Category Archives: Ligue 2 Season Previews 2021/22

France Ligue 2 – FC Sochaux Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defenders

Sochaux have a decent goalkeeping situation with Maxence Prevot as their first choice option. He had a solid previous campaign and is maybe one of the underrated keepers in Ligue 2 who goes under the radar. Prevot is only 24 years old so should get even better over the next few years. Medhi Jeannin is the perfect backup keeper to have. He can fill in for a few games if needed and do a decent job. The best defender at the club is centre back Florentin Pogba who is an absolute rock at the back. Partnering him could be new signing from Strasbourg Ismael Aaneba. Alternatively it could be veteran Christophe Diehiou or sometimes Joseph Lopy will drop down from midfield. Youngster Sidy Diagne could be one to watch and might get minutes should injuries and suspensions occur,. Abdallah N’Dour has locked down the left back spot and is a proven and reliable quality player at Ligue 2 level. Sochaux have reinforced by adding Valentin Henry from Rodez. He is a player I have always rated highly and should give them a dynamic option on the right hand side. Henry can play anywhere on that side of the field but is also versatile enough should they need him elsewhere. Sochaux lack a little bit of depth, especially in the fullback areas but at full strength this should continue to be a solid defence.

Key players - Florentin Pogba (CM), & Abdallah N’Dour (DL)

Midfielders

Joseph Lopy and Ousseynou Thioune are strong physical DMID options for Les Lionceaux. Lopy sometimes drops down to centre back but he’s at his most effective when shielding the back line and is an excellent tackler. Both of those players have great stamina and a fine match engine. I would say the best part of the Sochaux midfield is it’s creative strength though. Captain Gaetan Weissbeck can play pretty much anywhere in midfield or attack and scored 10 goals last season, also chipping in with 4 assists. I feel like he is at his best as a deep runner who gets into the final third, almost in a Segundo Volante type role. Rassoul N’Diaye, Younes Kaabouni and new signing from Lens Tony Mauricio are all creative playmaker options in the attacking part of midfield. This is an underrated midfield. There’s not really a stand out player apart from Weissbeck - and even he tends to go under the radar. But I see a good mix of versatile players and reasonable depth which will ensure they are highly competitive in this area of the field.

Key players - Joseph Lopy (DM), & Gaetan Weissbeck (CM)

Wingers & attackers

Sochaux have lost both Bryan Lasme & Chris Bedia who scored 9 goals each last season. Also Kalulu is a signing from Swiss side Basel and Les Lionceaux will hope that he can fill the void left upfront. Kalulu actually spent a whole season on loan at Sochaux a few years ago and did quite well. He will know the club so should be able to settle and lead the line. New additions in the final third are ex Tours winger Maxime Do Couto and from Lens Tony Mauricio. Without doubt, the player to keep an eye on is right winger Alan Virginius though. The exciting 18 year old is touted to have a fantastic future and Sochaux fans accept they won’t be able to keep him for very long. He might get sold either this January or at the end of the season if he lights up Ligue 2. It would be nice to see striker Yann Kitala contribute after suffering an horrific broken leg on the opening day of last season. He will supposedly take several months to get back to sharpness but having him return eventually will be like gaining a new player. Adama Niane & Steve Ambri are other options for Sochaux in the final third. I would say the big question mark is whether one of the strikers can consistently score goals. Maybe they need to bring in another frontman just for some extra depth as well. The loss of Bryan Soumare back to Dijon after an excellent loan spell is a shame but I think this Sochaux attack will go quite well. They have a lot of dynamic athletic players who should be good on the break and there’s always some young talent coming through the ranks.

Key players - Aldo Kalulu (ATT), & Alan Virginius (winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Omar Daf has been an excellent manager for Sochaux and he is approaching his 100th game in charge soon. Daf first took over when they were in a serious mess and his no-nonsense approach during his first full campaign was critical to get them to safety and then to a comfortable midtable spot. Last season Sochaux were locked in their own world in 7th place. They lost 4 of their last 5 games when it was clear little was left to play for. It was mostly home form which cost Les Lionceaux. They were excellent on the road and have generally had a great record on their travels under Daf in his 4-2-3-1 counter attacking system. Sochaux can be lethal on the break and I expect something similar again. This won’t be a high possession team but they do have some good technical players and shouldn’t be underestimated. I personally think Les Lionceaux are the biggest ‘dark horse’ in Ligue 2 this season. Nobody is really talking about them as a playoff contender but if things go well I think they could reach the top five. There’s a good mix of players and the first XI is actually now becoming quite strong. The manager has proved himself tactically and Sochaux are ready to take the next step. However, Les Lionceaux are going to need better luck with injuries and a few other things to fall their way if they are to make the playoffs. A more realistic position would probably be just outside them in 6th or 7th but I can definitely see Sochaux surprising a few teams by challenging higher this season.

Prediction: 5th - Playoff Challengers

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 2 – Dijon FCO Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defenders

Baptiste Reynet returns to the club for the third time here at Dijon! Reynet has actually been relegated in his last two seasons up at Ligue 1 level for Toulouse and Nimes but he has been playing to a very high standard. Reynet will be one of the best goalkeepers at this level and his backup Anthony Racioppi is no mug either. This is easily a five star keeping lineup for DFCO. The defence looks to have a good mix of youth and experience. Leading them at the back will be Bruno Ecuele Manga who is now 33 years old. He is a physical beast and at this level of football he should be able to dominate the league quite easily. His partner will probably rotate between Jonathan Panzo, Senou Coulibaly and fellow veteran Daniel Congre. Former Montpellier man Congre has made nearly 500 appearances up at Ligue 1 level and brings with him a wealth of experience, although isn’t getting any younger at 36 years of age. Dijon look a bit more raw at full back with new signings Christopher Rocchia & Cheick Traore looking set to start there. Youngsters Ahmad Ngouyamsa & Theo Barbet could compete for minutes as well. Overall, this is a pretty good looking defence on paper although a lot of new faces will have to fit in. They have enough quality to be strong in this area, especially with Reynet as a last line of defence in goal.

