Avec Neymar, PSG sont des Mieux

Please don’t go Ooh La La on me now, this remains an English Language site, but when you have a Sister fluent in the language of love, you tend to want to show off sometimes. Simply, put the header says ”With Neymar, PSG are overwhelming Favourites” without a shadow of a doubt. If for whatever reason you haven’t heard, the Overlords at Paris Saint Germain have torn the Transfer record to absolute shreds with the signing of Neymar from Barcelona for £196Million. A transfer that seemed very unlikely at some point and seemed to look more like a publicity stunt is as we speak a big statement of intent by PSG to the established order of European Football. Financial Fair Play and its implications have to take a back sit on this one, the whole of France is rallying behind the Parisians on this one, more eyes on the French top flight. If Ligue 1 had previously being known for the quality of its youngsters and their ability to come through the conveyor belt with ease, the league now has itself the ”Best Player” after Ronaldo and Messi, Ligue 1 takes center stage.

With the new season kicking off on Friday Night, we take a team by team view of the forthcoming season, identify the top players and predict the final positions of each team, hopefully without giving any fans out there a false dawn with respect to their teams.

Monaco:

The Champions may have been picked apart with some of their top youngsters heading to pastures anew, it still does not diminish the fact that the Principality remain the only team likely to run PSG close in the title race. The departures of Mendy, Bagayoko, Germain and Bernado Silva may have diminished the level of quality Monaco possess going into the new season, however the arrivals of Youri Tielemans from Anderlecht, Terence Kongolo from Feyenoord and the return of Adama Traore from loan provides sprinkles of quality in areas where they would have been lacking with the departures. Monaco still look strong enough for a title challenge if they do not lose anymore players as speculations continue to surround the likes of Fabinho, Lemar and Mbappe.

Manager: Leonardo Jardim

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

Player to look out for: Youri Tielemans

Final Position: 2nd

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Paris Saint Germain:

Perennial favorites considering the quality in their squad and of course the Neymar signing edges them a few eons ahead of their closest rivals. Unai Emery has his work cut out this season, a successful domestic campaign won’t cut it this season as the Qataris demand a return to the status quo of total domestic domination and at least a semi final appearance in the Champions League will serve as a worthwhile return on their huge investment in the squad and keeping faith in the Spanish manager after losing the title to Monaco last season.

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Dani Alves joins the Paris version of this eras Galaticos to add valuable experience and attacking penetration from the full back position, even though the team seems stocked with two decent right full backs in  Serge Aurier and Thomas Meunier; so one has to leave to fins consistent first team football in a world cup year. Yuri Berchiche also arrives from Real Sociedad along with the returning Jese from Las Palmas to provide both defensive depth and cover up front. The problem with every PSG manager has to always be how to get the best out of the resources at their disposal and keeping many of these ”superstars” happy. It would be thrill to watch Emery’s 4-3-3 with Neymar, Cavani and Di Maria forming the attacking trident filled with pace,craft and deadly precision. The likes of Draxler, Moura and  Pastore must be considering their futures right now.

Manager: Unai Emery

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3/4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Neymar

Final Position: Champions

Olympique Lyon:

How to replace 30 goals would be the main headache for the Lyon hierarchy after the departure of Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal. Bruno Genesio has tried to remedy this with the capture of Bertrand Traore from Chelsea with Mariano Diaz arriving to provide cover and depth from Real Madrid. The decision to capture Memphis Depay in the January window now seems like a genius move, as the striker will be well accustomed to the team’s style and his new environment with pre season under his belt; Lyon look like they got this covered 50% of the way. In order to have it fully covered, Nabir Fekir needs to have the kind of season he had in 2014/15 where he was the toast of Europe with speculation of a departure to some of Europe’s big clubs. Injuries haven’t helped his progress, on his day he is a great talent; now he has been handed the Captaincy of the club, so a lot more is expected from him to lead Lyon post Gonalons and Lacazette.

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Lyon have pushed out a number of their oldies with Valbuena departing for Fenerbache, Gonalons to Roma and Jallet to Nice whilst also losing their most versatile player in Corentin Tolisso to Bayern Munich; now the new entrants may not possess the quality or experience of the aforementioned players but they provide a variety of options to Genesio along with their youthfulness.

Manager: Bruno Genesio

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Bertrand Traore

Final Position: 4th

Olympique Marseille:

Rudi Garcia and Marseille’s new owners continue their surgical operation on France once great club, do I agree with their direction? Now that’s a discussion for another day. Marseille seem more like the pensioner version of PSG, a lot of aged, renowned and established signings like Adil Rami, Luis Gonzalo, Valerie Germain and the returning Steve Mandanda, they look like a team that will struggle against pacy and youthful sides. Marseille will suffer in front of goal this season as I cannot imagine why the permanent deal for Bafetimbi Gomis wasn’t a priority after scoring 21 goals in all competition last season, I do not see Valerie Germain stumping up such numbers, it would be nice to have him prove me wrong.

