Damien Perquis is an average sort of keeper and if anything he’s been regressing in recent years. Cyrille Merville has been lost as the experienced backup, and instead VA have signed two younger keepers from the lower leagues. I’m not sure they have a great custodian situation right now but Perquis is ok. From a defensive point of view the northern outfit have a decent looking squad on paper, but all too often certain players get injured. I’m talking the likes of Ahmed Kantari & Loic Nestor, plus a few others. One new signing is right back Joffrey Cuffaut from Nancy, someone who I used to rate highly but seems to have lost his way in recent years. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him some good. Youngster Sikou Niakate is one to keep an eye on and quite a few bigger teams are watching him with interest. Valenciennes have a number of defensive midfielders in their squad, but again there are question marks surrounding injured players. Thiago Xavier is one of those, whilst Johann Ramare isn't getting any younger either. VAFC have signed Eden Massouema from Dijon but I don’t think he will be a regular starter. This team has the potential to be solid enough. But with so many doubts over fragile players who often get injured it’s quite hard to predict in many ways.
Key players - Ahmed Kantari (CB), Johann Ramare (DM)
Continuing the injury theme, their key man last season was old veteran Sebastien Roudet. He’s an excellent creative player but now at 37, age is catching up with him. I do wonder how much is left in the tank. In comparison to say Benjamin Nivet he doesn’t look as fit and often picks up niggling injuries. VA are going to need others to step up this year, perhaps Gaetan Robail or Tony Maurico on the wings can supply a few goals. Lossemy Karaboue is another out wide who is dangerous on his day and they have a reasonable crop of wingers at their disposal. Upfront itself there appears to be more of a hole with nobody standing out as a quality #9 type striker. Guezoui, Privat or Ambri are options but neither are good enough to lead the line and get 10+ goals in a season. I suspect Valenciennes will have their good and bad days in front of goal and be largely inconsistent.
Key players - Sebastien Roudet (AM), Gaetan Robail (LW)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Reginauld Ray took over at the helm about a quarter of the way through last season but only averaged exactly one point per game during his management. To be honest, Ray never really impressed me much so far, although I will admit he has never had it easy here with relatively limited talent at his disposal and constant injury problems. There also feels like there is a lack of ambition at Valenciennes which kind of shows in their recruitment so far this summer. I think we shall see them in the bottom half of the table, although quite how low exactly I’m not sure. Injuries will always play a part in this team because the squad is full of fragile players who could go down at any time. I can’t see them being able to field consistent XIs for long periods. There is enough ability to keep VA afloat and when at full strength they could probably push anyone close. But my overall feeling is that they will be extremely inconsistent, up and down and quite hard to predict. VA have possessed one of the poorer home records in Ligue 2 in recent years and it’s something they need to ideally improve upon. This is a team that might be better suited to playing on the road with some of their pacey wingers.
Prediction - Bottom half