Metz’ pre-Christmas part to the season has been easily the biggest success story of my ‘long shots’ project: the team, who were an astonishing 1/6 to go down this year, got off to a poor start, though looking competitive, before going on a long unbeaten run. They had lost two before the break, but still looked solid in mid table, as below.
From that position, a team like this should really be looking to consolidate their safety from relegation and then worry about what kind of achievements they can pull off in the remainder of the season. Metz went ahead and did exactly that with their four Christmas games.
Montpellier had won five in six when Metz traveled there in mid December, but Metz are great away and grabbed a win in a scrappy game that kind of suited them. Montpellier didn’t look up to all that much going forward, and Metz got a silly penalty in the second half, and added polish to win 2-0 in the dying seconds.
Another high-flyer, Lens, visited Metz next, with the same result in what’s oddly their first ever contest in the French top tier. Lens looked good early on, but Metz then took control, taking the lead with a shot that really should have been saved by the floundering Lens ‘keeper.
They should really have led by more by half time, and while Lens had the odd chance in the second half, Metz once again scored late with a lashed finish from Boyaya, and pulled off a very comfortable win to mark two in a row.
Things weren’t quite so good from there. Away to Rennes should have been a similar level of fixture on paper, but Metz have been a bit like that this season, being consistently inconsistent.
Metz had enough chances to get something here, but didn’t take them, though with Rennes moving up to fourth as a result of the win, this one was perhaps to be expected after beating the odds in their last two fixtures.
Finally, Metz came up against Bordeaux, who sit around them in mid table, in a game that had very little to recommend it, perhaps a consequence of the time off over Christmas and a rusty return in the New Year. A 0-0 draw with a few half chances probably suits when avoiding relegation had long odds a few months back and you’re sitting comfortably in mid-table, though, I’d imagine.
All that means Metz remain by far the most successful of my underdogs, with a chunky 11 point gap on the drop zone that should, with a few half decent results, have them to safety come the summer. I’m not sure many of the others will follow them…