France Ligue 2 – Clermont Season Preview 2018/19

Clermont defence

A real theme about Clermont this summer is the question of how they are going to replace key players from last season? Starting in goal, they've lost the hugely talented Paul Bernardoni who returns back to Bordeaux after being on loan. Mehdi Jeannin will now take over the #1 spot again. He is experienced and started 83 games in Ligue 2, but there was a reason he was shunned down to the backup role last year. Jeannin is certainly a drop down compared to Bernardoni. The current no2 and 3 keepers on the roster are only youngsters so they could be really exposed if Jeannin gets injured. From the backline Thomas Fontaine (DC), someone who hardly missed a game last year has departed, whilst highly sought after left back Nicolas Gavory will almost certainly leave before the end of this transfer window. Clermont have signed three new players in defence, two of whom got relegated last year. Vital N’Simba should slot in as first choice left back and I always personally rated him highly at Bourg-en-Bresse. He could easily rebound here. Josue Albert and Florent Ogier don't look bad options either in the middle, but neither are anything special. Clermont will need the likes of Phojo and Laporte to be strong this year and they will probably be the best two defenders. Clermont have some reasonably solid options in defensive midfield like Gastien, Iglesias and Douline and Manuel Perez when he regains fitness. The other good thing is plenty of depth. There aren’t any what I’d call stand out ‘stud’ players in these areas for Clermont. But as an overall unit they should be reasonably solid to a degree.

Key players - Julien Laporte (DC), Jerome Phojo (DR, DL)

Clermont offense

Last year the top scorer for the club was Ludovic Ajorque who weighed in with 14 goals. He’s now gone and as of yet, Clermont haven’t replaced him. The only new addition in the final third of the field is Florian Aye from Auxerre. He is an interesting prospect who could develop but they can't bank on him getting that many goals. The key man for this team is playmaker Remy Dugimont, and has been for some time. A career total of 40 goals and 22 assists for Clermont is impressive, especially as in both of the last 2 years he’s produced nearly half of those. For the last 24-36 months there has always been talk of him leaving the club, but it never seems to happen. I certainly couldn’t rule out someone buying him before the end of the transfer window and such a departure would be a massive blow. Clermont have a couple of other good playmakers out wide - Franck Honorat and Mathias Pereira Lage, both of whom got stronger during the last campaign. From an offensive point of view I will have to mention left back Gavory again because he assisted 12 times. Should he derpart the club, those are big and unrealistic boots for someone like Vital N’Simba to fill. I could see Clermont having some good days in front of goal, but perhaps that lack of a quality #9 and slightly less chances being created might see them regress a bit.

Key players - Remy Dugimont (AM, winger). Franck Honorat (Winger/ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

I really like Pascal Gastien as their manager. He is a possession based coach who likes his teams to control the game. They averaged way more passes under him than Corinne Diacre, who he replaced just five games into the previous campaign. Overall, Gastien did a really good job leading Clermont to 6th place, just a couple of points off the playoffs. I do wonder if that was their one potential window of promotion gone though. They've threatened the odd time in recent years but looking at things logically this is a team that will probably regress a little bit. According to my estimations, their top four players at the end of last season might not be on the field come the start of September. Bernardoni has definitely gone, Gavory is highly likely to leave, Manuel Perez injured his achilles in March and probably won't be properly match fit until well into the autumn or even Christmas. Remy Dugimont should remain, but there’s always an outside chance he goes. Clermont haven't signed bad players this summer it’s just that losing some key individuals is bound to have an effect. Pascal Gastien will ensure this team remains very competitive and they they should still be a top ten sort of side. But I personally think it’s asking way too much to expect them to take the next step into the playoffs or promotion.

Prediction - Top half finish