Number one goalkeeper Arthur Demas has left the club and I think this is quite a blow. Desmas actually impressed me last season by making a string of good saves and he definitely earned them a few points on his own. Coming in as a replacement is Theo Guivarch from Guingamp who will now be a mainstream starter at this level for the first time in his life. Lionel M’Pasi remains as the backup although maybe both of these keepers will compete for the gloves this season. Guivarch is ok but he is definitely a downgrade on what Desmas was. The defence is pretty much unchanged and I would expect Rodez to line up with 3 central defenders in either a 3-4-3 or 5-3-2 type system. In Roche, Bardy, Dieng and Chougrani they have a solid, if not spectacular set of centre back options. Rodez have a very good right wing back in the form of Valentin Henry and look to have signed well by adding Johann Obiang on the left hand side. It wasn’t so long ago that Obiang was playing Ligue 1 football for Troyes and he should suit the Rodez system perfectly. Defensive midfield isn’t the worst area for Rodez either. They will sometimes just employ a midfield duo who need to be more creative minded. David Douline is probably their best option here but he is only a mediocre talent. Loic Pujol is another alternative who can also play centre back if needed. Remy Boissier was a good signing from Le Mans and he is more of a box to box type midfielder. This defence will have good and bad days and likely lack consistency.
Key players - Valentin Henry (Wing back), Joris Chougrani (DC)
Without doubt, the key man for Rodez last season was striker Ugo Bonnet. He had never played at this level of football before but bagged 11 goals in 28 games which was an excellent return. He is a good finisher and has a knack of getting into some great positions. RAF will hope he can deliver a similar sort of return again this year. Pape Sane isn’t a bad backup option but he isn’t the same player he was 5 years ago when he was scoring goals for fun at Bourg-en-Bresse. Malaly Dembele has been signed from Nancy to provide more competition upfront and out wide. Rodez need more output from some of their creative midfielders and wingers. It is true that a big part of their game is their wing backs getting forward and putting crosses into the box, but players like Ouhafsa, Alexis Alegue and maybe some of the central midfielders such as Aurelien Tertereau need to step up. There always seems to be a lot of rotation in this area of the field for Rodez, as if the manager doesn’t quite know what his best lineup is. Pierre Ruffaut actually led their assist charts last season but rarely seems to ever last the 90 mins or is benched. The key to this Rodez offense is Ugo Bonnet. But if he got injured for a prolonged period, or his goals dried up then there are question marks whether others can hit the back of the net regularly enough.
Key player - Ugo Bonnet (ATT)
Youngster to watch - Alan Keroudan (Winger)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Laurent Peyrelade has now been in charge of the club for 5 years and has achieved two promotions with Rodez. Last season they were 16th when COVID stopped the league. It always felt they were ‘just’ about comfortably clear of the relegation zone all season and picked up results when they needed them. Peyrelade likes to use a 3-4-3 or 5-3-2 system or something which employs a 3 man central defence anyway. Their results were up and down and there was never any real consistency with RAF. Quite literally, they had some good and bad days and I don’t see much changing this season either. I personally found Rodez extremely difficult to predict and I’m expecting something similar in terms of random results and overall finishing position. There is every chance RAF could get sucked into a relegation battle but they should probably just about have enough to hover above general safety. It is a boost they can play all the whole season at their own Stade Paul Lignon. It’s a small ground at an awkward location and the restriction on attendance shouldn’t affect them too much. Overall, a tough team to predict and expect anything.
Prediction:- 16th Lower midtable/relegation battle