While Le Mans FC receive PSG in the knockout stages of the BKT League Cup on Wednesday (09.05), young winger Stéphane Diarra looks back at the start of the Le Mans season, the climb, Julien Stéphan and Hatem Ben Arfa. Maintenance.
Among the most important architects for the emergence of Le Mans FC in Domino's Ligue 2 last spring, the swirling Franco-Ivorian wing Stéphane Diarra is about to face PSG in round 16 of the BKT League Cup at MMArena on Wednesday night (9:05 am). The opportunity for the 21-year-old left-hander to return to his successful start to the season, his journey that led him through Evian TG and Stade Rennais FC reserve under the command of Julien Stéphan, but also Hatem Ben Arfa.
Le Mans FC receives PSG for its eighth quarter final in the BKT League Cup. How did you react when you learned the result of the draw?
I was home with teammate Youssef Maziz. We watched the draw live on Canal and we jumped for joy! It's nice to meet PSG. It's not every day that you play a team like that. We know what we are worth. And I pretty much hoped to play at home, so that's great.
What will the plan be to play an opponent like PSG?
To hang them, you have to play for free, have fun, without forgetting to defend. PSG is a great team, capable of making a difference at any time. To annoy them and play our card, we have to be completely relaxed.
Are the PSG players you are inspired by?
I do not have a particular role model among Parisian players, although of course I like Neymar. But my model in Paris was Hatem Ben Arfa, maybe because I look like him. I like his playing style, his ability to make a difference. To tell you the truth, just before I fooled earlier, I was still watching videos of him.
"I do everything according to instinct"
What do you think of the start of the Le Mans FC season?
Sure, we didn't start very well in terms of results since we had 8 losses in the first 9 days, but the content was pretty good. We didn't panic because we could trust our game. We then started winning games in October and November. But it is certain that the beginning was difficult at the accounting level. We discovered a new championship, it took time to adapt.
What were you missing?
Domino's Ligue 2 is very different from National. There was no revolution in the way we play. It's just that in Domino's Ligue 2, the smallest mistake is paid in cash. You have to be more focused, more alert, the whole game. As soon as you lose a ball, it may be an opportunity for the opponent.
And are you happy with the first half of the season from a personal point of view?
Hard to distinguish my achievements from the team … Statistically, I have 3 goals and 3 assists in all competitions. It's pretty good, but I could have done better given the opportunities I create for myself. It really is in efficiency that I need to take a course. My goal / chance ratio is not high enough. This is where I have to work.
However, you have already scored as much as during the entire National 2018/2019 season …
That's because Richard Déziré and assistant Stéphane Pichot help me a lot during training. They give me a lot of advice. For example, they tell me to never stop when I receive the ball. Something that could allow me to drop an opponent on my first hit. Considering my style, I can make a difference by being stopped, but in motion I can hurt even more. Coach Déziré was already very demanding with me last season. And this year we are in continuity. My game is changing and I think I'm passing a level.
How would you describe your style?
I am a clever, a dribble. I don't think, I play instinctively. When I have to drop a player, I don't say to myself " I will go left "Or" I want to go right "I do everything according to instinct. But like I said, I have to progress in efficiency and the final move. It's not just about completing in front of goal but also how to serve others, deliver a pass or pass that allows the teammate to continue without taking another step.
You scored your first goals in Domino's Ligue 2 against AC Ajaccio and Benjamin Leroy, who was your former goalkeeper on the side of Evian TG …
When we went up to National, he sent me a message telling me that he was happy to meet again soon. But when I scored my 2 goals against Ajaccio, I didn't think about the fact that it was "Ben" opposite (laughs). At the end of the fight, he congratulated me and asked me to continue like this.
"Tactically Julien Stéphan is unbeatable"
Can you tell us about your journey?
I was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, before arriving in France with my father at the age of 6, on the side of Lyon only then in the suburbs, in the Bron. I started soccer at the age of 8 at AS Cheminots de Saint-Priest, and then I went to a more exclusive club, AS Saint-Priest. When I got to college, I started transgaming.orgs studies and then the Evian TG gym at 15 years old. At that time there were "open" detections where you could search the web. One evening I saw an ad on Google. I signed up at 10am and 11am, I had a response and an appointment a few days later. I also remember that Pascal Dupraz was on the edge of the field during the discovery. I didn't know who he was, but as soon as he got there, everyone around him was talking to him. It was later that I got to know him.
It all started really well with Evian TG since you started in Domino's Ligue 2 in March 2016, only 17 years old, but you had to wait a little more than three years before you found this level …
I don't know if there was a catch somewhere, these are the vagaries of life. After Evian's bankruptcy, I went to Stade Rennais in the summer of 2016. I played in reserve, but I often trained with the pros. We were masters of the reserve. But something didn't work since I still hadn't had my chance when it was the last 6 months of my 2e year. I would try my luck elsewhere.
In Rennes you had Julien Stéphan as a trainer. How was he doing?
Someone knows where he is going. In CFA he was already very precise, very picky in his speech. Tactically, he was unbeatable. We had a perfectly oiled 4-4-2 where everyone knew what to do offensively and defensively. He studied our opponents a lot and our fights often went really well because everything was calculated. He is a good trainer, who gives good advice, and it does not surprise me that he succeeds in Ligue 1 Conforama today. That was his goal, and he did everything to get there. Did I get on with him? He made me appear tactical, but what I learned most was on Evian and then on Le Mans.
You were part of a good generation at Stade Rennais since many of your former teammates are now first team. Do you stay in touch with them?
Yes, with James Léa-Siliki or Gerzino Nyamsi, who wished me my birthday again last week. We give each other regular news, we send spikes on social networks.
What is the best memory of your young career?
I have many fond memories of Le Mans, but the best part is the double confrontation against Gazélec at the end of last season, the jump-off. When I see the goal at the last minute of Mamadou Soro Nanga (a return synonymous with climbing on the Gazélec lawn), I still have chills. It was a great experience to experience matches with such a stake.