Key players - Baptiste Reynet (GK), & Bruno Ecuele Manga (CB)

Midfielders

Jordan Marie has picked up an injury right on the eve of the first match and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out for. Marie was set to be an initial regular starter but Dijon might have to lean on new signings Jessy Pi & Matteo Ahlinvi. Pi is an experienced Ligue 2 campaigner and brings a good all round game to the midfield. He’s strong technically and an intelligent player. Ahlinvi, who has signed from Nimes, has looked good in pre-season and could be one of the pleasant surprises of the season for DFCO. I would say Dijon are especially strong with their attacking midfield lineup. They’ve signed Valentin Jacob from Niort and return loanee Bryan Soumare had an excellent spell at Sochaux last season. Yasine Benzia can play as a deep playmaker and at this level his skill and flair could be a huge asset. Dijon even have veteran Frederic Sammaritano who could be a useful substitute option this season. Perhaps they could do with a really powerful DMID or box to box type of player but this is still an excellent looking midfield.

Key players - Jessy Pi (CM), & Matteo Ahlinvi (DM)

Wingers & Attackers

The only obvious starter is new striker Mickael Le Bihan. Unfortunately, he has injured his ankle and will miss the first month of the season. He probably won’t be back to proper sharpness until after the September internationals. Le Bihan scored 19 goals for Auxerre last season and is pretty much guaranteed to score plenty again this year as long as he gets good service. The problem is behind Le Bihan I’m not really sure who is next in line as backup. Target man Aurelien Scheidler will likely cover for the first month but he has been linked with a move away from the club. Roger Assale could play upfront but is more effective as a winger and is likely to be one of the main starters out wide. Bersant Celina and Lyon loanee Yahya Soumare are options out wide or as a central attacking playmaker. Several players who are still on the roster will likely leave before the end of August including Mama Balde, Moussa Konate & Mounir Chouiar. Let’s not forget the likes of Soumare, Jacob & Sammaritano can all play out wide or as a #10 if the coach prefers. Dijon will certainly have a strong attack force. However, they need to perhaps bring in another top striker to either play alongside Le Bihan or at least provide him with competition and strong backup.

Key players - Mickael Le Bihan (ATT), & Roger Assale (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Dijon finished rock bottom of the Ligue 1 table last season on just 21 points. They had a good 5 year run at the top level in France but had a turgid campaign and knew their relegation fate quite early. Head coach David Linares took over about a dozen games into the season but results actually got even worse. His overall record for Dijon in Ligue 1 was a disappointing 4 wins, 6 draws and 19 defeats. The president decided to retain him as manager though and believes he is the man to get them promoted. Linares played nearly 150 games as a player for Les Rouges so he has a strong affiliation with the club. However, he has no other managerial experience and that definitely concerns me. All of the talk from the manager, players and president is a supposed 2-3 year plan in which they plan a promotion. I don’t for one minute believe that though. The way Dijon have been recruiting this summer makes me believe they are in a ‘win now’ situation. Alongside Toulouse, they are the big favourites for promotion and have a huge target on their back. It will not be easy following a brutal relegation though. There’s been a lot of arrivals and departures at the club already this summer and I expect that to continue. Linares mostly used a 4-2-3-1 formation last season but he is going to have to adapt from being the worst team in a league to one of the best. Again, I have to question if he is the right man for the job. That is why I give an edge to the likes of Caen, Toulouse, Paris FC and Auxerre or even Amiens because they have proven coaches who know how to get out of this league. On paper, Dijon probably; in fact almost definitely have the best squad in the league though, so they should naturally compete at the top end.  I don’t think for one minute they are a banker to go straight back up though and they will be made to suffer at times.

Prediction: 3rd - Automatic promotion challenger

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 2 – Valenciennes Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defence

Jerome Prior was one of the best keepers in the league the last few seasons but he has now left the club. This left VAFC with Hillel Konate and the 27 year old Ivorian is only really good enough to be backup. They signed youngster Lucas Chevalier on loan from Lille but right on the eve of the season he injured his knee in training and will probably have to be operated on. Valenciennes acted quickly by signing Saturnin Allagbe on loan from Dijon. He is a proven keeper at this level and should go well. I still think this is a downgrade compared to how strong Prior was for them though, he really did save VAFC loads of points by making some impressive saves. The defence itself stays pretty much the same. Standout is fullback Joffrey Cuffaut who scored a mammoth 10 goals last season, often from long shots or set piece situations. He’s a really important player for Valenciennes in so many ways. VAFC are well set in the full back / wing back areas with Laurent Dos Santos, Emmanuel Ntim & Aly Abeid all possible options. Younger players Allan Linguet and Alois Penin could get some minutes this season too. Maxime Spano is the standout centre back in the squad and when he is fit Eric Vandanabeele will probably start alongside him. However, 18 year old Ismael Doukoure is a seriously bright prospect and currently at the Olympic games with the France squad. He is linked with a move away from the club and it would be a major boost if Valenciennes were to keep him all season. This defence looks reasonably good to me and is settled and consistent. Last season they conceded a surprising number of goals but this has usually been a strong area since Olivier Guegan took charge.

Key players - Joffrey Cuffaut (DR), & Maxime Spano (CB)

Midfielders

Sessi D’Almeida is the key man for VAFC in midfield. He has a really strong engine and can play pretty much any role you want in this area. Alongside him will probably be Mathis Picouleau, a young 21 year old who impressed at times last season with his work rate and vision. Youngster Mohamed Kaba has been playing a lot of the pre season games and might get plenty of starts this season. Valenciennes are a bit lightweight in midfield and lack depth. Jaba Kankava has left the club and they are perhaps lacking a physical DMID enforcer. Julien Masson could be a pleasant surprise this season and supposedly getting on top of all of his injury problems. He missed pretty much the entirety of the 2nd half of last season with issues but if they can get him back fully fit then he’d be a major asset. There is potential here for VAFC but a lot depends how well some of the younger players develop.

