Les Lionceaux have a strong keeper lineup in the form of Maxence Prevot, Mehdi Jeannin & AP Long. Prevot is one of the better goalkeepers in the division and Jeannin is about as good as they come for backup. Even Long as 3rd choice can more than hold his own. From a defensive point of view Sochaux lost Maxence Lacroix to Wolfsburg but they did at least get nearly £5m for his services. Adolphe Teikeu is another departure so they have lost a couple of strong players here. There still remains a very physical and tough looking defence though. Christophe Diedhiou is strong, no nonsense and experienced, whilst the addition of Florentin Pogba (brother of Paul) looks to be a shrewd addition. Pape Paye is a fast full back on the right hand side whilst the addition of Abdallah N’Dour from Strasbourg also looks like a smart move. Sochaux have a couple of good youngsters, Boris Moltenis (CB) & Romain Sans (DL) who were mostly injured last season but have started this campaign on the bench. One of their old players, Joseph Lopy has been signed from relegated club Orleans and he should offer a strong presence at defensive midfield. Les Lionceaux also have Ousseynou Thioune as a decent option in this position, whilst youngster Rassoul N’Diaye is one to keep an eye on. Losing two important centre backs is a blow but I think Sochaux will still be a solid defensive unit this season.
Key players - Maxence Prevot (GK), Christophe Diedhiou (DC)
Youngsters to watch - Boris Moltenis (DC), Romain Sans (DL)
There was a lack of goals and cutting edge at times with Sochaux scoring just 28 goals in 28 games. This was better than some teams but unfortunately they’ve lost two of their top scorers from last season, Abdoulaye Sane & Jeremy Livolant. It was hoped that ex Lyon man Yann Kitala would fill the hole upfront but he broke his leg in the first game and will be out of action for several months. This means that Chris Bedia, signed from Troyes will likely lead the line in his absence. Bedia could do a decent job and is a big target man type of striker. Bryan Lasme is another big unit upfront but broke his toe and won’t be available until October. Sochaux lack proven creativity in the final third of the field, although Steve Ambri looks like a decent enough addition from Valenciennes. They need to hope Dijon loanee Bryan Soumare along with the likes of Fabien Ourega & Gaetan Weissbeck all step up and improve this season. Younes Kaabouni is a fine midfield talent who tore his ACL in January and is expected back soon, but it would be understandable if it took him some time to get back to peak sharpness. Les Lionceaux won’t be that bad in front of goal but I expect a similar sort of return to last season where they sometimes lack creativity and end product.
Key players - Fabien Ourega (Winger), Yann Kitala (ATT)
Youngster to watch - Rassoul N'Diaye (CM)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Sochaux have started the season well with two wins out of two. They actually began last season in similar fashion too, but then drifted alarmingly winning just 1 of their last 14 games. Manager Omar Daf is one of their strongest assets and has done an exceptional job here since taking over. Sochaux have been a mess both on and off the field in recent years but under Daf they have stabilized. He plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation which is often fairly no nonsense, relying on strong defensive solidity. They can be a difficult side to break down and a frustration to face. It was a surprise to me that Sochaux had the 7th best home record in the league last season. Their average attendance was over 6,000 and this is a club still reasonably well supported. The new crowd restrictions are unlikely to affect them negatively though. Sochaux still have one of the better youth academies in the area and good talent often develops at this club. Daf will do enough to ensure they are probably a comfortable midtable club. Lack of goals could cost them at some stage and the unlucky injury to Kitala is a blow upfront. But maybe they could be a pleasant surprise and compete in the top half, proving their form doesn’t drop in the second half of the season.
Prediction:- 11th Midtable