Football Season Guide

Amiens SC

In


Ulrick Eneme Ella (mid) (Liefering); Chadrac Akolo (att) (Stuttgart, loan); Christophe Jallet (def) (Nice); Jayson Papeau (mid) (Genevieve); Haitam Aleesami (def) (Palermo); Yannick Mamilonne (att) (Paris FC), Rafal Karzawa (mid) (Midtjlland), Mahdi Talal (mid) (Entente SSG), Sanasi Sy (def) (Tubize) (all loan ends)

Out


Brighton Labeau (att) (Rapid Bucharest); Khaled Adenon (r)(def) (Al-Wahda); Reda Rabei (mid) (Fremad Amager); Gauthier Banaziak (gk) (AC Amiens); Oualid EL Hajjam (sp)(def) (Troyes); Gaoussou Traore (mid) (Quevilly)

Amiens have enjoyed two seasons in Ligue 1, where a club of their size would appear to have little right to spend any time. Their task in extending their stay in the top flight, however, is arguably harder than ever this year. Although they have retained all their key players from last season, they have lost head coach Christophe Pelissier, who is one of the best in France. Surprisingly, he has gone down to Ligue 2 side Lorient, but that serves only to highlight how fragile Amiens’ project is, particularly in terms of finances. In his place they have drafted in well regarded young Slovenian coach Luka Elsner, who is noted for his attacking style, but it will be a hard transition for the inexperienced 36-year-old to come to France and hit the ground running. Recruitment was a major problem last season, but this time around they have opted for more security by completing a number of signings of players who were at the club on loan last season. Among such figures as Emil Krafth (though he may yet be sold on at profit), Alexis Blin and, most pertinently, Eddy Gnahore. They still appear quite solid at the back, but having lost Pelissier’s renowned organisational skills, life is sure to become more difficult for the defenders, who have also seen the vastly experienced Khaled Adenon depart. Prince Gouano, Bakaye Dibassy and Jordan Lefort are the natural centre-backs, though it would be no surprise to see Christophe Jallet fill such a role after arriving on a free from Nice. Left-back Haitam Aleesami is set to be the only new face in the defence, while the midfield will also be largely untouched. Bongani Zungu returning to full fitness after struggling last year will be a big boost if he can regain his best form. Offensively, little has changed. Saman Ghoddos has the potential to be a smash hit but struggled at points last season, as did Moussa Konate, whose injury really hit the side hard. With Serhou Guirassy also joining up, there is a decent corps to build from in attack.

Target


Coaching upheaval means that simply surviving would constitute a good season. Offensively, they look good enough, but there are fresh questions over the defence.

Angers SCO

In


Saba Thioub (mid) (Nimes); Rachid Alioui (att) (Nimes); Danijel Petkovic (gk) (Lorient)

Out


Flavien Tait (k)(mid) (Rennes) ; Harisson Manzala (mid) (Le Mans), Thomas Toure (att) (Sochaux), Pape Djibril Diaw (def) (Caen), Alexandre Letellier (gk) (Sarpsborg), Baptiste Gauillaume (sp)(att) (Valenciennes), Dorian Bertrand (att) (Nancy) (all loans) ; Yoann Andreu (def) (retired);

Angers are becoming something of a fixture in Ligue 1, with Stephane Moulin bringing about a period of long stability at Stade Raymond Kopa. In finishing 13th last season, they were not at their best, and yet they have only once picked up more points than the 46 they finished with. Little of note has changed over the summer in terms of their playing staff. Flavien Tait’s departure is the only one that will seriously impact the quality of the squad, though as one of their best players last season, it will be one that bites hard. The rapid Sada Thioub has joined up from Nimes as a replacement but, while he offers more pace, he has less trickery and craft, and should be considered something of a downgrade. Given that Angers will probably continue to play in a rather vertical manner, he should be a good fit for the squad, though. They have strengthened their options at centre-forward by also raiding Nimes for striker Rachid Alioui, who had a hard time last season as he returned from injury. There is not great depth in this area, with Stephane Bahoken undoubtedly their first choice in that sector. Uncertainty still swirls around the midfield, with lynchpin Baptiste Santamaria linked with a move to England. Although he does not contribute in terms of goals or assists, he is a vital pivot in the team and would be tough to replace. Angers will likely go 4-3-3, Moulin’s favoured formation, with Jeff Reine-Adelaide having settled into a new position of box-to-box midfielder. He excelled in that role late last season and started to bring goals into his game – precious for a team that is lacking real class in attack and has seen its set-piece threat diminish over the last year. They do lack creativity in that sector, though. Of course, Angers remain imposing at the back. They have a string of strong defenders, good in the air but technically limited. They will be looking for an improvement from young left-back Rayan Ait Nouri over the next year, but again they will prioritise functionality over aesthetics. Goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle faces additional competition from Danijel Petkovic, though the 36-year-old remains first choice. He was not at his best last term.

Target


If Angers can match last season’s effort, they will be doing well. In reality, they will likely be closer to the drop zone.

Dijon FCO

In


Bruno Ecuele Manga (def) (Cardiff) ; Bryan Soumare (mid) (Saint-Quentin); Mama Balde (att) (Sporting CP) ; Didier Ndong (mid) (Guingamp)

Out


Valentin Rosier (k)(def) (Sporting); Chang-hun Kwon (sp)(att) (Freiburg); Sory Kaba (sp)(att) (Midtjylland); Mehdi Abeid (k)(mid) (Nantes); Eden Massouema (mid) (Troyes); Bobby Allain (sp)(gk) (Olympiacos); Oussama Haddadi (sp)(def) (Al Ettifaq); Cedric Yambere (sp)(def) (Al Ettifaq); Arnold Bouka Moutou (sp)(def) (released)

