The goalkeeping lineup is nothing spectacular, but it’s solid enough. Julien Fabri is the number one custodian and a whole season starting matches won't have done him any harm. Backup Sebastien Callamand was seen a few times last season and his performances suggest he’ll be an able deputy. The backline itself has undergone a number of changes. Just one starter from last year remains, and that's left back Vital N’Simba. He impressed me at times during the previous campaign and has to be classed as their most important defender. Bourg have decided to invest in some big centre halves this year. Antoine Pontory comes in from Orleans, and old legend Bruce Abdoulaye from Grenoble. Clevid Dikamona has been signed from English League 2 side Dag & Red.
All three of those aforementioned players are big and strong, although might lack for pace and struggle against good technical players. Bourg will have to do without right back Mickael Alphonse who has departed. He played in nearly every match last season and so far they've replaced him with two guys I know little about from lower ligues. Right back could be a potential weak spot. Bourg have a lot of defensive midfielders but Jimmy Nirlo is the only real quality player and a key man for them in this position. They’ll have to do without box to box man Aliou Dembele who’s gone to Niort. Dembele started in every single match last campaign and was widely regarded as one of their best players. Thomas Gamiette has signed from relegated club Paris FC, but fresh on the back of a poor campaign it remains to be seen if he’ll rebound.
Key players - Vital N’Simba (LB), Jimmy Nirlo (DM)
Key man and leading scorer Pape Sane has departed to Caen, although this was already known as he signed for them in January. Sane scored a lot of goals before the winter break, but his performances from January onwards weren't so impressive. It’s possible they might not miss him as much as many people think. Lakdar Boussaha now takes over the reginas as their leading marksman and he weighed in with nine goals last term. He will be joined upfront by new signing Wilfried Louisy Daniel from Chambly. Daniel scored 15 times last year in the National ligue, but in his only previous Ligue 2 adventure he had a poor campaign with Orleans. The jury is still out with Louisy Daniel but it’s possible that in a better and more offensive team he could be useful. Many would argue the most crucial part of the Bourg-en-Bresse offense is playmaker Jason Berthomier. He scored six times and also assisted a decent number last season. He’ll once again be vital. Another player Bourg-en-Bresse have signed from Chambly is attacking midfielder Guillaume Henry. His statistics, especially in the goalscoring department have been very impressive in both of the last two years in the National division, but can he make the step up?
Their most recent addition is Kevin Hoggas from relegated side Evian. Hoggas was one of the few bright sparks in that team and can both score goals and assist. He will bolster up the attacking midfield and can play out wide if needed. Bourg have a lot of depth upfront and loanee from Lyon Romain del Castillo might prove to be highly effective and classy at this level. Julien Begue has completed a move from Guingamp following a successful loan spell last season. Overall, despite the loss of Sane I think they are upgraded in attack. A lot of their play will run through the middle though and they appear to lack natural wide players. This might not be a problem, many good teams down the years have concentrated their attacks down the middle. Bourg could become too one dimensional though without quality out wide. It all depends if Hoggas can become a quality option in those positions. He's more naturally suited centrally though.
Key players: Jason Berthomier (AM), Lakdar Boussaha (ATT)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Herve Della Maggiore did an excellent job last season with a team everyone expected to finish rock bottom. On paper, they had the weakest squad in the ligue, but players developed and got better, team spirit was really good and a willingness to gamble paid off. No team had fewer draws in the ligue than Bourg-en-Bresse (just 8) which is a really low number for French football. In contrast, only one team suffered more defeats and conceded more goals than them, yet they managed to finish a comfortable 11th! It just goes to prove that taking a gamble by going for three points is better than settling for a draw in many cases. Maggiore is a naturally offensive coach and Bourg-en-Bresse are likely to be one of the most attacking teams in Ligue 2. Half of their games last season were played at a neutral venue but now they’re back on their own patch fully, which should help. Overall, I think Bourg should stay around midtable again, or maybe even slightly improve. The defence and the more risky tactics will probably see them concede too many again. But there should be plenty of goals in this team which keeps them highly competitive. As long as they don’t suffer ‘second season syndrome’ then there’s enough reason to think the club will continue to punch above its weight in the French footballing hierarchy.