As the Ligue 1 season returns this coming weekend, we run down each of the teams and what is anticipated from them.
One of the surprise teams of last season, as they defied all expectations and not only remained in the top flight, but did so with ease. Their success was built off a solid defence which proved to be the fourth best in terms of goals conceded – a remarkable feat for a newly promoted team. Retaining goalkeeper Regis Gurtner and the defence should therefore prove vital, along with top scorer Moussa Konate. Additions to the squad have been few and far between, but they have brought in Colombian forward Juan Ferney Otero to ease the burden on Konate. They could face the problems of second season syndrome, however, and may find the coming season tougher.
Predicted finish: 17th
There is a very large, Karl Toko-Ekambi-shaped hole in this Angers team heading into the new season. Their 17-goal top scorer departed this summer for Villarreal, and while Stephane Bahoken joined on a free transfer from Strasbourg, it is tough to see him filling Toko-Ekambi’s shoes. Vincent Pajot, Harrison Manzala, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide have all joined to bolster the midfield, but a lack of goals could be their downfall. Angers have put up a spirited fight since promotion, but that spirit might no longer be enough.
Predicted finish: 18th
Under Gus Poyet, Bordeaux snatched sixth place on the final day of last season, along with a qualification spot for the Europa League. The dramatic transfer of star player Malcom, who was on his way to Roma before an 11th hour swoop from Barcelona, means Bordeaux come into the new season lacking some magic. Funds have yet to be re-invested into new players, and, on the verge of a takeover, it may be a little while yet before a concerned Poyet can recruit new faces. For the time being, he’ll need to get the best out of the likes of Francois Kamano and Nicolas de Preville, who shone too rarely last season. The good news, though, was the discovery of Jules Kounde, with the young defender quickly looking at home in the first team.
Predicted finish: 7th
Caen avoided the relegation play-off by the skins of their teeth last season as they gained an unlikely point at home to PSG. It was a fortunate escape for a team who for most of the season had struggled for form and, most significantly, goals. They only found the net 27 times, the lowest in the league, with only seven Caen players amongst that total. Alarmingly for Caen, Ivan Santini and Damien da Silva, who contributed 15 of those goals, have now left the club. In an attempt to rectify that, Enzo Crivelli has joined on a permanent deal after a loan spell with the club, along with Yacine Bammou and Casimir Ninga. If the latter can show the form he hit at Montpellier before his nasty knee injury, then maybe Caen might just have enough once again.
Predicted finish: 16th
Another team to surprise many, Dijon enjoyed a comfortable season where they never looked in any danger of going down. An 11th placed finish was aided by terrific form at home, with only the top four faring better on their own pitch. In the transfer market, Yoann Gourcuff joins on a free transfer from Rennes, while Naim Sliti turned his successful loan move at the club into a permanent deal, though bigger clubs are already circling for the Tunisian. Whilst the excellent Baptiste Reynet has left for Toulouse, Icelandic goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson has been drafted in as a replacement. Goals weren’t an issue for Dijon last season with Julio Tavares, Wesley Said, and Changhoon Kwon all chipping in. With 73 goals conceded last season, though, tightening up at the back is key; no defensive recruits have yet been brought in, so Dijon may find this season a little tougher.
Predicted finish: 14th
The team that set the bar for punching about their weight in Ligue 1, Guingamp continue to be something of an enigma. Season after season, they outperform pre-season predictions on a miniscule budget, and there is little reason to believe things will be different this year. Whilst Clement Grenier has departed after a strong but brief spell with the club, Guingamp now have goals in the shape of Nolan Roux, who, with 15, almost single-handedly kept Metz up. Rumours continue regarding the future of Jimmy Briand, so Roux’s signing may prove to be even more crucial if last season’s top scorer departs. With a hugely experienced and ageing squad, Antoine Kombouare will hope that the likes of Ludovic Blas can continue improving after several stand-out performances last season. Regardless, it should be another comfortable mid-table finish for the plucky Breton outfit.
Predicted finish: 11th
After a season that started with so much promise but almost ended in disaster, Lille fans will be praying for stability this time. Lille narrowly avoided both relegation and financial penalties, so have spent the summer being far smarter in their recruitment, with both Yves Bissouma and Ibrahim Amadou leaving in big money moves which helped alleviate financial concerns. Experienced heads in Jose Fonte and Loic Remy have been brought in, along with Jonathan Bamba and Jonathan Ikone, who add youthfulness and Ligue 1 experience to the team. Thiago Maia and Nicolas Pepe, who were rare bright spots last season, have attracted interest – however, even if they should leave, Lille’s new strategy should ensure appropriate replacements are hired.
Predicted finish: 9th
It has been a summer primarily about Nabil Fekir, with the will he/won’t he saga rumbling on for months. For now, however, he remains a Lyon player and is still part of the team’s plans. After finishing third last season and securing Champions League football, President Jean-Michel Aulas will be expecting more of the same at the very least from Bruno Genesio and his squad. Whilst they have lost Willem Geubbels and Mouctar Diakhaby, Leo Dubois and Martin Terrier will join up with the squad after finalising moves last season – with the latter looking particularly sharp in pre-season. Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar had fantastic breakthrough seasons last time out, and they’ll be under pressure to continue that this campaign. For goals, Lyon will be hoping that the trio of Bertrand Traore, Mariano Diaz, and Memphis Depay can all hit double figures again.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.