Ligue 1 Season Preview: PSG chases another title with star-studded squad

Ligue 1 Season Preview: PSG chases another title with star-studded squad

European Soccer

Ligue 1 Season Preview: PSG chases another title with star-studded squad

The 2017/18 Ligue 1 campaign ended as many had expected, with a dominant Paris Saint-Germain atop the table come the league’s conclusion on May 19th.  AS Monaco’s dethroning of the Parisians in the previous season was decidedly short-lived, and life quickly returned to normal in France with the Ligue 1 trophy, L’Hexagoal, back in the capital.

Since May, however, much has changed, and the landscape of France’s first division is noticeably different. PSG remains a clear favorite to retain L’Hexagoal, but the remaining 19 spots are perhaps harder to predict than in recent years.

This transformation can be attributed to Ligue 1’s chaotic yet profitable summer transfer window.  Ligue 1 clubs have received over $780 million for their departing players as of August 8, a figure that dwarfs the funds risen in the past.  However, French expenditure has not yet caught up, as the same teams have spent just $400 million of this vast income.

Looking closer at the league, Monaco has suffered a number of high-profile departures like Thomas Lemar and Fabinho, and very well may have lost its foothold in second place.  Conversely, other Ligue 1 outfits like Lyon and Marseille have found success in the transfer window in simply retaining their prized assets.

Elsewhere, Rennes and Saint-Étienne will be looking to crack the top four following promising 2017/18 seasons, while Toulouse and Strasbourg will likely struggle after losing key players.  Are you starting to see a theme here?

Without further ado, here is SBI’s 2018/19 Ligue 1 preview:

Amiens

Transfers In: Juan Ferney Otero (Estudiantes), Matthieu Dreyer (Caen), Rafal Kurzawa (Górnik Zabrze), Eddy Gnahoré (Palermo – Loan), Emil Krafth (Bologna – Loan)

Transfers Out: Tanguy Ndmobélé (Lyon), Harrison Manzala (Angers), Emmanuel Bourgaud (Red Star), Raphaël Adiceam (RC France), Lacina Traoré (End of Loan), Gaël Kakuta (End of Loan)

Player to Watch: Striker Moussa Konaté was the focal point of Amiens’ attack last season, scoring 13 goals and linking up well with the talented Gaël Kakuta.  Konaté’s partner in crime returned to China with his loan deal up at the end of the season, and as such Amiens’ key striker will be under much more pressure to deliver despite a weakened supporting cast.  Look for fresh reinforcements Rafal Kurzawa (winger) and Juan Ferney Otero (striker) to provide Konaté with some much-needed service.

Outlook: A feisty little fish in a big pond, Amiens will do well to avoid relegation from Ligue 1 this season.  Les Licornes were in the third tier of French soccer just two years ago, and despite a remarkable 13th place finish last season, the club from northern France will likely struggle following the loss of Gaël Kakuta and Harrison Manzala.

Angers

Transfers In: Harrison Manzala (Amiens), Vincent Pajot (Saint-Étienne), Stéphane Bahoken (Strasbourg), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (Arsenal)

Transfers Out: Karl Toko-Ekambi (Villarreal), Enzo Crivelli (Caen), Mehdi Tehrat (Lens), Alexandre Letellier (Troyes – Loan), Baptiste Guillaume (Nîmes – Loan), Lassana Coulibaly (Rangers – Loan)

Player to Watch: It’s not every day that a young French talent voluntarily returns to his native country, but in signing with Angers SCO Jeff Reine-Adélaïde did just that.  Reine-Adélaïde is one of the biggest names to come to Ligue 1 this summer, but the young winger’s reputation is not entirely undeserved.  Yes, Reine-Adélaïde is coming from Arsenal and is still just 20-years-old, but the tricky Frenchman is an incredible dribbler and will become a key fixture in Ligue 1 highlight reels.  

Outlook: Angers relied heavily on front man Karl Toko Ekambi last season, and it was the Cameroonian’s 17 goals and six assists that really propelled Les Scoïstes to an impressive 14th place finish.  With Toko Ekambi now in Villareal and other attacking option Enzo Crivelli sold to Caen it’s hard to imagine where Angers’ goals will come from.  In spite of manager Stéphane Moulin’s ability to make something out of nothing, Les Scoïstes will likely find themselves battling their alphabetical rival Amiens at the bottom of the 2018/19 Ligue 1 table.