Lucas Ocampos and Florian Thauvin return from their loan spells looking to provide some freshness, creativity and pace alongside Dimitri Payet. My worry for OM remains in defense and their ties in the early rounds of the Europa League have somehow exposed that.

Manager: Rudy Garcia

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Morgan Sanson

Final Position: 7th

OGC Nice:

Mario Balotelli gave a great account of himself last season on loan from Liverpool, now with Champions League qualification achieved last season, Nice definitely would be wanting more this season. However, a lot will depend on their ability to hold on to Dalbert and Jean Michael Seri from the likes of Inter Milan and Arsenal respectively. Nice play some really good attacking football last season with the pace of Plea integral to all that was good about Nice last season along with Balotelli.

This summer, Lucien Favre has returned all loan signings from last season, deciding to go for a mix of youth and experience with the signing of Christian Jallet from Lyon, adding goals from midfield Pierre Lees-Melou from Dijon. Nice look more balanced this season with more options to have a mix in both midfield and attack, They may not win the title, but will cause a lot of trouble for the big teams as they did last season.

Manager: Lucien Favre

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Jean Michael Seri

Final Position: 3rd

Bordeaux:

Jocelyn Gourvennec has a big job on his hand trying to lift the morale of his players after their exit from the Europa League by Hungarian side Videoton, in one of the major shocks of that competition so far. The sale of Nicolas Pallois may have come as a surprise as it was to Nantes, despite the defenders obvious qualities as a decent defender, his temperament continued to be a major worry, however Bordeaux haven’t done much to replace him accordingly, resulting to playing veteran Jeremy Toulalan at Center Back to catastrophic effects.

The key for a decent performance for Bordeaux this season depends on the bodies they bring in before the window closes, the sale of Adam Ounas to Napoli is a huge loss and he must be replaced accordingly. A lot will depend on the ability of Gaetan Laborde to bounce back from the disappointments of both legs against Videoton to deliver the goals that will make Bordeaux competitive this season.

Manager: Jocelyn Gourvennec

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Gaetan Laborde

Final Position: 8th

Nantes:

Claudio Ranieri arrives Nantes with redemption on his mind after the torrid season he had after leading Leicester City to the Premier League Title. Now its a new environment, one he has been in before, so bedding in would be almost seamless. Nantes have largely been underachieving side, the coming of Ranieri is expected to wake one of the sleeping giants of French football.

In terms of business this summer, it has been a mixed bag for Ranieri, two youngsters from Porto, temperamental defender, Nicolas Pallois from Bordeaux and experienced Goalie, Ciprian Tătărușanu from Fiorentina rounds up their business so far in terms of arrivals. Not much to inspire confidence in Nantes every demanding fans.

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

Player to look out for: Chidozie Awaziem 

Final Position: 9th

Lille:

Another big managerial arrival in Ligue 1 this season is one of my favorite coaches, Marcelo Bielsa. El Loco makes his return to French football by resurfacing at former Champions Lille and in typical Bielsa style the riot act has already been read. Upon his arrival, Bielsa made 11 players surplus to requirement including former Nigerian Goalie and top Lille star, Vincent Enyeama. Bielsa has signed as at the last time of checking 16 new players, meaning he has more or less ripped up the furniture and is starting afresh.

Key signings that should inspire many Lille Fans include Edgar Ie, a former Barcelona prodigy, Ezekiel Ponce, on loan from Roma to supply the goals; a couple of players from Santos and Sao Paulo form part of his summer recruitment. Do I expect anything extra ordinary from Lille; No despite their expensively put together squad. All eyes on Marcelo Bielsa.

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa.

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Yassine Benzia

Final Position: 6th

Saint Etienne:

Oscar Garcia has had a relatively successfully career so far in countries like Israel and Austria; France and Saint Etienne provide him another chance at the big time after missing out at Watford for health reasons. Saint Etienne are another sleeping giant of French football and they really need a kick up their back sides to get out of the doldrums. I don’t think their summer transfer business has been good after the departure of Nolan Roux to Metz and Henri Saivet returning to Newcastle after his loan spell.

It seems Oscar Garcia has gone for more of consolidation as against wholesale changes which might be testament to the good job done by previous manager, Christophe Galtier.

Manager: Oscar Garcia.

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Bryan Dabo

Final Position: 5th

Montpelier:

The first home game or even every home game will be an emotional one after the passing of their flamboyant and colourful owner; Louis Nicollin. The former champions go into this season hoping for a better placing asides 15th from last season. Former Player and Coach, Michel Der Zakarian takes the helm after a decent stint at Reims, he does have his work cut out to revive the former champions. With a more robust counter attacking style last season, it is expected that Montpelier would adopt a more pragmatic stance going into this season.

