, their ceiling for success is an unknown variable. A proud institution that has seen household names such as David Ginola, Stéphane Guivarc’h and Franck Ribéry walk through its doors now opens its heart to the class of 2023. Supporters look toward an exciting group spearheaded by Roman Del Castillo in an attack to captivate an audience who are thoroughly behind the work of the magnificent Eric Serge Armand Roy.
By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anthony Dibon / Icon Sport