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