Category Archives: Ligue 1 Season Previews 2021/22

France Ligue 1 – Lorient Season Preview 2021/22


Lorient Defence

The 68 goals that Les Merlus conceded was toppled only by Nimes and Dijon last season. That was the main reason I think manager Christophe Pelissier switched to a three man central defence to try and make things more solid. To a degree, it worked and it looks like he will start this season with a similar strategy. The #1 keeper for Lorient will be Paul Nardi. There was a period last year when he got demoted though and I would class him as an inconsistent and almost eccentric keeper at times. Mathieu Dreyer as a backup is ok but I have sensed for a while the GK position isn’t something Lorient are comfortable with. Four of the defenders in this squad are over 30 years old. Jeremy Morel is still going strong at 37 but at some stage will surely slow down. He keeps doing his best Vitorino Hilton impression and Lorient will probably have to manage his minutes a bit this year. Alongside Morel will probably be Julien Laporte and Houboulang Mendes. Lorient need more centre back depth in my opinion if they are going to continue with a 5-3-2 system. They have good options at wingback with Vincent LeGoff and new Brazilian signing Igor Silva lockdown starters. Veteran Jerome Hergault will surely be a backup now for the wide positions. In defensive midfield Lorient will still be relying on Fabien Lemoine who is now 34 years old. Laurent Abergel will partner Lemoine and I just worry about a lack of athleticism in this position. FCL kept just 5 clean sheets last season and I don’t see them racking up that many again this term.

Key players - Jeremy Morel (CB), & Vincent Le Gof (LWB)

Lorient Offense

The recent sale of Yoanne Wissa to Brentford could hurt them somewhat. At least Lorient got a decent fee, nearly £9m for his services. Wissa scored 10 goals last season and also weighed in with 5 assists. Nigerian international Terrem Mossi was a real hit for them in the previous campaign and top scored with 14 goals. It is obvious he will be a key man for Les Merlus again. The Brittany outfit can either sign someone as a Wissa replacement or hope the likes of Adrian Grbic or Pierre Yves Hamel step up. Pelissier ikes to play two strikers at the moment so I don’t think he will switch to only Moffi upfront. From creative midfield young star Enzo La Fee might make the next step up this season and if Pelissier switches to a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 then Arman Lauriente or Quentin Boisgard on the wings are possibilities. Lorient should score goals but do rely an awful lot on whoever the strike duo is. It does make me think they might spend some money and get a replacement for Wissa, but whilst he is gone you have to consider their offense downgraded.

Key players - Terem Moffi (ATT), & Enzo LeFee (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Lorient survived by just a two point margin last season which was way too close for comfort. Christophe Pelissier remains in charge and is someone who has to be respected for his time here at Lorient or when he was with Amiens. Pelissier always seems to get the absolute most out of his players and has to be classed as a major asset for FCL. I actually think in the hands of a different coach that Lorient would be a prime relegation candidate. There are several older players in the squad who at some stage will need replacing. Maybe the club will address those issues in the transfer market before the end of the window but I sense it will be a battling year. There’s a lot on the shoulders of striker Terem Moffi and if he struggles in front of goal then Lorient will definitely struggle overall. I think it’s fair to say this team will be in the relegation battle, the question is how low down exactly they’ll finish. Similar to a few teams expected to be in the bottom half, it could come down to fine margins like key injuries and a bit of luck here and there. Lorient will be absolutely no mugs by any means but I am not expecting them to have a great year if I’m being honest.

Prediction (to be confirmed) Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 1 – Lille OSC Season Preview 2021/22


Lille Defence

LOSC had the best defensive record in Ligue 1 last season conceding just 23 goals. It was the cornerstone of their title success and will be extremely difficult to repeat. Goalkeeper Mike Maignan has left to AC Milan and so far they have yet to replace him. Lille are set to start the season with Brazilian Leo Jardim in goal with Adam Jaubech as backup. This is a situation that simply has to change because Jardim isn’t good enough to start for a side in the Champions League who are aiming for a European place. The rest of the defence stays in-tact. Dutch international Sven Botman has been heavily linked away from the club and at 21 years old looks to have an impressive future ahead of him. Jose Fonte is now 37 years old and will surely slow down sooner or later. Fonte was a rock last season but Lille can’t expect that sort of productivity out of him again, surely. One the right hand side of defence Zeki Celik is a lockdown starter and on the left Reinaldo Mandava or Domagoj Bradaric will be in competition. Lille have Tiago Djalo as a backup defender and veteran Jeremy Pied is another possibility should they be shorthanded. Benjamin Andre or new midfield signing Amidou Onana could feature at the back if needed as well. Onana, who is a £6m addition from Hamburg bolsters the DMID ranks where Xeka & Benjamin Andre also reside. Ex Benfica wonderkid Renato Sanches will sometimes start and sometimes be benched. It is difficult to see how Lille can possibly be as strong defensively this season. They will surely concede at least a dozen or more goals compared to last year and won’t be able to rely on their typical 1-0 types of scorelines.