Bordeaux

 Transfers In: Samuel Kalu (KAA Gent), Toma Bašić (Hajduk Split), Vukasin Jovanovic (End of Loan)

Transfers Out: Malcom (FC Barcelona), Diego Rolan (Deportivo), Diego Contento (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Paul Bernardoni (Nîmes), Soualiho MeÏté (End of Loan – Monaco), Martin Braithwaite (End of Loan – Middlesbrough)

Player to Watch: A slow start to Bordeaux’s summer transfer business was turned on its head when Les Girondins signed Toma Bašić and Samuel Kalu.  While both have great promise, Kalu is more likely to make an immediate impact as the Nigerian is more or less a direct replacement for the Brazilian Malcom.  Kalu should be a great offensive outlet for Gus Poyet, as the winger scored six goals and provided seven assists for KAA Gent in the Belgian First Division A last season.

Outlook: What a summer it was for Les Girondins.  From longtime ownership group M6 starting talks to sell the club to AS Roma owner James Pallotta threatening legal action following the Malcom to Barcelona fiasco, Bordeaux has been involved in a number of incredible news stories over the past few months.  Despite a turbulent year, the historic French club found itself in 6th at the end of last season.  Between an added European competition and the loss of the talismanic Malcom, however, Bordeaux would struggle to replicate last season’s finish in this upcoming Ligue 1 campaign.  New youngsters Samuel Kalu and Toma Bašić, as well as the emerging Jules Koundé, will play a large part in whatever success Les Girondins achieve this season.

Caen

Transfers In: Enzo Crivelli (Angers), Yacine Bammou (Nantes), Casimir Ninga (Montpellier), Fayçal Fajr (Getafe), Malik Tchokounté (Paris FC), Erwin Zelazny (Troyes), Prince Oniangué (Wolves)

Transfers Out: Ivan Santini (Anderlecht), Hervé Bazile (Le Havre), Damien Da Silva (Rennes), Matthieu Dreyer (Amiens), Pape Sané (Nancy – Loan), Rémy Vercoutre (Retired), Julien Féret (Retired)

Player to Watch: Signing four different strikers suggests that Caen are hoping that goals, and not necessarily defence, will save them from Ligue 1 relegation.  The pick of this litter is Enzo Crivelli, who joins from Angers after a year-long loan with Caen.  Crivelli is more familiar with his new club than his counterparts, and has had moderate Ligue 1 success, contributing to 23 league goals over the last three years.

Outlook: Caen has stayed in Ligue 1 for the last two seasons by the skin of their teeth, but that survival instinct looks to be running dry.  The manager who oversaw the last two captivating escapes, Patrice Garande, has been replaced by Fabien Mercadal, who hasn’t a lick of Ligue 1 managing experience.  Furthermore, seasoned veterans Damien Da Silva, Julien Féret, and Ivan Santini have all left the Stade Michel d’Ornano.  A bet on Caen’s survival would give good odds, but not necessarily a good return.

Dijon

Transfers In: Naïm Sliti (Lille), Nayef Aguerd (FUS Rabat), Runar Alex Runarsson (Nordsjaelland), Mickaël Alphonse (Sochaux), Yoann Gourcuff (Rennes)

Transfers Out: Baptiste Reynet (Toulouse), Benjamin Leroy (Ajaccio), Jessy Benet (Grenoble), Xeka (End of Loan – Lille), Papy Djilobodji (End of Loan – Sunderland)

Player to Watch: Naïm Sliti embodied Dijon’s industrious, attacking approach last season.  Now that the Tunisian midfielder has signed on with The Mustards permanently, he should establish himself as an even more important member of the first team. Sliti contributed to 13 of Dijon’s 55 Ligue 1 goals last season as a focal point of the attack.  Watch Sliti and you’ll see how Olivier Dall’Oglio’s tactic truly functions.

Outlook: One of Dijon’s key strengths last season was their goals and the wide range of players that contributed to them.  The Mustards stand apart from their fellow mid-table teams due to their free-flowing, open, offensive tactic that enables both midfielders and attackers to join in the attack.  It had been a while since Ligue 1 had seen such an ambitious approach from a club that is typically a bottom-feeder, and it came as a surprise to many.  However, the initial shock will likely have worn off by the start of this season, and pending any significant changes from manager Olivier Dall’Oglio, many Ligue 1 clubs will have figured The Mustards’ tactic out.  It’s unlikely that Dijon will match their 11th place finish from last season, but the club should be safe from a relegation battle.  

