France Ligue 2 – AC Ajaccio Season Preview 2018/19

Ajaccio defence

I think compared to last season ACA will be slightly weaker in this department. They've lost two key elements at the back, the first being goalkeeper Jean Louis Leca who has moved to Lens. I am convinced Leca was worth about 5-10 goals to them last season and was probably the best player in their entire squad. Coming in as a replacement is Benjamin Leroy, someone who has been wasted on the bench at Dijon in recent years. He has ability, although it’s worth noting that the last time he was a regular starter in Ligue 2, the ex Tours man got relegated with Evian. Leroy will do a ok job but wont pull off miracle saves like Leca is capable of. The back four has lost Joris Sainati, who was a mainstay of the team making 35 appearances last season. Replacing him is veteran Jeremy Choplin from Niort, although he is probably a downgrade from Sainati. Decent players such as Avinel, Hergault and Cabit all remain for now. I am slightly worried about their lack of depth in this area of the field and I just think logically Les Ours will be conceding more goals this campaign. ACA have some fairly strong defensive type midfielders in Yann Boe Kane, Mathieu Coutdour and Qazim Laci. The addition of Aliou Dembele from Niort will only make them stronger in this department and he could be a really big driving force in the middle of the park.

Key players - Cedric Avinel (DC), Aliou Dembele (DM)

Ajaccio offense

The Corsicans were the third highest scoring team in Ligue 2 last year which would’ve been a surprise to many people. They even managed to cope well after selling Yoane Wissa to Lorient in the January transfer window. Ghislain Gimbert bagged 12 goals and at this level of football is still a major threat. Riad Nouri went one better which was an excellent effort for someone who plays more wider. One slight problem is that both of these players are about 33 years old now, so could start slowing down. Ajaccio have signed two new players in attack - Joseph Mendes who failed at Reading in England and Mohamed Youssouf from Greece. AMID Johan Cavalli is still going strong at 37 years of age too and hasn't lost any of his technical mastery. He struggles to complete many matches now though so his minutes on the the field will probably reduce even more this season. A total of 13 players all had at least two assists for ACA last season and it's encouraging that the whole team can chip in and supply goals. Ajaccio were quite clinical going forwards in the previous campaign and I do wonder if they'll be able to keep this up. Their scoring will probably reduce a bit, although they have enough weapons to hurt teams.

Key players - Riad Nouri (RW), Ghislain Gimbert (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

In Olivier Pantaloni they have the best man for the job and he always has a tendency to overachieve at this club. He nearly claimed a second miracle promotion with ACA last season and they only came unstuck in the playoff matches against Toulouse. Of course, what really cost them was the previous fixture against Le Havre which was postponed because of fan trouble and then escalated into a ridiculous game in which four players got sent off. The repercussions are that Ajaccio will play their first home match of the season behind closed doors against Troyes, and Pantaloni will be serving a further two game touchline ban. Les Ours had a brilliant 14-2-3 home record last season and nobody enjoys coming here. I would expect them to be strong in front of their own fans again this year, nothing much will change in that department. The big difference in 2017/18 was that Ajaccio were fairly competitive on the road, but historically this often dips. As a whole, I think ACA got the very maximum out of last season to a level where they did overachieve. The squad seems slightly weaker this campaign, especially in defensive areas so I’m anticipating that they slide back into the middle of the pack. Nevertheless, there is a fairly well balanced squad here. Experience is a positive too, albeit they have a lot of older players which isn’t always a good thing.

Prediction - Top 8 finish