Key players - Sven Botman (DC), & Zeki Celik (DR)

Lille Offense

All three of PSG, Monaco and Lyon scored significantly more goals than Lille last season. The 64 they netted was still an impressive number though. Veteran target man Burak Yilmaz led their scoring charts with 16 goals but he is another who is no spring chicken and will surely slow down this year. They can’t rely on him to produce those sort of goal numbers again anyway. Canadian Jonathan David had a dodgy start to life at LOSC but improved a lot in the second half of the season and eventually scored 13 times. I would expect him to kick on even more this year and become the main focal threat. Players like Jonathan Bamba and Jonathan Ikone have been linked away from the club but are both highly valuable assets should they remain. Bamba provided 11 assists last season and is a menace on the wings. Lille could probably do with some better attacking midfielders and central playmakers. They could also do with a bit more depth perhaps because I can’t see them being as fortunate with injuries etc this season. Lille nevertheless carry a decent threat and might even score more goals this year in a slightly more attacking system.

Key players - Jonathan David (ATT), & Jonathan Bamba (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Lille sensationally won the Ligue 1 title last season with just 83 points. It felt like a freak year and it was a massive shock that LOSC took the crown. The closest comparison was probably when Leicester won the Premier League. On paper, they had no right to be beating the likes of PSG & Monaco to top spot but Christophe Galtier did an amazing job with this team losing just 3 matches out of 38. If Lille managed to defend their Ligue 1 title I would be absolutely stunned though. Miracle man Galtier has left to coach Nice and replacing him is Jocelyn Gourvenec, the ex Guingamp and Bordeaux manager. He has finished in the top six positions in Ligue 1 just a solitary time in his whole career, although does have a French Cup success on his resume. Gourvenec hasn’t actually been in management for a couple of years so it was a surprise to see Lille appoint him. I feel like they could have found a better replacement for Galtier, surely? The club had great success using a 4-4-2 formation last season and it looks like Gourvenec isn’t going to mess with things and should keep it pretty similar. This is a tough job taking over from the highs of last season and he should not be classed as a failure if Lille drop down the table somewhat. I think the best that LOSC can achieve is 3rd place, but Lyon and Marseille could easily overtake them as well.

Prediction: 5th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 1 – FC Metz Season Preview 2021/22

Metz Defence

Les Grenats only conceded 48 goals last season which was actually one of the better records in the entire division. I think that is always going to be the case with Frederic Antonetti in charge who is one of the more conservative coaches in Ligue 1. In goal, Alexandre Oukidja is probably an underrated keeper who will earn Metz their fair share of points making some crucial saves. Marc Aurele Caillard will back him up and can do a serviceable job if required. Antonetti will alternate between a back three and a back four. Captain Dylann Bronn and the powerful Kiki Kouyate will be the mainstays and a key part of this defence whatever combination is used. A third centre back option could be Kevin N’Doram or Mamadou Fofana, whilst youngsters Lenny Lacroix & William Mikelbrencis could even get some minutes. Metz have signed the versatile Sofiane Alakouch from Nimes. This looks like a sensible addition because a key part for whatever system Metz use are their fullbacks or wingbacks. Fabien Centonze started 36 games for Les Granats on the right hand side last season and has become a really solid, dependable player. The left wing back spot will be an interesting competition between Mathieu Udol, Thomas Delaine & the aforementioned Alakouch. Metz are loaded with solid defensive type midfielders. Kevin N’Doram was injured for most of last season and could be one to watch. Habib Maiga and young starlet Pape Sarr all make up an excellent engine to the Metz midfield and they have decent depth such as Vincent Pajot & Mamadou Fofana. This will be a tough team to break down sometimes due to the system and personnel.

Key players - Dylan Bronn (DC), & Fabien Centonze (RWB)

Metz Offense

The 44 goals that Metz netted last season wasn’t the highest of tallies but it was competitive enough. Incredibly, despite only making 6 appearances Ibrahima Niane was their joint top scorer with 6 goals. Niane injured his ACL and missed most of the campaign but should be back fit and strong this year to play a key part. The versatile Farid Boulaya also scored 8 goals and weighed in with 8 assists. He will be a key player for Les Grenats but has been linked with a move away from the club so might be gone by September. The rest of the attack is made up of some pacey type of physical players and I expect a lot of rotation in and out of the team depending on the formation used. The likes of Vagner, Lamine Gueye, Opa Nguette & new signing from Nancy Amine Bassi should all be productive at certain moments. Metz will hope that at least one of those players can stand out amongst the crowd this year. I still think as a club they are reeling from the departure of Habib Diallo who left for Strasbourg last Autumn. Maybe Niane can be the one to land them a ton of goals this season if he can stay fit. I don’t expect fireworks from the Metz offense but they will have their moments and also likely be dangerous from set pieces.

