Category Archives: Ligue 2 Season Previews 2018/19

France Ligue 2 – Red Star Season Preview 2018/19

Red Star defence

Goalkeeper was a problematic position for Red Star last season but they look to have rectified it by signing Nicolas Douchez. The ex Lens man was embroiled in all sorts of controversy last season, mostly off the field matters. In a drunken night of rage he allegedly beat up his girlfriend and in turn wasn’t seen on the field for the rest of the year. Douchez is now 38, but still might have another couple of years in him at this level. His experience should be invaluable anyway. Paul Charruau and Sebastian Renot back him up and neither is particularly good. The defence has been bolstered by adding left back Edson Seidou from Orleans. He’s nothing special but can do an ok job. Probably the two key players in the backline for Red Star will be Mathieu Fontaine and Formose Mendy. Maxence Derrien and Matias Ferreira are options as well. There is a sprinkling of quality at the back and a decent physical presence. Red Star shouldn’t be terrible defensively but there will be plenty of days when they get picked apart as well. Probably the best technical player in the whole squad is Samba Diakite. The Malian international who has been capped 9 times by his country was once so highly sought after that in 2012 QPR, who at that time were a Premier League side in England paid over £3m for his services. For some reason his career didn’t just dip, it totally nose-dived during his time at the troubled London club and he now finds himself at Red Star. Diakite could be quality at this level if in the mood. It looks like there is a decent amount of defensive midfielders at the club with Teddy Teuma and Gregoire Lefebvre solid enough options.

Key players - Samba Diakite (DM), Teddy Teuma (DM)

Red Star offense

Nearly a third of Red Star’s 41 goal tally was scored by Abdoulaye Sane, but he’s now left the club to Sochaux. Filling his boots switching in the other direction is Moussa Sao who should do an ok job, but he did regress last season. The other striker options that Red Star have aren’t very good though with the likes of Baradji, Toudic or new signing Donisa hardly making defenders quake in their boots. On a more positive note, a couple of new additions will strengthen the creative midfield aspect for Red Star. Gregory Berthier from Reims and Emmanuel Bourgaud from Amiens step down from Ligue 1 and should be able to improve the offense. Both can play anywhere centrally or out wide. There’s not an awful lot else to write home about though with perhaps Idriss Mhirsi the only other standout player in attack for the Parisian outfit. They have some options but I don’t think they are going to light up the league with their goalscoring and it could be a struggle.

Key players - Moussa Sao (ATT), Gregory Berthier (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Regis Brouard is head coach and so far during his time at Red Star he can’t be criticised The former Clermont and Niort boss has been in charge for once season and led them to the National Division title - an immediate return after relegation from Ligue 2. Brouard has plenty of experience at Ligue 2 level, but he has never been particularly impressive as a manager in my opinion. The best part about him is usually his immaculate dresswear! I tend to find that his teams are far too negative and don't score enough goals. The main priority is always to keep things tight and fans often get too bored. Ultimately, this negativity led to his dismissal at both Clermont and Niort. If something like that happened again I wouldn't be too surprised. On paper, the strongest part of Red Star is in defensive areas so this ties in with the philosophies of the coach. One massive problem the Parisian outfit are going to have to negotiate is home matches. Once again, their own stadium isn't deemed fit enough for Ligue 2 purpose, so they are going to have to travel all the way to Beauvais, which is 70km from Paris. It's effectively like playing at a neutral venue every other week and sure to be a disadvantage. I think Red Star are going to be one of those teams in the relegation battle. Maybe they can survive or reach the playoff match but I suspect it will be a struggling campaign overall.

Prediction: Relegation battle

France Ligue 2 – Grenoble Season Preview 2018/19

Grenoble defence

The goalkeeping situation looks ok and might even turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Brice Maubleu has been with the club for a number of years, even during its darkest times so it's nice to see him given this chance in Ligue 2. He should be the #1 custodian and backed up by Papa Camara and Esteban Salles. All of these guys have experienced Ligue 2 before and if Maubleu is better than expected then this trio is ok for Grenoble. Grenoble made three new signings in defence, Fabien Boyer, Jerome Mombris and Nicolas Tarevel. Unfortunately, Boyer has injured his ACL in a pre season friendly which is a shame because he looked like a good addition to me. Mombris is top quality and will be one of the better fullbacks in the league. The likes of Eric Vandenabeele, Maxime Spano and Harouna Abou Demba are mainstays of the defence that got them promoted last season and should be starting regularly again this year. Neither of them have much experience playing above National Division 3 level so could struggle stepping up. The good news for the backline is that it should be well shielded by Youssouf M’Changama and Ryan Sanusi. Both are new additions and look strong options. M’Changama impressed me in recent seasons at GFCA with his physique at GFCA, whilst Sanusi has plenty of Eredivisie experience in Holland which should serve him well. There are other DMID options in the squad like Deletraz, Elogo and Ibrahima Coulibaly. There will be times when the Grenoble defence is exposed this year but considering they are a newly promoted team then it doesn’t look in bad shape to me.

