I don’t think AJA will be as strong this side of the ball in 2016/17. For now, they have an excellent goalkeeper in Zacharie Boucher who was one of the best custodians in ligue 2 last season. He was worth about a dozen points to Auxerre and in some games cases he single handedly won or drew them matches. Because of his quality, there’s no guarantee they can keep hold of him until the end of the transfer window. Backup keeper Xavier Lenogue never played a minute last year so is an unknown. The backline has changed significantly. Gone are proven players like Puygrenier, Hountondji & Fontaine who were a core makeup of the side. Remi Fournier is a new signing from Red Star and he had a stellar campaign last season, but at 33 he’s no spring chicken. Baba Traore is another centre back addition from Bourg-en-Bresse, but he’s nothing special.
It actually seems like Traore has been bought in primarily to play left back, because another mainstay Salimo Sylla has also departed. There will be some competition at right back for the often injured Ruben Aguilar, as Romain Laspalles comes in from Guingamp reserves. A couple of later additions for them are Mickael Tacalfred from Reims, although he’s 35 and will miss the first 6 weeks due to injury. Stephane Sparanga is a loanee from Marseille and might be alright, only time will tell. Overall, Auxerre seem to be downgraded at the back this season. In defensive midfield, Auxerre have Brahim Konate who is an absolute physical beast, but they’ve lost Ibrahima Seck who was another big unit in the middle. Lionel Mathis has been signed from Guingamp, a proven and experienced campaigner who might yet have a couple of decent seasons left in him. But at 34 years old, he’s hardly one for the future. Compared to last season I don’t think Auxerre will be as strong defensively and they’ve lost both a strong physical and technical presence.
Key players: Zacharie Boucher (GK), Remi Fournier (CB)
The key man for AJA going forward is Gaetan Courtet. Last season he weighed in with a massive 11 goals & 11 assists. Obviously, those statistics demonstrate how important he is to the side. But they've lost Serhou Guirassy who scored 8 goals in just 16 appearances following a loan spell from Lille after christmas. Playmaker Gregoire Lefebre is another who’s left the club, in addition to the often injured Vincent Gragnic. There are a lack of options for the number 10 role, so some youngsters are going to have to step up. In fact, that's the theme with Auxerre. Younger players are going to have to feature alongside Courtet and deliver this season. Auxerre do have some promising young talent but nobody stands out right now as exceptional. The one new addition they have made is striker Yoann Touzghar and he is of proven quality at this level of football. Strong physically and technically, he should link up well with Courtet. There’s some promise about Auxerre going forward and unlike the defence, they aren’t downgraded in this department. You could even argue they are slightly upgraded by adding Touzghar. But there are still too many question marks surrounding younger players or guys who seem nothing better than average.
Key players: Gaetan Courtet (ATT), Yoann Touzghar (ATT)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Viorel Moldovan has taken charge of the club. He was quite a famous Romanian striker back in the day, even playing in the EPL on one occasion for Coventry City. In recent years he’s been manager of the Romania U21 side and also assistant to the main national team. So it’s going to be interesting to see how he adapts back to club level. Past indications seem to be that he might prefer to go with two strikers up front, possibly in a 4-4-2 formation. Being a striker, there’s a good chance he might be more attack minded than a lot of French coaches. Considering his past record as a player, he’s the sort of manager who should command plenty of respect. There’s definitely more question marks than answers surrounding him right now though.
Unfortunately, Auxerre don't have a great home field advantage in recent years. Le Stade L’abbe Deschamps can resemble a morgue at times and they don't have a particularly big fanbase. This stadium won't be the fortress that some will be in ligue 2 this season. Overall, I think Auxerre will decline this year. It looks like they’ll be vulnerable to conceding more goals and they currently lack quality depth. There’s some hope that the arrival as Moldovan as coach might make them one of the more watchable sides in the ligue at least. In conclusion, I think a lower midtable finishing spot for Auxerre seems pretty likely. I can’t see them challenging the top six this term. They could even get sucked into some trouble if Moldovan doesn’t work out as a coach.