Julien Stéphan, the magician of RC Strasbourg Alsace

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“The president’s speech, arriving at a healthy and passionate club, everything became obvious to me when we met. The ambition is to continue to progress and to continue to share a lot of emotions., said Julien Stéphan a few months after his induction during his presentation conference last August. Since then, emotions have not been lacking among Racing supporters, whether at La Meinau or outside: after 24 matchdays, the RCSA is a surprising fourth in Ligue 1 (42 points), just one point behind the first step of the podium, occupied by OGC Nice.

When we go through the details of the Strasbourg season so far, this place in the standings is not a coincidence: France’s second attack (46 goals) six goals behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, four scorers with more than 8 achievements (Ajorque, Gameiro, Diallo and Thomasson). Not only is the offensive danger of Racing undeniable, but it comes from everywhere. Three months from the end of the current financial year, Julien Stéphan’s men are only 3 goals away from Thierry Laurey’s Strasbourg, who finished in a modest 15th place, with the union minimum for maintenance (42 points ). That time already seems far away…

Smart recruitment

But what did Julien Stéphan do to transform the residents of La Meinau? However, the team which touches the Champions League in mid-February this season is not so different from the one which had come close to the place of play-off of L1 last year. At the end of June, his observation is simple: Strasbourg has not been spared by the crisis, but must recruit intelligently: “We know that the context is not simple at all, with a Euro in progress, a passage in front of the DNCG to come and the crisis (…) We are still looking for several elements, in the defensive sector but also at the level of the eccentric offensive.Admittedly, the departures of Mohamed Simakan and Stefan Mitrovic, for RB Leipzig (€17m) and Getafe (approx. €1m), were able to provide liquidity to strengthen.

But the sports management was able to meet the needs of the new coach last summer, at a lower cost. Indeed, Racing only spent a little over a million to digitally replace the defensive starts (Nyamsi at €1.2m and Perrin on loan). Without forgetting Poland’s Fila (€1.5m), free signings (Gameiro, Le Marchand) and three other loans (Guilbert, Ahoulou), this smart summer transfer window brought depth and quality: “what counts above all is quality and complementarity. The group is quite young, it’s true, but not only.“All this for less than 3 million, the former Rennais had no more excuses: you have to do much better than a simple fight for maintenance. Challenge accepted.

“Ambition, we materialize it through play”

However, the start of the season seemed quite complicated, with already four defeats in two months, concluded with a loss against the reigning French champion Lille. A late start, but effective thereafter: 31 points taken in four and a half months. Over this period, Racing is the dolphin of Paris Saint-Germain. A prosperous period illustrated by victories. Which could give an ounce of regret about August and September, even if the supporters did not expect to see their favorite team titillate the podium. But above all, don’t talk about continental ambition to Julien Stéphan…

We have ambition, but ambition, we materialize it through playhe dropped after the victory at home against Montpellier (3-1). Let’s not talk about Europe. First of all, we have a first step to look for, which is to validate our maintenance as quickly as possible. Let’s take it step by step and stay focused on the game.They only need one more unit to reach the symbolic bar of 42 points and thus ensure their maintenance for a sixth consecutive exercise in the elite. Stéphan junior therefore wants to take the matches one after the other to avoid putting a certain pressure on the shoulders of his players, and he is right…

A brilliant team through the collective

Regarding the game that Julien Stéphan instills in this Strasbourg edition 2021/22, we find a state of mind similar to that of Stade Rennais FC under his orders, between December 2018 and March 2021. And beyond the state spirit of his players, the 41-year-old coach manages to send danger from all over the opposing camp: for example, last season, Rennes had 16 different scorers in Ligue 1 and Strasbourg this season has found the net thanks to 11 players in the league, knowing that there are 14 days left to play…

An oversized workforce without ego allows the native of Rennes to concern all his players, whether on the offensive or defensive phases, and this is demonstrated on the grounds of France. What highlights his work: his regular team rotations (25 players used since the start of the season) and his confidence in young players (Sahi Dion, Kandil, Perrin, etc.). This also confirms that the Breton technician wishes to concern everyone throughout the season, in the Championship as in the Cup. A determination to be confirmed at Saint-Étienne, in good shape (3 rank victories in L1), which he considers to be “the biggest challenge of this beginning of 2022.» Jetzt geht’s los!