Key players - Sessi D’Almeida (CM), & Julien Masson (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

Baptiste Guillaume was the top scorer last season with 11 goals. He should be able to replicate a similar amount again as long as the service is decent. Were he to get injured there aren’t really many other striker alternatives though with youngsters Yasine Haouari & Ilyes Hamache next in line as natural backups. Out on the wings Gaetan Robail should be a menace and cause problems with his pace and trickery. He re-joined the club in January and weighed in with 5 assists, although surprisingly didn’t score a goal. Abou Ouattara is on loan from Lille and can offer something on either wing, whilst the versatile Arsene Elogo is probably going to remain a bench option. The likes of Macalou, Chergui and of course Kevin Cabral who transferred to LA Galaxy are no longer at the club. I would say this is the area Valenciennes need to reinforce either by bringing in some proven quality or just to add more depth. Having Guillaume and Robail in the team does at least give them a major threat though.

Key players - Baptiste Guillaume (ATT) & Gaetan Robail (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

This will be Olivier Guegan’s third season in charge of the club. During his first campaign Valenciennes were involved in some very low scoring matches and were defensively very secure. That changed last year and it was probably due to Guegan changing systems regularly between 4-3-3 and 3-5-2. It will be interesting to see which direction he goes this season because VAFC certainly have the personnel for a 3 man or even 5 man defence if he wants. The main strength of the team would appear to be in defensive areas. Combined with some decent pace in the final third they are an ideal candidate to be a strong counter attacking side. Valenciennes were extremely inconsistent last season and their results were quite wild at times, going from one extreme to another. I have a feeling they will settle back to become more of a boring side this year, especially if Guegan focuses on defence. Valenciennes aren’t the most ambitious of clubs and would be happy with another midtable finish. I see them as a bottom half sort of side with probably too much to avoid any sort of relegation battle. However, it can’t be ruled out that if things start to go wrong they get sucked into some trouble. Really difficult side to predict and their ceiling and floor is hard to judge.

Prediction: 14th - Midtable / Bottom half

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 2 – Rodez AF Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defenders

Lionel M’Pasi took over the #1 goalkeeper position midway through last season. I’ve got to be honest I don’t really think he’s particularly good and he might be one of the worst starting keepers in Ligue 2. M’Pasi is ok but I thought Rodez would look at reinforcing the goalkeeping position this summer. Backup Thomas Secchi played the final game of last season but that is his only ever competitive start. This is not a great goalkeeping lineup overall. Rodez play a 3-1-4-2 system so will be effectively starting three centre backs at all times. Julien Celestine, Pierre Bardy & Joris Chougrani will be the the first choices, with new signing Bradley Danger & veteran Amiran Sanaia alternative options. The coach sometimes has a habit of filling in these centre back spots with full backs who play naturally wider. Occasionally Rodez use a back five or have players operate in a wing back role but the wide players tend to be quite higher in this system, almost as wide midfielders. I am not that sure about this defence. It certainly lacks star quality and should injuries occur there might be a lack of natural centre backs to fit the 3-1-4-2 formation. Rodez are probably due a poor year defensively and this might be the season they get exposed.

Key players - Pierre Bardy (CB), & Joris Chougrani (CB)

Midfielders

David Douline played the DMID role most of last season but he has now moved to Swiss side Servette. I think he will be missed and Rodez are banking on Lorenzo Rajot to replace him. Rajot was effectively a bench warmer for Clermont last season but now he has to make this transition into regular starter. Rodez have a good duo of midfielders ahead of him though. They’ve signed Enzo Zidane (son of Zinedine) and his technical qualities could make him one of the stars of this team, as long as he is focused and his mind correct anyway. Remy Boissier is a fantastic box to box midfielder and always pops up with some long range goals. He has really impressed me during his time in Ligue 2 with both Le Mans and Rodez. Jordan Leborgne is another possibility to start in midfield, whilst new signing from Nimes B team Adilson Malanda could compete for minutes. There’s some good midfield runners here who can cause problems when they get forward and this is where they can sometimes catch out opponents. I am a bit worried that the departure of Douline at DMID might make them more vulnerable though. He was an ideal shield.

Key players - Enzo Zidane (CM/AM), & Remy Boissier (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

Rodez generally use the wide midfield or defensive winger role. On the right hand side they have lost key man Valentin Henry to Sochaux and it looks like Lucas Buades will be his replacement. Buades comes in from Nimes but there are other options here such as Bradley Danger, Nassim Ouammou or Alan Keroudan. It looks like Ouammou has nailed down the left hand side spot anyway unless he needs to switch to the other flank. Johan Obiang is in competition for the spot in left midfield but seemingly fell out of favour towards the end of last season. Rodez play two strikers and will be spearheaded by Ugo Bonnet who was last season’s top scorer. Bonnet is a good all round sort of striker who does a bit of everything. Options to partner him include new signing from Nimes Clement Depres who would be a big physical presence of a target man. Florian David & Malaly Dembele are faster options. Overall, I think we can expect to see a rotation of these guys although Bonnet is an indisputable starter if available. Rodez only scored 38 goals last season and have never been a particularly free scoring team in recent years. The system they play can make it hard to create chances and sometimes there’s a lack of service to the strikers.

Key players - Ugo Bonnet (ATT) & Nassim Ouammou (LMID)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

This will be Laurent Peyrelade’s 6th season in charge of the club. You have to respect his work here, which includes two promotions and was probably the reason they didn’t sack him during a really poor winless run last season. RAF went on a horrible 14 game winless streak around the autumn period and actually also ended the year winless in 9 matches too. The problem is they racked up an absurd amount of draws - 19 in total which is astronomical. There was definitely a reluctance to try and win matches, or hold on to what they had far too early in fixtures. Maybe that could cost them this season because I am fairly sure this team will be involved in the relegation battle. It isn’t the worst of squads but it does lack a bit of star quality. Rodez play in a very identifiable 3-1-4-2 system which can of course have both its strengths and weaknesses. At times they are set up ‘not’ to lose and just have a habit of getting involved in fairly dull matches which are tactical battles. They can either flood the middle of the field or restrict their opponents out wide, depending on the situation. RAF have finished 16th and 15th the last two seasons and I have a gut feeling they could drop down further. If they survived I wouldn’t be surprised but I think there’s a low ceiling for this team. The best case scenario would probably be something like 12th or 13th and the worst case direct relegation. I think it will be touch and go if they stay in the division and too many draws could be an issue.

