France Ligue 2 – Le Havre AC Season Preview 2020/21

Le Havre Defence

Mathieu Gorgelin had a solid enough season in between the sticks following his move from Lyon and is a decent starter at this level. Youngster Yahia Fofana will be backing him up and HAC appear to have a satisfactory goalkeeping situation. The defence has been weakened by the loss of right back Barnabas Bese and talented youngster in the middle Loic Bade. They have signed Pierre Gibaud from Grenoble. He is very versatile and experienced, capable of slotting into any position in the backline, although primarily a right back. In Ertugrul Ersoy and Fernand Mayembo Le Havre have a couple of decent centre backs but they could be light in this area if injuries kick in. The likes of Gubaud and Basque will likely fill in should that happen. Left back is an area of strength with both Umut Meras, Ayman Ben Mohammed and Gibaud all capable of playing there. Defensive midfield has been weakened by the departure of hugely talented Pape Gueye who moved to Marseille. Le Havre have signed Nolan Mbemba from Reims and already have the likes of Basque and Lekhal in this sort of area, so will still be competitive though.

Key players - Ertugrul Ersoy (DC), Victor Lekhal (DM)

Le Havre Offense

There is only one place to start and that is the loss of Tino Kadewere. He was sold to Lyon in the January transfer window and then loaned back for the rest of last season and the Zimbabwean scored a mammoth 20 goals in 24 games. When you consider the fact that Le Havre only scored 38 total goals then this is a huge gap to fill. Kadewere also chipped in with four assists and was a total beast, at times totally unplayable for the opposition. Somewhat shockingly, Le Havre haven’t appeared to have replaced him directly. They will be going with Jamal Thiare as their first choice striker and this is a concern. Thiare isn’t that bad but he’s definitely not elite and it would be unfair to expect anywhere close to Kadewere-like numbers from him. Quentin Cornette has been signed from Amiens but he is a player with bad past injuries which worries me. Winger Nabil Alioui looks like a decent signing from Monaco and he could also potentially play upfront. There are also high hopes that attacking midfielder Himad Abdelli could make big strides this season. Top assist provider for HAC last season was veteran playmaker Jean Pascal Fontaine. It feels like he and Alexandre Bonnet have been key players for Le Havre for the last decade but they are still going on strong! Bonnet especially is no spring chicken now at 33 years old but has some good technical qualities. This is an attack force which will be competitive but there’s no way it can offer as much bite without Kadewere, who carried them massively at times.

Key players - Jamal Thiare (ATT), Jean Pascal Fontaine (CM)

Youngsters to watch - Himad Abdelli (AM), Mamadou Fofana (CM)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

Paul Le Guen’s first season at Le Havre probably has to be classed as a success. They were in 6th position when the league ended due to COVID and who knows, maybe they would’ve finished in the playoffs had a full campaign been completed. Le Havre only lost six games and tended to play in good and bad patches. For example, they started the season unbeaten in 8 games but then failed to win any of their next 7. A strong mid season turnaround of 5 wins in 7 games propelled them back into the race before another poor run which also coincided with an injury to Kadewere. Le Guen is an experienced coach who is good tactically and it was refreshing to see him employ two strikers regularly last season. I can’t see him doing that though until they reinforce upfront with better quality. It just feels to me like this team has lost key players from all areas of the field. Gueye and Kadwere will be especially hard, if not impossible to replace. Playing with reduced fans shouldn't affect HAC too much because their average attendance was only 7,000 and Le Stade Oceane hasn’t been much of a fortress for a while anyway. Le Havre will be a decent side but I think a drop down to midtable is logical for this team. They will have their good and bad days and a lack of consistency and possibly lack of goals could be their main achilles heel.

Prediction:- 12th Midtable