Key players - Jerome Mombris (DL), Youssouf M’Changama (DM)

Grenoble offense

I think this is the weaker area of Grenoble’s squad. They weren’t the most prolific scorers last year and not a lot will probably change this season either. It was Florian Socota on the right wing who led their line with 8 goals in the previous campaign. Socota, a failed reject at Montpellier looks set to be a key man for Grenoble in 2018/19. The Alpine club actually have plenty of wide players like Malek Chergui, Alharbi El Jadeyaoui and new signing from Georgia Jaba Jigauri. My main concern for Grenoble is a lack of quality strikers. Nicolas Belvito, a failure at Dijon is set to lead the line and he isn’t good enough in my opinion. Belvito only scored five goals at National Division level in nearly 30 appearances! Lakdar Boussaha would probably be a better option, but overall I think Grenoble will rely on goals from wingers more than their actual front men. Perhaps the club can reinforce before the end of the transfer window because the need for a decent quality #9 striker is high. Their best attacking midfielder should be Jessy Benet, ironically another Dijon reject. But I have seen enough of him at this level before to suggest he could be useful.

Key players - Florian Socota (RW), Jessy Benet (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

The man who led Grenoble to promotion, via the playoff match against Bourg-en-Bresse is no longer in charge of the club. Olivier Guegan did an excellent job here and was loved so much by the players that they begged the management to keep hold of him. But various disagreements led to the removal of Guegan and taking over is Philippe Hinschberger. The ex Metz boss has a lot of experience managing in French football, although has endured varied success. His best moment came when he led Metz to a promotion in 2015/16 and managed to keep them in the top flight the following year. However, a nightmare start to the previous campaign saw him get sacked. I have never personally rated Hinschberger that much although I respect what he managed to do at Metz. His teams often concede a lot of goals and I don’t think he’s necessarily a great fit at Grenoble. The strength of this outfit looks more to be in defensive areas and I don’t think they are going to win too many shootouts. As a club, Grenoble have been through a lot of down years following their bankruptcy in 2010. They have a fantastic stadium - Les Stade des Alpes which deserves to see this sort of level of football again. It's great to see them back in Ligue 2 and in many ways they remind me of Strasbourg who suffered something similar. We all know how that turned out with RCS achieving back to back promotions and they now reside in Ligue 1 again. Grenoble look like they could be a midtable sort of team and along with Red Star the best equipped of the promoted teams. Perhaps a lack of goals could cost them ultimately but a lower midtable sort of finish is what I expect.

Prediction - Lower midtable

France Ligue 2 – AS Beziers Season Preview 2018/19

Beziers defence

In goal will be Magno Novaes, a highly experienced keeper who has played numerous matches at both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 level. It looked like his days in this league were over but he gets another bite at the cherry with Beziers. Novaes’ best days are surely behind him, but he should be solid enough. Backup keeper is Vincent Viot who I know nothing about but I can’t imagine he’s anything too great. The backline has lost Kante from last season and added a couple of new players. One of those is Ousmane Sidibe from Paris FC and he should be a really good signing. Sidibe was part of a strong solid defence in Paris last season and brings a wealth of experience and quality to the club. Key players who remain from last year’s promotion campaign are Redah Atassi, Robin Taillan and Ibrahima Savane. None of these players have ever featured higher than National Division 3 level and I can’t claim to know much about them. The step up to this level can be difficult so there’s more chance of them struggling than adapting well. Beziers have made a really good defensive midfield signing in Mehdi Mostefa. He might be 35 years old now but brings a wealth of experience with him to the club. There appears to be a number of DMID type players within the squad, but their lack of appearances anything higher than Div 3 level is very worrying.

