Monthly Archives: July 2019

France Ligue 2 – Le Mans Season Preview 2019/20


Le Mans Defence

Jeremy Aymes was the main starter in goal for Le Mans last season but they have reinforced in this transfer window by signing Yohann Thuram from Le Havre. He is a man of great experience having made tons of appearances at this level and above. It looks like Le Mans have a decent keeping situation anyway with Aymes a decent deputy and even #3 custodian Pierre Patron isn’t too bad. The actual backline is full of players who have plenty to prove at Ligue 2 level. Key men for Le Mans here will likely be Pierre Lemonnier & Thomas Dasquet. The latter appears to be starting the season injured though. New signing at left back Dorian Leveque is the one new guy who has played numerous matches at Ligue 2 level and above. His experience and quality could prove crucial. Defensive midfield is in better shape. They’ve signed Yann Boe Kane from Ajaccio and he is someone who can fill in at centre back. Meanwhile, Alois Confais looked like an excellent pickup for them midway through last season. Here we are talking about someone who has started over 30 matches in Ligue 1! Confais is equally adept at right back. A couple of other guys in defensive midfield Hamza Hafidi & Remy Bossier are more unproven at this level but might be decent if given the chance. As far as I’m concerned there are mostly positive things to say about the makeup of this Le Mans defence. Although as ever with a promoted team, it’s about finding your feet at this new level.

Key players - Yoann Thuram (GK) & Yann Boe Kane (DM)

Le Mans Offense

It was a surprise to see Le Mans score just 38 goals in the National Division last season, which is a really low tally for any side that gets promoted. Vincent Crehin led their scoring chart by netting 10 times. Crehin has actually enjoyed five career seasons in which he’s netted at least ten goals, but all of those have come below Ligue 2 level. Is he good enough at 30 years old to do the business in this division? I’ll leave the jury to open verdict for now. Le Mans have signed pacy winger Harrison Manzala, who to be honest has yet to fulfil his true potential. He is a player who has drifted a bit following a move to Angers worth nearly £1m. There is every chance Manzala could rebound in Ligue 2 and he looks a good acquisition. The rest of the Le Mans attack force appears to have question marks surrounding it at this level. Both Franck Julienne & Youssef Maziz did well in the National Division for other sides last season but there’s always a risk when you take someone like this in case they sink rather than swim. Bevic Moussiti-Oko is another who falls into this category. He actually scored 8 goals in 16 appearances for Quevilly-Rouen in the National division last year, but never did anything much for Le Havre previously in Ligue 2. Winger Stephane Diarra impressed enough last season to earn a permanent move to the club, whilst old dog Stephen Vincent offers some experience. I honestly think this offense could be very hit or miss. Some players will come off and do well but others will be total flops.

Key players - Harrison Manzala (winger) & Vincent Crehin (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Le Mans finished third in the National Division last season and then managed to overcome GFC Ajaccio in the playoff match. They are easily the biggest club out of the promoted teams and many would say they are back where they belong. Le Mans had 4 or 5 strong seasons in Ligue 1 about a decade ago before falling on hard financial times. They are almost an exact replica of Strasbourg & Grenoble and risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Le Mans have come back up extremely quickly and actually head into this season on the back of three successive promotions! Richard Dezire is the man in charge who has overseen these promotions and he also obtained another one in the past for Avranches. Quite simply, this is a manager who knows how to take a team up! Can they make it four successive promotions and follow in the footsteps of Amiens, Strasbourg & Bastia, who all came up from the National and finished top 3? Well, I think it’s unrealistic to expect something like that and the objective will just be to stabilise and survive. I am predicting them 17th but this feels like a team that will have enough to avoid the drop. Le Mans have signed enough players of sufficient quality to be competitive. Their stadium, the MMArena is one of the biggest capacities in Ligue 2 and they should be well supported each week by fans who have been starved of this level of football for a while. Le Mans will probably reside in the lower half of the table and are a relegation candidate. But I sense there are enough poor teams this year that at least three of them should finish below them.

Prediction: 17th - Relegation battle but avoid the drop

France Ligue 2 – AC Ajaccio Season Preview 2019/20

Ajaccio Defence

Benjamin Leroy will once again be the starter in goal. He is bang average at this level and will have some good and bad days. Backing him up will be Francois Sollacaro or youngster Lucas Marsella. The goalkeeping crop here is satisfactory enough. Defence looks pretty thin on the ground at the moment and needs to be reinforced before the end of the transfer window. Two regular starters from last season have departed, Manuel Cabit and Jerome Hergault. The duo of Jeremy Choplin & Cedric Avinel are retained, although at 34 and 32 respectively, neither are spring chickens anymore. Two new signings are Gael Andonian, who was a failed reject at OM and Dijon, whilst Matthieu Huard has come on loan from Rennes. I have to say I know nothing about the young left back Huard so he could be anything. Ajaccio have their own native Corsican option at left back in Ismael Diallo. He joined from rivals Bastia last year and maybe he could get some minutes this campaign. As aforementioned, options are very thin on the ground here and they’ve also lost their safety net central defender Yann Boe Kane who often played out of position when they were short to fill in at centre back. Boe Kane himself will be missed in defensive midfield. Instead, ACA will have to rely on Qazim Laci, Lucas Pellegrini or Jeremy Corinus which without being disrespectful simply isn’t good enough for Ligue 2 level.