Guingamp

Transfers In: Nolan Roux (Metz)

Transfers Out: Clément Grenier (Rennes), Jimmy Briand (Bordeaux), Mustapha Diallo (Nîmes), Jonathan Martins Pereira (Lorient),

Player to Watch: The signing of 30-year-old Nolan Roux on a free could be quite the coup for Guingamp.  Roux is coming off of the best season of his career, marked most notably by his impressive tally of 15 Ligue 1 goals for FC Metz.  While the French striker may not be able to muster the same number without Mathieu Dossevi and Florent Mollet, Guingamp have found a great, risk-free replacement for the departing Jimmy Briand.  

Outlook: Guingamp had one of the quietest transfer windows of Ligue 1 this summer, losing just three first team players and bringing Nolan Roux in as attacking reinforcement.  Last season the Breton side embodied the idea of being a mid-table club, with both an average defence and an average midfield.  The addition of Nolan Roux could change things, however, and Guingamp could really benefit from having a striker capable of leading attacks.

Lille

Transfers In: Jonathan Ikoné (PSG), Zeki Çelik (İstanbulspor), Loïc Rémy (Las Palmas), Jonathan Bamba (Saint-Étienne), Rafael Leão (Sporting CP), José Fonte (DL Yifang), Xeka (End of Loan – Dijon),

Transfers Out: Yves Bissouma (Brighton), Ibrahim Amadou (Sevilla), Kévin Malcuit (Napoli), Naïm Sliti (Dijon), Stoppila Sunzu (Metz), Éder (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Player to Watch: Loïc Rémy is a familiar name to many soccer fans across the world, but the striker’s reputation does not always precede him.  The Frenchman’s goal tally last reached double digits in the 2013/14 season with Newcastle, and to say his recent efforts have been substandard would be letting him off easy.  However, returning to more familiar surroundings in France could very well unlock the ability we all know Rémy has.  A bounce back season may be on the cards for the man from just outside of Lyon.

Outlook: LOSC Lille are quite simply an enigma.  Les Dogues had one of the most captivating, puzzling, and chaotic seasons in Ligue 1 last season, avoiding potential relegation by just one point.  Nobody had predicted what unfolded in Lille last year, and as such it’s difficult to envision a similar season for Christophe Galtier’s men.  Instead, I imagine that the four-time Ligue 1 champions will be headed for a more conservative mid-table/top-half finish.  Losing Yves Bissouma, Ibrahim Amadou, and Kévin Malcuit will hurt, but Les Dogues have made smart signings like Rafael Leão, Jonathan Bamba, and José Fonte all on free transfers.

Lyon

Transfers In: Tanguy Ndombélé (Amiens), Oumar Solet (Stade Lavat), Reo Griffiths (Tottenham), Léo Dubois (Nantes), Olivier Kemen (End of Loan – GFC Ajaccio), Martin Terrier (End of Loan – Strasbourg),

Transfers Out: Willem Geubbels (Monaco), Mouctar Diakhaby (Valencia), Sergi Darder (Espanyol), Jean-Philippe Mateta (FSV Mainz), Nicolas N’Koulou (Torino), Aldo Kalulu (FC Basel), Romain Del Castillo (Rennes),

Player to Watch: The next big thing to come out of Ligue 1 and more specifically Lyon is none other than Houssem Aouar.  Aouar is a mystifying talent capable of beating his man off the dribble, creating chances with his impressive passing abilities, and contributing to his side’s defensive efforts.  When paired with Lucas Tousart and Tanguy Ndombélé, Lyon’s two other midfield gems, Houssem Aouar becomes must-see TV.

Outlook: Les Gones had one of the best French transfer windows this season, and they didn’t even make any new additions to their first team.  In keeping their prized assets like Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay, Tanguy Ndombélé, and Houssem Aouar, Lyon can build upon a promising 2017/18 campaign while continuing to develop their younger starlets.  Club owner Jean-Michel Aulas has done a great job in setting up his beloved Lyonnais for a potential overtaking of AS Monaco and a valiant challenge of PSG.