After avoiding relegation last season only via a playoff, Dijon will be eager not to cut things so fine this time around, though their task looks harder than ever. In a thrilling two-match series, they edged Lens 3-1 last term but have been weakened over the course of the summer months, losing both depth and quality from their ranks. The most notable player to depart is flying full-back Valentin Rosier, though the impact of his departure may not be quite as evident as he missed the second half of last season through injury. Still, he was one of their best players from right-back. Additionally, all-action midfielder Mehdi Abeid has gone to Nantes on a free transfer and will be sorely missed. He was another key figure in their side. A string of important fringe players have also departed, with Chang-hyun Kwon moving to Freiburg, Sory Kaba going to Midtjylland after a flop spell and Cedric Yambere moving to Saudi Arabia. It has left the club with a significant rebuilding job. In terms of players coming in, there has not been enough movement yet to suggest they have negated the damage. No right-back has arrived at all, while the signing of Didier Ndong from Guingamp to replace Abeid is one that is likely to prove a downgrade. Centre-back Bruno Ecuele Manga has joined up from Cardiff but is not a player who is going to improve a leaky defence much, while the other additions are Bryan Soumare from lower league side Saint-Quentin and Mama Balde, who comes from Sporting CP’s youth ranks. Rookie coach Stephane Jobard, who was an assistant at the club last season, has few reasons for much positivity, with his squad having almost wholly been off form last season. Offensively, Wesley Said and Naim Sliti should be important figures, though neither is especially reliable, while in midfield youngster Enzo Loiodice may be given a greater role. The defence, though, still looks very fragile.

Target


In their current state, survival would be a significant achievement.

FC Metz

In


Victorien Angban (mid) (Chelsea); Fabien Centoze (def) (Lens); Habib Maiga (mid) (Saint-Etienne); Mauel Cabit (def) (Ajaccio) ; Kevin N’Doram (mid) (Monaco), Thierry Ambrose (att) (Man City) (both loans)

Out


Jonathan Rivierez (sp)(def) (Caen); Oumar Gonzalez (def) (Chambly); Gauthier Hein (att) (Valenciennes), Vincent Thill (mid) (Orleans), Laurent Jans (def) (Paderborn) (all loans); Ivan Balliu (sp)(def), Emmanuel Riviere (sp)(att) (both released)

The yo-yo club of the French game over the last six years, Metz will aim to set about establishing themselves as a force in Ligue 1 over the coming campaign. Just one year in the second flight was all that was required for Frederic Antonetti to mastermind their promotion though, after he was given personal leave in the second half of the season, there was a notable downturn in their form. Antonetti remains at the club, but he is no longer in the head coach role, which has instead been given to Vincent Hognon. His previous experience includes a wretched spell in charge of Nancy and he struggled to maintain the momentum that had been built up when he took command at the start of the year. Another warning sign for the Lorraine club ahead of their assault on the top flight is that they have not made much progress in terms of strengthening their squad. Indeed, those key players who have signed on a permanent basis, including Victorien Angban and Habib Maiga, were already at the club last season on loan. Perhaps only Fabien Centonze, a right-back, arrives as a genuine upgrade. A couple of loan additions have been made. Kevin N’Doram has joined up from Monaco, but he may only add depth to the side, while forward Thierry Ambrose will be given his first crack at top-flight football on loan from Manchester City. Metz do look well stocked in the centre-forward position, with youngsters Habib Diallo and Ibrahima Niane both interesting prospects. They will have to continue their form from last season, although they are bound to be given fewer chances as wingers Opa Nguette and Farid Boulaya will surely find the going harder. In midfield, this young side will lean on the experience of Renaud Cohade, their only central midfielder older than 26, with all but two 23 or below when the season starts. There is much more experience in the defence, although here too there may be a deficit in terms of quality. Stoppila Sunzu and John Boye have both played in the top flight before, though neither centre-back has been especially successful. The same goes for goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidjia.

Target


Survival is the goal but it promises to be tough to achieve.

Girondins de Bordeaux

In


Ui-jo Hwang (att) (Gamba Osaka); Enoch Kwateng (def) (Nantes); Loris Benito (def) (Young Boys); Mexer (def) (Rennes); Paul Baysse (def) (Caen), Jonathan Cafu (mid) (Red Star), Alexander Mendy (att) (Guingamp), Valentin Vada (mid) (Saint-Etienne), Daniel Mancini (mid) (Auxerre), Raoul Bellanova (def) (AC Milan) (all loan ends)

Out


Jules Kounde (r)(def) (Sevilla); Lukas Lerager (mid) (Genoa); Zaydou Youssouf (sp)(att) (Saint-Etienne); Jerome Prior (sp)(gk) (Valenciennes); Igor Lewczuk (sp)(def) (Legia Warsaw); Over Mandanda (gk) (Creteil); Jaroslav Plasil (sp)(mid) (retired), Aaron Boupendza (att) (Feirense, loan)

When Bordeaux were taken over earlier in the year by a group of American investors, there was great excitement as to where the club might go. So far, they have been travelling backwards at significant speed with little sign of that negative momentum stopping over the summer. Head coach Paulo Sousa, their fourth permanent coach in 18 months and third last season alone, has made a poorer start to his career in the dugout than anyone in the past. They finished last season in 14th place with just 41 points and 17 matches lost – the most in a generation. Reasons for optimism ahead of the new campaign are few and far between. Rather than strengthen the squad, it is actually looking weaker now than it did when the season finished. Key centre-back Jules Kounde has been moved on and, while no other big players have departed, the likes of Lukas Lerager and Zaydou Youssouf were both very useful squad members. In return, the defence appears to have been bolstered by a succession of free transfers: Enoch Kwateng and Mexer, seasoned Ligue 1 players who should do a steady job, and Loris Benit from Young Boys have arrived, while Ui-jo Hwang joins up as an entirely unknown quantity from Gamba Osaka. There is decent depth in the defence, if little impressive quality, while in the midfield there remains uncertainty over the future of many players, with Younousse Sankhare, Valentin Vada and Francois Kamano all linked with moves away. A reliance on younger players is likely, with Albert Lottin, Yacine Adli and Aurelien Tchouameni all teenagers likely to see a good deal of game time. In attack, meanwhile, there are also issues with a sector largely composed of players who misfired last season. With Sousa still apparently unsure what his strongest side is, Bordeaux go into this season in a mess.

Target


Of France’s traditional big guns, Bordeaux are in the worst state by far. While there’s talent in their ranks, exploiting it will be difficult. A good start is key but it will be a long season otherwise and a top-half finish looks beyond them at this point.