Key players - Ousmane Sidibe (DEF), Mehdi Mostefa (DM)

Beziers offense

Goals were shared around a bit last season with Ibrahim Sissoko (8), Aboubakary Kante (6) and Antoine Rabillard (7) leading the charts. None of these numbers are particularly eye catching. Perhaps there is a chance that a couple of these guys, especially Rabillard could develop at this level. He spent a few seasons at Marseille, mostly in their B team but time at such a big club has to be a positive in my opinion. Alexandre Ramalingom is a new signing from the lower leagues and he scored quite a lot of goals last season. But he never did anything whilst at AC Ajaccio which makes me dubious about whether he can step up to the mark here. I’m not entirely sure who will be the main wide options for Beziers, new signing Moustapha Bokoum from the Belgian league could be a candidate. Leading assist maker last season was midfielder Victor Elissalt but they don’t seem to have much else in central attacking midfield. Beziers are reliant on players making the step up to Ligue 2 level and delivering the goods but I’m not sure if this’ll happen.

Key players - Ibrahim Sissoko (ATT), Antoine Rabillard (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Mathieu Chabert is the man in charge and he’s been at the club for over 6 years in total and head coach since January 2016. This will be the first time he's managed higher than National division 3 so the jury is out. Usually, I would be quite skeptical, but a similar situation was Herve Della Maggiore at Bourg-en-Bresse. For many years he was unheard of in lower leagues but defied the odds in Ligue 2 and did a good job overachieving. Maybe Beziers could surprise somewhat, but on paper they definitely have the weakest team in the division. About 80-90% of the squad have never played above National division 3 level which is a massive concern. They will rely on players like Mostefa and Couliably for experience and overall there seem to be too many holes within the squad. Beziers are a pure minnow really. Nobody expected them to go up last season and nobody expects them to stay up this campaign either. But I‘ve seen many so called ‘poor teams on paper’ do well in Ligue 2, or even get promoted in some cases! I’m talking the likes of GFCA, Bourg-en-Bresse, Red Star, Amiens, & Paris FC. There are some other examples too, so there is plenty of hope for Beziers. It would be stupid to underestimate them completely. The logical scenario is that ASB will be heavily involved in the relegation battle though and due to their overall lack of quality on paper avoiding the drop would be a tremendous achievement. One final factor to consider is that Beziers won’t be playing their home matches at their normal stadium. Le Stade de Sauclieres isn’t deemed fit enough for Ligue 2 purposes so instead they’ll be playing at the rugby ground in the same city - Stade de la Mediterranee. For the first 2 or 3 home games of the season they could be forced to play in Montpellier 50 miles down the road before this stadium is ready though.

Prediction - Relegation battle

France Ligue 2 – FC Metz Season Preview 2018/19

Metz defence

Les Grenats have had a weird goalkeeping situation in recent years but everyone has been shown the door, including the erratic Eiki Kawashima who showed his vulnerabilities on the World Cup stage this summer for Japan. Coming in as undisputed no1 is Alexandre Oukidja from local rivals Strasbourg. He was one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 2 a couple of years ago and should do a solid job for them. Paul Delecroix has been signed as a #2 from Lorient. He was once decent but seems to have lost his way at Les Merlus. The backline itself is also going to be much changed. Metz have signed two strong solid Africans at centre back and I expect both John Boye and Stoppila Sunzu to do a fairly good job, even if pace could be an issue at times. Laurent Jans is a new right back from the Belgian league and will do battle with Jonathan Rivierez in this spot. Technically, Ivan Balliu is still on the books but will surely leave before the end of the transfer window. Left back could be a slight issue and it looks like youngster Matthieu Udol should get the starting spot. He has talent and been unlucky with injuries in his career so could this be his break out year? Les Grenats have a bunch of younger backup players who shouldn't be too bad - like Selimovic, Basin and Peugnet. If Sunzu and Boye are as strong as I anticipated then this backline could actually be pretty decent. It also helps their cause that defensive midfield looks to be stocked up fairly well. Three new signings, Maiga, Fofana and Lahssaini along with what is already here like Cohade and Poblete should ensure backbone in midfield, something the new coach Frederic Antonetti is known for.

Key players - Stoppila Sunzu (DC), John Boye (DC)

Metz offense

On the face of things there’s enough here for the Lorraine outfit to be fairly competitive. Striker options include Habib Diallo who returns from a loan spell at Brest and new man Marvin Gakpa from relegated Quevilly-Rouen. Both bagged themselves around ten goals in this division last season so are no mugs. Emmanuel Riviere is still on the books but will almost certainly leave before the end of the transfer window. On the wings Metz have some quality players like Mathieu Dossevi and Opa Nguette who really should be able to thrive in Ligue 2. It is quite possible and indeed likely that Dossevi will leave the club before the end of August though. Creative central midfield isn’t their strongest spot and they will hope that the often injury plagued Farid Boulaya can stay fit this season. If he can, then this player is one to watch. Renaud Cohade is getting on a bit but can still be a creative force from midfield if required. Like most of the rest of their squad, Metz have a few decent younger backup options in attack such as Ibrahima Niane, Gauthier Hein and newly signed Cheikh Sabaly. If the coach allows this team to express itself (which isn't always a guarantee) then Metz have plenty of goal threat in them.

