Probably the best aspect for Niort defensively is the goalkeeping lineup. Saturnin Allagbe is a decent custodian who has a knack of making good saves whilst Quentin Braat backing him up is also fairly strong. It’s a good job they have secure keepers because on paper I don’t really like the look of this defence very much. Niort have started off the season using the centre back pairing of Issouf Paro & Bryan Passi. These guys are ok at absolute best and Nirot will have to hope that Ibrahima Conte returns to fitness soon. The ex Lorient man has been out of action for nearly 18 months now after having two surgeries on his knee. You have to think he might not be the same as he once was and there are question marks there. In the fullback spots Darlin Yongwa and Guy Kilama just aren’t good enough in my opinion. Kilama is more of a centre back type and maybe new signing from the lower leagues Joris Moutachy could be a better option at right back. There is a lack of depth in defence as well and Niort will be relying on youngsters should injuries occur. Things are more promising at defensive midfield where Olivier Kemen is a strong option. Dylan Louiserre is a nice deep lying playmaker in this position too, whilst the likes of Brahim Konate & Brahima Doukansy are other possibilities here. There is enough physicality in defensive areas that will keep Niort competitive but from a technical point of view they definitely lack.
Key players - Saturnin Allagbe (GK), Olivier Kemen (DM)
Youngster to watch - Brahima Doukansy (DM)
Ibrahima Sissoko scored 15 goals last season which was exactly half of their overall tally. His performances really surprised me because Sissoko had never previously shown any signs of delivering that sort of output, especially in such a poor team. The bad news for Niort is that that sort of goalscoring often attracts attention and there’s a good chance he could leave before the end of the transfer window. Sissoko has missed the first two matches of the season due to injury anyway and Niort have looked fairly toothless without him. New signing Pape Ibnou Ba has been starting upfront in his absence and actually scored on debut vs Guingamp. Maybe he could be a pleasant surprise but he’s not proven at this level. The one other ray of light for Niort in attack is winger Goduine Koyalipou. He’s talented and could maybe break through this year. Niort don’t have too much else to shout about in the final third of the field though. To put things bluntly, the likes of David Djigla, Autchanga & Baroan aren’t good enough for Ligue 2 standard and Niort lack depth in the final third. All could hinge on whether Sissoko and Koyalipou stay at the club and if they stay fit. Take them out of the side and this attack force is toothless.
Key players - Ibrahim Sissoko (ATT), Goduine Koyalipou (Winger)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Niort haven’t been very stable in terms of managers the last couple of seasons. It looks like they might have finally found someone of sufficient calibre though in Sebastian Desabre. Probably best known for his spell in charge of the Uganda National team which reached the last 16 of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, most of his club management has also taken place in that continent. A step into French football makes a change and it will be interesting to see how he does. It’s too early to judge Desabre but Niort have picked up 4 points from their first two games which is a solid start. I don’t think this is a great squad of players though and they will surely be involved in a relegation scrap. Les Chamois were lucky to stay up last season and only survived on goal difference when the league was scrapped due to COVID. They were hanging on for dear life and in my opinion they would’ve finished in the bottom two places if a full 38 game campaign had been completed. There is a sprinkling of class in the squad like Kemen, Sissoko & Koyalipou but they are definitely lacking depth and quality. The crowd restrictions are unlikely to affect them too negatively but it is worth noting that Niort had the second worst away record in the league last season. The new manager is an interesting enigma which might give them more of a chance but I struggle to see them anything better than involved a relegation battle.
Prediction:- 18th Relegation battle