In the hot seat at the head of Nantes now relegated, Antoine Kombouaré continues to show his confidence, even if the reception of Strasbourg on Sunday (3:00 p.m.) looks like a last chance match.
“I have confidence in my work, I have confidence in my players and I know that on June 4, we will be in Ligue 1”, hammered this week the Kanak coach who finds himself, as on his arrival there two years, in a tense fight to maintain his “heart club” in the top flight.
In the meantime, there was an unexpected victory in the Coupe de France last year, a good run this year despite the humiliation in the final (5-1 against Toulouse) and an honorable return to the European scene.
“We experienced very great emotions. It’s a group that is capable of winning. It’s normal that there are players who doubt but this challenge, you have to believe that we are able to take it up “, insisted Kombouaré.
According to him, Nantes need three wins from their last five matches, so another setback against Strasbourg would not sound like a condemnation.
“I feel capable”
But the reality is cruel: the last victory of the Canaries in the Championship dates back to February 12 (1-0 against Lorient) and since then, they have remained on ten matches without success in L1, including the last three against opponents at the bottom of the table ( Auxerre, Troyes and Brest).
In the midst of a crisis of confidence, the Nantes people are suffering from a glaring lack of success in attack, like Andy Delort who has still not scored in L1 in the Nantes jersey, and remain at the mercy of monumental blunders in defense, like that of Alban Lafont on Wednesday in Brest.
And the rest of the calendar does not lend itself well to faultless: Toulouse, executioner of the final, Montpellier in great shape, Lille in full European sprint and finally Angers who would be happy to drag the local rival in its fall.
Faced with this prospect, President Waldemar Kita seriously considered dismissing Kombouaré, who was already out of contract. But for lack of an alternative, he resolved to maintain it, despite their execrable relations.
“I have the energy, I have the strength, I feel capable,” assured Kombouaré on Wednesday. “I want to fight, to prove to myself that I am a good coach. And above all I want my club to stay in L1,” he insisted on Friday.
Call to supporters
For the moment, Kita has chosen another tactic: as in 2021, a bonus of around 50,000 euros to each player in the event of maintenance, according to a source close to the club.
“They do what they want in management. I’m not here to judge,” commented Kombouaré. “It’s our environment that wants that. If it can help the players, so much the better. I’ve always thought that wasn’t what made them run”.
The idea did not convince the supporters either, who denounced on social networks a premium for mediocrity, insofar as it would not have been proposed if the maintenance was already assured.
The reception of the public at La Beaujoire, a week after the insults that rang out at the end of the final at the Stade de France and while the visitor parking lot was closed in Brest, remains an unknown.
Several dozen Ultras from the Loire Brigade were also invited to training on Monday, but according to Kombouaré, the exchange, initially tense, was constructive.
“They’re going to be there. Really. I have no doubts about that. They know we need them, they know that’s when you see a great club.” explained the coach.