France Ligue 2 – Reims Season Preview 2016/17

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Reims defence

In between the sticks it looks like Johann Carrasso is going to be the #1 keeper. Reims have had goalkeeping issues in recent years and used as many as four last season! Johnny Placide has departed and Kossi Agassa is being forced out of the club. They've signed Edouard Mendy from Marseille who will be the backup custodian. Carasso used to be fairly good at this level but a poor year in Ligue 1 rocked his confidence. He should be decent but there are a few question marks. Reims have sold talented defender Aissa Mandi to Real Betis for over £3m. He’ll be missed but they got good money and replaced him wisely. Coming in is big centre back Julien Jeanvier form Lille. He impressed on loan in this division last season with Red Star and was one of the standout defenders in the entire league. Reims have also signed a renowned proven talent in Samuel Bouhours from Tours. He’s going to be used primarily as a left back but is equally able in the heart of defence.

The Champagne club already have plenty of quality in their squad for this level of football. Antoine Conte, Hamari Traore & Anthony Weber should feel nicely at home in Ligue 2. Returning from a loan spell at Paris FC is right back Christopher Glombard, but even he’s alright and can do a job. Despite losing Mandi, I like what Reims have done with this backline. They signed two of the best defenders from last season and I think this is a really smart tactic. They’ve done exactly the same in defensive midfield too. Danilson da Cruz was an absolute rock in the middle of the park for Red Star in 2015/16 and Reims have moved to sign him. He’ll join the likes of Antoine Devaux, Alexis Peuget, Mfulu & Hassane Kamara. It looks like Prince Oniangue and Jaba Kankava will be leaving the club. It would be nice to have them at this level but it's understandable they need to move on. Reims look to have some extremely strong options in defensive areas and will be very formidable, especially as the coach is a renowned tactician.

Key players: Julian Jeanvier (CB) & Samuel Bouhours (LB)

Reims offense

Les Rouges et Blanc didn’t have much to shout about last season in this part of the field, but their standout star Nicolas de Preville is set to leave the club. At the time of writing he hasn’t gone yet, but someone like Lille will probably sign him. De Preville weighed in with seven goals and nine assists last season so will be missed. Thievy Bifouma and Lass Bangiura have already returned to other clubs following loan spells, but neither did anything worth noting. Most of the Reims attack force will be the same as last season, which could be good or bad, depending on your point of view. Clearly, as an attack they weren't quite good enough for Ligue 1 level, but there are players here who should thrive in the second tier. An example is Gaetan Charbonnier. The last time he graced this ligue, he totally stormed it. The ex Angers & Montpellier man is going to be their main focal point upfront, but also watch out for youngsters Jordan Siebatcheu & Grejohn Kyei. The latter has been linked with moves out of the club but now looks set to stay.

Out wide, Reims have signed Pablo Chavarria from Lens. He’s done very well at this level in the last couple of years and been a standout player for Les Sang et Or. He will probably lineup up on the right wing, whilst on the left hand side star playmaker Diego Rigonato should feature. He might prove to be a class above most in Ligue 2 and has excellent technical skills. He’s a total wizard from set pieces and will be one of the best players in the league. Odair Fortes and Frederic Bulot are other options out wide for the Champagne outfit and they are well set with wingers. Central attacking midfield is one of their slightly weaker spots, although watch out for new signing from Auxerre Gregory Berthier. The youngster looks set to have a decent future. Guys like Bulot, Diego & Antoine Devaux can all play attacking midfield if needed, so it’s not as if they lack for options. They do lack a standout star in that department, but overall Reims should be very threatening going forwards. Their biggest strength is pace and technical skill, whilst handily Charbonnier is a bigger unit and offers something different.

Key players: Diego Rigonato (winger), Gaetan Charbonnier (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

I’ve been impressed with a lot of Reims’ new signings this summer, but perhaps their most impressive capture of all is new coach Michel der Zakarian. He comes here after a four year stint with Ligue 1 side Nantes with whom he was very successful. De Zakarian has a great record in this division as well, obtaining two promotions and nearly achieving a third with Clermont. He’s a very good coach and I’m surprised he’s ended up here, rather than with a bigger club. I would say his biggest strength is tactics and keeping things tight at the back. You can tell by the type of players he’s bought this summer that he wants some strong physical players in defence, along with pace & flair out wide. Only Bob Bradley can match De Zakarian as far as quality coaches go this season in Ligue 2 and he’s a massive asset to the club. Reims look like a major contender for promotion and have great strengths in every department. I could see them winning a lot of matches to nil this season and they won’t lose very often. Relegated teams don’t have a great record in Ligue 2. But Metz bounced straight back last term and Reims are well equipped to launch a major promotion bid this time around.

Prediction: 2nd

 

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