Key players - Ibrahima Niane (ATT), & Farid Boulaya (RW/AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Highly experienced Frederic Antonetti remains in charge. The Metz president upheld a gentleman's agreement and let him return as manager following compassionate leave. Vincent Hognon had previously done a good job getting Metz promoted out of Ligue 2 and staying up in their first season back. Les Grenats actually finished up in 10th last year which was a great achievement considering the strength of the squad and the bad injury to Niane which happened early in the year. Antonetti is an old school no-nonsense type manager and quite defensive minded. He will happily try and shithouse his way to some results if needed but the Corsican coach is actually very adaptable depending on the situation. I think Metz will predominantly like up in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1 formation and I personally prefer them in the latter system. The defence will sometimes revert to an effective back five and can be difficult to penetrate. There are some really strong and physical individuals in this team and you know you’ll be in for a bruising encounter when you face Metz. Les Grenats were involved in the 2nd most under 2.5 matches last season and at times it will be tedious watching certain fixtures. Antonetti is all about effectiveness rather than the glamour and show but will be aggressive when needed. I think Metz will possibly drop down from a comfortable midtable spot but will likely be too good to be involved in the relegation battle. It will be a solid rather than spectacular sort of campaign.

Prediction: (to be confirmed) - Lower midtable

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 1 – RC Lens Season Preview 2021/22

Lens Defence

The Lens defence wasn't exactly watertight last season and their 54 goals conceded was the 2nd most of any side in the top ten. In goal, Jean Louis Leca will retain the #1 GK jersey but I don’t think it will be long before Venezuelen international Wuilker Farinez gets the gloves. Leca is 36 in September and the long term option is clearly Farinez, who Lens have just bought from Colombian side Millonarios for £1.35m after being on loan last season. This is a decent goalkeeping unit of experience and youth. At the back, Lens have lost the impressive Loic Bade to Rennes for £15m. The youngster they have signed as a replacement is Christophere Wooh from Nancy but he has only made 13 career starts so comes in a bit raw. Lens will be using a three centre back system and I would imagine £4m from Augsburg Kevin Danso starts regularly. Steven Fortes will likely start a lot this season as well and it seems like Massadio Haidara has been converted to a left centre back in this system, even though he’s not a natural there. Argentinian international Facundo Medina has been on Olympic games duty and should also be one of the main centre backs this year. Lens effectively use wing backs and Jonathan Clauss was a key man for them last season scoring 3 goals and supplying 6 assists. Driver Machado has been signed from Toulouse, either to start at left wing back or to supply competition to Haidara. Youngsters Ismael Boura & Bryan Pereira will be backing up these areas. Lens have some strong defensive midfielders in the form of Cheick Doucoure and Seko Fofana. Veteran Yannick Cahuzac is no spring chicken at the age of 36 but could still offer something for one more season with his aggressiveness. The loss of Loic Bade means they could be more vulnerable at the back this season but this is still a very serviceable defence.

Key players - Cheick Doucoure (DM), & Seko Fofana (CM)

Lens Offense

Lens scored 55 goals last season which wasn’t a bad return. Gael Kakuta was their top scorer with 11 goals and Florian Socota next with 8. Lens have lost loanee Arnaud Kalimuendo back to PSG who was a useful bench option weighing in with both goals and assists. Lens currently use a system which effectively employs an attacking midfielder and two strikers. Their width comes from the wing backs, who often push quite high up the field. They definitely lack a genuine top class striker. Simon Banza and Ignatius Ganogo are ok options to have as either bench players or occasional starters, but lack the real quality that Lens would love to have upfront. Lens also lack midfield playmakers although will hope that return loanee Charles Boli can perhaps add something. Goals and assists were spread around quite evenly last season which in some ways is a positive thing. However, they just need a couple of players to really emerge from this crowd and dominate for them. Lens will certainly offer plenty of an attacking threat and their system allows for an abundance of chances to be created. The addition of Wesley Said from Toulouse doesn’t excite me too much. He is coming off a bad ACL injury and is more of a natural winger than goalscorer anyway. Pacey winger Przemyslaw Frankowski has recently signed from Chigago fire in MLS. I can only presume he will be used as a wing back on the right hand side but he has always been an extremely advanced attacking player whenever I've seen him.

Key players - Gael Kakuta (AM), & Florian Socota (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

It took Lens an incredible five seasons to get out of Ligue 2, and even then they only managed it thanks to the COVID shortened campaign. Franck Haise, who had never previously been employed as a head coach anywhere, was a huge surprise. I totally expected him to fail but he worked wonders to get Lens finishing as high as 7th position and just one point off Europe. Probably for the first time in nearly 15 years since I have been covering French football Lens actually overachieved for once. All too often this club flatters to deceive and there is wasted potential but they finally seem to be heading in the right direction. Franck Haise’s system is a 3-4-2-1 which seemed to catch a number of teams off guard last season and was awkward to face. I think this year the opposition will be more prepared to face Lens and we can probably expect them to move down the table. This isn’t a bad squad, but it’s not that great either. It’s fairly thin on the ground and they lack depth and star quality in places. Expectations might be unnaturally high after last season and they would do incredibly well to match the 7th place of last year in my opinion. They will be a good watch and Lens are an exciting team using this formation. Maybe with a few more additions they could cement themselves as a solid midtable sort of side but I am anticipating a type of ‘second season syndrome’ the question is how far down they drop. There is good balance to the team. Lens don't have that many weak spots but they don't appear to excel in any particular area either.

