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Can Habib Diallo's star lead Metz to Ligue 1 safety?

Saturday 30th November 2019
Diallo is Metz's shining light in Ligue 1.
Diallo is Metz's shining light in Ligue 1.

FC Metz's characteristically poor Ligue 1 return isn't a surprise. By a margin the best side in French second tier last term, Les Grenats struggles among the elite continue to linger. With 14 points from 14 matches, Metz is 18th on the table. Though Senegalese forward Habib Diallo could break the hoodoo. 

Metz is rich in history yet without a trophy cabinet. A traditional French side founded in 1932, The Maroons is amongst the country's oldest. There's been nothing much to show for all the toils in Ligue 1, however. The closest is a runners-up medal in 1998 behind RC Lens. 

Les Grenats' fortune deteriorated in the last decade, bouncing back and forth the lower ranks. In 2006, they were relegated to Ligue 2 and dropped to the Championnat National six years later. Successive promotions followed. The momentum was hampered by another slip. 

The pendulum movement continued. Metz retained their top-flight status in 2016 after rising the previous campaign. The Maroons were relegated at the end of 2017/18. With the help of Diallo, they ascended yet again. 

The Lorraine outfit clinched promotion with three matches to spare; crowned champion for the fourth time. Diallo scored twice in the title decider - a 3-0 win over Valenciennes FC. The 24-year-old was the driving force that spurred Metz forward. 

Diallo finished the season just a goal shy of top scorer Gaetan Charbonnier with 26 in 37 appearances. He chipped in with a further six assists, which saw him named in the Ligue 2 team of the season. The poacher singlehandedly carried Metz to glory. 

Les Grenats were impeccable in the final third, finding the net 60 times. Diallo was directly involved in over 50 percent of those strikes. The Senegalese forward always showcased a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

Even as a late bloomer, Diallo was unusual when he finally broke through.  He notched four times for Metz's youth team in 2014 and buried 14 efforts at two separate spells on loan at Brest. Diallo has continued to shoulder Metz's goalscoring burden in Conforama. 

He hit the target eight times in 14 games – only Moussa Dembele and Wissam Ben Yedder did better. Diallo shared the spoils at Strasbourg and Montpellier; bagged two against AS Monaco and clinched maximum points over Saint-Etienne and Nantes. According to Ligue 1, 67 per cent of Metz's goals was his handiwork. 

At 6ft 1in, Diallo posses an imposing physical presence. His frame enables him to be the focal point in attack. It's no surprise he’s a massive aerial threat from set-pieces. Metz number 20 always finds a way to tower over his marker. Although naturally right-footed, he is adept with his left too. 

Diallo lacks pace; a trade-off for being tall and strong. Running at defenders isn’t a part of his game. He isn't the best on the ball nor technically gifted. Diallo may not contribute much to phases of play. The 24-year-old prefers to languish in the box, taking his chances when they arrive, burying one in every two shots on target. 

How far can Diallo carry Metz? 

Metz have won only thrice all season, losing six and drawing five. They are just two points above the automatic relegation spots. The entire Les Grenats shared just four efforts, confirming the 24-year-old’s influence on the team. His recent dip in form would be a huge headache for Vincent Hognon. 

Except by some mysterious intervention, Metz would continue its yo-yo system. Diallo, though, may not.

Today's football fixtures
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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