Prediction: 19th - Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 2 – Paris FC Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defenders

Veteran keeper Vincent De Marconnay is still going to be the #1 with the gloves. He has shown some signs in the last couple of years that he is regressing and even lost his spot at some stage. I think Paris FC need to work towards finding a long term replacement because De Marconnay isn’t getting any younger. He can still do a decent serviceable job though. Didier Desprez is the backup but doesn’t strike me as the type of keeper who is snapping at the heels to become the first choice keeper. Defence is where Paris FC have several problems. They have lost key fullback Ali Abdi to Caen. He was a good defender but also weighed in with an impressive 9 goals last season in his attack minded role. Paris FC have been hit hard by some terrible injuries in pre season. Youssoupha N’Diaye is out until January after breaking his ankle and Axel Bamba is out for the same amount of time with a torn hamstring. The club are probably going to have to bring in someone on a short term basis or risk playing youngsters at the back until Christmas. Left back Florent Hanin is going to be a key man for them now with his experience. Gaetan Belaud is another who starts the season injured but his veteran presence might be required to settle things down. Ousmane Kante is suspended for the first match but should be his usual strong self in the middle of the defence. Paris FC have signed Maxime Bernauer from Le Mans as a replacement for Abdi at right back. He can also play in DMID if needed though. Youngsters Ousame Camara and Samir Chergui will definitely get some minutes due to the aforementioned injuries. I think this Paris FC defence will get better as the season progresses but they could be vulnerable in the first few months.

Key players - Ousmane Kante (CB), & Florent Hanin (DL)

Midfielders

Paris FC have some strong midfield options. Cyril Mandouki is a real enforcer in the middle of the park and they have some guys like Moustapha Name and youngster Check Oumar Diakite who I rate pretty decent. New signing from Le Mans Yohan Demoncy should be able to bring a bit more technical quality to proceedings. Mario Kikonda adds to the depth along with the likes of Said Arab and youngster Thomas Nemouthe. Aside from Mandouki Paris FC lack that bit of extra quality in the middle and they could do with someone else of really elite calibre here. This is still a very decent area for them though and they haven’t lost anyone of significance. The addition of Demoncy actually makes them stronger and the first choice trio of Mandouki, Name & Demoncy should perform well together.

Key players - Cyril Mandouki (CM) & Yohan Demoncy (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

Gaetan Laura is easily Paris FC’s most exciting attacker. He came in from National Division side Quevilly Rouen and scored 8 goals, in addition to providing 5 assists. It felt like Laura should have scored more goals too but wasted numerous opportunities. He perhaps lacks some composure but his turn of pace and acceleration is scary. Maybe with a full season of Ligue 2 football under his belt Laura can really increase his goalscoring this season. Surrounding him is decent talent both upfront and on the wings. The controversial Lamine Diaby Fadiga has had a difficult couple of years both off the field and with injuries but he is waiting to explode massively. Morgan Guilavogui, Julien Lopez & Marvin Gakpa are other options that Paris FC have in attacking areas, New signing from National Division side Annecy Migouel Alfarela has performed well in pre season and might have even locked down a starting spot on one of the wings. He scored 7 goals and had 7 assists last season in tier 3 and if he has the same sort of impact Laura did then he could be one to watch. There’s a lot of pace and dynamism in this Paris FC attack so expect them to counter quickly and be lethal on the break. There’s no real excuse for them not to score goals really. Yes, Ali Abdi the top scorer from last season is gone but it’s almost a freak when your right back ends you're leading marksman!

Key players - Gaetan Laura (ATT), & Migouel Alfarela (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Paris FC finished 5th last season but then lost in the first playoff match to Grenoble. Rene Girard did a good job here in the last 18 months but he decided to leave. Paris FC have replaced him with Thierry Laurey who is an excellent capture in my opinion. Laurey has a superb past record in this division. On the last two occasions he managed in Ligue 2, promotion was obtained with both GFCA Ajaccio and Strasbourg at the first time of asking! He has since stayed for 5 years at Strasbourg and turned them into an established Ligue 1 club again. Laurey said in an interview that the ambition is to ‘promote within the next 2-3 years’. There isn’t an immediate need to achieve it this season and to be honest they look to be a few pieces light to challenge for the automatic spots. There are injuries in defence, maybe they could do with getting a top class keeper and another high class midfielder in the medium term. Laurey will get the absolute most out of a team which is pretty much the same, minus the departure of Ali Abdi. That team managed to finish 5th and I can definitely see Paris FC challenging for the playoffs again. Laurey has this knack of getting things to work and he has some good weapons in attack to work with who should suit his systems. In terms of tactics I am expecting something along the lines of a 4-3-3 but this is a manager who has adapted to loads of different formations down the years. The future of this ambitious club looks in good hands and we can expect them to be one of the better sides in the division. I think certainly after Christmas we could see them find some good form and be very dangerous entering the business end of the campaign.

Prediction: 4th - Playoffs

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 2 – Pau FC Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defence

First choice keeper is Alexandre Olliero. The ex Nantes custodian grew as the season developed last year and had some decent moments. However, I wouldn’t class him as anything brilliant and the backup situation of Benjamin Bertrad isn’t particularly strong. Olliero is serviceable and will have some good days but this is probably one of the weaker overall goalkeeping lineups in Ligue 2. Pau sometimes lined up with a three man defence last year but I would expect mostly a back four to be employed. They have lost left back Scotty Sadzoute who returns to Lille after a loan spell. Replacing him will be Kenji Ban Voto who has always generally impressed me at Auxerre. I rate this player and I think it’s a good signing. Jean Lambert Evan’s is another left hand side addition from Italian club Crotone but he might also operate higher up as a winger. The centre back duo would appear to be Xavier Kouassi and capotain Antoine Batisse. Kouassi is known for being more of a defensive midfielder but when he switched to central defence in the final third of last season Pau definitely improved. He’s very small for a centre back but has excellent other qualities. If the manager wants to move Kouassi back to midfield then he could play Mahamadou Dembele who is on loan from Troyes again. Erwin Koffi, who used to be a winger, is the main starter at right back but they don’t have a natural backup for this position. Centre defence looks to be where they lack general depth if injuries occur. I think Pau could be vulnerable defensively because they possess some fairly attack minded individuals. They are going to rely on pace and technique at the back rather than traditionally strong and physical no nonsense defenders.