Key players - Mathieu Dossevi (RW), Marvin Gakpa (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Frederic Hantz did his best to try and save Metz last season but ultimately losing 14 of their first 16 games proved too much of a deficit to make up. Les Grenats ended up with a respectable points tally of 26 and likely would have survived if Hantz had been in charge all season. He’s now gone though and in charge will be Frederic Antonetti, who makes a return to the sidelines after a year and a half out of the game. He is often a controversial and outspoken coach but has bags of experience and in all truth is probably quite a coup for the club. It’s been a while since he managed in Ligue 2 so it will be interesting to see how the ex Nice and Lille man adapts. But as a whole result wise, I consider him to be a strong positive for the club. His style is mostly defensive and Antonetti teams as a general rule don’t concede goals easily. From an offensive point of view his negative tactics can sometimes limit things and he tends to place a lot of an emphasis on discipline, tactics and keeping things tight. He will be more than happy to win numerous matches 1-0 if needed but Metz fans won’t complain if he can deliver them promotion. In Ligue 1 last season the club lost a massive 12 home games out of 18, but I would expect Le Stade Saint Symphorien to be more of a fortress at this level of football. General expectations from fans and pundits are that Metz should be a serious promotion contender. I would agree with that, but it’s not always easy for teams to bounce back from relegation at the first attempt. For example it took Reims a couple of campaigns to manage it and an extra year to rebuild is sometimes necessary - especially now that only two teams automatically go up. One senses that with Antonetti on board this place will become a bit of a circus at times with loads of media attention and potential distractions. Maybe this will cost them at some stage but Les Grenats should be in the mixer to go up.

Prediction - Promotion challenge

France Ligue 2 – AJ Auxerre Season Preview 2018/19

Auxerre defence

Zacharie Boucher is a top quality custodian for AJA. I don’t think he’s been at his best in the last year or two, but there was a time when I had him earmarked for a Ligue 1 berth somewhere, and that still might happen in the future. With the team hopefully performing better it will put less pressure on him and I could see him having a stellar year making some crucial saves at times. Backing him up is Quentin Westberg, vastly experienced and just what you want from a no2 custodian - he is fine to fill in for a few games if needed. At the back, Auxerre have sold talented youngster Evan Ndicka for Frankfurt for a fee reported between 1 and 5 million Euros. He won't actually be much of a loss though because he didn’t start many fixtures for the club. AJA have some solid defenders like Abdoul Ba, Carlens Acus, Benjaloud Youssef and new signing Francois Bellugou. Old veteran Mickael Tacalfred is still going strong at 37 years old too and is a proper warrior. The one weak spot at the back is on the left hand side - a position they will likely reinforce certainly before the end of the transfer window. Shielding the backline Auxerre have some excellent defensive midfield options such as Jordan Adeoti, Birama Toure and Brahim Konate. There is plenty of depth in the squad as well. Providing they strengthen the one weak area at left back Auxerre will be one of the best defensively equipped teams in the league.

Key players - Zacharie Boucher (GK), Jordan Adeoti (DM)

Auxerre offense

For me, the really big strength for Auxerre in this area is out wide. In Romain Philippoteaux they have one of the best creative players in the whole league and when in good form he can rip apart this division. Mickael Barreto is another excellent wide option, although can be inconsistent and develop injury problems. Hamza Sakhi is versatile and can play anywhere in the final third really, a really good talent on his day. Auxerre are one of those teams who always seem to have an abundance of youngsters who are decent on the wings as well so depth isn't an issue. Daniel Mancini comes in from Bordeaux on loan and he's a versatile midfielder/wide player who could do reasonably well. Upfront, it will be Mohamed Yattara’s job to put the ball in the back of the net and he is definitely one of the best strikers in the league. Unfortunately, the marksman is another who has historically missed periods with injury though and when he doesn't play they can look like a different team. Yanis Merdji has signed from relegated Bourg-en-Bresse and will be a capable backup. But he isn’t in the same class as Yattara and neither are the other youngsters vying for minutes upfront like Bizet and Begraoui. Auxerre will score their fair share of goals and they have enough ability here providing key players stay fit.