Prediction: (to be confirmed) Midtable or Lower midtable

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 1 – Rennes Season Preview 2021/22

Rennes Defence

Goalkeeper is perhaps a slight weak spot. Senegalese international Alfred Gomis is the #1 but had some shaky moments last season. Let’s not forget, Rennes planned long term to have Edouard Mendy in between the sticks but Chelsea changed those plans by acquiring him. Backing up Gomis is Romain Salin, who actually played 15 matches last season in Ligue 1. That is at least a dozen too many for my liking. He is a veteran backup, good for emergencies and as a squad player but nothing more. Rennes maybe need to look at bringing in another keeper for competition. Rennes have lost the experience of Damien Da Silva but replaced him with hot young prospect Loic Bade from Lens. He hasn’t come cheap, costing up to £15m but looks a fine talent. Alongside him, Nayef Aguard is an indisputable starter at centre back with his powering physique capable of dominating aerially. Rennes probably lack centre back depth to be honest but are loaded in the fullback positions. Hamari Traore is a top class player on the right hand side and the addition of Birger Melling from Nimes bolsters them on the left. Their own prospect Adrien Truffert , who is only 19 years old will be in competition for this position. My guess is they will both rotate in and out of the team or maybe even play together with one featuring higher up the field. Youngsters Warmed Omari, Lorenz Assignon and Brandon Soppy might get minutes at some stage. The shining star at DMID is of course Eduardo Camavinga. The much coveted young starlet is a lockdown starter in deeper midfield and Rennes look set to keep him for another season. But his contract expires next summer, so who knows the future. 17 year old Lesley Ugochukwa is one to watch as an emerging talent in this position as well. Steven Nzonzi was a main starter for Rennes at DMID last season but has gone back to Roma after a loan spell. His presence and more experience could be missed.

Key players - Hamari Traore (DR), & Eduardo Camavinga (DM)

Rennes Offense

The Brittany outfit only scored 52 goals last season and this is something they will want to improve on in order to climb up the table. In my opinion, they lack of a genuine top class #9 type striker. Serhou Guirassy led their scoring charts last season with 10 goals and Rennes will hope that an injury free season can make him step up and become the man to net at least 15-20 times. However, he often picks up niggles and lacks consistency. Rennes have signed Ghanaian young star Kamaldeen Sulemana from Danish club Nordsjaelland. There are high hopes for this player and together with Belgian ace Jeremy Doku Rennes should wreak havoc down the wings with incredible pace. Let’s not forget the likes of Martin Terrier, Flavien Tait or dependable Benjamin Bourigeaud. The midfield playmaker only scored 6 times last season and bagged just 5 assists. He will want more this year. Terrier scored 9 times and weighed in with 7 assists from just 30 starts. There are youngsters to keep an eye on in the form of Matthis Abline, Loum Tchaouna & Andy Diouf. Rennes should certainly score more goals this season but I still feel their true potential won’t be reached until an elite striker is signed.

Key players - Jeremy Doku (winger) & Serhou Guirassy (ATT)

 

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Rennes haven’t been outside of the top ten in any of the last seven seasons. They are perennial European challengers and even finished as high as 3rd in the COVID stopped 19/20 season. The problem Rennes have is they are a big selling club and will never reach the next level until they can shake off that tag. Just when it looks like they have a really good looking squad key talents are sold, albeit often at considerable prices. Look at last year when Raphinha & Mendy were snatched up by EPL sides late in the window. The same will soon happen with Camavinga & Doku but at least they are a constant conveyor belt of talent. Bruno Genesio is the man in charge and he took over from Julian Stephan with 11 games to go last season. Genesio has never finished lower than 4th in club management whether it was with Lyon in Ligue 1 or Beijing Guoan in China. Genesio was for many years a big part of the Lyon youth team and scouting systems so is a perfect option for Rennes considering their squad is always full of top young talent. I would expect Genesio to switch between 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 systems this season. He has occasionally played with three at the back but Rennes don’t really have the personnel for that. I would certainly expect the club to compete for the top six places again. But the lack of a couple of big weapons coupled with the fact we know they will sell or lose someone big at some stage goes against them.