Key players - Jeremy Choplin (DC) & Cedric Avinel (DC)

Ajaccio Offense

The Corsicans had the second worst attack in Ligue 2 last season netting a measly 29 goals which was very sub-standard. Two key players from this area, Riad Nouri & Ghislain Gimbert have departed, but both were 34 years old and having some fresher legs might not be the worst thing to happen. ACA need youngster Matteo Tramoni to deliver for them in the final third this season. The creative winger caught the eye last year and this could be the campaign in which he really breaks out. Caleb Zady & Mounaim El Idrissy could also be two younger players to keep an eye on. Ajaccio have signed the experienced Gaetan Courtet on loan from Lorient who could offer them something if he finds good form. He can be a frustrating player but isn’t a bad finisher and offers a decent physical presence upfront. It’s not beyond reason he could bag them 10 goals this season. Winger Cyrille Bayala on loan from Lens could also be a good option but he can be inconsistent and have too many flat days. We must mention the veteran duo from creative midfield Mathieu Coutadeur & Johan Cavalli. Both are technically very good but are no spring chickens anymore and at 38 years old Cavalli is trying to do his best Benjamin Nivet impression. Kevin Lejeune is another old dog who can fill in anywhere on the field but is quite good technically. This is not a brilliant attack force by any means but there as some good ball strikers here and ACA at least have some weapons to be competitive with.

Key players - Gaetan Courtet (ATT), Matteo Tramoni (LW)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Ajaccio are another team who had their issues with the financial regulators DNCG this summer. They were staring at a potential relegation but managed to get the all clear just in time. The big problem is how badly this affects recruitment. It’s only been in the last week or two that ACA have been able to bring in any new faces. The squad is thin on the ground and needs reinforcements before the end of the transfer window, but with a limited budget quite who they can bring in I’m not sure. On the field things weren’t much better last season and they needed a dismal last day 0-0 draw at Troyes to confirm survival by the skin of their teeth. This followed on from a 2017/18 campaign which saw them finish 3rd and lose out to Toulouse in the playoff match. I am sure Ajaccio went into last season suffering a big hangover from that playoff and there is every chance they could endure another one after the goings on this summer. One big positive for them is coach Olivier Pantaloni. He is a legend at the club having achieved promotion with them around 10 years ago. He left but then returned in 2014 and has done pretty well since. Pantaloni is a no nonsense sort of manager who will adapt to each situation. There are times when he will park a double decker bus but also occasions when he knows the need to attack. He is tactically astute and a good fitness coach which is important considering he has a lot of older legs to manage. ACA are going to be involved in the relegation battle but might just have to survive with Pantaloni at the helm. They are usually terrible away from home but a saving grace can be their form on Corsica, which is usually pretty good. Teams don’t usually like travelling here and homefield advantage is definitely worth something extra to them. I’m predicting them to survive - just. But it won’t be pretty.

Prediction: 16th - Relegation battle

France Ligue 2 – Rodez AF Season Preview 2019/20


Rodez Defence

In goal it looks like Arthur Desmas will be the starting keeper, with Lionel M’Pasi backing him up. Neither of these two have ever been regularly playing at this level before so the jury is out on how good they will be. Desmas is just 25 years old so I would say there is room for development. Rodez had the best defensive record in the National Division last year and on paper this is probably their strongest area. The duo of Nathanael Dieng & Yohan Roche both did enough on loan last season to earn a permanent move here. Some new defensive signings for RAF are Valentin Henry, Corentin Jacob & Francis Dady Ngoye. All three of these guys are incredibly versatile as well and can play in many different positions which will be extremely useful. To be honest, it’s quite a theme in this Rodez squad that a number of players can play in various different positions. Defensive midfield is an area where they have plenty of depth. I will be interested to see how Loic Poujol gets on this season. He was once a promising talent for Sochaux in the top flight but his career stagnated. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to progress and he could be a prime example. David Douline could be another one who falls into this category. Rodez look to have enough options to be competitive defensively, although as with any promoted side there will always be question marks.

