Les Tangos were one of the stronger defensive teams last season and they should be fairly hard to break down again this year. Coach Denis Zanko is one of the more organised managers in Ligue 2 so it’s not a surprise that this will probably be their best department. In between the sticks Lionel Cappone is highly experienced. The 37 year still does a decent enough job and although his agility isn’t what it once was, he’ll be respectable. Maxime Hautbois is his backup and in the two games he played at the end of last season seemed ok. Laval will have to do without two starters from 2016, Djibril Konate & Fouad Chafik. The former was getting old and actually didn't play from February onwards due to injury. His replacement looks set to be new signing Aaron Appindangoye, but he wasn’t anything special for Evian last year. Laval have other options as well though. The experienced Malik Couturier, Kevin Perrot, Kevin Afougou, & youngster Nordi Mukiele can all play in the middle of defence. Another possibility is Adrien Monfray who could move down from DMID.
On the left hand side Erwan Quintin is the undisputable starter and although not elite anymore, he did used to be one of the best left backs in Ligue 2. Who starts on the opposite side remains to be seen, there’s talk it will be Mukiele, although Kevin Perrot is another possibility. In defensive midfield, Adrien Monfray is the standout star, although they lack other options. Laval have lost key man Anthony Goncalves who was such a rock for them in the middle of the park and will be badly missed. If Monfray misses out for whatever reason then Modibo Dembele will get the nod, but he’s only an average player at best. Laval really lack depth in midfield and need more options here.
Key players: Erwan Quintin (LB), Adrien Monfray (DM)
Les Tangos have lost playmaker Romain Habran who was actually their leading assister in 2015/16, setting up five goals. They’ve also lost their leading goalscorer Rachid Aliaoui (8) so once again it looks like Denis Zanko’s men will be fairly toothless. Laval only scored 35 times in the previous campaign and were especially horrible after the winter break in which they fired blanks in so many different halves of football. Any goals they had tended to come in clutches but overall this isn't a team that strikes much fear into opposition defences, and it's likely to be the same again this term. Seydou Kone has signed from Niort, someone who bagged 15 goals a couple of seasons ago. But he predictably declined last term, only finding the net three times. At 32, it looks like he’s in the downswing of his career but Laval don’t appear to have much else upfront. Their actual striking options are poor.
Attacking midfield is a better spot for Les Tangos. Mathieu Coutadeur has signed for the club and he could develop into one of their few genuine class acts. The former Le Mans & Lorient man has great technical ability although the one big negative to him is fitness. Injuries have badly plagued Coutadeur in recent seasons but should he stay fit then Laval have a real asset. He can play in any midfield position, but is best used at the tip of a diamond. They have signed Romain Bayard from National division side Dunquerque. He could be a promising signing and scored nine times, supplying six assists last season. Hassan Alla should stay as a starter too, despite being 35 years old now. Quite how effective he can be any more remains to be seen. Laval don’t have a lot of quality out wide but Cesar Zeoula and Chris Malonga aren’t too bad. Again, you could argue both are better suited to a #10 role. The spine of Laval looks decent enough but striking options are poor and they aren’t great out wide. Once again they’ll be one of the lowest scoring teams in the division.
Key players: Mathieu Coutadeur (AM), Cesar Zeoula (AM/winger)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out how Laval will operate this season. In nearly every fixture, both at home and away they’ll aim to be compact, hard to break down and in numerous cases simply park the bus. They had one of the best defensive records on the road in terms of conceding goals, but also scored very few. Watch out for Laval being involved in a lot of drawn matches, their coach will happily take a point in any fixture if offered it. Denis Zanko has made them hard to beat both at home and away. Traditionally at home, Le Stade Francis le Basser is a tricky place for the opposition to visit. I personally hate betting in Laval matches due to the high nature of draws, in addition to so many low scoring matches. Their games are usually better off left alone..and best watched if you want to fall asleep! I expect Les Tangos to be involved in a relegation scrap and it's touch and go if they survive or not.