France Ligue 2 – Red Star Season Preview 2016/17

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Red Star defence

Arnaud Balijon is the number one goalkeeper but he ruptured his achilles tendon in April and will probably be out until at least September, maybe later. Balijon is a reasonably good keeper with plenty of experience, but if he returns a bit rusty it won't be a surprise. His backups are Pierrick Cros and Bobby Allain, both of whom are very raw and unproven. Red Star might have some trouble with the goalkeeping position this season and I don’t see it as a particular strength. The backline was so strong last year but has lost two crucial elements, Remi Fournier and Julian Jeanvier. Both are big units and their presence at the back will be missed. Naby Sarr from Charlton and Formose Mendy from Belgium are their replacements. I don’t know an awful lot about either so only time will tell if they are good replacements. But for sure they have big boots to fill and it could be a challenge for Red Star to remain as tight. One newer addition is centre back Jean Charles Castelletto on loan form Club Bruges. He is a more proven quality option at this level and should be decent.

Lloyd Palun is an excellent right back at this level and will be a key man. They also have Pierrick Cros as a centre back option. Left back is slightly more problematic, with either Jerome Hergault or new signing Tiecoro Keita likely to start there. I wouldn't class either as a natural left back though and it could be a weak spot. Red Star have also lost two influential defensive midfielders in Danilson Da Cruz and Yann Boe Kane. The former was especially strong last season and has departed to Reims. A new arrival is Mehdi Jean from Paris FC, but he is a definite downgrade. Florian Makhedjouf remains but there’s not a lot else in defensive midfield. They had such powerful anchor men last year and I just don’t think Red Star will be as effective in this part of the field in 2016/17. The Parisians will still be fairly good at the back but because they've lost four key players I think it's understandable to expect a downgrade.

Key players: Lloyd Palun (RB), Jerome Hergault (Versatile defender)

Red Star offense

Last season the Red Star attack was propelled by three key men - Naim Sliti, Hamer Bouazza & Anatole Ngamukol. It looks like Sliti will probably be leaving the club for Lille within the next few weeks so with the transfer money they get for him, a suitable replacement needs to be found. Sliti is a very versatile attacker, best used in the #10 role. Ngamukol was the leading scorer with 11 goals and is dangerous upfront if supplied properly. He's a big unit and has a decent mix of technique and physique. Bouazza meanwhile, was probably their best player last season going forwards and the left winger weighed in with 10 goals and 8 assists, which was an excellent return. The Parisians look to have plenty of options on the wings, especially left hand side. The likes of Diaz, Bouazza, Keita, Chavalerin, plus a couple of others can all play there. I would imagine at least one or two will be used as an inside winger on the right flank.

In attacking midfield losing Sliti will be a blow, but we have to presume Red Star will bring in someone who is at least half decent as a replacement. Chavalerin, Diaz and new signing from Auxerre Gregory Lefebre can all play the #10 role if required though and aren't too bad. Ngamukol will be starting upfront on his own in most matches. They lack other strikers and Issa Baradji is next in line should Ngamukol get injured. He’s nothing special though and Red Star would probably be better off starting Bouazza upfront in that scenario. Because they were so strong at the back, they didn’t have to rely on the offense too much last season. But this time around I think Rui Almeida’s men will have to lean more on their front men. There’s some decent quality here but nothing screams out exceptional apart from Bouazza, and there’s no guarantee he’ll have such a good campaign.

Key players: Hameur Bouazza (LW) & Anatole Ngamukol (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Rui Almeida did an excellent job with this team last season, Despite failing to win any of their first five games, Red Star ended up making an unlikely promotion push and actually only ended up one point behind third placed Metz. Almeida is an excellent tactical and defensive coach and Red Star won't be beaten easily by anyone. Of all the teams who finished up there in the promotion mixer, they had easily the worst quality on paper and reminded me a lot of GFC Ajaccio who obtained promotion a couple of years ago mostly thanks to great tactics, a solid defence and team spirit. Red Star were badly hindered at home in the previous campaign, playing all matches in Beauvais over 50 miles away. This term they are ground sharing with rugby club Stade Francais at Le Stade Jean Bouin in Paris. This is a much better arrangement and should help them a lot. Red Star had the best away record in Ligue 2 and only conceded 12 goals which just demonstrates how solid they were. I think it’ll be very hard for them to match last season's achievements. The loss of key players in defensive areas is the biggest blow and whilst I think they’ll still be solid, a repeat of fourth place seems unlikely. This is a team that overachieved with few resources. Usually with cases like this, the following campaign is difficult to maintain that sort of level.

Prediction: 9th

 

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