Le Havre defence
The goalkeeping situation is fairly solid here. Yohann Thuram is #1 custodian and the experienced Arnaud Balijon will be backing him up. This actually happened a lot last year when Thuram went down injured for 2-3 months. Thuram himself is a fairly good keeper and one of the better ones in the league. Youngster Yahia Fofana is said to be a decent prospect as a third option too. At the back, HAC have an abundance of defenders at their disposal, many of them excellent quality. Centre back Harold Moukoudi is a really exciting prospect and on the radar of a few bigger clubs. There is a chance he could leave the club at some stage this year but I suspect Le Havre will get one more season out of him. Samba Camara, Denys Bain, Barnabas Bese and Yacouba Coulibaly, along with a few others make up loads of depth in this area. Defensive midfield is also loaded with Victor Lekhal, Amos Youga and Pape Gueye. The latter is another young prospect on the radar of some bigger clubs. I have no doubt that Le Havre have the potential to be extremely solid at the back. HAC have recently added Romain Basque from relegated side Quevilly-Rouen and he is another solid sort of midfielder, although more box to box and can cover a number of roles. They have a lot young dynamic players with perhaps the only thing missing a bit of experience, but that could be irrelevant really.
Key players - Harold Moukoudi (DC), Victor Lekhal (DM)
Le Havre offense
The big problem here is the potential loss of two huge individuals. Top scorer from last season with 17 goals Jean Philippe Mateta was on loan from Lyon and has now made a £10m move to the Bundesliga. He was especially impressive in the second half of last season and probably could’ve had even more goals had he not been more wasteful at times. Obviously, losing such a huge goalscorer is bad news and as they haven't yet replaced him. It feels like they are hoping to find goals from within; with the likes of Ebenezer Assifuah, Andriatsima, new singing Bazile or younger players like Gory and Oko. Perhaps an even bigger problem for HAC would be losing key wide man Zinedine Ferhat. He has been on holdout with the club, intent on securing a move away. It looks like Nantes are the most likely destination at this moment in time. I think it’s likely he’ll be sold, in which case Le Havre are going to have to find someone to replace his massive 20 (twenty) assists! Yes, that is correct, nearly 40% of all goals scored by Les Ciel et Marine last season were supplied by Ferhat! So should he leave the club will have have to work hard to bring in the right sort of guy. Alexandre Bonnet could be an important player, but he needs to improve his statistics a bit and try to assist close to ten times and maybe score half a dozen goals as well. HAC still have a good offense in them, but compared to last season they could naturally regress unless adequate reinforcements are found.
Key players - Alexandre Bonnet (AM), Ebenezer Assifuah (ATT, RW)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
There have been a few times when I did wonder if Oswald Tanchot would get sacked since he took over from Bob Bradley in October 2016. This is a club with ambition and a squad which has contained an abundance of quality in the last couple of years. Failure to get promoted on either occasion could've been seen as a total flop, but the club have always stayed faithful with Tanchot. That faith was very nearly rewarded when they finished last season very strongly making the playoffs, and they were 20 seconds away from facing Toulouse in the promotion/relegation match. However, they succumbed to a late goal in Ajaccio and then lost out on penalties. If everyone can take some of the momentum they had at the end of last season into this campaign then HAC will be right up there. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the manager but his points per game record (1.55) and goals per game (1.46) are fairly respectable and he seems to have grown a bit in the job. Le Havre have always had a great youth system and someone unexpected develops every year at this place. The squad on paper has plenty of potential. If they can avoid any more key losses and maybe bring in a couple of good pieces to replace the likes of Mateta and inevitably Ferhat, then the sky is their limit really. But there remain questions about mentality, the manager and the ability to be consistent throughout the whole campaign. HAC finally managed to make their new Stade Oceane a fortress last year going 13-5-1 at home. A repeat of that and an improvement on losing nine road games would see them have every chance of going up.
Prediction: Promotion challenge