Lille OSC

In


Tim Weah (att) (PSG); Benjamin Andre (mid) (Rennes); Domagoj Bradaric (def) (Hadjuk Split); Leo Jardim (gk) (Rio Ave); Show (mid) (1 de Agosto); Saad Agouzoul (def) (Kawkab Marrakech); Virgiliu Postolachi (att) (PSG); Victor Osimhen (att) (RSC Charleroi); Yassine Benzia (mid) (Fenerbahce), Edgar Ie (def) (Nantes) (both loan ends)

Out


Thiago Mendes (k)(mid) (Lyon); Youssouf Kone (r)(def) (Lyon); Anwar El Ghazi (att) (Aston Villa); Kouadio-Yves Dabila (def), Rominigue Kouame (mid) (both Cercle Brugge, loan); Herve Koffi (sp)(gk) (Belenenses, loan)

Lille face a major challenge in replicating the success they enjoyed during the 2018-19 season, when they finished second in Ligue 1, over the 10 months ahead. They will have to juggle European football along with their domestic commitments, while they have had to go into something of a state of transition given the players they have lost this summer. Midfield metronome Thiago Mendes might be the most important of those who have already departed, but Youssouf Kone performed surprisingly well at left-back in the second half of the season and has gone to Lyon, leaving Lille to look for their third first-choice in that position in a year. Crucially, though, Nicolas Pepe will leave, while there is also a chance that Rafael Leao goes, which would decimate the attacking line. Pepe’s replacement has already been found in the form of Tim Weah, who the club have said they see as more of a winger than a centre-forward, while Domagoj Bradaric is a 19-year-old Croatian signed for the left-back role in the long term, though Reinildo, who had a strong conclusion to the last campaign may take that role in the interim. Benjamin Andre has been signed from Rennes to replace Thiago Mendes, though he is not nearly of the same quality. Otherwise, Lille have worked to add depth to various areas of their squad by signing young players with the capability to be sold on at profit in the years ahead, including goalkeeper Leo Jardim and forward Virgiliu Postolachi from PSG. While there may still be talent in this Lille squad, they have to be wary of going down the route of Monaco and building their side too much around youngsters who are simply not capable of performing at the requisite standard for extended periods. Indeed, there are very few players in the whole squad between the 26 and 30 age bracket – the time when players are typically at their peak. More responsibility is set for the shoulders of players like Jonathan Bamba, Boubakary Soumare and Jonathan Ikone, but that may not be a good thing in the long term.

Target


Matching last season’s effort seems impossible, particularly with the added weight of European competition on their shoulders. They will want to be back in Europe again next term, but reaching the Europa League would be a strong achievement.

Monaco

In


Gelson Martins (att) (Atletico Madrid); Benjamin Lecomte (gk) (Montpellier); Youssef Ait Bennasser (mid) (Saint-Etienne), Gabriel Boschilia (mid) (Nantes), Pele (mid) (Nottingham Forest), Adam Traore (mid) (Cercle Brugge), Ivan Cardona (att) (Cercle Brugge), Keita Balde (att) (Inter), Gil Dias (mid) (Olympiacos), Antonio Barreca (def) (Newcastle) (all loan ends)

Out


Youri Tielemans (mid) (Leicester); Ronael Pierre-Gabriel (def) (Mainz) ; Ibrahima Diallo (mid) (Brest) ; Paul Nardi (gk) (Lorient) ; Kevin N’Doram (sp)(mid), Julien Serrano (def), Giulian Biancone (def), Loic Badiashile (gk), Jordi Mboula (att) (all Cercle Brugge); Samuel Grandsir (mid) (Brest), Antonio Barreca (def) (all loans); Jonathen Mexique (mid) (Cholet), Khephren Thuram (mid) (Nice); Andrea Raggi (def) (released)

Monaco come into the 2019-20 campaign off the back of a hellish season in which they narrowly avoided relegation. Leonardo Jardim’s troops played only in fits and starts last term, and were found to be lacking experience and mental fortitude as the season progress. Confidence ebbed away and it had disastrous consequences. If a clear out was expected over the summer, it has not really materialised. Numerous players have departed the club on loan – given the massive size of their squad that was inevitable – but they have toiled to clear out all of the deadwood. Youri Tielemans has been sold to Leicester but, in terms of other regular starters departing, only full-back Ronael Pierre-Gabriel genuinely affects the first team. Veteran defender Andrea Raggi has been released but this was a move long overdue, while they have been frustrated in their efforts to recapture Adrien Silva after his loan from Leicester. Meanwhile, incoming players have been frustratingly few and far between. Goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte – a very steady keeper in Ligue 1 over the last two season – has arrived from Montpellier and is the kind of shrewd addition they were missing last year, but otherwise they have managed only to seal a long-term agreement for Gelson Martins, who finished last season on loan at the club. With numerous players returning from loan, Monaco have vast depth, but perhaps only Youssef Ait Bennasser will be pushing for regular football, while Gabriel Boschilia has the potential but struggled to find his best form with Nantes after a serious knee injury in Monaco’s title-winning season. Uncertainty continues to dog the attack, with veteran attacker Radamel Falcao not certain to remain, while even the future of Pietro Pellegri is questionable. The Italian spent much of last term laid up, along with promising young Frenchman Willem Geubbels. More is needed, too, from Aleksandr Golovin, who sparked only occasionally last season, while Cesc Fabregas is set to be a vital player in the midfield. At the back, Monaco are either aging or too green. None of their defenders enjoyed good seasons last term and this is not an area that has received any upgrade over the summer. In short, it promises to be a complicated campaign.

Target


Monaco will hope to return to the Champions League but their squad still looks muddled and any kind of European football should be welcomed. Another difficult season should not be discounted – especially if signings are not made.