Key players - Romain Phillipoteaux (LW, RW), Mohamed Yattara (ATT)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

In Pablo Correa Auxerre have a top coach at this level and twice he’s obtained promotion out of Ligue 2. He is an extremely experienced manager and was able to stabilise the Auxerre ship after taking them over in 17th last season. There was even a period when they threatened a resurgence towards the playoff positions. Correa is often criticised for being an extremely boring and negative manager, but I have found over the years this only tended to happen in Ligue 1. In the second tier he is more willing to be expansive when needed, although for sure this is a manager quite happy to shut up shop and graft out a 1-0 victory if needed. Correa is ultimately a results manager and that is what Auxerre should get from him during a full season at the helm. For some reason AJA never seem to have a great homefield advantage and the atmosphere at Le Stade ‘l’Abbe Deschamps can sometimes be quite subdued. They might drop a few surprising points here, but on the flip side I think they will be one of the best away teams in Ligue 2 this year. Correa is really good tactically and they should be able to hold firm on the road a lot, whilst also breaking with their excellent pacey players. I see Auxerre as a promotion contender. This was said about them last season and they totally failed with a terrible start but I’d be surprised if they aren't in the mixer this time around.

Prediction - Promotion challenge

France Ligue 2 – US Orleans Season Preview 2018/19

Orleans defence

In goal the starter will be Gauthier Gallon and his backup is the experienced Thomas Renault. Orleans have what I’d call average strength in this department. Gallon will do a reasonably solid job and have good and bad days really. I always like the #2 keeper to be more experienced when possible and Renault is a good fit at the club and for the dressing room as well. The USO defence conceded quite a few goals last season but not a lot seems to have been changed during the summer so we can expect something similar. The one main difference is that left back Edson Seidou has left the club and the only new addition is Quentin Lecoeuche from Lorient. Mainstays of this backline include Cedric Cambon, Adrien Monfray and Gabriel Mutombo who has now been signed to a permanent deal at the club. I think this is just an average sort of defence but one good thing is general continuity. Defensive midfield is a strong area for Orleans and been reinforced this summer by the additions of Joseph Lopy and Durel Avounou. The former I always rated at Clermont and he was unlucky with an injury last year that seemed to set him back, but he could easily rebound here at Orleans. Avounou meanwhile, comes from Ligue 1 Caen on loan for a year. Yohan Demoncy has completed a permanent deal and experienced veteran Pierre Bouby remains on the books. Orleans should have solid foundations in midfield and certainly won't be outmuscled in this department.

Key players - Gabriel Mutombo (DC), Cedric Cambon (DC/DM)

Orleans offense

The big question here is how they replace top scorer from last season Yannick Gomis. He bagged 12 goals for the club, plus also weighed in with a few assists and became a key part of their team. Orleans have signed youngster Armand Lauriente on loan from Rennes, plus Fahd El Khoumisti from PSG B team. These guys might be useful but I can’t see them being the answer. Neither are Anthony Le Tallec or Hicham Benkaid but at least there is plenty of depth in attack for USO. On the wings Ousmane Cissokho and Gaetan Perrin should do a good job. Old dog Karim Ziani still has plenty of class from attacking midfield, but age is catching up with him now, leading to reduced minutes on the field. His overall influence both on and off the field is still important though.The manager admitted he was looking for at least one more attacker before the end of the transfer window. I struggle to see how they will bring in a true quality proven #9 striker which is what they need, but I’m sure the club will do their best. There is enough ability in the final third of the field for Orleans to be a threat but without an elite weapon it could restrict them a little bit.

Key players - Ousmane Cissokho (LW/RW), Karim Ziani (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Didier Olle Nicolle has been at the club for roughly a year and a half now. He saved them from relegation in his first campaign via the playoff match and led them to a solid midtable finish last year. Nicolle has certainly been around the block a bit but actually seems to have settled at Orleans fairly well. He averages 1.37 points per game at the club and also averages the same mark for goals per game. They concede more in general and that has always been a theme of his teams wherever he's been. Defence isn't a priority with this guy and the opposition will always get chances against Orleans. I see USO as a lower midtable sort of side who should probably avoid relegation, but at the same time if they got sucked into some trouble it wouldn't be a surprise. The team were below average both at home and away last season and I don’t see much changing there either. This is a side that will have good and bad days and will probably find itself between 12-16th sort of position. They won't be boring by any means, but largely unpredictable in which anything is possible.

