Laval are in Ligue 2 as Championnat National champions, edging Annecy and Villefranche to the title in what was a thrilling three-way battle. Laval just edged the race, despite having a weaker offensive and defensive record than Annecy. It was a title secured by thin margins. Now they are aiming to replicate the achievement of the previous season’s champions Bastia, who finished 12th in the second flight last term.
The hallmark of Laval’s campaign last season was an ability to grind out narrow victories. Often, they would win matches by a single goal, with 13 of their 20 wins achieved by just one strike. Indeed, 1-0 was their most frequent scoreline last term. Head coach Olivier Frapolli must ensure that his side remain similarly efficient this season.
Key to their efforts will be centre-forward Geoffray Durbant, who was their leading marksman last time out, although they have reinforced their attacking options with the arrival of Zakaria Naidji from Paradou. Steven Nsimba is another new offensive face for the Breton side. Kader N’Chobi was another good offensive performer last term.
One thing they will not be lacking is experience in midfield. Jimmy Roye is a seasoned Ligue 2 performer in the midfield, where Anthony Goncalves has been signed up from Strasbourg and Jordan Adeoti remains. All three are easily the wrong side of 30. Julien Maggiotti has arrived on loan from Charleroi for a second successive season to supplement their options, along with the well-travelled Kevin Tapoko, who had a recent spell with Grenoble.
Similarly, the defence is loaded with experience. All of the eight defenders on their books at the time of writing are 27 or older, with many having had Ligue 2 experience in the past, including signings Yohan Tavares and Elhadji Pape Diaw. If there is a question over the quality in the defence, there should be plenty of knowhow.
Look for Laval to play a negative 3-5-2 formation and try to win games by scoring the odd goal.
After five seasons away from Ligue 2, returning to the second tier promises to be a major challenge. A relegation battle looks likely and, if they survive, it will likely be a tight margin.