France Ligue 2 – Nimes Season Preview 2016/17

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Nimes defence

Mathieu Michel is the number one keeper and he’s one of the best in the ligue. In the previous campaign he had a stellar season, making save after save and his reflexes are excellent. Many thought he would leave the club this summer but so far he remains at Nimes. It’s still possible he might depart before the end of August, but until he does then Les Crocos have a powerful weapon in between the sticks. Backup is Gauthier Gallon, who wasn’t seen much last year but he’s not that bad. The Nimes backline is going to be much changed this season with a number of new arrivals and departures. Starting at right back, Jeremy Cordoval has moved to Troyes and his replacement is the experienced Gael Angoula from Ligue 1 side Angers. From a defensive point of view, Angoula is probably a slight upgrade, but don't expect the fast runs forward and the cross threat that Cordoval provided. Left back was an issue for Nimes last year but Zie Diabate has been acquired from Ajaccio. He's a solid signing, nothing special but will do an ok job. In the middle, Fethi Harek is probably their best defender, with Anthony Briancon starting alongside him.

Nimes actually have a lot of versatile players in defence, examples being Gaetan Paquiez and the aforementioned Harek. They have plenty of depth in this area of the field, and whilst not looking elite on paper, this is a backline which will have some good days. There will also be occasions when it struggles and might lack for consistency. Defensive midfield is probably the weakest part of Les Crocos’ squad. Larry Azouni is their one out and out natural DMID and he is another inconsistent player. These days, Teji Savanier is playing in a deeper role. But he will always be at his best when creating chances and venturing forwards. He isn't a natural ball winner or a great tackler, although is gradually improving in that department. There are guys like Briancon and Paquiez who can play DMID if needed. But the coach will probably use either a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formation and his system doesn’t need that many defensive midfielders. Its just as well because they are lacking depth and quality in this position.

Key players: Mathieu Michel (GK), Fethi Harek (CB)

Nimes offense

Les Crocos will be much changed going forwards as well. A lot of goals and assists have been taken out of the team, but Nimes are hoping they have recruited wisely and replaced them well. Steve Mounie was a great loan signing for them last season scoring 11 goals and weighing in with 5 assists. Anthony Koura was their second top scorer with nine goals, but both have departed. It looks like winger Ousmane Cissokho won’t be staying either, plus old legend Toifilou Malouida is moving onto pastures new. So the Nimes attack will have a new look. The first new signing is Slimane Sissoko, deemed surplus to requirements at Ligue 1 side Angers. He might prove hit and miss but has looked sharp in preseason so far, he could maybe prove a bit hit in Ligue 2. Rachid Aliaoui is another addition and someone more known at this level, finishing as Laval’s top scorer last season. Andrey Panyukov is back for another campaign in France following what must be classed as a disappointing year at Ajaccio.

In general, Nimes have a ton of options upfront with a lot of different strikers at their disposal. They look well set in attacking midfield as well, where the likes of Teji Savanier and new signing Sada Thioub are options. On the right wing, Renaud Ripart should go well again, although Nimes do currently lack a left winger of genuine quality. It's in wide areas where you’d say they are weakest, which is important if they are going to be using a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 regularly. Because of so many changes then there are obvious question marks about Nimes in the final third. But I personally think they will be quite dangerous, and of course it helps having an attacking coach who will be positive in a lot of matches.

Key players: Slimane Sissoko (ATT), Teji Savanier (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Bernard Blaquart is head coach and his achievement keeping the club up last season was remarkable. Nimes started the season on minus -8 points, and only had three wins before the winter break. Blaquart replaced Jose Pasqualetti around the end of November and ended up with a 12-6-6 record in charge. They were one of the best teams after the winter break playing some great football. Nimes will have headed into the summer with great momentum and it’ll be interesting to see if they can build on that by starting this campaign in red hot form. Blaquart is quite an attack minded coach, but has shown on occasion a willingness to mix things up. An example being when they brilliantly beat Dijon 1-0 away from home with a memorable rearguard action. Le Stade Costieres is one of the great fortresses in Ligue 2 and Nimes are always well supported by their passionate fans. It’s an intimidating atmosphere for opposition players and they only lost twice here last year. I think Nimes are a dark horse and one to watch. There has been a big player turn around so there’s obviously some doubts. But the atmosphere is strong here and Bernard Blaquart is building a decent side.

Prediction: 7th

 

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