Prediction - Lower midtable

France Ligue 2 – FC Lorient Season Preview 2018/19

Lorient defence

The biggest problem they have is in between the sticks. Danijel Petkovic had a really poor season and I expected him to be replaced this summer. He really needs to improve his game otherwise some strange goals will be conceded again. Youngster Maxime Pattier will be the #2 keeper. This isn’t an ideal situation for Lorient. The defence itself welcomes three new players - two of them are Joris Sainati and Jonathan Martins Pereira. Both should be solid options, although the later will start the season injured and might not feature until the end of August. One interesting new addition is youngster Houboulang Mendes from Laval. He comes highly rated so is definitely one to watch. The best defender on Lorient’s roster is probably Vincent Le Goff at left back. Lindsay Rose and Felipe Saad are other viable options plus there are a couple of youngsters floating about like Kamissoko who might be ok. There is some potential for Les Merlus to be solid here, but the coach often plays guys out of position which confuses the situation. Lorient do have some decent enough defensive midfielders like Lemoine, Delaplace and Wadja so the option of a shield in front of the defence is there if needed. Landreau often played 4-4-2 last season which didn’t play to their strengths though.

Key players - Vincent Le Goff (DL), Fabien Lemoine (CM)

Lorient offense

Denis Bouanga has left to go to Nimes and this is a blow. He wasn’t at his best last season, partly due to the coach not getting the best out of him, but for sure he is a fine talent when in the mood. It looks like Sylvain Marveaux will leave the club and there’s no guarantee that Jimmy Cabot will remain either. One piece of encouragement was the development of youngster Pierre Yves Hamel who scored ten goals in the previous campaign. Yoane Wissa should bag them a few as well and this will be his first full season at the club after joining from Ajaccio in January. The likes of Alexis Claude Maurice, Gaetan Courtet and Moussa Guel are alternative options and there is some depth here. I don’t think anyone will look at this offense and be scared though. There are some decent players and Lorient will have some good days in front of goal. But compared to some other sides they lack the star quality and elite options.

Key players - Yoane Wissa (ATT), Pierre Yves Hamel (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Unfortunately, in Mickael Landreau Lorient don't have a very good manager. A lot of people don't think goalkeepers make very good head coaches and Landreau added fuel to that fire last season. Without doubt, Les Merlus were the biggest flop of the year in my opinion. Landreau was given the best squad in the whole league and more resources than most clubs, yet could only lead Lorient to an 8th placed finish. This was WAY below expectations and I am surprised he was able to keep his job. Les Merlus should’ve breezed promotion with the squad they had. It was clear that Landreau never got the most out of his top players, and his tactics were often all wrong as well. I don’t think Lorient will make any progress unless they sack him - which could easily happen at some stage this year. It might be that FCL are the most overrated side in Ligue 2 this season until Landreau departs. Expectations will be high but I could see them having a poor campaign in midtable. On paper they have lost some quality and the squad itself is only slightly over par in terms of talent. Lorient won’t be terribly bad or anything but overall I sense they’ll have a frustrating campaign.

Prediction - Midtable

France Ligue 2 – Troyes Season Preview 2018/19

Troyes defence

Erwin Zelazny performed well for them in goal last season but he’s left to go to Caen. That means Mamadou Samassa will regain his #1 status and at this level of football he should do a decent job. New signing Alexandre Letellier from Angers will be an able deputy. The goalkeeping situation is solid if not spectacular for ESTAC. From the defence itself, Christophe Herelle has been sold to Nice for nearly £5m. I have to say Troyes did well on this deal. He wasn't a player I ever particularly rated, but did manage to string together some good displays in Ligue 1 last season so could be missed. Yoann Salmier on loan from, Strasbourg is their only reinforcement at the back. Troyes have enough quality in this area of the field to be strong in Ligue 2. Stud left back Charles Traore is the best player, although they will struggle to hold onto him before the end of the transfer window. The likes of Deplagne, Giraudon, Vizcarrondo should be formidable at this level of football. Even backup players like Cordoval and Obiang are fairly good alternatives in Ligue 2. ESTAC have lost quite a few midfield players including Bellugou, Walter, Azamoum & Dingome. They have reinforced the defensive midfield sector by adding Rayan Raveloson from relegated Tours, along with Ahmed Kashi from Charlton Athletic in England. Alois Confais will be a likely starter for them in this area of the field which looks ok, albeit nothing that special.