Key players - Yohan Roche (DC) & Nathanael Dieng (DC)

Rodez Offense

RAF were also the highest scoring team in the National Division last season with 54 goals in 34 games. The goals were mostly spread out amongst the whole team which is probably quite a big positive that they don’t rely on anyone specifically. Top scorer from last season Florian David (11 goals) has left after a loan from Grenoble and will actually join a fellow promoted rival Chambly this year. I don’t think this will necessarily be a crippling departure though. Rodez have retained Dorian Caddy who netted 9 times in the previous campaign and have signed five new attackers. The most significant could be Pape Sane, who if he gets in shape could be a fine asset. There was a time three years ago when Caen paid nearly £1m for his services after some nice campaigns at Bourg-en-Bresse. What has followed is a nightmare run of loans and periods when he just couldn’t break into the Caen side. If Sane regains his old Bourg form though, I could see him going very well. Rodez have signed Nassim Ouammou from National side Boulogne & Boris Mathis from Everton U23s. Edwin Maanane from Grenoble is another addition who did alright for Avranches on loan in the National last year. From creative midfield and wide areas, nobody really sticks out to me as being obvious quality at this level, but perhaps some players could surprise. The RAF offense doesn’t look as strong compared to defensive areas but if Sane fires they will at least carry a threat.

Key player - Pape Sane (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

In addition to Chambly, Rodez were another surprise promoted team from the National last season. RAF absolutely smashed the hell out of that division, finishing nearly 15 points clear of the next placed team. They only lost 4 matches all season and won 11 of their last 13 fixtures. Coach Laurent Peyrelade has been at the club for 4 years now and enjoyed two promotions during this period. Clearly, this coach needs to be respected and they come into Ligue 2 with great momentum. There are however plenty of question marks whether half of the squad can adapt and make the step up to Ligue 2 level. However, compared to fellow promoted club Chambly they do at least seem to have tried signing some proven talent. There appears to be more quality on paper for Rodez and do not underestimate the winning and positive mentality they clearly possess. Certainly in the first half of the season that could be crucial. RAF do have a similar problem to Chambly in terms of their stadium though. Until mid October all of their home games will be played in Toulouse, which is about 2 hours away. It’s going to cost them about £100,000 for each match played here which is hardly ideal in terms of financial resources. Their own Stade Paul Lignon is undergoing renovation and should be ready some time in October. Despite this, the handicap of playing at a neutral venue will hit them hard for five games and might prove important in the long term. This team look quite hard to predict and I think we can expect almost anything. I see them as a side battling against relegation and being in the lower half of the table but there’s a chance RAF could overachieve and do better.

Prediction: 15th - Relegation battle

France Ligue 2 – FC Sochaux Season Preview 2019/20


Sochaux Defence

Goalkeeper actually looks like an ok area for Les Lionceaux. Maxence Prevot should line up as first choice, although he did have one really bad period of form last season when the able Lawrence ‘Zigi’ Ati took over as deputy. AP Long as a third option isn’t too bad either. The defence is going to be much changed this season. Key men Olivier Verdon and Rafa Navarro have both moved on and young talent Boris Moltenis is ruled out for the whole campaign with an ACL injury. Moltenis did well for them down the stretch last year and it’s a blow to lose him like this. The only mainstay from the defence last season will be Jason Pendant at left back, but he makes too many mistakes and can’t be relied on. A couple of more experienced signings are Pape Paye (RB) & Christophe Diedhiou (CB). Both are powerful players with a strong physique but can be clumsy with the ball and also make mental mistakes. Sochaux have to hope that some youngsters like Maxence Lacroix, Salem M’Bakata and maybe Nicolas Senzemba & Romain Sans when they return from injury can step up and improve their level. Defensive midfield looks light with the departures of Fuchs, Owusu & Agoume. Sochaux don’t seem to have any proven and reliable DMIDs of sufficient quality so they desperately need to reinforce in this area. Just on the eve of the first match Ousseynou Thioune comes in from Spanish 2nd division side Gimnastic who were relegated. The Senegalese man isn’t someone I’m familiar with but he fills a big area of need.

Key player - Maxence Prevot (GK)

Sochaux Offense

Les Lionceaux scored a pathetic 27 goals last season which was the lowest in the whole division. They desperately struggled in front of goal and their top scorer netted just 4 goals! Obviously this is an area where a vast improvement is needed but sadly on paper I don’t see too much potential. Thomas Toure (ATT) & Fabien Ourega (LW, RW) arrive after both featuring for Paris FC last season. Neither really did anything much at that club, although it must be said they were led by a defensive style manager. Unfortunately, Omar Daf is of a similar mindset though so I suspect neither of these two players will be very effective. Jeremy Livolant is their final addition in this area but failed to catch the eye much at Chateauroux in the previous campaign. Within the Sochaux squad already, Abdoulaye Sane is probably their best striker option. He won’t worry the opposition defences too much though and only scored four times in the 2019/20 campaign. Maybe youngsters Natanael Ntolla or Victor Glaentzlin can be a pleasant surprise. The best area of the Sochaux attack force is from creative midfield. The likes of Younes Kaabouni & Sofiane Daham should be able to supply a few assists this year and maybe score some individual goals themselves. Young attacking midfielders to keep an eye on could be Rassoul Ndiaye & Melvin Sitti. Sochaux look like they are lacking proven quality players at Ligue 2 level and will be relying on younger players making their mark in the final third of the field, which is a tad concerning.

Key players - Younes Kaabouni (AM) & Sofiane Daham (CM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Sochaux have been a complete mess off the field in the last few years. Gone are the
Peugeot days and this time last year they were under the management of the Baskonia group. That didn’t turn out very well and this summer they only just escaped relegation by passing the DNCG financial regulations. On the field Les Lionceaux only just survived by the skin of their teeth last season as well. They had to win their final game against Grenoble to avoid the drop but fortunately managed to prevail 3-1. Current boss is Omar Daf who is without doubt one of their best assets. Daf is a club legend, having made nearly 200 appearances for them in the past. He commands instant respect and he also made 55 international appearances for Senegal back in the day. Daf plays with a 4-2-3-1 formation and is quite negative with his approach. Les Lionceaux won’t play attractive football and it’s more about discipline, a physical battle and keeping shape. It is almost understandable having this sort of approach considering the poor resources available at his disposal. Since he took charge of the club Sochaux kept 10 out of 24 clean sheets which to be fair is quite impressive. The immediate objective will just be to survive again. Everyone at the club knows it will be a long hard season. The squad is relying on youngsters to shine and on paper they definitely lack proven quality compared to a lot of teams. Omar Daf will keep them competitive and hard to beat though, so they certainly won’t go down without a strong fight.

Prediction: 18th - Tough battle against relegation

France Ligue 2 – Niort Season Preview 2019/20


Niort Defence

Goalkeeper doesn’t look too bad for Niort this season. Saturnin Allagbe & new signing from Nantes on loan Quentin Braat will battle it out for the #1 spot. Enzo Pauchet as a third choice option is ok as well. The backline itself won’t be anything special. Bryan Passi is a new signing from Montpellier but he seems to have pretty much failed everywhere he’s gone, so we can’t really expect anything too different here. Mathieu Sans is a good old hand at the back but has never been better than average at this level. Some younger players Julien DaCosta, Issouf Paro & Florian Lapis can do a serviceable job, but they lack overall quality. Niort are in the market to purchase Ibrahima Conte from Lorient. He did a great job for Les Chamois last season and was and absolute rock at the back. In 18 starts they averaged 1.61 points per game with him in the side and kept seven clean sheets. Unfortunately, Conte got badly injured in February, requiring ACL surgery. He wouldn’t be available until October if they did sign him, but for the long term Niort really need to make this addition in my opinion. In defensive midfield Olivier Kemen has been signed and he should be useful enough. The ex GFCA man offers a strong physical presence in the middle of the park. They also have that with Brahim Konate but perhaps lack some real top quality in this area of the park. Niort have decent depth at DMID but are lacking gamewinners in this department who really stand out.

Key players - Mathieu Sans (DC) & Ibrahima Conte (?) (DC)

Niort Offense

Les Chamois generally struggled for goals last season. The bad news if they have lost their key marksman Andre Dona Ndoh, who has been so reliable for them in the last few years. There was a period when he was injured during the previous campaign and Niort desperately struggled for a presence upfront. I’m not sure who is going to fill his boots because it would appear to me that they are lacking quality options upfront. Ibrahim Sissoko has come in from Lorient, but he didn’t even impress that much on loan at relegated Beziers last season. It looks like Zoumana Kone could be the one who gets the nod in the first league match but he has never even scored a goal for them before! Out wide there are possibilities with David Djigla & Antoine Baroan. Creative midfield is one of their few strong areas going forward where some exciting younger players such as Antoine Lautey, Valentin Jacob & Dylan Louiserre reside. They also have an exciting attacking talent Goduine Koyalipou but this is a player who wants to leave the club and they have never man - managed him particularly well. I have to say I am worried that Niort won’t be offering much in the final third this season. Certainly in terms of strikers they look to have a poor crop at the moment and this offensive line won’t put much fear into the opposition.

Key players - Dylan Louiserre (CM), & Valentin Jacob (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Niort hired Patrice Lair at the start of last season and he did really well in what turned out to be a short time at the club. Lair had issues with the president and left Niort just before Christmas. At the time of his departure they were in a strong 5th place, but had an alarming slide for the remainder of the campaign. In fact, Les Chamois actually went 17 games without a victory and only a couple of late wins managed to ensure they finished in a respectable 12th position. In my personal opinion they totally overachieved with Lair in charge and as soon as he left the poor squad was exposed. Combined with a key injury to Ibrahima Conte and then also Dona Ndoh it was no real surprise to see them struggle. The man who took charge for the rest of the season Pascal Plancque is retained for this year and I think this is a poor decision. Niort would’ve been better going for a more proven coach at this level. Plancque has only won 2 league matches out of 18 since he took over! I would say he is a major candidate to be the first sacking of the 2019/20 Ligue 2 campaign. Niort won’t be shockingly bad but I definitely see them battling relegation towards the bottom of the table. If they continue on the same downward negative spiral then this could be a very worrying season for them. They lack overall quality in all areas of the field and especially in attack look too lightweight.

Prediction: 19th - Relegation

France Ligue 2 – LB Chateauroux Season Preview 2019/20


Chateauroux Defense

On paper, this is Chateauroux’s best area of the field. They don’t have anything special in the goalkeeping department. Remy Pillot is will be the starter but has his weaknesses. To be brutally honest I think he’s always been a better #2 keeper than first choice. Backing him up this year will be unproven youngster Wilfried Bedfian. The backline itself is reasonably solid without being spectacular. Full back Chaker Alhadur is the standout player, along with Sekou Conde who is a big physical unit at the back. Another to look out for is left back Christopher Operi, who has significantly improved in the last year or two, to an extent where some bigger clubs are reportedly taking a look at him. La Berrichone have a bunch of defensive midfielders and are very strong physically in the middle of the park. Opa Sangatte and Abdoulaye Sissako spring to mind along with new signing Issa Marega. Youngster Leo Leroy is a promising talent worth keeping an eye on as well. The one bit of bad news was losing Gregory Bourillon to retirement. He was actually leading goalscorer for the club last season (8 goals) and a massive key player, despite his age. Chateauroux will still certainly be competitive from a defensive point of view, especially as they normally employ fairly negative tactics.

Key players - Chaker Alhadur (DR), Sekou Conde (DC)

Chateauroux Offense

Unfortunately they’ve lost their best creative player Maxime Barthelme to Troyes. I would say this is a significant departure because Barthelme could play pretty much any midfield role and still have a high productivity, such was his versatility. At his best, the ex Lorient man was great out wide for Chateauroux and one of the few players in this squad who could make something happen. It looks like we are going to see La Berrichone employ big target men strikers upfront this season. New signings Andrew Jung and Philippe Paulin Keny will probably battle it out to be the starting striker, but in truth none of their options upfront are very appealing. Old dog Razak Bouakri is another possibility but doesn’t seem to have delivered much since Chateauroux returned to Ligue 2 and is often injured anyway. His technical quality is still very strong at least. There are some decent youngsters to keep an eye on. Haissem Hassan, Brian Chevreuil & Ilyas Chouaref have potential to develop but are mostly still quite raw. Lamine Ghezali on loan from St Etienne might be a pleasant surprise. There is some good technique and pace out wide for Chateauroux and another interesting player returning to them is Sidy Sarr. It didn’t work out for him at Lorient on loan but if Chateauroux can get the 2017/18 form out of him then it will be a massive boost. Overall, I think this offensive unit is too ‘limited’ and lacks enough overall quality. Maybe some of the players I mentioned can be a pleasant surprise and better than expected, but I suspect they will generally be lacking for chances and goals.

Key players - Sidy Sarr (AM), Razak Boukari (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Nicolas Usai took over in October 2018 when the club was in quite a lot of trouble. He managed to keep them comfortably in the division eventually. Usai averaged 1.32 points per match in the hot seat, which I think was a significant achievement considering the weak tools at his disposal. In my personal opinion Chateasiroux were probably the most overachieving side in the whole of Ligue 2 last season. They finished 11th after a great finish to the campaign. La Berrichone picked up 14 points in their last 6 matches but for the majority of the campaign they were only treading water and looking nervously over their shoulder at the red zone. Usai will probably stick with the same 4-3-3 formation which worked well at the end of last season but he’s going to have to work wonders to finish so highly again. I personally see Chateauroux as a possible relegation candidate due to their lack of overall quality within the squad. They will fight very hard though and Usai will probably get the most out of his players. There is often a strong sense of togetherness and they can be awkward opponents. Usai only lost four away games since he took over and they definitely travelled well under his guidance. Unfortunately, Chateauroux aren’t a particularly well supported club and will never possess much of a strong dominant homefield advantage. There is often a flat atmosphere at Le Stade Gaston Petit these days. In conclusion, It’s going to be a tough grind towards the bottom of the table but LBC probably have enough to survive.

Prediction: 14th - Relegation battle

France Ligue 2 – US Orleans Season Preview 2019/20


Orleans Defence

In between the sticks is new signing Jeremy Vachoux, who understandably had enough of sitting on the bench for Lens. He’s easily good enough to be a starter in Ligue 2 and should be a solid keeper for them. He replaces Gauthier Gallon who was of similar ability. Backing up Vachoux will be the experienced Thomas Renault, who if required can do a reasonable job for a few games each season. From a defensive point of view the big loss is Adrien Monfray, who in my opinion is one of the best defenders in Ligue 2. He has now moved to Grenoble which has left a huge hole. With Monfray in the team Orleans averaged 1.74 points per game last season and conceded significantly fewer goals. The good news is that two important players; Gabriel Mutombo (DC) & Gauthier Pinaud (DL/R) both remain. Cedric Cambon is another centre back option of decent quality, but he’s often used in defensive midfield. Speaking of DMIDs, Orleans don’t have a bad selection at their disposal. Along with the aforementioned Cambon, Joseph Lopy is a top quality option for them in this position, whilst the likes of D’Arpino, Demoncy & Ephestion aren’t too shabby either. The really big questions for Orleans in defensive areas lie with their new signings. USO are no strangers to dipping into the lower leagues to find talent and much might depend on how Alex Marchadier, Stephane Lambese, Arnaud Luzayadio & Tidiane Keita cope with the step up to Ligue 2 level. Another new addition is Nicolas Saint-Ruf from Nancy, someone who is yet to fulfil his true potential. Maybe it could happen here in Orleans. Much like the team as a whole, I see this defence having both good and bad days.

Key players - Gauthier Pinaud (DL/DR) & Joseph Lopy (DM)

Orleans Offense

USO actually had the joint fourth best scoring record in Ligue 2 last season. So perhaps strangely, nobody within their team managed to bag more than seven goals. It was a real collective team effort with 15 different individuals hitting the back of the net and 8 guys nailing at least three goals each. Perhaps the one thing they lacked was a stand out striker to get them 12+ goals so maybe the addition of Vincent Thill or Joris Correa can help solve that problem. But I would say this is unlikely. It will be a collective effort to score goals again with Hicham Benkaid, Anthony Le Tallec, Gaetan Perrin and the pacey Fahd El Khoumisti battling it out in offensive areas. It’s worth noting that USO have lost three players of significance. Ousmane Cissokho was annoyingly inconsistent for them out wide, but did lead their assists chart last season. Midfield playmaker Durel Avounou was another who supplied quite a few goals, whilst Jordan Tell was actually their joint top scorer. I would say Orleans could do with adding a couple more pieces in attack but they have enough about themselves in the final third of the field to be competitive. Again, the problem here is likely to be lack of consistency from week to week.

Key players - Vincent Thill (AM), & Gaetan Perrin (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

If he hangs around until December, Didier Olle-Nicolle will have been at the club for 3 years, which is quite a significant length of time at this level. He’s now 57 years old, vastly experienced and has certainly been around the block in French football. Nicolle has done well here in Orleans and settled on a 4-5-1 system last season which is unlikely to change. Orleans are notoriously hard to predict though and are an incredibly streaky team. Last season they had periods of either extreme good or bad, there was nothing in between. Only one team had fewer draws than them in the league and USO tended to be ‘all or nothing’ When they are in the middle of a good phase of results they can be hard to stop but I have also known this team to get itself into periods of a real funk. Their home record under Nicolle has never been anything special, but what was noticeable was how much they improved on the road last season. Orleans actually scored more away goals than any other side and were lethal on the break at exploiting gaps. It will be interesting to see if they can continue this sort of theme in 2019/20. The manager is generally quite positive minded and there will be days when the defence looks terribly exposed. I am expecting USO to be very hard to predict again but I would be surprised if they managed to replicate last year’s 8th placed finish. There are better outfits around this season and a slip down to lower midtable looks more probable. On a good day, Orleans will be a real handful for anyone though.

Prediction: 13th - Inconsistent side but safe enough

France Ligue 2 – FC Chambly Season Preview 2019/20


Chambly Defence

Starting in goal for the newly promoted outfit will be Simon Pontdeme. He does have a little bit of Ligue 2 experience as the starter for Niort, but that was over 10 years ago. Maybe he has improved since then but I would imagine he’ll be one of the worst starting custodians in Ligue 2 this season. Backing him up is old dog Xavier Pinoteau who is unlikely to be good enough for Ligue 2 standard. The backline has signed Maxence Derrien from relegated club Red Star. He was ok last season but nothing that great. Derrien’s versatility is a positive factor at least. Youngster Oumar Gonzalez is on loan from Ligue 1 side Metz and he could prove to be their best central defender this year. The majority of this defence hasn’t played any higher than National division level so there will be natural question marks about stepping up to Ligue 2. FCCO certainly have plenty of options and depth defensively, the question is whether or not they will be good enough. At DMID they have signed Malcom Edjouma on loan from Lorient. He is another who was at relegated Red Star last season but actually looked decent at times. Joachim Eickmayer could be a pleasant surprise in this area of the field.

Key players - Oumar Gonzalez (DC) & Thibault Jaques (DC)

Chambly Offense

Top scorer from last season Joris Correa has left the club Orleans and his departure will be a blow. It will be interesting to see where they can find these goals from. Mickael Latour and Florian David (Rodez top scorer last year) come in, whilst Junior Talo is another arrival. There is a chance Talo could do well for Chambly this season because in terms of raw ability this guy has a decent amount. The problem is mentality and Talo has gone through more clubs than Tiger Woods! Second top scorer last season was right winger Lassana Doucoure, but he has been filling in at right back this pre season so maybe won’t be as productive. In terms of playmakers then Guillaume Henry, who did quite well for Bourg-en-Bresse at this level is unfortunately injured until the new year with a serious knee problem. In a similar way to the defence, a lot of players here haven't really played above National Division too much. It will be a case of some swimming and some sinking. There will be pleasant surprises but also a number of flops. On the face of things I am concerned about their offensive force considering the top scorer has left.

Key players - Florian David (ATT) & Lassana Doucoure (RW)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Chambly are a real minnow of a club in a similar way to what Beziers were last season or what Luzenac would’ve been if allowed promotion. They are a town situated just north of Paris and only have about 10,000 inhabitants. Chambly have resided in the National Division for the last 4 years and have now managed to make the surprising step up to Ligue 2 level. They are managed by Bruno Luzi who is an absolute stalwart of the club. He played at Chambly for over 10 years and has been the manager since 2001! Quite simply, he lives and breathes the club and has FC Chambly in his veins. It’s going to be a massive challenge to keep them in the division though. One big problem facing Luzi’s men is the issue of homefield advantage. Their own stadium isn’t fit for purpose so they will be renting out Le Stade Pierre Brisson in Beauvais. This has been a graveyard location for Red Star in recent years when they were forced to play there, but at least Chambly is only 30 minutes away. It is always a massive hinderance being forced to play somewhere other than your own stadium though. Even Beziers last season actually played in their own city but at the rugby ground and it took them ages to finally get a win there. Chambly only lost one home game in the 2018/19 campaign so obviously form in front of their own fans was massive. It looks like it will be a tough campaign for FCCO but I’m sure they will give it their best shot to survive. Much like Beziers last season maybe they will start well but gradually fade. A general lack of quality combined with the homefield issue makes them clear favourites to make a swift return to the national division.

Prediction: 20th - Straight back down

France Ligue 2 – Clermont Season Preview 2019/20


Clermont Defence

Goalkeeper has been a perennial problem for Clemront at this stage of the season. They are in the market for a #1 custodian but they have been spoilt in the last two years by having Paul Bernardoni & Remy Decamps on loan. Mehdi Jeanin will probably start the campaign in between the sticks but I would imagine someone better will be signed before the end of the transfer window - possibly Maxime Dupe from Nantes who has been linked with the club. Jeanin himself is a very good #2 keeper but not good enough to be consistently starting every week. There will be some changes in the Clermont defence because key man Julien Laporte has been sold to Lorient for over £1m. Right back Alpha Sissoko has also moved - to Ligue 1 side St Etienne, but at least an abundance of new signings at the back should help them out. Clermont have mostly raided the Ligue 1 cupboard of players deemed surplus to requirements at bigger clubs. Driss Trichard & Till Cissokho could prove to be useful in that respect. The good news for Clermont is that 3 of their regular 4 ‘main’ starters at the back from last season are all retained. Vital N’Simba, Florent Ogier and Jerome Phojo have a good connection with each other. Replacing Laoprte is Cedric Hountondji, who at this level should be a very good signing with plenty of experience at Rennes and GFCA. This is a backline very good technically and physical in terms of pace. It sometimes lacks good old fashioned muscle and mental mistakes can cost them. Clermont don’t have the most physical of defensive midfielders either but Lorenzo Rajot is coming back after an ACL injury which will help their cause, whilst Yoann Magnin is a youngster to watch out for.

Key players - Cedric Hountondji (DC), Florent Ogier (DC)

Clermont Offense

Florian Aye was a great signing last season and he scored 18 goals, which was over 40% of their tally! It is worth noting however that apart from a hat trick against rock bottom side Red Star, his form tailed off after January. I think they have done well to get £2m for his services from Italian side Brescia. Nevertheless, there are clearly some big boots to fill and the Auvergne outfit will hope that Austrian Adrian Grbic can be that man. He joins from Altach where his goalscoring record wasn’t great last season, but he has proved in the past he can deliver. Grbic could be a force at Ligue 2 level, especially with his strong physique. Unfortunately, Clermont also lost their top assist provider Franck Honorat who goes back to St Etienne following a loan. They have signed two other new attackers, David Gomis from GFCA, but he’s just an average sort of player who doesn’t score enough goals or create enough assists. Winger Jim Alluvinah comes in from the lower leagues, but there is some talk he could be a decent addition with plenty of pace and skill. Another winger signed is Mario Gonzalez from Villareal, who could be hit or miss. One area Clermont are fairly strong is creative midfield. The likes of Johan Gastien, Jonathan Igelesias, & Julien Berthomier all represent fine options in this area of the park. Unfortunately, it looks like the talented Mathias Pereira Lage is on his way out of the club and he could be difficult to replace. Certainly another good striker option is needed in my opinion. There will be some goals in this Clermont team but replacing Aye, Honorat and in all likelihood Pereira Lage is obviously a big task.

Key players - Johan Gastien (CM), Jonathan Iglesias (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Every single year there is a theme with Clermont about losing their best players. This happens perennially and it’s no different this summer. However, they always seem to replace their key losses really well and are of course expertly coached by Pascal Gastien. He is a possession based passing manager and I can guarantee you that Clermont will be one of the best sides to watch on the eye as a neutral. There were times last season when they played some sublime stuff and really underachieved in terms of expected goals and final finishing place. The Auvergne outfit just couldn't convert enough of their dangerous opportunities and chances which was a real shame. Heading into February 2019 they had only lost 4 games, but tailed off badly only winning twice from that point onwards! A combination of really bad luck, injuries and suspensions hit the side. There were 2-3 games that they absolutely dominated yet failed to win and eventually this seemed to break them down. Injuries and absences are also a seemingly common theme for Clermont every year. The squad is always quite small here and they lack quality depth. It seems that every season without fail they get at least 2-3 bad long term injuries that hits them really hard. If they could go injury free for once then this team could be a dark horse to even challenge for the top five places. But realistically a midtable finish is to be expected following some key offseason departures. Pascal Gastien will ensure they remain very competitive and good to watch. On a good day Clermont will be capable of outplaying and beating anyone.

Prediction: 12th - Midtable again

France Ligue 2 – Paris FC Season Preview 2019/20


Paris FC Defence

PFC had the best defensive record in Ligue 2 last season but they have lost some key pieces in this area of the field without adequately replacing them yet. Let’s start in goal where they do at least retain Vincent De Marconnay. The ageing shotstopper is now 36 but actually seems to be getting better with age and was one of the standout keepers in the division last season. Whether he can keep performing like this anymore remains to be seen but they should get a solid campaign out of him at least. The backline has lost three wide defenders in Vincent Rufli, Romain Perruad & Souleymane Karamoko. Of these three, Perraud is the biggest loss and he will now try his luck in Ligue 1 with Brest. The problem is that Paris FC have left it late to replace these guys. Tunisian Ali Abdi (LB) is confirmed just a few days before the first round but for the most part they are light at the left and right back department. I am sure it’s something to be addressed before the end of the transfer window, but for now it’s not ideal. PFC at least should have a strong central defensive partnership of Ousmane Kante & Samuel Yohou. Those two were rock solid last year but they don’t have much else in terms of backup. Paris FC have signed Serbian Strahinja Tanasijevic on loan from Chievo Verona but he is rather unknown. Defensive midfield has been weakened by the departures of Ogou Akichi & Romingue Kouame. Cyril Mandouki remains and he will be a key figure for them here but once again a lack of reinforcements is a worry. Until the Parisien outfit bolster the backline and DMID areas with more quality I struggle to see how they will be as strong in this area of the field.

Key players - Ousmane Kante (DC) & Cyril Mandouki (DM)

Paris FC Offense

The clear weak part for this team during the 2018/19 season was a lack of goals. Just 36 were netted which was comfortably the worst effort of anyone who finished in the top ten. Leading the line for them was Silas Wamangituka, a 20 year old who unexpectedly burst onto the scene. He is big and powerful but also pretty good technically. The end result was 11 goals from 25 starts which was a pretty good effort. It looks like Silas will be moving on this summer at some stage because there is plenty of interest in him. Lack of goals last year was mostly due to the style of the team and the approach of the manager. On paper, PFC actually have some decent attacking options, especially after signing some good new additions. Jonathan Pitroipa, Lalaina Nomenjanahary & Julien Lopez offer some proven experience and good technique to the squad. I really like the signing of ex Niort and Sochaux man Florian Martin. The playmaker was enjoying an extremely good 2017/18 campaign with Sochaux until a bad ACL cut short his campaign. Martin hasn’t played a competitive match for nearly 18 months but if he has recovered fully then should be a fine asset. Romain Armand is a new addition from GFC Ajaccio who can be useful, whilst another striker Oussama Abdeljelil from relegated side Red Star was actually one of their few shining lights. Paris FC certainly have some decent quality options and depth in the final third, but will the negative mentality of the coach restrict their potential?

Key players - Florian Martin (AM), & Lalaina Nomenjanahary (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Mecha Bazdarevic remains in charge and he must be credited for guiding them to 4th place last season. This built on what was a very solid 8th position the previous campaign. Paris FC lost out in the first playoff match against Lens and now they need to try and work out how to make the next step which would be promotion to Ligue 1. PFC are an ambitious club who ultimately have their eyes on the top flight but I personally think their window of opportunity has slipped, for now at least. The key to their success last season was an extremely solid defence and also keeping possession really well. The coach is known for being pretty negative and tactically astute. They won’t usually take many risks and to be quite brutally honest, Paris FC matches are best avoided because there is a high risk of VERY boring matches! My concern for them this year is that the core of their defensive strength has left the club without adequate replacements yet. On paper Paris actually look better offensively but I am worried the coach won’t get the best out of these players due to a defensive style. If he is willing to change and be slightly more positive then they could be a pleasant surprise going forward. I personally think Paris FC will regress to midtable this year, or even an outside chance of going lower than that. I said the exact same in my season preview a year ago and they totally proved me wrong. But logically to me it just doesn't look like they have the weapons compared to some of the top teams in the division, so overall I don’t expect this side to challenge in the top six this time around.

Prediction: 11th - Drop down to midtable