Too big a jump? Analysing Patrick Kisnorbo's start at Troyes
Upon joining the City Football Group’s French club ESTAC Troyes in November, Patrick Kisnorbo, heralded a trailblazer in Australia, raised eyebrows in France. His lack of experience at this level was pointed out, and three months on, Troyes fans are now asking how long the experiment will last. Can the former Melbourne City manager turn it around?
When he departed, the club’s former coach, Bruno Irles, had ESTAC sitting 13th on the table with the fifth-best attack in the league.
Today, Troyes is 19th and in the relegation zone, two points behind Ajaccio in 16th. They rank tenth in goals scored and, more worryingly, have the worst defence with 55 goals conceded, a higher number than even bottom-of-the-table Angers.
In ten games on the bench, Kisnorbo’s stats sheet is damning. After four encouraging points picked up in his first two games, his team has only one across their last eight games. During that negative spiral, Troyes’ opponents scored 22 goals while only finding the net five times themselves.
Troyes supporters are running out of patience with Patrick Kisnorbo. (Icon Sport)
The fans have had enough
The poor performances from the players, bad results and lack of intensity and response from the group have angered the fans.
They are asking for Kisnorbo to be replaced whilst also happily blaming President Aymeric Magne and Sporting Director François Vitali for the bad management over the past few years.
The Australian has support from his unpopular superiors so far. Vitali confirmed three weeks ago that he was "the right choice for the long-term."
Taking charge of a team halfway through the season is always challenging. But the changes, or improvements, Kisnorbo has made at Troyes are yet to bear fruit.
After trusting Polish goalkeeper Mateusz Lis at first (for five games, which resulted in one win, a draw, and three losses, with 11 goals conceded), he benched him in favour of Gauthier Gallon, who had started the season as Troyes' first-choice option.
One draw, five losses, and 15 goals conceded later, Gallon still needs to convince. The tactics used on the pitch have also had little influence.
Kisnorbo set up the team in a 4-2-3-1 over his first five games before switching to a 3-5-2 and 3-4-2-1. Results did not follow using either system.
Polish goalkeeper Mateusz Liz only lasted five games as Kisnorbo's starting goalkeeper. (Twitter: @estac_officiel)
Questionable squad selection
The return of the experienced Adil Rami in defence against Montpellier ten days ago has brought much-needed leadership back into the squad.
Despite the captain conceding a generous penalty last week, his presence has seen the trio of Erik Palmer-Brown, Yoann Salmier, and Jackson Porozo marginally improve.
Unfortunately, after Rami was taken off during that Montpellier defeat, passive defending led to the away side's 90th-minute winner, showing that much more work is still needed.
In the middle of the park, and further forward, between injuries and performances - or lack thereof - Kisnorbo has started eight combinations over the last ten games, proving that he has yet to find his best lineup.
Should the team’s main attacking threats, Mama Baldé (10 goals) and Portuguese international Rony Lopes, always be at the top of their game when healthy, the supporting cast evolves.
Regarding midfield selection, Rominigue Kouamé went from starter to unused substitute over the last three games. Meanwhile, Florian Tardieu suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
The two winter signings, midfielder Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and forward Alexis Tibidi, are rarely used.
Xavier Chavalerin is one of the most utilised players in Kisnorbo's midfield. (Sebastien Bozon, Agence France Presse)
The club are behind him but for how long?
The confidence put into Kisnorbo is reaffirmed weekly at the club during press conference after press conference.
“The group works well”, “we lose because of details”, and “we keep improving” are all phrases that populate the club’s statements.
Kisnorbo went from calling his players out for their lack of involvement and intensity on the pitch to having a somewhat passive stance, at least publicly.
After a 4-0 defeat to Reims two weeks ago, his post-match reaction left little room for interpretation.
“It was not enough, start to finish. I want to apologise to the fans," Kisnorbo said.
"We have to fight for them and for the club, and today we did not. If mentally we are not ready; it is not going to work. We must do more, much more.
"I am not really worried because we concede four avoidable goals, all following little mistakes we can correct quickly. These days, we get punished every single time we drop our focus. There are 15 games left. They are 15 finals for us.”
The smiles during Patrick Kisnorbo's introductory press conference seem very far away now. (L’Est Éclair)
Two of Kisnorbo's 15 games were against relegation candidates in Montpellier and Ajaccio, where Troyes lost both by a goal.
It seems those two games are the defeats Troyes fans are most upset about, given the opportunity they presented to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Now ESTAC needs a bit of a miracle.
Over the last 13 weeks, Troyes will face Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Rennes, Monaco, Lille, Nice, and Nantes. They will not be expected to take points from any of these games.
The final six games will be crucial for Troyes' Ligue 1 survival. After Monaco's weekend visit, Kisnorbo will coach his team at Lorient and Auxerre before hosting Brest and Clermont at the Stade de l’Aube.
After that series of games, there's no doubt Troyes will still need points to stay in Ligue 1. Two of their last three games of the season will be against Strasbourg and Angers. They could be synonymous with the last chance for the Australian manager and his team. That is if the club has not sent him packing by then.
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