Prediction: (to be confirmed) European Challengers

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

 

France Ligue 1 – PSG Season Preview 2021/22


PSG Defence

The signing of Gianluigi Donnarumma on a free is an unbelievable piece of business. He will probably become the best goalkeeper in the entire world in the decade to come and is the stand out in his generation. He initially will have to fight for the gloves though because Keylor Navas is the supposed #1 choice right now. Let’s not pull any punches. Donnarumma will be the first choice before the end of the season, he is that good. The Capital club have more than a dozen goalkeepers on the books so loads of backup options are available. The centre back pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe has been very solid in recent years but PSG couldn’t resist acquiring Sergio Ramos on a free from Real Madrid. He’s now 35 years old but brings with him a winners mentality and a wealth of experience. I would expect those three star centre backs to rotate in and out of the side with Thilo Kehrer Abdou Diallo and youngster to watch out for Timothee Pembele also given minutes at various different times. PSG have spent £54m on Moroccan right back Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan and will be the obvious starter in that position. Left back is slightly more murky but I would imagine once Juan Bernat has recovered from a long term injury he will be first choicet. The likes of Kurzawa, Dagba and Kehrer offer strong depth for those positions. Les Parisians have about half a dozen DMID players with Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera and Idrissa Guye standing out. It’s a star studded defensive line up and they won’t be expected to concede many chances or goals this year.

Key players - Sergio Ramos (CB), & Marquinhos (CB)

PSG Offense

Where on earth do you start here? PSG have a glutton of enviable attackers at their disposal. The key is for the manager to get the right players on the pitch and the right time in the best roles. Neymar actually only started 15 Ligue 1 games last season which was a really low amount due to injuries, COVID and other reasons. Simply with him being on the field for more matches will automatically improve their offense. Kylian Mbappe top scored with 27 goals but even he only featured in 31 of the 38 fixtures. Angel Di Maria was PSG’s leading assist provider in the league with 11 but was another player who missed a lot of matches. Other striker options for PSG include Mauro Icardi and return loanee Arnaud Kalimuendo, who impressed on loan at Lens last season. PSG won’t lack for playmakers or midfield runners into the final third either. Georginio Wijnaldum is a superb free transfer pickup and the midfield engine that is Marco Verratti is one of the best in the league. With PSG you never quite know who is going to arrive or leave before the end of the season, so the likes of Sarabia, Draxler and Rafinha could all be packing their bags, or contributing on the field. It looks like PSG are one of the few clubs in the world who could tailor a deal for Lionel Messi. If you added him to this attack force it would become even more incredible.

Key players - Neymar (LW), & Kylian Mbappe (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

PSG obviously have the best squad in Ligue 1 and I have to give them five stars in every single area. If matches were won on paper then you would definitely give them the Ligue 1 title now. Let's be honest, there’s a very high chance that they will regain their crown after losing out to Lille last season. Several things went wrong for PSG in the previous campaign, not least injuries and COVID related matters. They sacked head coach Thomas Tuchel halfway through the season, only to then go and see him win the Champions League with Chelsea - the one competition that PSG are obsessed about winning themselves! Possible reasons why PSG might not win the domestic title are once again key injuries affecting them, concentrating on the Champions League or just sheer complacency. It must get boring at times for some of their star players who know they are miles above anyone else when they play to their best. Do Mbappe and Neymar really fancy the job on a cold dark night away to Metz or Strasbourg? The only team capable of beating PSG is themselves, but as mad as it sounds don’t rule that out! Mauricio Pochettino is in charge but he will always be tagged as a perennial loser unless he grabs the Champions League title in Paris of course. Poch finally won a significant trophy as PSG took the Coupe de France last season but he’s already lost the Trophee des Champions at the start of this year and has a knack of losing key matches throughout his managerial career. PSG should ultimately bulldoze their way to the Ligue 1 title though and should also challenge deep into the Champions League. This isn't a romantic story or anything. They are a complete bunch of mercenary players who are overpaid and get handsome bonuses. The club doesn't care about youth development or bringing their ‘own’ through the system. If it happens then it’s more by accident than design. PSG buy their way to pretty much anything and it is very difficult to root for them. It would be nice to see someone else take the title again but logically the capital club end up first.

Prediction: 1st

France Ligue 1 – Brest Season Preview 2021/22

Brest Defence

The goalkeeping situation is interesting. Gautier Larsonneur looked like the obvious #1 but Brest have now brought in ex AZ custodian Marco Bizot on a free transfer. This is an interesting competition for the gloves and I have to think that the new signing will ultimately start. Supposedly Brest want both keepers to push themselves into better performances. It’s not a bad area for them anyway. Defensively, this is a team that conceded a whopping 66 goals last season and it’s a clear area they need to improve. Losing left back Romain Perraud to Southampton won’t help their cause, even if they did pocket a healthy £11m for his services. Replacing him will be Jere Uronen from Belgian club Genk. I know little about him but he is surely some sort of downgrade. Brest still rely on centre back Brendan Chardonnet and he is a solid no nonsense sort of defender. Deep down though I feel his level is more top end of Ligue 2 and not L1. Jean-Kevin Duverne or Lilian Brassier will probably partner him at the back. Ronan Pierre Gabriel is on loan from Mainz for another season and is a serviceable option at right back, possibly their best defender in all honesty. It would help Brest’s cause if Christophe Herelle could put together an injury free season at but he’s another who now probably has a true Ligue 2 level. Haris Belkebla is an obvious key player for them at DMID but they lack depth in this area. Paul Lasne will start when he returns from his ACL injury but that could be November or even later. I think Brest will continue to concede plenty of goals with no obvious upgrade and the loss of Perraud.