Key players - Charles Traore (DL), Jimmy Giraudon (DC)

Troyes offense

Their best striker in the last couple of years Adama Niane hasn't been training properly this summer and the likelihood is that he’ll leave the club before the end of August. Troyes still have plenty of threat in the final third without him though. I have to start with Benjamin Nivet who will turn 42 years of age in January. Remarkably, he is still going strong and is still productive enough for the club! Of course, the legend is slowing down these days but his creative influence remains, especially from set pieces. Bryan Pele, Chaouki Ben Saada and Jonathan Tinhan make up decent wide options for ESTAC, whilst upfront keeping Hyun Jun Suk would be a boost. He looked good in Ligue 1 at times last season and I would expect him to go very well in the second tier. However, Suk has been linked with moves away from the club and there’s probably more chance of him leaving before the end of August. Alongside him, new signing Yoann Touzghar is a fine option to have in Ligue 2 and can be a top player when in the mood, albeit inconsistent. Troyes have a couple of young fast players to keep an eye on, Warren Tchimbembe and Bryan Mbeumo. Jason Berthomier is a new signing from Brest and is a versatile attacker capable of playing out wide or centrally. From January onwards they should have veteran Stephane Darbion available after he recovers from an achilles tendon injury suffered in May. All things considered, Troyes should have a sizable threat going forward this season and I’m expecting them to score a few goals.

Key players - Hyun Jun Suk (ATT), Bryan Pele (LW,RW)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Troyes have a new coach for this season in Rui Almeida. He’s been out of the game for about a year when he left SC Bastia. The man from Portugal has a reasonably good history in Ligue 2, leading Red Star to an unlikely 5th position a few years ago. Things all went badly the year after and he was sacked around Christmas. The key to success of that Red Star team was generally a tight defence but I do wonder if Almeida might adapt to be more positive now he’s got a stronger team under his belt. Troyes got relegated last season but generally gave a good account of themselves in the top flight. The squad was never ready or good enough to survive in Ligue 1 and a poor second half to the season ultimately cost them the drop. But there is a feeling of stability around the club. They are kind of used to promotion and relegation seasons and nothing is really new to them in this regard. Of the first XI projected to start the opening match of the season, just two players are new signings so there is definitely a lot of continuity within the squad. Troyes seem fairly balanced in all areas. As long as the coach isn't too negative then they should be able to go well this season. I see them as a contender for promotion and I anticipate ESTAC being in the top five overall.

Prediction - Promotion challenge

France Ligue 2 – FC Sochaux Season Preview 2018/19

Sochaux defence

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team at the moment but the goalkeeping position is probably the most stable. #1 custodian will be Maxence Prevot who is decent at this level and still has plenty of potential to develop. Backing him up will be Lawrence ‘Zigi’ Ati who is a very athletic sort of keeper and another who could get better in time. This is an acceptable goalkeeping situation for Sochaux right now. Virtually the whole Sochaux team has changed elsewhere and defence is no exception. Gone are the likes of Teikeu, Alphonse & Ogier and replaced by a number of guys I’m not familiar with. One of the few I know is centre back Olivier Verdon, on loan from Bordeaux and a year in this division might do him some good at this stage. Sochaux have a partnership with Spanish side Alaves and as many as five new players have come in from that club. Rafa Navarro, Josema and Rafa Paez are new defenders on the roster. From what I’ve heard, Josema (CB) is the best of this bunch and should be a starter. Youngster from the Sochaux academy Salem M’Bakata has impressed in pre season and could push for a starting spot at right back. Sochaux have one very good defensive midfielder in Jeando Fuchs, a young player who should have a fine future. On loan from Lyon, Elisha Owusu could be one to keep an eye on in this position as well. Anyone from that academy can usually play decent football.

Key players - Josema (DC), Jeando Fuchs (DM)

Sochaux offense

Literally the only offensive players remaining on the books are younger players Thomas Robinet and Bryan Lasme. Both are set to feature more this year but need to show development in order to get to the next level. All of their top scorers from last season, Florian Marin, Kalulu and Touzghar have left the club. Abdoulaye Sane comes in from recently promoted Red Star and he enjoyed a strong season in the National (div3) but the step up a division leaves some question marks. Otherwise, Les Lionceaux have signed Ukrainian Pylyp Budkivsky, along with a duo from Alaves who I know nothing about Anderson Emanuel and Nando. A couple of other later additions this window are left winger Tope Obadeyi who last played at Oldham Athletic in England and striker Ermedin Demirovic again from Alaves. This guy has a market value of nearly £1m so it’s possible he could be good. The Sochaux attack could be anything though. My overall natural instinct is that nobody really stands out on paper as being exceptional. With so many new players it could take some time for them to gel as well.

