Goalkeeping wasn’t a great strength for Sochaux last season. They used three starting keepers, two of which return this year. Oliver Werner is the number one and should do a decent enough job. He didn’t really impress much throughout most of last season, but did end the campaign well making some good saves. Backing him up is Maxence Prevot who is young and raw, maybe with some potential. Christopher Dilo has signed from Dijon as another possible option. This is an ok goalkeeping lineup without being anything special. At the back Les Lionceaux welcome two new starters - both of whom have transferred from Bourg-en-Bresse. Mickael Alphonse is going to replace the departed Julien Faussurier at right back, whilst Florent Ogier should compete for a centre back spot. But he'll find it very hard to dislodge the current duo of Adolphe Teikeu & Jerome Onguene. Both were impressive last season and form one of the best centre back pairings in Ligue 2. Both are physically strong and technically excellent.
Left back is the one big problem position for Sochaux and they are definitely in the market to sign someone. Pierre Gibaud is currently an option there but it’s not his natural position. Instead, he can play anywhere on the right hand side with great effect and is usually employed as a wide midfielder or winger. Sochaux have some extremely good defensive midfield options - possibly the best in the entire ligue. Florian Tardieu has always been touted as a top prospect. He delivered an excellent 2015/16 campaign, to such an extent a number of ligue 1 clubs are interested. They might not be able to keep hold of him before the end of August, but right now Sochaux have a great talent at their disposal. Johann Ramare, Marco Ilaimaharitra and another upcoming prospect Jeandro Fuchs are other options for them in defensive midfield. Les Lionceaux have a superb looking crop of players here, and coupled with a likely solid defence will be very strong defensively. They do need to sign a quality left back though, because right now that’s their one big weak spot.
The big negative is that leading scorer Karl Toko Ekambi has left the club. Sochaux got close to £900k for his services which is a pretty good outcome though, especially for a striker who still sometimes resembles a donkey on occasion. Toko Ekambi scored a combined 25 ligue 2 goals in the last couple of seasons, but there are those who argue he should've scored a lot more and missed too many good chances. Sochaux have brought in three new strikers, all of whom add a different dimension. Youngster Franck Honorat comes in from Nice and he could prove hit or miss and is still very raw. Another unproven sort of player is Goran Karanovic on loan from Ligue 1 side Angers. Deemed surplus to requirements at that club, he could certainly replace the physical being that Toko Ekambi was. The final addition is Faneva Andriatsima who transfers from relegated Creteil. This is someone who’s pretty experienced with with ligue 2 football and actually has a good record in this division.
Probably the most important player in this Sochaux offense is left winger Florian Martin though. He can pretty much play on either side, or in an attacking midfield role. Las year, he weighed in with six assists, three goals and has great technical mastery of a football. Sochaux will miss winger Sekou Cisse who was their second top scorer in 2015/16. One positive factor is that youngsters like Thuram, Robinet and Baptise Leo might develop. Moussa Sao is another option upfront, whilst Florian Berenguer is probably going to fill an attacking midfield role. The Sochaux offense isn’t as strong as their defence and because the coach is quite negative, don’t expect too many fireworks from them in this department. There’s some reasonable quality here though and the odd really good player like Martin. Les Lionceaux won’t be heavy scorers, but should find the back of the net enough times.
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
Albert Cartier managed to keep them afloat after a really difficult campaign in which they sacked the horrible Olivier Echouafni fairly early on. Cartier has a good past record in this division, taking Metz up to Ligue 1 with his first attempt. But he’s never going to be the sort of coach who produces eyecatching football. He likes his teams to be solid, effective and to have strong foundations. It was a long tough ride just to avoid relegation but Sochaux can now put a line through what was a disastrous campaign. There’s enough quality in this team to launch a promotion bid. In defensive areas especially, I expect them to be one of the best in the division. Offensively, they still lack some pieces, and the coach might lack ambition on too many occasions. But because Les Lionceaux will probably keep things tight at the back on a regular basis, they might only need one or two goals to win matches. It's worth noting that Sochaux have three players who were involved in the French U19 European Championship winning squad (Onuengue, Fuchs & Thuram), so they have some good youth here. Homefield advantage isn't something Les Lionceaux are particularly renowned for. Cartier had that massively in his favour at Metz but it's different here. Nevertheless, Sochaux should have a good chance of finishing in the top six. Whether or not they actually have quite enough to secure a top three spot remains to be seen.