Key players - Antoine Batisse (CB), & Xavier Kouassi (CB/DM)

Midfielders

Jovan Nisic arrives from Serbian club Vozdovac and is described as a box to box dynamic midfielder. There is talk that he could be a promising signing and they need him to be good because Pau lack depth and options in the middle of the park. Presuming that Kouassi stays as a centre back then they really only have Quentin Daubin and Abdou Ndiaye as proper midfielders. From a defensive midfield point of view they look fairly lightweight and will again rely on pace and technique rather than brute force and strength. The manager likes to operate in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-4 system and there is a lot of pressure on the central midfield duo in this formation. I am not sure Pau have the quality here and will be in danger of getting overrun by certain sides who load the middle of the park. Pau could easily employ a #10 playmaker if they so desire, and their attacking midfield options aren’t too bad. Victor Lobry and new signings Eddy Sylvestre & David Gomis can act as a higher central pivot playmaking role. The loss of Souleymane Diarra from this midfield could hit them hard because he was one of the key additions mid way through last season which helped turn around their form.

Key players - Jovan Nisic (CM), & Quentin Daubin (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

Pau have an abundance of wide players and wingers at their disposal. Eddy Sylvestre, an ex Nice product transfers from Standard Liege and can play on either wing or as a #10. If he can get his head right and find form he could be very good at this level. The signing of David Gomis from Clermont is a smart addition adding a proven Ligue 2 player who we know can deliver solid consistent performances on the field. Djibril Dianessy looks like an exciting quick option who transfers from Dutch club Sittard. They join the likes of Victor Lobry, Steeve Beusnard & Ebenezer Assifuah who are already on the books. On the negative side Pau have lost Itaitinga, Mayron George & Cheikh Sabaly, all of whom played well in the 2nd half of the season. Itaitinga and George especially made a huge impact. It looks like Pau have signed a target man replacement for George in the form of Samuel Essende, a big lad who comes from National Division side Avranches. There are going to be plenty of crosses put in for him to win aerial battles. The often forgotten Romain Armand is another target man type option who can play anywhere in the attacking third. Overall, I am fairly excited about the Pau offense this season and they have some decent possibilities in all areas. There’s no real excuse for them not to score goals, as long as they can find some consistency with selection and connections.

Key players - Victor Lobry (all attack), & Djibril Dianessy (winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Pau lost six consecutive matches around December and January last season. To be honest they looked like a banker to be relegated. However, the south western outfit ended up finishing 14th after a brilliant second half of the campaign. They lost just 3 of their last 17 matches and the key to this success was some smart reinforcements during the January transfer window. It was probably the best I have ever seen head coach Didier Tholot manage a football team as well. I have personally never rated Tholot that much as a manager. He’s naturally very attack minded and will have a good go in most games. However that has often been at the detriment of defence and his teams have a habit of conceding too many goals and being too open. His switch to what was effectively a 4-2-4 system both created chances when they had the ball and became quite hard to break down without the ball. Pau definitely have chances and goals in them but they have several new players who need to gel so there could be some teething problems. There will likely be some inconsistent performances and they can be ‘got at’ defensively. Pau had huge issues away from home last year, winning just 2 out of 19 matches. They did however finish with the 7th best home record. It really depends which version of Pau turns up. If it’s the side we saw before January last season then they are going to be in a relegation battle. Alternatively, if they keep the momentum and pick up where they left off then it could be a promising midtable sort of campaign. Pau are very difficult to predict. My gut feeling is they’ll be hovering around the relegation battle again, but I might be wrong

Prediction: 17th - Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 2 – Chamois Niort Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defence

Niort currently have four goalkeepers on the roster! First choice is Mathieu Michel but he will be out of action until at least October due to ACL recovery. Michel was in stunning form last season before his injury and will be a major asset upon his return. Until then, ex Nantes man Quentin Braat will probably take the gloves with some competition from new signing Jean Louchet (Les Herbiers, 4th tier). Yanis Maronne is the 4th choice keeper. Braat isn’t a bad backup GK so I have to rank this keeping lineup as strong when Michel returns. The Niort backline always seems to have injury problems and they enter the season with two centre bacs Issouf Paro & Bryan Passi unavailable. However, both should return within a few weeks to bolster the ranks. Paro missed every match after the end of January with an ACL injury so having him back will be a nice boost. It looks like Ibrahima Conte is now recovered from his own major injury issues of recent years and looked fairly solid physically towards the back end of last season. Les Chamois have three players who can play left back. Lenny Vallier, Darlin Yongwa & Guy Kilama. I would imagine Yongwa gets the starting spot though and Kilama partners Conte at the start of the season. Vallier could be used on the left wing or even the right hand side. Joris Moutouchy seems like the undisputed starter at right back although they lack a natural backup for him should he be unavailable. This Niort defence is very physical and strong. They lack technique somewhat, but their no nonsense approach can do a job. This is far from an elite backline, but still serviceable. I think with more consistency and hopefully less injuries Les Chamois can improve their defensive statistics this year.

Key players - Mathieu Michel (GK), & Ibrahima Conte (CB)

Midfielders

Brahim Konate & Yacine Bourhane have both left the club. Bourhane started 24 games last season so will be missed the most. Niort have added Samy Benchamma, a 21 year old quite physical midfielder on loan from Montpellier. I don’t know much about him but maybe he could be a pleasant surprise. Olivier Kemen, Dylan Louiserre & Brahima Doukansy look like a solid trio in midfield. Kemen is a physical monster and has one hell of an engine, he will keep going and going in a box to box type role. Doukansy is more of a midfield type enforcer, a bit of a bruiser and a big lad, whilst Louiserre is a good all round midfielder who will probably play more advanced of the trio. Valentin Jacob has moved to Dijon and his creativity will be missed, but he didn’t have quite such a good year last season. There is less focus on the central midfield to provide as playmakers in this current Niort system. As a result, probably the weakest area of the squad is with a lack of attacking midfielders. Having Quentin Bena back after missing most of last season with an ACL will bolster the depth of this midfield and youngsters Yohan Cassubie & Samuel Renel might get minutes off the bench.

Key players - Olivier Kemen (CM), & Dylan Louiserre (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

Pape Ibnou Ba was a revelation last season scoring 14 goals which was an unexpectedly high amount. They signed him from lower league side Atletico Marseille and he performed really well. Ba is a good all round striker and often broke the offside trap well finding himself in good positions with his poacher like instincts. Winger Bilal Boutobba led Niort with 7seven assists and was another who had a surprisingly good season.If those two players perform to the same level again then Niort will certainly carry a threat. Their top scorer in the 2019/20 campaign Ibrahim Sissoko missed the entirety of last season with injury problems but is supposedly going to be ‘counted on’ this year and should be back available soon. Having Sissoko back would be a major boost, even just to provide competition and rotation options. Yanis Merdji has been signed from relegated Chateauroux and he will add to their depth either upfront or out wide. Left back Lenny Vallier will probably feature at left wing a lot and they could do with adding another wide man of decent calibre, or even a #10 type playmaker if the coach is going to use a system which utilises that sort of player. This isn’t the worst looking offense and they’ll be strong from set pieces. Niort aren’t going to set the world on fire but will certainly have some good days in front of goal.

Key players - Pape Ibnou Ba (ATT), & Bilal Boutobba (winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Niort were given an almighty scare last season. They won just two league matches after December 12th and on the last day of the season ended up in the relegation playoff spot by virtue of goal difference. They lost the first leg of that playoff 3-1 vs National side Villefranche and looked to be heading down a division. However, two late goals in the return leg ensured they won 2-0 and beat off their challengers by virtue of away goals! This was far too close for comfort but Niort might actually come stronger from such a delicate situation. A lot of things went wrong for them in the last 18 months. I can think of at least six players who have all suffered long term ACL injuries so if their luck improves with injuries then it would help. There were off the field problems last summer which affected them, and they even had to forfeit a match 0-3 vs Valenciennes due to a controversial COVID situation. Sebastian Desabre didn’t do a bad job under the circumstances and let’s not forget the excellent first half of last season when they were really quick out of the blocks. Desabre experimented with a few different systems last season but favoured the 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 variation. Niort will essentially be a counter attacking and physical type of side who have quite high energy. They aren’t the greatest technically but I actually think this team has the potential to improve on 18th position. You can never rule Niort out of any relegation battle but I am optimistic they have enough quality and depth on paper to be fairly competitive and finish around the 12th to 16th sort of range.

Prediction: 16th - Bottom half / Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 2 – Toulouse FC Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defence

Toulouse have two of the best goalkeepers in the entire league. Maxime Dupe made some unbelievable saves last season and can often wow you with some of his reflexes. Back in January Isak Pettersson was signed from Swedish club Norrkoping and to be honest I still don’t know why he made the move. He should not be a #2 for any club at this stage of his development but if he is required then TFC have superb quality to fall back on. The defence has been weakened by the loss of three important players. Fullbacks Deiver Machado & Steven Moreira have both left the club with Machado fetching a fee of around £1.65m to Lens. Powerful centre back Kelvin Amian has moved to Spezia Calcio for nearly £3m. Sebastian Dewaest has gone back to Belgium after a loan spell so it’s going to be all change in the TFC backline. New coach Philippe Montanier is using a 3-4-3 wingbacks system and return loanee Issiaga Sylla will slot in on the left hand side. At this level he should be a star but there’s every chance Sylla could leave before the end of the transfer window, Toulouse need to get him off their payroll. TFC have signed Danish right back Mikkel Desler from Norwegian club Haugesund. He has been one of the best in his position in the Eliteserien for the last two seasons and should be a smart addition. Sam Sanna can cover both wing back roles if needed. Centre back doesn’t look as strong as last year. Ruben Gabrielsen is a powerful monster and one of the best CBs in the league. Bafode Diakite, Moussa Diarra & Anthony Roualt are all good young talents. But compared to the luxuries that TFC had in their squad last season the defence has been slightly weakened in my opinion.

Key players - Maxime Dupe (GK), & Ruben Gabrielsen (CB)

Midfielders

TFC have lost young starlet Manu Kone to Borrusia Monchengladbach. He was sold for nearly £8m back in January and then loaned for the rest of the season. Kone wasn’t even a regular starter though so his departure might not be felt that much. The key men in the middle of the park for Toulouse are Branco Van Den Boomen, Brecht Dejaegere & Stijn Spierings. Last season that trio combined for 18 goals and 20 assists but in the new 3-4-3 system it’s likely that only two can play together at the same time. In some ways this is good for rotation and keeping things fresh but if it was me personally I would look to employ a midfield three in whatever formation. Finnish youngster Naatan Skytta and return loanee Kleri Serber might get some minutes off the bench along with Tom Rapnouil. Toulouse are well set in midfield with the aforementioned trio who at this level are a class above most.

Key players - Branco van den Boomen & Brecht Dejaegere

Wingers & Attackers

Englishman Rhys Healey was a pleasant surprise last season and led their scoring charts with 14 goals. He is a really hard working striker who can get under the skin of the opposition and constantly snaps at their heels. His finishing was quite good last season too and for most of the season he managed to keep the higher profile Vakoun Issouf Bayo out of the XI. Bayo has now left the club and Toulouse have reinforced by paying nearly £700k for Japanese striker Ado Onaiwu. He has a good scoring record over there in Asia and in theory should go well at Ligue 2 level. Only time will tell though if he is a hit or a miss. Toulouse have the highly talented Amine Adli on their books and he is available at the start of the season. However, the chairman said he will almost certainly be sold before the end of the transfer window due to his unwillingness to accept a new contract. Toulouse should be able to keep Janis Antiste though and he will surely be a starter on one of the wings, often cutting inside. Speedster Nathan N’Goumou can play either upfront or out wide and Stephane Zobo is another option. Toulouse will probably bring in at least one new winger before the end of August to replace Adli but it’s not ideal that they have the current ongoing situation of waiting for a player to leave. TFC should score goals but unlike last season when they regularly played with two strikers, just one spot upfront could potentially limit their scoring. Quite how often Healey and Onaiwu actually play together I’m not sure, but really you have to class both as key players.