Key player - Ermedin Demirovic (ATT)?

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Of all the teams in Ligue 2 I would say Sochaux are by far the hardest to predict this season. There have been so many changes at the club and they have ripped everything up and started again. They are in a weird position in that the overall management of the club is being overseen by the Baskonia Alaves group and so far six players have come in from partner club Deportivo Alaves who are a La Liga team. The new manager is Jose Manuel Aira, a Spaniard who has only previously coached in the lower leagues of Spanish football. I have very little idea about his style although in a recent interview he said he was looking to try and ‘build from the back. Aira doesn’t speak French which could be a problem initially. I genuinely have no idea how Sochaux are going to do this year! I’d be surprised if they hit the ground running quickly with so many new players though. Logical sense would suggest that it will take them some time to gel together as a team and this could be a season of rebuilding. They are best watched for a while and could literally finish anywhere!

Prediction - Midtable?????

France Ligue 2 – AS Nancy Season Preview 2018/19

Nancy defence

The Lorraine outfit have a strange goalkeeping situation. They have three shot stoppers who could all be a #1 custodian, but neither of them have been convincing in recent seasons. Geoffrey Jourdren, Guy Rolland Ndy Assembe and Sergey Chernik will do battle for the gloves and surely one of them will leave at some stage. Obviously, there is plenty of depth here but I can only give then three stars for this area because I feel that neither of these keepers is an elite option. Nancy didn’t defend that well last season and quite a few bits of dead wood like Yahia, Cuffaut and Cetout have been shown the door. I really like the addition of Ernest Seka from Strasbourg and he can do a good job in any position on the backline. The same can be said about Loris Nery from Valenciennes, if he can stay fit that is. The likes of Diagne, Badilla and Muratori can hold their own as well, whilst younger players like Fischer and Bidounga are waiting in the wings for more minutes. This isn’t a brilliant defence by any means, but there is enough here for them to improve upon and it should be reasonably competitive. Nancy have a lot of depth and quality at defensive midfield with the newly signed Danilson da Cruz an excellent option. Laurent Abergel, Marchetti plus a few others make up a strong backbone for them in the middle of the park as well. It looks like young star Abou Ba will be sold to somewhere like Fiorentina which is a shame because he’s a fine prospect.

Key players - Ernest Seka (DEF), Danilson Da Cruz (DM)

Nancy offense

This certainly wasn’t a strong point for ASNL last season. Top scorer was old veteran Youssouf Hadji who has now left the club. The biggest bright spark was attacking midfield Amine Bassi who looks set to have a fine future. He caught the eye nailing 7 goals and 7 assists and would’ve had more if used properly by their negative managers. Bassi has been attracting some bigger clubs and Nancy will probably face a fight to keep him before the end of the transfer window. It’s possible he stays though which would be a big positive. I think there is an overall lack of attacking quality within their squad. Nancy have to hope that the likes of Yann Mabella, Anthony Robic, Maurice Dale and Anthony Koura deliver the goods but I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that. None of them were particularly great last year and need to step up with improvement. One late new signing has been striker Pape Sane on loan from Caen. He has kind of gone backwards in the last year or so and needs to rebound. The president recently said that he was ‘very confident’ that winger Arnaud Nordin would be re-signed again and he would add to their options. The Lorraine outfit won’t be terrible offensively but it could limit their progress and looks on paper to be the weakest part of their squad overall.

Key player - Amine Bassi (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Didier Tholot is in charge and I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never rated him much. He has never averaged more than 1.10 points per game when managing any team in French football at this level and as a general rule his teams tend to concede too many goals. One positive was that he managed to keep Nancy up last season, albeit by effectively winning three home games against weak opposition. ASNL had a nightmare campaign, only just avoiding the drop by a whisker and they seemed like a club going backwards. The president Jacques Rousselot is going to sell the club in the next few months after a long stint in charge and they are in rebuild mode. In theory, Nancy shouldn’t be as bad as last season. I’m expecting a competitive side which is nothing too special. There is enough quality in their ranks to secure a midtable position. But if the manager struggles as he often has done over the course of a whole campaign then maybe things could go wrong again.

Prediction - Midtable