France Ligue 2 – Clermont Season Preview 2020/21

Clermont Defence

Starting keeper Maxime Dupe was on loan from Nantes last season but has left and will now be playing for Toulouse. This is a big blow because Dupe was one of the best keepers in Ligue 2 last season. Replacing him will be Arthur Desmas who arrives from Rodez. I was quite impressed with him in the previous campaign and should do a good enough job, but he’s not at Dupe’s level. Backing up Desmas will be Ouparine Djoco and newly signed youngster from Lyon Lucas Margueron. The defence itself is totally unchanged from last season and we should see a back four of N’Simba, Hountondji, Ogier and Zedadka. This looks to be a pretty good unit in the prime of their careers. Hountondji is especially a powerful beast, very tall and quite a unit. House Albert isn’t the worst backup centre back and when Jerome Phojo is back fit again following a bad illness then they will have good cover at fullback. A couple of new signings in the form of Alidu Seidu (From the Ivory Coast) and left back Julien Boyer from National Division club Quevilly-Rouen have further bolstered their ranks. Clermont lack in the defensive midfield department - or at least the traditional type anyway. They lack a bit of bite and physicality in this area of the field. Guys like Yoann Magnin, Johan Gastien and Lorenzo Rajot are more what you’d call playmakers from this area of the field.

Key players - Cedric Hountondji (DC), Vital N'Simba (DL)

Youngster to watch - Alidu Seidu (DC)

Clermont Offense

The big question is how on earth they replace 17 goal striker Adrian Grbic. He has been sold to Lorient for a fee of around 9 million Euros which was a much needed cash boost. It looks like Clermont are hanging their hopes on Jordan Tell to fill his boots. He has signed on a permanent deal from Rennes having previously been loaned in loads of places. There is no way Jordan Tell can be relied upon to get even half of Grbic’s goals and I would strongly suspect they bring in someone else before the end of the transfer window. Tell has also just got injured in a friendly match and won't play again until after the October international break.. Mohamed Bayo has returned following a successful loan spell at National side Dunkerque where he scored a dozen goals. Assists were generally spread around the team with the likes of Jason Berhomier, N’Simba, and Iglesias chipping in. If Clermont are going to employ their usual 4-2-3-1 formation then more wingers are needed though. I’m not entirely sure David Gomis and Jim Allevinah are elite enough and there is definitely a lack of depth. It goes without saying that Clermont are going to lack goals this year unless some more reinforcements are brought in. Replacing someone as good as Grbic simply doesn’t happen overnight.

Key players - Johan Gastien (CM), David Gomis (winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Clermont have one of the best coaches in Ligue 2 with Pascal Gastien at the helm. He is very experienced, tactically great and can also develop players really well. I would love to see Gastien in charge of a bigger club with a bunch of talented players at his disposal. Instead, it always feels like he has to work wonders with a low to modest budget, small sort of squad and at a club which always sells its best players. Last season they were in 5th position and in great form before COVID stopped proceedings in the league. Maybe that was the season they might have gone up if the campaign been completed. I am not foolish enough to underestimate Clermont with Gastien in charge. Last season I predicted them 12th and didn’t rate their attack force. Grbic proved to be a brilliant signing but losing a man who scored nearly half their goals is just a massive hammer blow in my opinion. I just don’t see enough goals in the team and there is probably a lack of overall depth too, something I seem to mention every year in this Clermont season preview. This is not a team you can ever take lightly though. On their day, Clermont can probably beat anyone and do not underestimate how good Gastien is as a manager. He could definitely get then challenging towards the playoffs and overachieve. The crowd restrictions won’t affect Clermont because their average attendance is only just over 3,000. On paper a more logical position would be around midtable but I suspect the manager will drag them into a top half finish. It's possible they could strengthen before the end of the transfer window or in January as well.

Prediction :- 8th Top half finish