Valenciennes came close to relegation from Ligue 2 last season but saved themselves thanks to an unlikely four-game undefeated run in which they played three clubs that were challenging for promotion. They had just enough about them offensively to survive, and just enough solidarity in their defence. Going forward, they ranked 15th in the league, but at the back they were 17th.
Last season was rather shambolic for them. They sacked head coach Olivier Guegan midway through the year but never truly committed to interim boss Christophe Delmotte, who has moved to become Lazslo Boloni’s assistant at Metz. In has come Nicolas Rabuel, who has no management experience in senior football but did work with the B team last season.
The pre-season fixtures have shown the new boss as someone who is likely to set his side up to be well drilled defensively. There have been some encouraging signs in pre-season friendlies with this regard, while it should also be stressed that too much should not be read into these results as they have been missing their two key offensive players in Ugo Bonnet and Florian Martin.
Valenciennes’ challenge looks a difficult one. They have lost numerous significant players in their squad, though they will feel that these players were typically underperforming. Examples of this are Baptiste Guillaume and Sessi D’Almeida, who had more than they showed last season. Laurent Dos Santos’ release from the defence does come as something of a surprise, but Valenciennes are well covered in his specialist position.
Few signings of note have been made, but the loan of Brest goalkeeper Gautier Larsonneur looks like being a good one. Otherwise, they are leaning on players stepping up from the fifth-tier, where they have plucked Nassim Innocenti and Koly Soumare, as well as a gaggle of youth players who will now be involved in the first-team squad.
Valenciennes are likely to find this season a grind. It is a huge test for a coach without any management experience at this level, although the VA board typically give their managers good backing. Realistically, survival would be fine.