Manager: Michel Der Zakarian.

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

Player to look out for: Jonathan Ikone

Final Position: 14th

 

SM Caen:

This young side have had a fresh summer and with that youthful exuberance comes lots of pace and explosive play, however with everything that possesses these traits defending continues to be a problem. Patrice Garande continues at the helm after just escaping relegation last season. Caen will be looking for a season where they stay clear of the relegation as much as possible and aim for a more respectable finish.

SM Caen’s transfer business has been decent and not extravagant.

Manager: Patrice Garande.

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Frédéric Guilbert

Final Position: 13th

 

Toulouse:

First question is can Yaya Sanogo rebuild his career here after arriving on a free to Toulouse, he and Andy Delort are the go to guys for goals, if they intend to improve on last season’s 13th place finish.

Pascal Dupraz returns for his second season at the helm, the departure of Oscar Trejo is a big one , but Yannick Cahuzac has been signed from Bastia to soften the blow.

Manager: Pascal Dupraz

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

Player to look out for: Alexis Blin

Final Position: 12th

Metz:

Philippe Hinschberger successful snapped up Nolan Roux from Saint Etienne as a replacement for Cheik Diabaté who returned to parent club Osmalispor. Roux will get among the goals but the service is not as good as what he enjoyed at Etienne.

 

Manager: Philippe Hinschberger

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Nolan Roux

Final Position: 17th

Guingamp:

Antoine Kombouaré has signed highly rated Marcus Thuram from Sochaux to tap into the huge potential of the young striker. This season Kombouaré would be hoping for a more consistent season from his wards as against a half season meltdown.

Manager: Antoine Kombouaré

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Marcus Thuram

Final Position: 11th

Troyes AC:

Troyes make a return to the top flight at the first time of asking under the guidance of Jean-Louis Garcia. Qualifying from the play offs, Adama Niane and Benjamin Nivet were the stand out players in the push for promotion; nothing of major excitement from their transfer dealings.

Manager: Jean-Louis Garcia

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Player to look out for: Adama Niane

Final Position: 19th

Stade Rennais F.C.

With a 9th place finish from last season, European qualification has to be the target this season. Rennais are a team renowned for producing quality young players. Christian Gourcuff would be hoping that his son Yohan can rediscover his form at Lyon that led to his move to Milan some years back in their push for European qualification.

Manager: Christian Gourcuff

Preferred Formation: 4-4-1-1

Player to look out for: Kermit Erasmus

Final Position: 10th

 

Angers:

Two season ago, Anger caused a stir among many followers of Ligue 1, standing as potential contenders; a second half season slump laid to a loss of form and a 9th place finish. Last season was a lot different, but the experience of the season before was  enough to ensure a decent performance.

Stéphane Moulin  would be aiming for a top half finish this season after the departure of Famara Diedhiou and Nicolas Pepé who have been replace with a number of young exciting players.

Manager: Stéphane Moulin

Preferred Formation: 4-1-4-1

Player to look out for: Lassana Coulibaly

Final Position: 15th

Dijon

Olivier Dall’Oglio gets another crack at the chance for a respectable finish for Dijon after escaping relegation last season. It looks more like another relegation battle season awaits fans with the kind of transfer business they have done this summer.

Manager: Olivier Dall’Oglio

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

Player to look out for: Cédric Yambéré.

Final Position: 18th

Amiens SC:

Another promoted club, who have it all to do to maintain their top flight status. Second in Ligue 2 last season against all odds, Amiens may just be punching above their weight making it to Ligue 1, definitely contenders for a swift return to Ligue 2. Two signings of note arrive to boost their changes, Mathieu Bodmer from Guingamp and Gael Kakuta returns to French football off his latest trip to China.

Manager: Christophe Pélissier

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Player to look out for: Gael Kakuta

Final Position: 20th

 

Strasbourg:

Concluding our team by team guide to the Ligue 1 season are newly promoted Strasbourg. Champions of Ligue 2 with a huge point to prove, after Nine years away from the top flight. This is another club that has very solid history and enjoyed great success in Ligue 1 from the mid Seventies to the early Eighties.

Strasbourg have achieved back to back promotions from the National to Ligue 1; with Thierry Laurey at the helm, staying up is the first and most important priority.

Manager: Thierry Laurey

Preferred Formation: 4-3-1-2

Player to look out for: Idriss Saadi

Final Position: 16th

 

Pictures courtesy: Sky Sports, The Sun, Mirror, Youtube

Adeyemi Adesanya
Sports Business Consultant and Football Intermediary; Risk Management & Due Diligence Consultant; Freelance Football writer & Pundit on Radio & TV and Man.Utd Fan
http://www.halftimeng.com

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