France Ligue 2 – AJ Auxerre Season Preview 2020/21

Auxerre Defence

AJA are loaded in the goalkeeping position. Zacharie Boucher has gone but he was only #2 last season anyway. Donovan Leon is a new arrival from Brest and looks set to compete with Mathieu Michel for the gloves. Both would be excellent options as a starter for any Ligue 2 club and waiting in the wings is youngster Sonny Laiton who is rated quite highly. Perhaps one of these keepers, probably Laiton will have to leave or go on loan somewhere but this is a five star goalkeeping lineup. The defence on paper has always looked strong on paper in recent years but hasn’t always delivered. Kenji Ban Boto is perhaps their most talented player in this area of the field. He mostly plays left back but is quite versatile. Auxerre really need CB Samuel Souprayen to lead by example to have a solid season. The likes of Carlens Arcus, Francois Bellugou and Alexandre Coeff have all played centre back too but are probably better off at DMID or even right back. Gautier Lloris has been signed from Nice and could be another option in the middle of defence. Ex PSG youngster Alex Georgen is another new signing and capable of playing left or right back but I would expect him to be backup only. The most recent addition to the AJA backline is Brazilian centre back Jubal.He comes highly rated after playing in the Portuguese leagues in recent years. AJA are also loaded at defensive midfield where Birama Toure is a very good option. The aforementioned Bellugou, Arcus and Coeff can all play here, whilst Aly Ndom isn’t a bad backup option. Auxerre have the tools needed to succeed defensively but they need more consistency, better application and to avoid sloppy mistakes.

Key players - Kenji Van Boto (DL), Birama Toure (DM)

Youngster to watch - Alex Georgen (DR, DL)

Auxerre Offense

The highest goalscorer for AJA last season only bagged 5 goals (Dugimont & Ngando). The campaign was of course cut short with ten games left that sort of statistic simply wasn’t good enough. Head coach Jean Marc Furlan knows the importance of finding a striker upfront who can grab them at least a dozen goals. He will hope that Kevin Fortune can be that guy. The ex Lens and Troyes man has most recently had a spell in the Iranian league of all places but he has a good past record in this division and should be able to hit the back of the net regularly. Auxerre have lost their biggest assist provider in Mikael Barretto but should more than make up for it by signing two quality playmakers Mathias Autret & Gauthier Hein. Autret in particular is a class above most at Ligue 2 level and knows Jean Marc Furlan really well from his time at Brest. Let’s not forget the quality that Auxerre already have at the club. The likes of Hamza Sakhi, Remy Dugimont & Mikael Le Bihan will all hope to contribute. There’s Axel Ngando and youngster to keep an eye on Yanis Begraoui. AJA are well covered in all areas of attack and they have tons of depth. I am fully expecting Auxerre to score plenty of goals this season.

Key players - Hamza Sakhi (Playmaker), Mathias Autret (Winger)

Youngster to watch - Yanis Begraoui (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Auxerre were in 11th place when the league was suspended and it was a very underwhelming first season for Jean Marc Furlan. I said in last year’s season preview that this was his biggest challenge yet because Auxerre are a club that have been stuck in cement for years and seemingly going nowhere. With the squad available at his disposal AJA should've been up there challenging for the playoffs and something always seems to go wrong here. Furlan has a tremendous record getting teams promoted out of this league but let’s not forget it took him a full three seasons to achieve it with Brest and he only just starts his second campaign at Auxerre. On paper they appear to have a top quality squad with seemingly few weaknesses though and you have to think they go close this year. The reduction in fans won’t affect AJA much because their average attendance last season was less than 6,000. Le Stade l’Abbe Deschamps has never been a fortress anyway and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they are better on the road. Furlan usually has great success with his counter attacking systems and adding the likes of Autret and Hein will only aid this. I am FULLY expecting Auxerre to be in the mixer to get promoted and they are a candidate to challenge for the top two. I personally predict them as champions this year.

Prediction:- 1st Automatic promotion challenger