A 3-0 win at FC Girondins de Bordeaux was further confirmation, perhaps, that FC Nantes's early-season form was no flash in the pan.
The eight-time French champions dropped out of Ligue 1 for the first time since the 1960s at the end of the 2006/07 campaign, and while they swiftly returned to the top division, they went down again in 2009, not returning to their usual level until this summer. A season of consolidation at best seemingly loomed for Michael Der Zakarian's side, so the fact they are now breathing down the necks of big-spending AS Monaco FC is something of a shock.
If home form – four wins in six games – has been a key element in their progress, the Loire-Atlantique club also recorded a third away victory with Sunday's scalp of Bordeaux. Vincent Bessat broke the deadlock close to half-time before Papy Mison Djilobodji and Filip Djordjević wrapped up the points. Der Zarkarian, however, kept celebrations muted. "Beating a Bordeaux side that hadn't lost in seven league games is good," the 50-year-old said. "They had no luck, we did. My players were strong in defence and always carried a threat."
That caution when it comes to their eye-catching form may be down to Der Zakarian's past – a central defender in the Nantes team that lifted the title in 1982/83, the Armenian-born coach has seen genuine success at the club. While he led them to promotion last term, his experiences over two spells at the Nantes helm will doubtless have taught him to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
Nonetheless, Nantes have cause for cheer: the one-time UEFA Champions League semi-finalists have not been so high in the table since 13 May 2005, and boast one of the league's top scorers in eight-goal Djordjević. The Serbian international, signed from FK Crvena zvezda in 2008, is only one goal behind Monaco's Falcao and Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and on target to match his 20-goal tally from Ligue 2 last season.
"I am having a lucky spell and making the most of my chances," said the 26-year-old after the Bordeaux game, unwilling – like his coach – to blow his own trumpet too hard. "Now we'll have some time to recover as there is an international break coming up, then we have Monaco at home next [on 24 November]. We'll try to leapfrog them into third place."
That would be a remarkable achievement, but Der Zakarian is not interested in talk of European places just yet. "The aim is to pocket 42 points [the usual total required to secure Ligue 1 safety] as soon as possible," he said. "When that is done, we'll see what we can do next. The aim is to stay in Ligue 1."
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