Marseille

Transfers In: Duje Caleta-Car (RB Salzburg), Jordan Amavi (Aston Villa), Tomas Hubocan (End of Loan – Trabzonspor), Saîf-Eddine Khaoui (End of Loan – Troyes)

Transfers Out: André Zambo Anguissa (Fulham), Dória (Santos Laguna)

Player to Watch: A name often ridiculed by fans of the Premier League, Florian Thauvin once again proved how dominant he can be in Ligue 1 in 2017/18.  Marseille’s talismanic winger netted 22 times and provided 11 assists in league play, and also played a large part in his team’s Europa league run, contributing to a total of 5 goals.  Keeping hold of Thauvin was key for Les Olympiens this summer, and if they fail to bring in a dependable striker then the 25-year-old from Orléans will be even more crucial this season.  

Outlook: Much like their heated rivals Lyon, Marseille were able to keep hold of their most important players this summer.  A fourth-place finish paired with an appearance in the Europa League final presents a solid stepping stone for OM, who will be looking to push on now and further challenge Monaco, Lyon, and even PSG.  Dimitri Payet and the aforementioned Thauvin make up a large part of Les Olympiens’ terrifying attack, while Luiz Gustavo and Adil Rami provide defensive stability.  Keep an eye out for 18-year-old Boubacar Kamara, who is a highly promising centre-back prospect coming off of a strong 2017/18 season during which he played in six matches.

Monaco

Transfers In: Aleksandr Golovin (Chelsea), Willem Geubbels (Lyon), Jean-Eudes Aholou (Strasbourg), Antonio Barreca (Torino), Pélé (Rio Ave), Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel (Saint-Étienne), Samuel Grandsir (Troyes), Jonathan Panzo (Chelsea), Sofiane Diop (Rennes), Wilson Isidor (Rennes)

Transfers Out: Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Thomas Lemar (Atlético Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Terence Kongolo (Huddersfield), Rachid Ghezzal (Leicester City), Adama Diakhaby (Huddersfield), Soualiho Meïté (Torino), João Moutinho (Wolverhampton)

Player to Watch: Much like Fabinho and Thomas Lemar last season, Portuguese winger Rony Lopes seems to be one of the few remaining familiar faces in an AS Monaco side that has gone through its annual summer upheaval.  Lopes excelled with Monaco in Ligue 1 last season, netting 15 goals and providing five assists for a fearsome Monégasque attack that scored the third most goals in league play.  While Les Rouges et Blancs’ new signings like Aleksandr Golovin and Samuel Grandsir may need some time to adjust, Lopes will be expected to hit the ground running and continue his fine form from last season into the 2018/19 campaign.  

Outlook: Club chairman Dmitry Rybolovlev might have bitten off more than he can chew this summer.  Thomas Lemar, João Moutinho, and Fabinho have all headed for the exit door while the money brought in from their sales has largely been reinvested in younger, less experienced players.  Manager Leonardo Jardim has always excelled at piecing together a senior team that is hugely different from the squad from the season before, but 2018/19 will present larger obstacles due to the dip in first team quality.  Expect Monaco to still challenge for a Champions League spot, but those chasing Les Monégasques like Lyon and Marseille will be far more threatening this time around.

Montpellier

Transfers In: Florent Mollet (Metz), Junior Sambia (FC Niort), Damien Le Tallec (Red Star), Petar Skuletic (Genclerbirligi), Facundo Piriz (Akhmat Grozny), Andy Delort (Loan – Toulouse)

Transfers Out: Nordi Mukiele (RB Leipzig), Jérôme Roussillon (Wolfsburg), Casimir Ninga (Caen), Laurent Pionnier (Retired), Jonathan Ikone (End of Loan – PSG)

Player to Watch: Montpellier’s recent Ligue 1 consistency has stemmed from its stable defense, which conceded just 33 goals last season.  No player has been more of a mainstay in Montpellier’s backline than centre-back Hilton, but at 40 going on 41 the Brazilian rock at the back will likely start to decline sooner rather than later.  Hilton is a true Montpellier icon, but with the recent departures of Nordi Mukiele (centre-back) and Jérôme Roussillon (left-back) the Brazilian will be under even more pressure than before to perform consistently and organize the defense of La Paillade.

Outlook: 2018/19 could very well spell trouble for Montpellier.  The French club has had a difficult transfer window during which it has lost Nordi Mukiele and Jérôme Roussillon, two of the key cogs that made it a defensively stout, tough to breakdown side.  All of these departures would be easier to swallow if suitable replacements were brought in, but Montpellier’s recent transfer business has been disappointing and the club’s stuttering attack is unlikely to revolutionize itself without any added quality.  

Nantes

Player to Watch: Most of Nantes’ top performers last season were defenders, which offers a good representation of former manager Claudio Ranieri’s counter-attacking system.  Much of Les Canaries’ attacking responsibilities were given to Argentinian Emiliano Sala, who held down the centre-forward position last season.  Sala was the only Nantais to score more than five times in Ligue 1, netting 12 goals and adding four assists over the course of the campaign.  If new manager Miguel Cardoso can get a similar or better return out of his Argentinian striker, then Nantes could find themselves in a similar ninth place position come the end of the season.

Outlook: This season will be manager Miguel Cardoso’s first at the Stade de la Beaujoire-Louis Fonteneau, having replaced the enigmatic Claudio Ranieri this summer.  Cardoso joins Les Canaries fresh off of an impressive 2017/18 season in Portugal where he led Rio Ave FC to a historic fifth place finish in Liga NOS.  Under Ranieri the historic French club lost a part of its attacking, fluid identity, as the pragmatic Italian instead decided to implement his rigid, counter-attacking system.  Ranieri’s tactics worked up to a point but given the ability new man Cardoso has in developing talent and getting the best out of his players, the yellow and green of Nantes could very well be colors seen in European competition once again in just a few years.

Transfers In: Lucas Evangelista (Udinese), Fábio (Middlesbrough), Rene Krhin (Granada), Gabriel Boschilia (Loan – Monaco), Matt Miazga (Loan – Chelsea), Majeed Waris (Loan – Porto)

Transfers Out: Yacine Bammou (Caen), Mariusz Stepinski (Chievo Verona), Léo Dubois (Lyon), Adrien Thomasson (Strasbourg)

Nice

Transfers In: Danilo (Braga), Christophe Hérelle (Troyes), Youcef Atal (KV Kortrijk), Olivier Boscagli (End of Loan – Nîmes), Rémi Walter (End of Loan – Troyes)

Transfers Out: Jean-Michaël Seri (Fulham), Alassane Pléa (Borussia Mõnchengladbach), Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham), Marlon (End of Loan – Barcelona), Nampalys Mendy (End of Loan – Leicester)

Player to Watch: The departures of Jean-Michaël Seri and Alassane Pléa have left a gaping hole in Nice’s attack and creativity.  With few new signings made to replace Pléa and Seri it seems Les Aiglons only option will be to bridge the gap with in-house talent.  Allan Saint-Maximin, formerly of Saint-Étienne and Monaco, is the man most suited for a hopeful step up in production.  Deployed most often as a winger on the right side of an offense, the 21-year-old is a lightning quick attacker with great dribbling ability.  If the young Frenchman can improve on his output (three goals and seven assists last season) then the summer exodus Nice suffered will be made slightly less damaging.  

Outlook: Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira has been handed quite a challenge in Nice.  The former French international joined Les Aiglons in early June when the squad was still intact, but since then the first team has been ravaged by high-profile departures.  Jean-Michaël Seri, Alassane Pléa, and Maxime Le Marchand all left for bigger clubs or better competitions, and Nice have struggled to bring in comparable replacements.  Les Aiglons aren’t set for another European adventure due to a ninth-place finish, and as such Vieira will thankfully have slightly less on his plate.  However, don’t expect the new manager to be able to make many immediate improvements given his depleted squad.

Nîmes

Transfers In: Denis Bouanga (FC Lorient), Florian Miguel (Tours), Hervé Lybohy (Paris FC), Loïck Landre (Genoa), Mustapha Diallo (Guingamp), Baptiste Guillaume (Loan – Angers), Paul Bernardoni (Loan – Bordeaux)

Transfers Out: Fabien Garcia (Released), Liassine Cadamuro (Released), Zié Diabaté (Released), Romain Del Castillo (End of Loan – Lyon), Olivier Boscagli (End of Loan – Nice)

Player to Watch: Denis Bouanga was Nîmes only arrival that required a transfer expenditure, but what a signing it should be.  The talented winger scored or assisted a total of 13 goals for Lorient in Ligue 2 last season and should link up well with striker Rachid Alioui.  

Outlook: Between the two promoted sides (Reims and Nîmes), Les Crocodiles seem to be safer.  The Southern club is far more stable and unchanged, having successfully defended their first team players from potential departures, and has brought in the aforementioned Bouanga to spice up their already functional frontline.  Manager Rani Assaf’s Nîmes were the top scoring club in Ligue 2 last season, so if he can keep his offense churning then Les Crocodiles should remain in Ligue 1 come the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain

Transfers In: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Jesé (End of Loan – Stoke City), Gonçalo Guedes (End of Loan – Valencia), Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (End of Loan – FC Utrecht)

Transfers Out: Javier Pastore (AS Roma), Yuri Berchiche (Athletic), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic), Jonathan Ikoné (Lille), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Loan – Lokomotiv Moscow), Hatem Ben Arfa (Released), Thiago Motta (Retired)

Player to Watch: PSG’s squad is bursting at the seams with talent, boasting the likes of Neymar, Marco Verratti, and Edinson Cavani.  However, perhaps it is Kylian Mbappé who will make watching Les Parisiens this season even more worthwhile.  The 19-year-old is already a bonafide global superstar and will be even more confident in his abilities having just come off of a historic World Cup win with France.  Now wearing the No. 7 shirt for Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappé will be looking to improve on his 13 goals and eight assists by becoming an even more focal point of his side’s attack 

Outlook: Champions-elect. Despite a managerial change, it would take a massive blunder from new man Thomas Tuchel to not lead this PSG squad to the Ligue 1 title.  Their 4-0 demolition of a revamping Monaco in the Trophée des Champions only confirmed the gulf in quality between PSG and the rest of the league.  It will be interesting to see if Tuchel implements the gifted youngsters available to him, namely Timothy Weah, Yacine Adli, and Christopher Nkunku.

Reims

Transfers In: Ghislain Konan (Vitória Guimarães), Hyun-jun Suk (Troyes), Tristan Dingomé (Troyes), Thomas Fontaine (Clermont Foot), Alaixys Romao (Olympiakos), Moussa Doumbia (Rostov)

Transfers Out: Jordan Siebatcheu (Rennes), Julian Jeanvier (Brentford), Diego (Al-Dhafra SCC), Danilson da Cruz (AS Nancy)

Player to Watch: New signing Hyun-jun Suk has big shoes to fill.  The Korean will be looking to fill the 24-goal void that Jordan Siebatcheu left when he departed for Rennes this summer for €9m.  Suk has proven goal-scoring ability, having reached double figures in Portugal and netting six for Troyes in Ligue 1 last season.  Reims will just have to hope that Suk’s attacking contributions will prove to be more impactful than they did for Troyes, however, as the Korean’s former club finished 19th last season.

Outlook: The 2018/19 season looks bleak for young manager David Guion and his Reims side.  Despite impressing in their Ligue 2 title win last year, Reims’ first eleven has been severely weakened due to a mass exodus of important players.  The most damaging departure will surely be Jordan Siebatcheu, who left for Rennes after leading Reims’ attack with 17 goals and seven assists.  David Guion will add to his growing reputation if he can pull off a miracle by keeping Reims in Ligue 1 this season.

Rennes

Transfers In: Jordan Siebatcheu (Reims), Clément Grenier (Guingamp), Romain Del Castillo (Lyon), Jakob Johansson (AEK Athens), Damien Da Silva (Caen), Rafik Guitane (End of Loan – Le Havre)

Transfers Out: Joris Gnagnon (Sevilla), Firmin Mubele (Toulouse) Sanjin Prcic (Levante), Afonso Figueiredo (Rio Ave), Yoann Gourcuff (Dijon), Brandon (Loan – CA Osasuna), Wahbi Khazri (End of Loan – Sunderland)

Player to Watch: In swapping Reims for Rennes, striker Jordan Siebatcheu will be improving both his supporting cast and the service that will be provided to him.  The 22-year-old attacker scored a noteworthy 17 Ligue 2 goals season, and while Ligue 1 will certainly be a step up, the likes of Clément Grenier, Benjamin Bourigeaud, and Ismaïla Sarr will make Siebatcheu’s life much easier.

Outlook: Les Rouges et Noirs found themselves in fifth place at the end of last season, finishing ahead of the likes of Bordeaux, Saint-Étienne, and Nice.  Manager Sabri Lamouchi, who replaced Christian Gourcuff in early November of last season, has proved his doubters wrong by establishing a well-designed tactic that utilizes the many strengths of his Rennes side.  The Breton club had a positive transfer window despite losing centre-back Joris Gnagnon, and the Rennais could be set to replicate or improve upon their 2017/18 performance.  

Saint-Étienne

Transfers In: Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland), Timothée Kolodziejczak (Loan – Tigres), Arnaud Nordin (End of Loan – AS Nancy), Loïs Diony (End of Loan – Bristol City)

Transfers Out: Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel (Monaco), Saidy Janko (FC Porto), Vincent Pajot (Angers), Jonathan Bamba (Lille), Kévin Théophile-Catherine (Dinamo Zagreb), Paul-Georges Ntep (End of Loan – Wolfsburg), Rémy Cabella (End of Loan – Marseille, Hernani (End of Loan – Zenit)

Player to Watch: In potentially one of the best signings of Ligue 1 this summer, Saint-Étienne secured the signature of Tunisian attacker Wahbi Khazri from Sunderland for €7m.  Khazri is a very well-rounded, adaptable player capable of playing up front, on the left, or just behind the striker.  With nine goals and two assists for Rennes last season, Khazri will add a great attacking outlet to Les Verts.  

Outlook: Les Verts started the 2017/18 season slowly, but after the 5-0 October drubbing they suffered at the hands of their fierce rivals, Lyon, manager Jean-Louis Gasset began to improve his side.  Saint-Étienne concluded their Ligue 1 campaign on a high, finishing seventh thanks to the fine form of Mathieu Debuchy and Rémy Cabella.  With Cabella likely to return before the transfer deadline and the addition of fellow attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri, Les Verts can readily shoot for a higher league finish this season.  

Strasbourg

Transfers In: Matz Sels (Newcastle), Stefan Mitrovic (KAA Gent), Ludovic Ajorque (Clermont Foot), Ibrahima Sissoko (Stade Brest), Adrién Thomasson (Nantes)

Transfers Out: Jean-Eudes Aholou (Monaco), Stéphane Bahoken (Angers), Ernest Seka (AS Nancy), Jérémy Blayac (GFC Ajaccio), Alexandre Oukidja (Metz), Martin Terrier (End of Loan – Lyon), Dimitri Foulquier (End of Loan – Watford), Bakary Koné (End of Loan – Málaga)

Player to Watch: Midfielder Adrien Thomasson played a part in eight Ligue 1 goals last season for Nantes as an important figure for Les Canaries in the middle of the park.  Now with Strasbourg, Thomasson will be expected to improve on that number in a more high-pressure setting.  Le Racing have lost some attacking firepower this summer but will be hoping that their new 23-year-old signing can make an immediate impact coming up against Bordeaux on the 12th.

Outlook: Strasbourg could be in danger this season.  Industrious midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou has left for Monaco, and talented young attacker Martin Terrier has returned to Lyon with his loan contract expiring at the end of last season.  While manager Thierry Laurey and co. have brought in decent defensive reinforcements, goals will likely be a problem for Strasbourg.  Between Terrier and Stéphane Bahoken Le Racing is out 14 goals, and influential attacking midfielder Dimitri Lienard is only getting older.  

Toulouse

Transfers In: Firmin Mubele (Rennes), Baptiste Reynet (Dijon), Mathieu Dossevi (Metz), Max Gradel (Bournemouth), John Bostock (Bursaspor), Aaron Leya Iseka (Anderlecht), Manu Garcia (Loan from Manchester City)

Transfers Out: Issa Diop (West Ham), Alban Lafont (Fiorentina), Andy Delort (Loan – Montpellier), Jessy Pi (Loan -Stade Brest), Giannelli Imbula (End of Loan – Stoke City), Jordan Sebban (CD El Ejido)

Player to Watch: Mathieu Dossevi was one of the few players who made a real impact on a Metz side that finished dead last in Ligue 1 last season.  The Togolese midfielder served largely as a creator for Les Grenats, providing 11 assists through his incredible passing and crossing abilities.  Metz’s relegation meant that many were bound to jump ship, and Dossevi followed suit, heading to Toulouse for just €2.5m.  In joining Les Violets Dossevi will be thrown right back into a possible relegation dogfight.  Perhaps the winger’s creative output will lead to a more positive league finish for his club this time around.  

Outlook: Les Violets have had a topsy-turvy summer heading into this season.  They lost goalkeeper Alban Lafont and centre-back Issa Diop, their two most sought-after and promising players, but brought in smart signings like the previously mentioned Mathieu Dossevi, as well as Max Gradel, John Bostock, and Baptiste Reynet.  Toulouse has yet to reinforce its defence, but the recently acquired midfield and attacking reinforcements will add creativity to a side that finished 18th and scored just 38 goals last season.

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