Key players - Ronan Pierre Gabriel (DR), & Haris Belkelba (DM)

Brest Offense

This team scored a total of 50 goals last season which wasn’t a bad return. Scoring was generally shared around equally with five players netting at least half a dozen goals. Steve Mounie rebounded from his Huddersfield nightmare by topping their charts with 9 goals, whilst Irvin Cardona & Franck Honorat both chipped in as well. The very technical Romain Faivre was extremely useful form set pieces and scored 6 times along with 5 assists. Brest will be relying on the same crew of players to perform again this season - minus Gaetan Charbonnier who has moved to Auxerre in Ligue 2. He was mostly only used as a bench option last season anyway. There’s some decent, effective players here who pace and also some trickery. There’s depth with Jeremy Le Douaron & veteran Romain Philippoteaux although Brest perhaps lack midfield playmaker engines. They have yet to add any new players to this area of the field and a really good sort of box to box driving midfielder or playmaker would be a great addition for them. There should be enough goals in the team to keep them competitive, certainly against teams around them in the table anyway. However, this isn’t an offense which will frighten the opposition all that much.

Key players - Steve Mounie (ATT), & Irvin Cardona (RW/LW)

 

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

There is a managerial change with Michel Der Zakarian taking over from Olivier Dall’Oglio. I would say this is a decent coup for Brest and likely an upgrade. Der Zakarian has just led Montpellier to four consecutive top ten finishes in Ligue 1 and has a history of getting the most out of his players. He alone makes me think Brest can ultimately survive because I think with a worse manager in charge they would go down. There are areas of the squad with quality but they also lack depth and ability in some spots as well. Der Zakarian looks like starting the season with a 4-3-3 formation but that could change throughout the year. I do worry for them defensively a bit and also midfield could be a soft area without some more reinforcements. You have to think that Brest will be involved in the relegation battle but may just have enough if Der Zakarian can make them fire. They only just survived last season by a one point margin and had a terrible away record, losing 12 out of 19 games. I think it will be a challenging campaign which might eventually come down to some fine margins like injuries and luck.

Prediction: (to be confirmed) Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 1 – Lyon Season Preview 2021/22


Lyon Defence

OL have a top class #1 keeper in the form of Anthony Lopes who is a proven and reliable quality option in between the sticks. I am worried about the backup options though. 22 year old Malcom Barcola is set to be the understudy but has never made a senior appearance. Julian Pollersbeck should be the #3 choice. If anything happens to Lopes then Lyon could be vulnerable. A key man for OL in the backline will be captain Leo Dubois. The right back is one of the best in the league and is approaching prime age for his position. Lyon have signed left back Henrique from Brazilian club Vasco de Gama and he looks set to start there, or compete with Maxwel Cornet. I have personally never been convinced with Cornet as a left back but it’s possible he could leave the club before the end of the summer anyway. Lyon have some very old central defenders which could be a problem. Marcelo and Jason Denayer were the mainstays of the backline last season, each making 34 and 31 starts respectively. Marcelo is now 34 though so will likely slow down or at least will need his game minutes monitored. Another veteran, Damien Da Silva has signed on a free from Rennes but is another who isn’t getting any younger. Da Silva adds experience to a defence which really needs more youth and pace rather than someone of his ilk. A couple of younger lads who could break through are centre back Sinaly Diomande and right back Mal Gusto. Lyon have a strong midfield with the likes of Bruno Guimaraes, Thiago Mendes plus a few others all capable of playing in DMID roles.

Key players - Anthony Lopes (GK), & Leo Dubois (DR)

Lyon Offense

In order to simplify things for these Ligue 1 team previews I decided to skip the midfield section that I did for Ligue 2 sides. This is the one team where it seems very harsh to exclude such a section though! Lyon have a fantastic set of midfielders, especially attack minded ones and look very formidable in the middle of the park. Lucas Paqueta and Houssem Aouar are studs and the aforementioned Bruno & Thiago Mendes are quality options. Even the likes of Maxence Caqueret have high potential still. Jeff Reine Adelaide is coming off a bad injury but will also add depth to this department when fit. Brazilian Paqueta is the key man who will weigh in with both goals and assists. The big problem for Lyon offensively is that they have lost an irreplaceable player in Memphis Depay. His record for OL has been astronomical and last season he led both their scoring and assist charts with 20 and 12 respectively. Lyon didn’t pocket any money for him leaving to Barcelona and there is no obvious replacement yet. Moussa Dembele returns to the club after a loan and has been named one of the vice captains so maybe he could rebound. Karl Toko Ekambi scored 14 goals last season but will he be as effective without Depay as a decoy? I like Tino Kadewere and young starlet Ryan Cherki at some stage will seriously break out. Aouar will probably leave the club before the end of the transfer window and it would be a major boost if they could keep him. Lyon will of course score goals and have a very competitive offense. But there is no hiding from the fact that Memphis’ departure is a major blow and they are downgraded without him.