Montpellier HSC

In


Teji Savanier (mid) (Nimes); Andy Delort (att) (Toulouse) ; Jordan Ferri (mid) (Lyon) ; Matias Carvalho (gk) (Toulouse)

Out


Benjamin Lecomte (k)(gk) (Monaco) ; Isaac Mbenza (att) (Huddersfield) ; Ellyes Skhiri (r)(mid) (Koln) ; Bryan Passi (def) (Niort) ; Yannis Ammour (gk) (Beziers), Killian Sanson (Quevilly) (both loans) ; Giovanni Sio (att) (Genclerbirligi) ; Morgan Poaty (sp)(def) (Guingamp) ; Jeremie Porsan-Clemente (def), Jonathan Ligali (sp)(gk) (both released)

Montpellier finished last season in a credible sixth spot in Ligue 1, narrowly missing out on European football under the wily leadership of Michel Der Zakarian. The Stade de la Mosson club come into the new campaign in decent shape, although they are without a recognised No.1 goalkeeper having sold Benjamin Lecomte to Monaco and allowed Jonathan Ligali to be released. Youngster Dimitry Bertaud is in pole position for the role at present but would represent a huge gamble. Defensively, Montpellier are one of the most redoubtable sides in the league and a team that has not changed anything significant over the summer. Right wing-back Ruben Aguilar continues to be linked with a move away, but a man who is so strong going forward remains on their books. In the heart of the defence, meanwhile, Hilton may turn 42 in September, but has shown no signs of allowing his form to drop. The midfield sector, meanwhile, may have said goodbye to Ellyes Skhiri but returns for the new season a stronger unit. Jordan Ferri, who has significant Ligue 1 experience, has arrived from Lyon, but impressively they have managed to scoop up Teji Savanier, the league’s leading assist maker last season and a demon over a dead ball. With Florent Mollet also on their books, there should be no shortage of technical quality and creativity in the heart of the field. In attack, too, Montpellier are quietly well equipped, having competed the signing of Andy Delort, who struck up an effective partnership with Gaetan Laborde last season. Depth in this area does represent something of a worry, with Souleymane Camara now 36 and Petar Skuletic yet to prove himself since arriving a year ago, but both the regulars have good injury records of late. Pre-season has proven difficult, with two draws and two defeats in four matches, but Der Zakarian is expected to have his team ready to open up against Rennes on August 10.

Target


Montpellier are strong enough to replicate their exploits and finish in the Top 6, although goalkeeper could be an issue if it not resolved promptly.

Nantes

In


Marcus Coco (mid) (Guingamp); Molla Wague (def) (Udinese); Abou Ba (mid) (Nancy); Dennis Appiah (def) Anderlecht); Bridge Ndilu (att) (Laval); Mehdi Abeid (mid) (Dijon); Alban Lafont (gk) (Fiorentina, loan); Santy Ngom (att) (Nancy), Alexis Alegue (mid) (Tours), Yassin El Ghanassy (att) (Al-Raed) (all loan returns)

Out


Diego Carlos (r)(def) (Sevilla); Koffi Djidji (def) (Torino); Anthony Limbombe (sp)(att) (Standard); Ciprian Tatarusanu (k)(gk) (Lyon); Maxime Dupe (sp)(gk) (Clermont), Quentin Braat (gk)(Niort) (both loans); Enoch Kwateng (r)(def) (Bordeaux)

Nantes will play their seventh-successive season of Ligue 1 football, but they cannot take anything for granted as they approach the latest campaign. The club does it under a cloud, with an open war between head coach Vahid Halilhodzic and the board – one that may yet result in a change in the dugout before the season starts. Halilhodzic has been left unimpressed by the club’s transfer policy this summer, which has seen them lose keystone defender Diego Carlos to Sevilla and Koffi Djidji to Torino, without reinvesting the money in any significant manner. Molla Wague and Dennis Appiah have been brought in on the cheap to help the defence, while the only other permanent signing of note has been winger Marcus Coco. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Alban Lafont will replace the released Ciprian Tatarusanu on loan, and Mehdi Abeid has arrived on a free transfer from Dijon. While the board wants the coach to use the club’s strong youth academy, he does not trust the young players and even last season did not exploit them fully – even when they were playing well. Offensively, this team looks light. Kalifa Coulibaly did a decent job of replacing Emiliano Sala in the second half of last term, but beyond him they do not possess a goalscorer of note, with the majority of options open to the coach very young indeed. Meanwhile, there is not an obvious threat from the midfield either. Nantes are packed with runners, although so far Valentin Rongier remains on their books, despite insisting before the summer he would leave. He is their best bet for goals from that area. Perhaps on the defence looks in finished shape as the beginning of the season approaches, with plenty of options across the spectrum of the back four. This area is liable to be the base around which the team is built. With the fans unhappy with the board’s plans to build a new stadium and unrest between the directors and the coach, conditions going into the new campaign could barely be any worse.

Target


Nantes will hope for a comfortable mid-table finish, but a fight against the drop seems just as likely in their current state. They are probably the most unstable club in Ligue 1 heading into the new season.

Nice

In


Khephren Thuram (mid) (Monaco), Vincent Marcel (mid) (Troyes, loan end)

Out


Romain Perraud (def) (Brest); Olivier Boscagli (def) (PSV) ; Jean-Victor Makengo (sp)(mid) (Toulouse, loan); Christophe Jallet (sp)(def) (Amiens); Mouez Hassne (gk), Remi Walter (sp)(mid) (both released)

Nice absolutely maximised their resources last season as they finished seventh in Ligue 1 – their fourth-straight Top 10 finish in France’s top flight. The club, however, has been in something of a state of paralysis in recent weeks as a takeover bid is attempted to be finalised, but what this has meant is that much time has been wasted in the transfer window, particularly with regards signing players. Only young Monaco midfielder Khephren Thuram has arrived this summer, yet the squad size has been cut significantly with departures. Those to leave, however, were not apparently in the plans of head coach Patrick Vieira, with Jean-Victor Makengo perhaps the most pertinent of the players to depart the Allianz Riviera. Nice, though, are not in a position in which they can stand still. Offensively, they were very poor last season, reliant on right-back Youcef Atal’s attacking acumen to provide a threat alongside that of Allan Saint-Maximin. Both players continue to be closely linked with a summer move and could easily be out the door by the end of the transfer window. Unless replaced, Nice would be in a desperate state. The midfield should be a sector that is better than last season as Wylan Cyprien regains confidence after a long-term injury and Pierre Lees Melou is back after missing a significant portion of last term. Danilo is the man likely to complete a very solid trio. At the back, meanwhile, Vieira will focus on having solidarity. The basis of his team last year was the triangle between goalkeeper Walter Benitez and centre-backs Dante and Christophe Herelle. There is no evidence to suggest that will change over the coming campaign, though it will place a significant strain on the Brazilian, who will turn 36 in October. It also means the team has precious little margin for error.

