France Ligue 2 – Lens Season Preview 2016/17

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Lens defence

Starting In between the sticks, Lens have strong options. Nicolas Douchez has been warming the PSG bench in recent years, almost wasting his time. Now at 36 he’s decided he wants more first team football. Douchez should be class at this level, and backing him up will be Jeremy Vachoux, who is developing nicely. Lens even have a potential strong#3 GK if Belon or Delle remain at the club. Les Sang et Or have lost talented and versatile centre back JP Gbamin to German club Mainz for about £4m. He’ll be missed, as will fullback Jordan Ikoko who returned to PSG from a season long loan. Lens have signed Reims centre back Mohamed Fofana but he’s a downgrade on both of those who have departed. Fofana will do an alright job but he’s the wrong side of 30 and does have a history of injuries, so might not be all that reliable. Lens should still have a fairly strong defence though and this is arguably their best area. Loic Landre & Dusan Cvetinovic are the premier centre back options, although it’s possible Landre will leave the club soon.Another option is Abdoul Ba, whilst the fullback positions are covered well by Anthony Scaramozzino & Kenny Lala.

There’s decent depth here and also quite a few players from elsewhere on the field who can over if required. In addition, you can always guarantee Lens will have some new youngsters waiting in the wings as potential talent. Pierrick Valdivia has been a mainstay of the Lens midfield in recent years, but his constant injuries ensured they lacked someone in the heart of this area pulling the strings. Les Sang et Or have signed Djiman Koukou from Niort and he’s just the sort of defensive midfielder they need. Lens certainly won't lack for bite or ball winning ability with him in the side. Other options in this area of the field include Thomas Olsen, Benjamin Bourigeaud & Guirane N’Daw. You could argue a couple of those guys are natural in a more advanced midfield role, but equally they are capable of playing deeper if required. Crucially, all of them can be classed as decent tacklers, which is what you need from a defensive type midfielder. Lens look well set in defensive areas and should have strong foundations, hard to break down.

Key players - Nicolas Douchez (GK) & Loic Landre (CB)

Lens offense

This is where the northern outfit are lacking a little bit. The big problem in the last couple of seasons has been in front of goal where the firepower simply hasn’t been there. Their top performer has been Pablo Chavarria, but he’s now departed. This is blow because on the right wing he’s been an extremely consistent performer. However, more often than not Lens have been forced to use him upfront which highlights their problem - lack of quality strikers. Right now, Teddy Chevalier, Jonathan Nanizayamo and Simon Banza are the main options but the latter duo are anything special. Chevalier is a more experienced player who has featured for higher league clubs abroad, but his goalscoring record isn't brilliant and I see him more as a deep lying forward, sort of link up striker. Kevin Fortune has been signed from national division side Beziers and arrives with a good goalscoring record, netting nearly 30 times in the last two seasons. But as ever, the big question is whether or not he can do the same at a higher level?

Lens do at least have some good options out wide and in attacking midfield. Mathias Autret is a highly useful player who can cause all sorts of problems at Ligue 2 level. The likes of Wylan Cyprien, Bourigeaud Olsen & new signing John Bostock are are quite capable as well. Lens have signed a couple of new wingers, Abdellah Zoubir & Abdelrafik Gerard. The latter will probably only be a bench player and arrives from recently relegated Creteil. Zoubir meanwhile, might be a potential starter and even has some past experience in the division with Istres. There’s a risk someone like Cyprien might leave the club but right now Lens have some reasonably creative options. It’s not top class though and they still lack a really potent number nine striker who is going to guarantee them a bag of goals.

Key players: Mathias Autret (winger), Wylan Cyprien (versatile attacker)

Edit - Wylan Cyprien left the club on Wednesday 27th July. New key player Teddy Chevalier (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Long standing coach Antoine Kombouare has departed to Guingamp, and taking over is Alain Casanova. The new manager is known for his time at Toulouse where he often operated a military style dictatorship. Casanova is known for his discipline, but also loyalty to players. Certain players will thrive under him, but he’s not for everyone. It’s expected that Casanova will be employing a 3-5-2 formation, which is fairly unusual in French football, or in any league for that matter. Lens have the biggest stadium in ligue 2 and will have by far the highest average attendance in the division. They will also take the biggest following of away fans to road games. This can bring both positives and negatives. The support they receive is fantastic, but sometimes they can get on the players backs if things aren’t going well. Also, many visiting teams see it as their ‘cup final’ at Le Stade Felix Bollaert. I think Lens have a decent chance of being in the promotion mixer but are maybe lacking one or two pieces, most notably upfront. Maybe this could cost them a top three spot but they are still likely to be one of the stronger sides in the division.

Prediction: 5th

 

LENS STARS 2

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