Key players - Lucas Paqueta (AM), & Karl Toko Ekambi (ATT, winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

It is the end of the Rudi Garcia era and replacing him is Dutch coach Peter Bosz. Lyon are still searching for their first Ligue 1 crown since the 2007/8 season but have hired a coach who has yet to win a major trophy with any domestic club in a mainstream league. Bosz even failed at Ajax where he finished 2nd in the Eredivisie. This all might come across as negative but at least he brings with him a wreath of footballing experience from many different leagues. Bosz is also known as an attack minded coach so he should bring some entertainment to Lyon. I just feel that they could have probably appointed someone better and I suspect he wasn’t at the top of their list of candidates. It looks like Bosz is going to use a 4-3-3 system here at Lyon. It was his preferred formation in his last job at Bayer Leverkusen and also suits the personnel that Lyon have. This is still a very good team on paper but I just don’t see them challenging PSG or Monaco for the title. I think the best that Lyon will achieve is 3rd place but even then I would probably give an exciting looking Marseille the edge or even Lille. Lyon may address some issues before the end of the transfer window but need to think about a long term star at centre back, and of course replace Memphis. Their top class midfield is a huge weapon but perhaps doubts over the manager and a few other factors has me thinking they will end 4th or 5th.

Prediction: 4th

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France Ligue 1 – Troyes Season Preview 2021/22


Troyes Defence

Gauthier Gallon should start the season as #1 keeper. ESTAC have signed veteran custodian Jessy Moulin from St Etienne and either he or Sebastian Renot will be the backup. Gallon has been steadily improving over the last few years but has never played above Ligue 1 level before so it will be interesting to see how he steps up. I will be generous and give them three stars for the GK section but it’s possible they could be weaker than that. Troyes will be lining up in a back three with wingbacks alongside. Yoann Salmier & Jimmy Giraudon will be key men for them and it looks like Oualid El Hajam will retain his spot in the backline as well. El Hajam was traditionally someone who operated wider but has been converted to a serviceable centre back now. Hopefully Gabriel Mutombo can stay injury free this season otherwise Troyes will lack depth at centre back. Someone will have to play out of position or they will have to use youngsters like Rudy Kohon and Tanguy Zoukrou. There have been some new additions at wing back. Issa Kabore is on loan from Man City whilst ex Liverpool man Yasser Larouci comes in on the left hand side. Youssouf Kone is another signing from Lyon who bolsters this department. Troyes have fairly good DMID options in the form of Florian Tardieu and Rominigue Kouame with Karim Azamoum as an alternative. ESTAC splashed out a club record £5m fee on Brazilian youngster Metinho who can play any sort of central midfield role so could be one to watch. A lot depends how some of these players adapt to Ligue 1 level. There are question marks but in theory Troyes should be competitive enough defensively.

Key players - Yoann Salmier (CB), & Florian Tardieu (DM)

Troyes Offense

I have a few concerns surrounding Troyes offensively. Yoann Touzghar led their scoring charts last season by bagging 16 goals but it has been 7 years since he last featured at Ligue 1 level. He will be 35 in November and no spring chicken. He can still be of use but it would be wrong of ESTAC to expect as much from him this year, maybe he will eventually become a decent bench option. Someone else is going to have to step up in my opinion and that man might be new signing Renuad Ripart. The Nimes legend signed for nearly £3m and brings with him a wealth of recent Ligue 1 goals and experience. However, I personally think Ripart is better suited on the right wing or as a supporting striker, not the main man leading the line. Troyes will predominantly use a 3-5-2 formation and he is projected to start upfront. Troyes have signed another player from a relegated club - Mama Balde. The ex Dijon winger should add some dynamism to this attack force and could be useful. Mykola Kukharevych, a young Ukrainian striker comes in from Rukh Lviv and I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about him. Hyun Jun Suk could still be a striking option - but he has a history of always being injured. If the coach does want to revert to a 4-3-3 and wingers system then the likes of Balde, Ripart and the speedy Levi Lumeka are options. From central midfield Tristan Dingome & Dylan Chambost offer the most creativity but it is worth noting that no Troyes player had more than five assists last season. ESTAC have never been the most free scoring team under Laurent Battles so I have a few doubts as to whether they will offer enough threat sometimes.