Target


Nice will be aiming for the Top 10 again. With the squad in its current state, that will be tough but, with a takeover looming – and presumably investment to follow –, they have the basis for anything up to a Europa League spot.

Nimes Olympique

In


Haris Duljevic (att) (Dynamo Dresden); Romain Philippoteaux (mid) (Auxerre) ; Vlatko Stojanovski (att) (Renova); Pablo Martinez (def) (Strasbourg); Zinedine Ferhat (mid) (Le Havre); Kevin Denkey (att) (Beziers, loan end)

Out


Teji Savanier (k)(mid) (Montpellier); Denis Bouanga (r)(att) (Saint-Etienne) ; Sada Thioub (sp)(mid) (Angers) ; Umut Bozok (sp)(att) (Lorient); Malik Hsissane (Le Puy); Rachid Alioui (sp)(att) (Angers); Herve Lybohy (def), Martin Sourzac (gk), Baptiste Valette (sp)(gk) (all Nancy); Fethi Harek (sp)(def) (retired); Panagiotis Vlachodimos (mid) (released)

Nimes’ first Ligue 1 season since 1992-93 was an undoubted success as they attained a ninth-place finish that was beyond even their expectations at the start of the campaign. The new season, though, threatens to be even more testing. The club was boosted by the news that Bernard Blaquart had elected to stay beyond the end of last term – something that looked less than certain in May. After masterminding their promotion push, the coach was important in their success last season. They have, however, lost their two best players in the form of Teji Savanier, Ligue 1’s leading assist maker last season, and Denis Bouanga, a quicksilver winger who has moved to Saint-Etienne. Otherwise, they have seen a string of regulars from their best go, while veteran centre-back Fethi Harek has retired. Savanier has not been replaced per say, although it seems that Romain Philippoteaux from Ligue 2 side Auxerre may play his creative role. While a decent player, he would be a huge downgrade, while Zinedine Ferhat, who can play wide, would be likewise. Nimes are set to lean on one of their revelations of last season, Renaud Ripart for goals. After netting eight times in Ligue 1 last season out of the blue, he could be a vital component of their team this time around. Equally, there will be a greater weight of expectation on the likes of Antonin Bobichon, who had a breakout campaign last season that was largely unexpected. Nimes were attacking in their stance last season and are likely to be equally aggressive in their play this time around. For that reason, the defence is always likely to concede a high number of goals. Veteran Pablo Martinez has been drafted in from Strasbourg to play alongside Anthony Briancon, which seems on paper like an upgrade. Crucially, Paul Bernardoni has returned for another loan stint; the goalkeeper is one of the best young custodians in France and his contribution last term was underrated due to Nimes’ defensive record.

Target


Survival is the name of the game. It promises to be a dogfight, though.

Olympique Lyonnais

In


Joachim Andersen (def) (Sampdoria); Thiago Mendes (mid) (Lille); Youssouf Kone (def) (Lille); Jean Lucas (mid) (Flamengo); Ciprian Tatarusanu (gk) (Nantes); Boubacar Fofana (att) (Gazelec Ajaccio)

Out


Tanguy Ndombele (r)(mid) (Tottenham); Ferland Mendy (r)(def) (Real Madrid); Nabil Fekir (k)(att) (Betis); Christopher Martins Pereira (mid) (Young Boys); Jordan Ferri (sp)(mid) (Montpellier), Elisha Owusu (mid) (Gent); Olivier Kemen (mid) (Servette); Mathieu Gorgelin (sp)(gk) (Le Havre); Jeremy Morel (sp)(def) (Rennes)

After a relatively disappointing 2018-19 campaign, in which there was a sentiment of underachievement, Lyon will begin a new era, with new faces at the top and new leaders on the field. At boardroom level, Juninho has been appointed as the director of football and has appointed former Brazil assistant boss Sylvinho into the head coach role – the first he has occupied at club level. On the field, meanwhile, Lyon have once again turned in a big profit on the transfer market, selling three undisputed starters in the form of Tanguy Ndombele, Ferland Mendy and Nabil Fekir – the latter going surprisingly to Betis for a relatively paltry €20m. It has been the sale of Ndombele that has really funded OL’s summer, with centre-back Joachim Andersen, midfielders Thiago Mendes and Jean Lucas and left-back Youssouf Kone the major arrivals to bolster the first team. Ciprian Tatarusanu, who impressed with Nantes, has arrived to provide competition in goal – perhaps even a long-term replacement to Anthony Lopes, whose contract is up next summer. Lyon’s challenge last season was a lack of consistency rather than any dearth of quality, and that will be what they have to overcome this time around. This was particularly evident in the defence, where Andersen is expected to plug a gap in its centre along with Jason Denayer. They will switch to a 4-3-3 formation under Sylvinho and are expected to play in a style influence by Tite’s Brazil side. That means they will likely play at a high intensity and with a significant press. For that reason, releasing Fekir, who is a natural No.10, was a move that made sense. As such, this is Houssem Aouar’s time to shine. In attack, there is no lack of quality, with Memphis Depay, Maxwel Cornet, Martin Terrier, who may start slowly due to pre-season fitness issues, and Bertrand Traore likely to be vying for the wide roles. Moussa Dembele is their best goal scorer but has struggled to hold down a starting berth in the year he has been at the club, though after scoring twice in a recent friendly win over Arsenal has a key role to play.

Target


Lyon’s goal should be to finish second.

Olympique Marseille

In


Alvaro Gonzalez (def) (Villarreal, loan); Christopher Rocchia (def) (Sochaux), Saif-Eddine Khaoui (mid) (Caen); Gregory Sertic (mid) (Zurich) (all loan ends)

Out


Lucas Ocampos (sp)(att) (Sevilla) ; Clinton N’jie (sp)(att) (Dinamo Moscow) ; Yusuf Sari (att) (Trabzonspor); Florian Escales (gk) (Laval); Romain Cagnon (gk), Mario Balotelli (k)(att), Rolando (def), Tomas Hubocan (def) (all released)

Finishing fifth in Ligue 1 last season was a disappointment for Marseille, whose ‘Champions Project’ appears to be floundering. OM endured a difficult campaign last time out and, though they have appointed Andre Villas-Boas as head coach this summer, they have made painfully slow progress in the transfer window and appear to be worse off than they were when they finished the season in May. At the time of writing, Marseille had only managed to complete the signing of one player – Alvaro Gonzalez on a loan deal from Villarreal. While the defence is an area that desperately needs work, he will be a like-for-like replacement for Adil Rami, who is in dispute with the club that is seemingly unfixable. As such, even this weak area of their team has not been adequately bolstered. Elsewhere, Marseille have suffered only problems. These are most evident in attack. Last term they were hopelessly short of an option at centre forward until Mario Balotelli joined in January. He has departed the club after a successful short stint, while Lucas Ocampos, who was their other most effective forward player in the second half of the campaign, has been sold to Sevilla for a relatively small €15m fee. Further eating away at an offensive line that is short on numbers is the sale of Clinton N’Jie, although he had stagnated and this is probably to the benefit of the club. Dario Benedetti is expected to arrive from Boca Juniors, but it is a lot to expect for him to hit the ground running – and he will need to. Florian Thauvin and Dmitri Payet have both been retained, despite rumours of transfers, yet neither finished last season well and Marseille desperately need more from both if they are to succeed this term. In midfield, too, they look short on quality and quantity. OM tried unsuccessfully to offload Kevin Strootman, who is now something of a millstone, with Maxime Lopez and Morgan Sanson set to be key along with Luiz Gustavo, who was below his best last term. Indeed, Marseille need much more from all their players, who spent last season playing below par. Friendly results have been thoroughly mixed, from a 4-0 loss to Rangers and a 2-1 loss to Accrington Stanley, to a stunning 8-1 win over DC United.

Target


Marseille will be aiming for the Champions League spots, but in reality they will do well to match last season’s fifth-placed finish given their current roster.

Paris St Germain

In


Idrissa Gueye (mid) (Everton); Abdou Diallo (def) (Dortmund) ; Pablo Sarabia (mid) (Sevilla); Mitchel Bakker (def) (Ajax); Marcin Bulka (gk) (Chelsea); Ander Herrera (mid) (Manchester United); Kevin Trapp (gk) (Frankfurt), Remy Descamps (gk) (Clermont), Jese (att) (Betis) (all loan ends)

Out


Giovani Lo Celso (mid) (Betis); Moussa Diaby (att) (Leverkusen); Christopher Nkunku (mid) (RB Leipzig); Grzegorz Krychowiak (mid) (Lokomotiv Moscow); Tim Weah (att) (Lille); Adrien Rabiot (mid), Gianluigi Buffon (sp)(gk) (both Juventus); Dani Alves (r)(def) (released)

Paris Saint-Germain endured a disappointing campaign by their standards in 2018-19 as they claimed the league title but missed out on both domestic cup competitions and suffered embarrassment in the Champions League last-16 stage. Wounded, the club will attempt to bounce back this time around but has been left distracted by the Neymar situation, with the Brazilian apparently seeking to manufacture a move away from the club. For the time being, though, it looks more probable that he will remain in France for at least one more season. PSG have allowed a number of players to depart, though the only one of particular consequence immediately to the first team is Adrien Rabiot, which was a move that was coming since January. They may regret allowing the likes of academy products Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku and Tim Weah to leave so cheaply in the future, though. Veterans Gianluigi Buffon and Dani Alves have also gone. The players, signed for their ‘champions’ mentality, proved to be flops in France and will not be significantly missed. PSG have moved to address some of their long-standing problems, such as the defensive midfield issue, with Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera arriving from Everton and Manchester United respectively, removing the need to play Marquinhos in that unfamiliar role. Abdou Diallo has joined from Dortmund to add further depth to the defence, while Pablo Sarabia has arrived from Sevilla as a creative force for the midfield. Domestically, PSG should be able to sweep away their opponents with the power of their attacking line, which is among the best in Europe. Questions remain, however, with regards their mentality on the big stage. In two of the last three years they have lost out in the Champions League after holding an apparently unassailable first-leg advantage, which has damaged the club’s reputation. As such, they have found it difficult to land the players they would have wished, specifically Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. This is a team that has much to prove over the next 12 months.

Target


The league title should be a formality. Improvement in the Champions League is likely to be a necessity for the coach to keep his job.

RC Strasbourg

In


Alexander Djiku (def) (Caen); Jean-Ricner Bellegarde (mid) (Lens); Lamine Kone (def) (Sunderland)

Out


Yoann Salmier (def) (Troyes) ; Pablo Martinez (sp)(def) (Nimes) ; Anthony Goncalves (sp)(mid) (Caen); Duplexe Tchamba (def) (Stromsgodset), Diogo Branco (def) (Montijo), Idriss Saadi (att) (Cercle Brugge)

Strasbourg enjoyed an exceptional 2018-19 campaign, in which Thierry Laurey led his side back into Europe via victory in the Coupe de la Ligue. As such, they have already been in competitive action this season, with a first-leg victory over Maccabi Haifa in the Europa League third qualifying round – a positive start to the season given the notoriously tricky circumstances that playing such ties brings. Racing are backed by one of the best supports in France, and there is little doubt that played some role in inspiring them to a strong 11th placed finish last season. Indeed, it was a position that probably deserved to be higher, but they allowed their standards to slip before their cup final. Further establishing themselves back in the top flight has to be the target for the season ahead, though they will also want to make progress in Europe and enjoy at least one glamour tie at Stade de la Meinau. The squad at Laurey’s disposal has not changed significantly. Pablo Martinez, a veteran centre-back, is the most notable name to depart over the summer, but he has been replaced by Alexander Djiku, a player of excellent promise, despite playing in a poor Caen team last season. Experience has also been replaced with youth in the midfield, where former Lens man Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, a highly promising youngster, steps in to replace Anthony Goncalves, who were perhaps a little undervalued last season. Nevertheless, the feeling is likely to be that with an extra volume of games, energy is more important that experience. Otherwise, Strasbourg are set to line up in the same manner as last term, likely meaning they continue to rely on wing-backs Kenny Lala and Lionel Carole for a good deal of their attacking threat. The goals will probably be shared around the team, with Nuno Da Costa and Ludovic Ajorque their most capable scorers, though not always playing in tandem. There is excellent balance throughout this team and no clear area of weakness.

Target


Strasbourg should be able to attain a top-10 finish. This may be compromised if they do well in Europe and their squad is stretched.

Reims

In


Predrag Rajkovic (gk) (Maccabi Tel Aviv); Yehvann Diouf (gk) (Troyes); Daily Kobaly Ndiaye (gk) (Cayor Foot); Marshall Munetsi (mid) (Orlando Pirates)

Out


Bjorn Engels (k)(def) (Aston Villa); Pablo Chavarria (r)(att) (Mallorca); Yohan Roche (def) (Rodez); Virgile Piechocki (mid) (Gazelec Ajaccio); Thomas Fontaine (def) (Lorient); Marvin Martin (sp)(mid), Johann Carrasso (gk) (both released);

Reims are a side that have thrived on consistency over the past couple of season, which saw them first win promotion from Ligue 2 with a record points tally then establish themselves comfortably in the top flight. As such, it should come as little surprise that nothing much has changed for the Champagne outfit over the course of the summer. Centre-back Bjorn Engels has been sold to Aston Villa at a substantial profit, while veteran attacker Pablo Chavarria has been allowed to sign for Mallorca, but dramatic changes have not taken place. Indeed, there are only four new faces in the first-team ranks, three of which are goalkeepers and none of these are liable to be first pick, although Edouard Mendy, who had an exceptional season last time out, is struggling with an injury picked up on international duty this summer. The only outfielder to join up, meanwhile, is midfielder Marshall Munetsi from Orlando Pirates. He is unlikely to break into the starting XI. Reims, then, look thoroughly predictable heading into the new season, with as much as 10 of the 11 first-choice players from last season retained. They will lean primarily on their defence, though, with Yunis Abdelhamid set to be the leader of the back four after an unexpectedly strong campaign last time out. They do, however, have an excellent selection of attacking midfielders – one that should be considered the envy of far stronger sides. Mathieu Cafaro, Arber Zeneli and Moussa Doumbia are all highly capable players, yet it was Remi Oudin who was the star last season. Centre forward may be an area of concern, though it is a role Oudin could play. Grejohn Kyei could be given the responsibility after a season on loan at Lens, backed up by youngster Boulaye Dia, who had a good first season in the top flight.

Target


Reims should be seeking to establish themselves in the middle of the table once more.

Saint Etienne

In


Denis Boanga (att) (Nimes); Ryad Boudebouz (mid) (Betis); Zaydou Youssouf (att) (Bordeaux); Sergi Palencia (def) (Barcelona); Harold Moukoudi (def) (Le Havre); Alpha Sissoko (def) (Clermont); Mahdi Camara (mid) (Laval), Leo Lacroix (def) (Hamburg), Assane Diousse (mid) (Chievo), Franck Honorat (att) (Clermont) (all loan returns)

Out


Remy Cabella (r)(mid) (Krasnodar); Habib Maiga (mid) (Metz), Jorginho (att) (Ludogorets); Pierre-Yves Polomat (def) (Genclerbirligi); Oussama Tannane (att) (Vitesse), Makhtar Gueye (att), Vagner (att), Kenny Rocha Santos (mid) (all Nancy), Alexis Guengouz (gk) (all loans); Mickael Panos (def) (Pafos); Neven Subotic (sp)(def) (Union Berlin);

Saint-Etienne are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory, having finished fourth in Ligue 1 last term under the guidance of Jean-Louis Gasset. The veteran coach, however, decided to quit in the summer and has been replaced by right-hand man Ghislain Printant – a boss considered to be significantly less able, though popular with the players. There was a threat of a significant summer exodus from Stade Geoffroy-Guichard following the departure of the coach, though meaningful changes in the playing staff have been relatively small. Remy Cabella’s departure to Krasnodar is certainly a major blow in a creative sense, but otherwise loan midfielder Youssef Ait Bennasser and defender Timothee Kolodziejczak are the only notable figures to move on. The creative powerhouse of the side is expected to become Riyad Boudebouz, who has arrived for a relatively small fee from Betis and is on paper a strong and good-value addition. Additionally, Denis Bouanga arrives to add pace and depth on the left, while Zaydou Youssouf’s signing from Bordeaux does likewise on the right. The defence has been reinforced by the additions of Sergi Palencia and Harold Moukoudi from Barcelona and Le Havre respectively, with both expected to have to fight for a regular berth. With William Saliba staying at the club on a loan deal after signing from Arsenal, Saint-Etienne can expect big things again from their promising academy defender. With Stephane Ruffier in goal, and the defence protected by Yann M’Vila, who had been linked with a move but remains at the club, there is a very strong base. Offensively, there are a good variety of options in attack for Saint-Etienne, from the goal-poacher Robert Beric to the craftier Wahbi Khazri. This provides a good degree of versatility and depth, both of which will be key as the team returns to European football. Injuries hit the team towards the end of last season and they may start the season without a couple of long-term absentees in Gabriel Silva and, possibly, Kevin Monney-Paquet.

Target


European football will be the goal for Saint-Etienne once more.

Stade Brestois

In


Ibrahima Diallo (mid) (Monaco); Romain Perraud (def) (Paris FC) ; Denys Bain (def) (Le Havre) ; Samuel Grandsir (mid) (Monaco, loan) ; Ludovic Baal (def) (Rennes); David Kiki (def) (Red Star, loan end)

Out


Anthony Weber (r)(def) (Caen); Valentin Henry (sp)(def) (Rodez); Quentin Bernard (r)(def) (Auxerre); Corentin Jacob (def) (Rodez); Thomas Ayasse (sp)(mid), Pierre Magnon (mid), Edouard Butin (sp)(att) (all released)

Brest return to Ligue 1 after six seasons in the second flight, though over the course of the summer they lost the man who masterminded their push for promotion, Jean-Marc Furlan. The Breton side, who have spent only one three-season spell in the top flight since 1991, were noted for their enterprising attacking play last season, a feature of new boss Olivier Dall’Oglio’s play when he was in charge at Dijon, establishing them in the top flight. Offensively, they will lean on players who have yet to prove themselves in the top flight. Gaetan Charbonnier was utterly prolific last term but that was a completely out-of-character season from the centre forward, who has generally been functional but not spectacular. Kevin Mayi, meanwhile, has little Ligue 1 experience. In the attacking midfield sector, Yoann Court’s contribution is likely to be important from the left, with Mathias Autret and Cristian Battocchio the key playmakers. Samuel Grandsir has arrived on loan from Monaco but is a player with a reputation bigger than his performances have ever been worthy of. At 22, this could be his last chance to come good if he’s to reach the very top. There’s plenty of energy in the midfield but matching their opponents technically will likely be above their level. Again, they have taken a gamble on a Monaco youngster by adding Ibrahima Diallo on loan. The promotion-winning defence is untouched, though that was not the best sector of their team. Denys Bain’s arrival does bolster it to some extent and he is expected to go straight into the starting XI. Again, though, he is a player untested at the top level. Goalkeeper Gautier Larsonneur was superb last season and the France Under-21 international well deserves his chance to play in Ligue 1.

Target


Survival looks a difficult test for Brest, who have lost their coach and have not strengthened obviously well.

Stade Rennais

In


Mbaye Niang (att) (Torino); Flavien Tait (att) (Angers) ; Romain Salin (gk) (Sporting) ; Jeremy Morel (def) (Lyon); Jordan Tell (att) (Orleans), Dennis Will Poha (Nancy), Faitout Maouassa (Nimes), Diafra Sakho (att) (Bursaspor) (all loan ends)

Out


Benjamin Andre (r)(mid) (Lille); Brandon (att) (Osasuna); Mexer (r)(def) (Bordeaux) ; Ludovic Baal (def) (Brest) ; Abdoulaye Diallo (sp)(gk) (Genclerbirligi); Hatem Ben Arfa (k)(mid), Mehdi Zeffane (sp)(def), Romain Danze (sp(def), Nicolas Janvier (mid), Edvinas Germonas (gk) (all released)

It took Rennes some time to come good last season, but they finished the campaign with silverware as they defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France final. As a result, they will once again have the opportunity to experience European football after terrific showings against the likes of Arsenal and Real Betis last season. Julien Stephan remains in charge, and it was under his hand that Rennes experienced a dramatic upsurge in their form in the latter half of last season. That they finished 10th was largely on him. Under Stephan, Rennes played an exciting brand of football that resulted in them scoring 55 goals over the course of the season. True, they faded towards the end, but it is clear he will be expansive if possible. Unfortunately for the Breton side, they lost one of their most exciting talents in the summer as Hatem Ben Arfa elected not to renew his contract with the club. They also saw long-time midfield servant Benjamin Andre leave for Lille and Mexer depart for Bordeaux, yet both are infinitely more replaceable than the mercurial playmaker. Flavien Tait, who has arrived from Angers, has the unenviable task of taking up the baton, and the 26-year-old appears a good choice, having flown under the radar despite strong showings in recent seasons. Rennes also moved to complete the addition of M’Baye Niang, giving them a strong attacking line up on paper, though it remains unclear if they will be able to retain winger Ismaila Sarr until the end of the transfer window. Big changes have not been made otherwise, with progress somewhat slow in the transfer market. Veteran defender Jeremy Morel has arrived at the club but Rennes fans might want to see more reinforcement in the middle of the defence, while no attempt to replace the influential Andre has been made at all yet. As such, there is a feeling that Rennes go into this season rather incomplete, but that did not stop them finishing last season well.

Target


Rennes should be fighting for a top six spot. Certainly, they should achieve better than the 10th they made last season.

Toulouse

In


Efthymios Koulouris (att) (PAOK); Agustin Rogel (Samara) ; Jean-Victor Makengo (Nice, loan), William Vainqueur (mid) (Antalyaspor, loan); Steve Yago (def) (Le Havre, loan end)

Out


Christopher Jullien (r)(def) (Celtic); Andy Delort (att) (Montpellier); Alexis Blin (mid) (Amiens); Steven Fortes (def) (Lens); Yannick Cahuzac (sp)(mid) (Lens); Yann Bodiger (mid) (Cadiz); Clement Michelin (def) (Lens); Francois Moubandje (sp)(def) (Dinamo Zagreb); Jimmy Durmaz (r)(mid) (Galatasaray); Hakim El Mokeddem (mid) (Laval); Jessy Pi (mid) (Caen); Marc Vidal (gk) (released); Firmin Mubele (att) (Astana, loan)

Toulouse have spent recent seasons fighting against relegation from Ligue 1, though the last time they were not in the top flight was 2003. In all five of the last campaigns, they have finished in the bottom half, while only twice have they been more than a place above the automatic relegation spots. Last season, when they finished 16th, could be argued as something of a success, but given that they picked up only 38 points from 38 games, they were fortunate there were not a couple more teams better than them. Indeed, over the last two campaigns, they average less than a point per match. Alain Casanova can feel himself somewhat fortunate to still be in charge of the club ahead of the new campaign, but the same problems they suffered last term still appear to be evident. The squad has not changed dramatically, though they have worked to sign four additional players. Efthymios Koulouris could perhaps be the most important of these. The striker from PAOK scored a very impressive 19 goals in 28 Super League matches last season and Toulouse need him to return significantly if they are to attain more comfortable survival. There is, of course, no guarantee that he will settle easily, but after Aaron Leya Iseka and Yaya Sanogo both flopped last term, they need a source of offensive inspiration that is not Max Gradel, who was leaned upon far too much. Yanniack Cahuzac left for Lens in the summer, depriving TFC of the kind of battling qualities that a side in the relegation fight needs. William Vainqueur seems to be his replacement but is not quite as gritty, while Jean-Victor Makengo also reinforces the heart of the field. He will add more energy to the side than Manu Garcia, who was on loan from Man City last season but had only a modest impact. Defensively, Christopher Jullien, who is perhaps their best centre-back, has moved on to Celtic. Agustin Rogel has been added from Samara but arrives in France a rather unknown quantity. One positive for Toulouse is that they have a strong youth section and their academy players have typically stepped up impressively when called upon. It seems likely they will need these qualities this season.

Target


Avoiding relegation is again the target.