France Ligue 2 – Le Havre Season Preview 2016/17

HAC SP

Le Havre defence

Starting goalkeeper is Fabien Farnolle, quite an eccentric custodian but can be a great shot stopper. He will win them a few points, but also concede some weird goals in a bizarre way. Backup is Stephen Milosavljevic who started a few games last season and has developed some experience. The only departure from the defence is left back Jerome Mombris. He’s gone to GFC Ajaccio and decided to leave this project. Le Havre haven’t yet found a replacement for this position so Dennis Bain, Samba Camara or Ferland Mendy are current options. The rest of the defence looks excellent on paper, spearheaded by big centre back and captain Steven Fortes. Issam Chebake is a top quality right back while the likes of Cambon, Puel, Bain & good youth prospects are other options. I’m sure Bob Bradley will sort out a new signing at left back and when he does then this will be one of the best defences in the ligue.

I’d imagine Bradley line his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation most weeks and they are well set with their defensive midfield options. Key man is Jean Pascal Fontaine, who actually led the team in assists last season with nine. It’s debatable which category, either defense or offense in which to fit him. Fontaine is a genuine central midfielder capable of playing any role. Alongside him, the likes of Dylan Louiserre or Thomas Ayasse will probably feature. Another interesting possibility is Victor Lekhal, someone who's had a bad history of injuries. Of course, defenders like Cedric Cambon and Dennis Bain are both capable of filling in at DMID if required. Bob Bradley has loads of options in the middle of the park and is spoilt for choice.

Key players: Steven Fortes (CB), Jean Pascal Fontaine (DM/CM)

Le Havre offense

Les Ciel et Marine are absolutely spoilt in this department. First, let's start with the one negative which is the departure of young striker Lys Mousset to Bournemouth. He was last season's top scorer with 14 goals in just 17 starts. But HAC got a lot of money for him (£6m) which should really help them in the long run. Coming in as a replacement is Mana Dembele, a failure at Ligue 1 level but someone who always thrives in this division. Le Havre have a number of quality strikers anyway! For some reason Mathieu Duhamel and Ghislain Gimbert didn’t perform as well under Bob Bradley, but let's not forget their previous goalscoring record and both could easily rebound this campaign. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion one of them might leave before the end of August.

HAC have signed versatile winger Tarik Tissoudali from the Dutch second division in which he had some great statistics last season (18 goals & 9 assists). He won't find life as easy in French football but he looks a promising signing. Another new signing out wide is Zinedine Ferhat from the Algerian league. He will probably be replacing Joseph Mendes who signed with English club Reading. Mendes contributed well last year but is definitely replaceable and I don’t think they’ll miss him too much. Still the main focal point in the #10 role will be Alexandre Bonnet. He only weighed in with five goals and seven assists last season but he’s a top quality player and highly influential. He is probably their best left wing option if Bob Bradley wants him there too. Add in guys like Gamboa, Manzala, youngster Nathael Julan plus the aforementioned JP Fontaine if used in an advanced role. This Le Havre attack is absolutely top class, loaded with great quality and depth. No team in this division can match them in this area.

Key players: Alexandre Bonnet (AM), Ghislain Gimbert (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Along with Michel der Zakarian, Bob Bradley is probably the best coach in Ligue 2. The legendary American shouldn’t really be in this ligue, and instead managing at a much higher level. He achieved great things in Norway coaching Stabaek for a couple of seasons, another example of a strange career choice. Bradley is a superb tactical and motivational coach who usually gets the most out of his players. Le Havre came just one goal away from promotion last term, which hurt everyone at the club. But if they can pick themselves up properly from that disappointment then they are definitely one of the favourites to make it up to Ligue 1 this campaign. Bradley developed a strong home advantage since taking charge, with only Dijon and Nancy beating them here at Le Stade Oceane. The American is naturally an attack minded coach but showed signs of adapting to this ligue, realising the importance of smart tactics at the right time. Right across the board, Le Havre have great strength though, especially going forwards so they should be full of goals. I make them favourites to win the ligue and have a massive chance of going up.

Prediction: 1st

 

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