Key players - Renaud Ripart (ATT), & Tristan Dingome (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

In his debut head coach role, Laurent Battles has done very well here at Troyes. During the 2019/20 campaign some might argue they would have been promoted were it not for COVID stopping things with them just two points behind second place. Last season Troyes won Ligue 2 with 77 points and were a strong all round outfit. Battles has developed a 3-5-2 system which sometimes reverts to 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3. It is clear he prefers a three centre back system anyway. Sometimes he has been known to revert to a 4-3-3 if needed. This is going to be a good test for Battles because for the first time he won’t be one of the favoured teams in the league and he is going to have to adapt at being the underdog. You have to think that the long term future for Troyes is positive. They are owned by the City Football Group so have strong links worldwide and are well funded. They could benefit as a so called feeder club with the Metinho signing a prime example of that. There is certainly enough here to keep them competitive in Ligue 1, although I don’t see them finishing that highly. I think it’s fair to say most people would expect them to be in some sort of relegation battle and if things went against them, there could even be trouble. The key is how the new signings perform and how well the current squad adapts to Ligue 1 level, also how Laurent Battles himself makes the coaching step up to the top flight. I see Troyes around the 15th sort of position mark which is a very crowded area in Ligue 1 with a lot of similar teams. Their off the field backing and organisation should probably ensure they at least stay up though.

Prediction (to be confirmed) Bottom half / Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 1 – FC Nantes Season Preview 2021/22

Nantes Defence

After a 2 year loan spell at the club Alban Lafont has now been bought by Nantes for nearly £7m. He’s still quite young in goalkeeper terms at 22 years of age and should be a good long term option. He looked vulnerable at times last season though. Backing him up is Denis Petric and new signing Remy Decamps. This is an ok goalkeeping unit without being anything special. Defensively, Nantes have a lot of options but perhaps lack general quality. Veteran Nicolas Pallois will be a key man for them in this area but isn’t getting any younger. It seems Andrei Girotto is going to be switched back to DM this season but is probably better at centre half. Jean Charles Castelletto and youngster Abdoulaye Sylla could partner Pallois with the likes of Dennis Appiah & Charles Traore secondary or tertiary options. Nantes genuinely have about 5 or 6 players who can play right back with Sebastian Corchia likely to be given the start. Appiah & Fabio could be alternatives. Left back is another murky area with perhaps Charles Traore starting there but it could be several others too. Nantes should use a 4-2-3-1 formation with two genuine DMIDs and Girotto along with Pedro Chirivella look like being the main duo. This doesn’t feel particularly formidable and I think Nantes might have a consistency problem defensively this season. They have a habit of chopping and changing too much

Key players - Alban Lafont (GK), & Nicolas Pallois (CB)

Nantes Offense

Les Canaris scored 47 goals last season which was more than several others in the bottom half of the table. Key man for them upfront was Randal Kolo Muani (9 goals and 8 assists respectively) who has recently been on Olympic duty with France. Kolo Muani has been linked with a move away from the club so it’s quite possible Nantes won’t keep him. Should he depart then it leaves them with Renaud Emond as a central striking option, but to be honest he isn’t very good. Out wide Nantes have a lot of fast players who can often be all 'hot air' and no end product. To be fair, Moses Simon didn’t have a bad season last year, chipping in with 6 goals and 5 assists. But he can be inconsistent and miss good opportunities. Ludovic Blas is a key playmaker for Nantes but also scored 10 goals and was their highest scorer last campaign. The loss of Imran Louza to Watford will be felt even if they were well compensated around the £10m mark. Les Canaris will hope that Marcus Coco, youngster Quentin Merlin and the often injured Anthony Limbombe can bring some productivity. New signing Wylan Cyprien will be a great addition if he can find the sort of form he had whilst at OGC Nice. He can play pretty much anywhere centrally or even out wide. There’s plenty of question marks over team selection. Nantes will have a somewhat competitive offense if they can keep Kolo Muani but a lot depends if he leaves and who they would replace him with.

Key players - Ludovic Blas (AM), & Randal Kolo Muani (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Nantes very nearly went down last season. Between round 11 and round 33 they won just two matches and only a freak four game winning streak towards the end of the season enabled them to finish in the relegation playoff spot. Even then, they only survived by virtue of away goals vs Toulouse. It was a nightmare year but credit must be given to coach Antoine Kombouare who took over in early February and averaged 1.50 points per game. Kombouare has been around the block and has a wealth of experience. He never tends to stay that long at any given club but overall he has to be classed as an asset to Nantes in my opinion. This is a manger who isn’t afraid to experiment with tactics and he’s at an age where not much unsettles him. It looks like Les Canaris will be operating in a 4-2-3-1 system this season. I don’t feel the club is in a great place off the field though and there is always an unsettling feeling here. I would anticipate Nantes finish in the bottom half of the table and probably in a relegation battle, but there’s a wide range of positions which seem possible. The ceiling for this team is probably around 10th but if things go badly wrong then they could even finish bottom. Very difficult side to predict but overall my vibe is more pessimistic towards them.

Prediction: (To be confirmed) Bottom half / relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation