France Ligue 2 – Pau FC Season Preview 2020/21

Pau Defence

The goalkeeping situation doesn’t look that great. Last season they had Alexis Guendouz on loan from St Etienne but he doesn’t return this year. Instead, Pau have opted to sign ex Nantes man Alexandre Olliero. He has started matches at this level before when on loan at Niort and probably won’t be that bad but he isn’t what you’d call top class or anything close to that. Pau have reinforced at the back by adding four new players. Out wide veteran Anthony Scaramozzino adds some experience but at the age of 35 I have to question whether this is his sort of level anymore. Young Zahary has been signed on a permanent deal from Caen after he was on loan here from January onwards. Scotty Sadzoutte is on loan from Lille and I know little about this left back who can also play on the wings. Erwin Koffi was a failed product at Lorient but maybe at Ligue 2 level he can be useful. He’s a versatile player who can slot anyone on the right hand side or even midfield. Pau will hope that Mamadou Kamissoko and Damon Bansais can be good enough at this level. A key man for the newly promoted club will be Antoine Batisse who can play defensive midfield or centre back. Batisse, who is an ex Niort player is the captain here but the last time he featured in Ligue 2 he wasn’t really up to the standard. Pau won’t be disgraced but they look fairly weak defensively and there could be a few holes for the opposition to exploit.

Key players - Antoine Batisse (DM), Mamadou Kamissoko (DC)

Pau Offense

They were the highest scoring team in the National Division last season but have lost two key pieces from the offense. Both Lamine Gueye and Cheikh Tidiane Sabaly combined for a whopping 24 goals and 13 assists between them. Both now reside at Ligue 1 club Metz and leave two massive holes to fill. Pau have signed Romain Armand, a proven goalscorer at this level but he is a different type of target man striker. Nevertheless, if given the service he should find the back of the net a few times. Quite what else they have in the final third is questionable though. Ebenezer Assifuah is a new signing from Le Havre and he can be hit or miss. Playmaker Romain Bayard is an interesting player with perhaps something still to give at this level after a couple of seasons down in the National Division. Steeve Beusnard looked alright at times with Beziers in Ligue 2 but is out injured until the new year with ACL damage. To be honest, they look a bit lightweight in attack and probably lack depth.

Key players - Romain Armand (ATT), Romain Bayard (Playmaker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Similar to fellow promoted club Dunkerque, Pau also have a new manager to lead them into Ligue 2. Bruno Irles left the club after effectively resigning. Replacing him is Didier Tholot, a man who has plenty of experience at this level but also has a history of failings. The last time Tholot was seen in action was at Nancy where he was given the boot after a torrid start to the 2018/19 campaign. Tholot is a good honest guy who will generally give things a good go. He won’t go down without a fight and generally likes to be positive if and when he can. Tholot however lacks tactical nous and has a knack of making poor decisions. Pau have a small budget, have lost two of their big attacking weapons and overall on paper probably have the worst squad in the league. They are going to be heavily involved in the relegation and from what I’ve seen in the first two matches it could be quite a struggle. They got blasted apart in the first match vs Valenciennes and knowing Tholot’s management style they will be far too open at times. Pau’s own Stadium isn’t fit for Ligue 2 purpose yet, so until January at least they will be playing their games at Le Stade du Hameau which is the rugby ground in the city. This ground has a capacity of nearly 20,000 and local authorities have been relaxed about letting in up to 8,000 for their next home game. It is interesting to see another team from the South West region of France have a team in Ligue 2. The city itself, which seems to get a stage of Le Tour de France every year is known as the gateway to the Pyrenees and maybe there will be plenty of support from the locals to see their team at this level of football. It is however going to be a struggling campaign and I would be personally surprised if they avoided relegation. They are my tip to finish bottom of the table.

Prediction:- 20th  Bottom of the table