After a goal-happy weekend the quartet of Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille have made their intentions clear, writes Andy Brassell
A grand total of 21 goals scored, and not a single one conceded. It was a weekend in which Ligue 1's big four fully identified themselves, and underlined that they mean business.
Nantes may struggle to keep up with fab four
As France goes into the international break, the top four of Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille is probably the line-up that the majority of fans and pundits alike would have predicted before the start of the season - but last weekend was the first time the quartet had consecutively occupied the leading positions.
It felt almost unfair, as Marseille and then Lyon rattled to their resounding victories on Sunday, that Claudio Ranieri's Nantes were consequently pushed down to fifth, having enjoyed Saturday night on the podium thanks to a 2-1 victory over Toulouse. Their story is in many ways more noteworthy than those of the four above them.
This column saw Ranieri's Nantes debut on the opening day of the season, and it was an absolute shambles. They were dispatched 3-0 by Marcelo Bielsa's Lille (a team, unbelievably, that didn't win another game until this Sunday) and they looked bereft of talent and organisation. Though there has been some reinforcement since, the former Leicester coach's mastery of the latter quality has been key in having the men from La Beaujoire punch above their weight.
Tough test at the Parc
Nobody expects it to last too long, though. Nantes resume after the break with a trip to Parc des Princes to face the already champions-elect, and you can get 23.00 on a win for Les Canaris - or even 11.00 for the draw if you're feeling less cavalier. Ranieri's team have the second-best defence in the division (behind joint-top PSG and Montpellier) but PSG answered a few questions with aplomb this weekend in their five-star show at Angers, a side who are better than their current 14th place suggests.
It was the story of Edinson Cavani's Parisian life in microcosm - he hit the 100-goal mark in Ligue 1, having done likewise in Serie A, with a brace, placing him alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gonzalo Higuaín in doing so in two of Europe's top five leagues. Yet all the interest was in Kylian Mbappé, who also scored two having not hit the net in Ligue 1 since late September.
Mbappé responds to his critics
That run has provoked its share of hyperbolic reaction, of course, but to those who have been paying attention, Mbappé's form never fell off a cliff. His all-round displays have been good since coming back to the capital, and he again laid on a goal, for Cavani, at Angers, which was his seventh assist of the season already in Ligue 1 and Champions League combined.
He is a symbol of a frightening truth; that despite having dropped just four points in 12 league games to date, PSG can get better. The same can be said of Monaco, too, whose new signings have taken a while to settle but saw one of them, Keita Baldé, score for the third Ligue 1 game in a row in the destruction of Guingamp. Having looked very reliant on Radamel Falcao in the opening weeks of the campaign, they covered well for El Tigre on Saturday, with centre-forward Guido Carrillo also notching twice.
Lyon's Fantastic Four
We can put Lyon in the same boat. Coach Bruno Genesio's job looked in danger a few weeks back, before skipper Nabil Fekir's tremendous last-gasp free-kick winner against Monaco gave him some breathing space. On Sunday night, Fekir was scoring twice in the derby hammering of Saint-Etienne, a sixth straight win (four of those coming in the league).
Lyon's post-Lacazette and Tolisso form is taking shape around Fekir, with L'Equipe dubbing the captain's combination with Memphis Depay, Mariano Diaz and Bertrand Traoré "The Fantastic Four" on Monday. One senses that despite their own fine form of late Marseille - who pasted surprise high-fliers Caen and have not lost in Ligue 1 since mid-September - are approaching a ceiling. At least Kostas Mitroglou, who scored just a second goal for the club against Caen, has a big margin of possible upswing ahead of him.
Certainly, though, the big four are bedding in for winter ahead of what should be a great battle for Champions League qualification.