- Dec 21, 2015
- Favorite Player
- Wes, Eriksen
Best Football Poster
Ligue 1 is starting this weekend. Here's a preview about the upcoming season.
Prepare for another fascinating season in the ever-improving Ligue 1
Ligue 1 is back this weekend following a busy summer. Of the four sides that were involved in the extremely close title race last season, Lille and Lyon have been relatively quiet in the transfer window as they have tried to consolidate under their new managers. Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain have been eager participants in the market, buying well in a way that addresses their needs in a comprehensive way. Nice and Rennes have also done some canny business in the break, to say nothing of Marseille’s flood of arrivals. But the discussion about prospective title favourites has to start and end with PSG – who may yet pull off the biggest transfer of all this summer.
Even as rumours swirl around the potential departure of Kylian Mbappé, with the young striker still yet to sign a contract extension as the season kicks off this weekend, PSG have done their utmost to convince their young star to stay. At least, that is, if one judges by their transfer activity. Even if Lionel Messi does not join the club, the arrivals of Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi have bolstered Mauricio Pochettino’s side in key areas, while also adding another layer of dynamism.
The Argentinian will have his hands full doling out playing time, with the centre-back and goalkeeper positions his chief concerns. The team will also miss the workrate and energy of Moise Kean – but these are minor caveats. Wijnaldum’s drive from midfield will lessen the creative load on Marco Verratti; Hakimi is arguably the world’s best young right-back; and Donnarumma looks a brilliant bit of business, having signed on a free after being named player of the tournament at the European Championship.
If Pochettino can keep his squad happy and balanced, this team looks as potent as any in Europe, and the title in France should be a given provided the players keep their focus. While another title to mark the 10th anniversary of the Qatari takeover seems inevitable, the league as a whole is full of intrigue, with half a dozen sides pushing for a place in the top three.
Monaco are probably best equipped, even though they will have to contend with playing European football. The arrival of Dutch prospect Myron Boadu will provide a capable replacement for former striker Stevan Jovetic. Young Germans Alexander Nübel and Ismail Jakobs look to be upgrades on Benjamin Lecomte and Fodé Ballo-Touré, respectively, all without breaking the bank.
Niko Kovač’s exciting, front-foot football remains in place and so do all of the key elements of a side that was a late Lyon winner away from the title last year. With more experience for the team’s youngsters, a full season of Aleksandr Golovin and more time for Kovač to improve the squad’s fitness, they look certain of a place on the podium.
Their chief rival, then, might just be Marseille. One of only a few clubs in the mix for Europe not to have changed their manager over the summer, they have brought in a raft of talented young players to support Jorge Sampaoli. Mattéo Guendouzi and William Saliba are the most promising, but American winger Konrad de la Fuente also looks a livewire, and in Arkadiusz Milik the team have a clinical finisher to get on the end of attacks. There are still questions lingering over the ability of ageing players such as Dimitri Payet and Steve Mandanda to balance a season in which Marseille will feature in the Europa League, but on the whole, France’s best-supported club should push Monaco hard for a Champions League place.
Elsewhere, Lyon fell just short of the top three with a gutting loss to Nice on the final day of the season. The two clubs find themselves in a presumptive battle for Europe under new management. Lyon will have to make do without the incandescent individual quality of Memphis Depay, but may be a more potent force going forward following the return of Moussa Dembélé and the installation of Peter Bosz in the dugout. The Dutchman’s gung-ho style may lack the defensive rigour to keep Lyon in the title hunt, but they are unlikely to be boring, even if they have largely stood firm in the transfer market.
Nice have been quite active in the market, bringing in a cadre of promising young Dutch players, including Calvin Stengs, Pablo Rosario and Justin Kluivert. This trio, along with Jean-Clair Todibo’s return on a permanent deal and the likes of Dante, Kasper Dolberg and Youcef Atal being back up to speed make them a team of immense potential. In order to contend for the top three, new manager Christophe Galtier will have to get a diverse group of (mostly) young players off to a fast start, but it would be unwise to bet against the former Lille boss.
As for Galtier’s former club, the reigning champions are likely set to battle Rennes for a Europa League place. The northern side will do so with a new face at the helm in the person of Jocelyn Gourvennec. The former Guingamp and Bordeaux manager takes charge of a largely unchanged side, save for Mike Maignan and Boubakary Soumaré, now at Milan and Leicester. While further departures could ding what is a shallow side’s hopes of returning to the Champions League, the further development of youngsters like Timothy Weah, Jonathan David, and Jonathan Bamba make Lille a team to watch.
The Breton side, meanwhile, were busy in the transfer market, spending €20m on Lens defender Loïc Badé. Rennes also brought in Ghanaian winger Kamaldeen Sulemana to complement the ever-improving Jérémy Doku, on the back of the Belgian’s impressive displays this summer. The departure of Steven Nzonzi leaves more questions than answers in central midfield, but under Bruno Génésio, they are highly unlikely to be a boring side.
Elsewhere, a raft of other sides will have new managers, with Michel Der Zakarian and Olivier Dall’Oglio having swapped places at Montpellier and Brest. Bordeaux (Vladimir Petković), Reims, Angers and Strasbourg (Julien Stéphan) have also enacted changes at coach level. Stéphan and the attacking players at his disposal in Alsace bears watching, as does the ability of Dall’Oglio to play his usual mad-scientist role with attacking football using the likes of Andy Delort, Téji Savanier and Gaëtan Laborde.
At the bottom of the table, neither of the promoted sides, Clermont – who are making their Ligue 1 debut – nor City Football Group-backed Troyes look up to the task of sustaining their status. Angers, Reims, Lorient and Brest could also be circling the drain given departures both from the bench and on the pitch.
All told, though, the quality in France should continue to increase, as it has done for several seasons. More and more sides are investing in meaningful ways and, with France being an unparalleled source of young talent, the league’s reputation has deservedly risen of late. Even without a title race, then, Ligue 1 will this season remain compelling viewing, with a panoply of big personalities and absurdly talented players from which the neutral can choose.
Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Gini Wijnaldum have moved to Paris – and another new face could be on his way