Key players - Rhys Healey (ATT), & Ado Onaiwu (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Toulouse finished 3rd last season and went on to lose the promotion/relegation playoff by virtue of away goals to Nantes. It was a bitter blow to take after a rollercoaster of a season which saw them start badly, pick up form to look like an automatic promotion runner but then COVID hit the squad and they couldn’t quite catch Clermont into 2nd place. They reached 70 points though and I think a repeat of that figure would see them go up automatically this year. Toulouse scored a mammoth 71 goals which was by far the highest in the league and their matches averaged a total of 3 goals per game. I thought it was harsh that manager Patrice Garande was sacked after just one season. He didn’t do a bad job and at times really got TFC firing. It seems they are hell bent on achieving promotion though and won’t accept any failure. That doesn’t bode well for new coach Philippe Montanier who has been sacked in all of his recent jobs by Standard Liege, Lens & Nottingham Forest. There was a time when Montanier was highly coveted by clubs but he seems to have lost his way somewhat. This job is very similar to the one he had at Lens with sky high expectations at a big club who feel like they shouldn't be in Ligue 2. He never actually managed to achieve promotion with Lens before he got sacked. Toulouse are in a similar position to what Lens were and they have a HUGE target on their back. Hamburg are the same in Germany and Leeds had it for years in England. The pressure and fear of failure is immense here and don’t underestimate how it can impact certain players. Toulouse are one of the big favourites for promotion and they have an abundance of quality and weapons at their disposal. I actually think their squad is slightly weaker than last season though and it might take some time for the new manager to get his system to work properly. TFC will be in the promotion mixer and everyone expects them to go up. I wouldn’t be shocked if their season ended in another playoff failure though, this club seems destined to suffer before they return back to Ligue 1.

Prediction: 2nd - Automatic promotion contender

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

 

France Ligue 2 – AS Nancy Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defenders

The goalkeeping situation could turn in either direction. Baptiste Valette and West Ham loanee Nathan Trott look like competing for the #1 keeper spot. Valette is too inconsistent in my opinion and I was not surprised to see them bring in some competition for him. He can do an ok job but has too many poor days. I have no idea how good or bad Trott is. There’s a chance he could be a pleasant surprise, but equally he could be terrible. The defence looks competitive enough. Nancy could line up in a back 4 or a back 5 because they have the personnel for both systems. Thomas Basila, on loan from sister club in Belgium Oostende could be one of the best defenders in the entire division. For a long time he was earmarked as being the future at Nantes and he is definitely good enough for Ligue 1 level in my opinion. There is no doubt that Nancy are light at centre back and I would expect them to bring in some more players before the end of the transfer window. Aldelhamid El Kaoutari can feature there and will likely partner Basila. New signing Shaquil Delos can play in any position defensively, even though he is primarily a wing back. Giovanni Haag is another option if they are shorthanded, although Haag is better suited being a midfielder enforcer. Nancy have good options in the wing back areas with Saliou Ciss, Rosario Latouchent, Souleymane Karamoko, plus the aforementioned Delos. That is why it makes sense to have a wing back orientated system in my opinion and utilise their strengths. This won’t be a bad defence with the presence of Basila but there are a number of attack minded players who could leave them exposed sometimes.

Key players - Thomas Basila (CB), Saliou Ciss (WBL)

Midfielders

I think the most likely systems Nancy employ this season are 5-3-2 or 4-3-3. The central midfield trio will likely be propped up by Giovanni Haag, a really promising player who improved massively last season. He’s a great physical ball winning enforcer and can really dictate the game for Nancy in the middle of the park. Ogou Akichi would be the other option in a more deeper role and his biggest strength is all round physicality. 18 year old Warren Bondo is one to keep an eye on. He burst onto the scene midway through last season and is highly regarded. With just one year left on his contract Nancy are desperate to tie him down for longer. Bondo is a fast young athletic box to box type playmaker who will surely get more minutes this season. He has recently been linked to AC Milan and could even be sold this season. Gregory Lefebvre is another option for Nancy in the middle of the park. Most of their midfielders are of a similar ilk. Hard working, physical & athletic type players who will run around a lot and perfect for the gegenpress system that Daniel Stendel is going to use. They do lack depth and could maybe do with some more creativity. Of course, I expect Nancy to add some more midfielders before the end of the transfer window though.

Key players - Giovanni Haag (DM), & Warren Bondo (CM)

Wingers & attackers

Nancy actually scored 53 goals last season which was a decent return. Mickael Biron led their scoring charts by netting 12 times. He has been sold to sister club Oostende in Belgium and then immediately loaned back. Nancy have lost a lot of combined goals and assists with the departures of Amine Bassi & Kenny Rocha Santos. They’ve signed Mamadou Thiam - again on loan from Oostende and he has a fairly decent past record at Ligue 2 level. Capable of playing out wide or upfront he will probably partner Biron initially. Nancy don’t really have many good options in wide areas. Their best wingers are Dorian Bertrand or possibly youngster Lamine Cisse. Of course, several strikers including Biron & Vinni Triboulet can play on the wings if needed, but they are more natural upfront. A lot will depend on the system the coach uses. If he’s more 5-3-2 then the width will be from the fullbacks. However, if he’s thinking more 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 then Nancy are probably going to have to add players in wide areas. They seem to be behind in their recruitment so I would anticipate some more reinforcements before the end of the transfer window. The sheer presence of Biron again should give them enough of a goalscoring threat but at the moment they are lacking creativity compared to last season.

