France Ligue 2 – Ajaccio Season Preview 2016/17

AJACCIO

Ajaccio defence

Goalkeeper Anthony Scribe has left the club which means Riffi Mandanda should be the number one custodian for them this season. Jules Goda, signed from city rivals GFCA is another option in this area. Both are reasonable enough keepers without being anything exceptional. They’ll have good and bad days but it’s nice that they appear to have two keepers about the same level who should push each other. The backline will remain somewhat similar. Left back Zie Diabate has departed the club and his replacement is Jordan Pierre Charles from National division side Colmar. I know little about him so can’t really comment, but I always say it’s a huge risk bringing in a defender from a lower ligue. It’s arguably harder for that type of player to adjust, so maybe he could be a bust signing. Zakaria Diallo has recently been lost to Brest and this is a big blow as he was one of the mainstays of the backline. The players who are still here look alright and certainly don’t lack for aggressiveness! Anthony Lippini wears his heart on his sleeve, whilst Joris Sainati returns following a 12 month ban for punching two Tours players last season!

Other options at the back are Pape Cisse & Paul Babiloni. I’d imagine this backline might be difficult to break down at home but will struggle more on the road. Watch out for some stupid red cards as well, especially from the likes of Lippini. Ajaccio look fairly well set in defensive midfield, although will have to do without young star Vincent Marchetti who has been signed by Nancy for about £1m. This isn’t a bad sale for the club, even if they are losing a great young prospect. He is still raw and only started regularly for them since January. Yann Boe Kane is a new addition from Red Star who performed well last season, I think he should go well in this side. Of course, the Corsicans have other remaining players like Christophe Vincent & Laurent Abergel. The spine of the team is fairly good and will be hard to break down in certain matches. Without being elite, Ajaccio will certainly be competitive in this area of the field.

Key players: Anthony Lippini (RB), Yann Boe Kane (DM)

Ajaccio offense

Two of their leading scorers from last season, Julien Toudic and Andrey Panyukov have left the club. Neither are what you’d call high class though, so might not be missed all that much. The problem is that Ajaccio haven't really replaced them. Marvin Gakpa comes in on loan from Lorient and maybe he could shine at Ligue 2 level, but nobody is really sure. Their other striker options are Mouaad Madri or youngsters. Many would argue that Madri better suited out wide than upfront. So the big problem is with strikers until someone of proven quality is brought in. Elsewhere, the Ajaccio attack doesn’t look too bad. They have some alright wide options and playmakers through the middle who will be able to create chances.

It feels like the first name I mention when talking about the Ajaccio offense is always Johan Cavalli. The old legend is now 35 years old, but he still scored five times and weighed in with a few assists last term. How much more has he got left in the tank? In many ways he’s similar to Brest’s Bruno Grougi and has great technical ability. Along with experience and a great dressing room influence he’s still an asset to this team. As aforementioned, out wide Ajaccio have Mouaad Madri, Riad Nouri and Hugo Videmont who are all decent crossers of the ball. Depth is ok and there is the odd youngster coming through who could make an impact. The Corsicans aren’t anything special going forwards and lack a key focal point unless Gakpa comes good. But they will have some good moments in front of goal and I could see them creating a few chances. Whether many will be taken or if anyone can get on the end of them remains to be seen.

Key players: Johan Cavalli (AM), Riad Nouri (RW)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

The first thing to mention about Ajaccio is that they’ve had a black cloud over them all summer regarding financial status. They were provisionally relegated but managed to prove themselves to the authority. Obviously, this has affected their transfer dealings and we will probably see them fairly active right until the end of August. In charge is still Olivier Pantaloni, an Ajaccio legend who famously took the club up to Ligue 1 and then ensured an almost impossible survival after a shocking start. He is well respected by everyone here and a fine motivator. Tactically, Pantaloni is usually more defensive minded on the road, but in home matches he does like to push for victories and won't settle for a draw very often. Ajaccio will always be strong in front of their own fans on the island of Corsica. But it’s a different story on the road and they had the worst away record in the whole ligue last season, obtaining just one victory. As usual, expect Ajaccio to be solid rather than spectacular. It could be a difficult campaign because they are starting the season well behind the eight-ball in terms of transfers and signings. They desperately need to add reinforcements, both for quality and depth purposes. Don't underestimate the strength of the team spirit here but it looks like a season battling against relegation for ACA.

Prediction: 16th

 

ACA STARS 2

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