Key players - Mickael Biron (ATT) & Mamadou Thiam (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Nancy have been subject to intense scrutiny from the DNCG financial watchdog. Similar to Auxerre, they aren't allowed to pay any money for players and their wage budget is being monitored closely. Nancy are fortunate that their president Gauthier Ganaye is also the chairman at Belgian club Oostende so they have been able to fiddle the books by selling some players there and getting some cheap loan backs. It is still not an ideal situation though and means they are behind in their recruitment. There is a new manager this season in the form of German Daniel Stendel, perhaps best known for his time in English football at Barnsley. Stendel will be employing a gegenpress type system which is fairly unusual for this division. I am not sure exactly what formation he is going to use but it could be anything from a 5-3-2, 4-3-3 or even 4-4-2. The best XI and formation I have listed below is only my own personal opinion of how I think they should line up. Stendel promises to bring an exciting brand of football and his main objective is to get the team ‘winning with an identifiable style’. Nancy should be quite entertaining to watch this season and they could be involved in some high tempo matches. If Stendel can improve the fitness of his players and get them sharp then this is a team that could cause problems to anyone on the day. It seems like they are in a rebuilding phase of a new project though and this feels like a season too soon for any sort of promotion challenge. Nancy will likely be inconsistent with results and performances and probably end up around midtable, They will scare several teams with their approach though and could pick up a few big scalps.

Prediction: 12th - Midtable

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

France Ligue 2 – USL Dunkerque Season Preview 2021/22


GK & Defence

For someone who hadn’t featured in the top two divisions for several years I was fairly impressed with first choice keeper Axel Maraval. He actually made a string of good saves last season and certainly earned Dunkerque numerous points. Backing him up is Jeremy Vachoux, who just a few years ago was the #1 in this league with Lens so this is a pretty strong goalkeeping lineup. Defence also looks to be where Dunkerque are at their strongest. Last season they conceded less than most of the other teams who were fighting against relegation and it wasn’t by chance. It is likely they will line up with mostly a back five and the likes of Ibrahim Cisse, Alioune Ba, & Loic Kougba are all solid no-nonsense type defenders who are physical and do their job well. Out wide, Emeric Dudouit, Harouna Sy & Demba Thiam have powerful engines and are again very physical type players. Backup options include Thomas Vannoye, Adon Gomis and Theo Loridan. Apart from perhaps Harouna Sy, who shows some higher class ability, it’s not a defence which appears very flashy or elite. But Dunkerque will be very solid at the back with their defensive style system and a combination of tough physical players who will run all day and be hard to break down. Combine that with a decent goalkeeping situation and I could see them frustrating a number of teams.

Key players - Harouna Sy (WBL), & Ibrahim Cisse (CB)

Midfielders

This is a defensively focused team and it’s no different in midfield. The central trio in the 5-3-2 will contain at least one genuine defensive midfielder which will probably be Emeric Dudouit. Redouane Kerrouche is also a contender for this role or new signing from National Division side Mohamed Ouadah. Ouadah can also play in a more advanced position or even out wide and has a good record of 12 goals and 6 assists from his 50 appearances in the 3rd tier of French football. There is probably a lack of creativity and lack of genuine midfield playmakers but one interesting player could be Nicholas Burneel. He was injured for most of last season but has looked good this summer and he could end up being a key man for Dunkerque, being the link between midfield and attack. Leverton Pierre is another option for USLD if they want a more creative type of midfielder. Pierre used to be a striker and actually has good technique and flair. I feel like the main focus of the midfield will be the solid aspect and hard to break down. It could limit the offensive possibilities for Dunkerque but there is enough quality and ability to ensure they are competitive.

Key players - Emeric Dudouit (DM), & Nicholas Bruneel (CM)

Wingers & Attackers

With Dunkerque likely to play in a 5-3-2 system any width is really going to come from the wing backs. This is a problem because most of those guys are better suited to a more defensive minded role. Dunkerque don’t really have many natural attacking wide players in their squad although Billy Ketkeophomphone is an option should they want it. Experienced veteran Dimitri Boudaud is another possibility. Their attacking threat is really all about the two striker roles that this tactical system produces. Leading the line should be target man Malik Tchokounte who scored 9 goals last season. He has been linked with a move away from the club though and Dunkerque face a tough battle to keep him. They’ve lost Ilan Kebbal and Cheick Diarra who both scored and assisted several goals last season. New signing Desire Segbe Azankpo comes in from National Division outfit Villefranche where he scored 6 goals last season. The often injured Kevin Rocheteau is now fit and has been playing well in pre-season and could be a pleasant surprise if he can avoid being on the sidelines too much. It’s fairly obvious that Dunkerque won’t be a high scoring team this year and will be relying on set pieces and Tchokounte to score them goals. They aren’t going to be outscoring teams 3-2 or 4-3, it simply isn’t their style.

Key players - Malik Tchokounte (ATT) & Desire Segbe Azankpo (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Dunkerque survived on the final day of the season by drawing 3-3 vs Toulouse. It was a nervy ride and a very dodgy second half of the season which is perhaps why they decided to change manager. Gone is Fabien Mercadal and coming in is Romain Revelli. He last managed at Ligue 2 level five years ago for Evian TG and has more recently managed in the 3rd tier or below with Cholot & Andrezieux. He was assistant manager to Christophe Galtier at St Etienne for several years too. I do not know that much about Revelli but most of the talk surrounding him is positive and I could see him being an asset for Dunkerque. It looks like Revelli will be using a 5-3-2 formation this season, which was something Mercadal employed at times in the previous campaign. It makes sense because the main strength of this Dunkerque squad is in defence. They won’t be a great watch and will try and grind their way towards results. I expect quite a lot of under 2.5 matches and it might not be easy to break them down. At the other end of the field the two strikers employed in the system will be crucial and also set pieces will be something to watch out for. Dunkerque only lost 5 home games last season and their own ground, Le Stade Marcel Tribut, is an awkward place for teams to come and visit. USLD will probably be involved in the relegation battle but a solid defence should see them finish between 14-18th in my opinion. I think they will just have enough about themselves to avoid the drop, although scoring goals could become a worry.

Prediction: 18th - Relegation battle

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation