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Part 1 - In the relegation battle LAVAL GK and defence Laval’s no1 keeper is projected to be Lionel Cappone, with Maxime Hautbois as backup. Neither are particularly good and they have one of the weaker custodian lineups in the ligue. The defence isn’t going to be much better either, although some would argue it looks to be strengthened compared to last season. They’ve lost some poor players such as Makan Traore and Miodrag Stosic, although the departure of Gaetan Belaud could prove to be a body blow. Replacing him at RB is Foued Chafik from Istres. He used to be decent but had a shocking season on the south coast last year so Laval will have to hope he rebounds. The CB pairing looks set to be Malik Couturier and Djibril Konate. Both are experienced but also pretty old and slow which could be a problem. I’m not quite sure who is going to start at LB now that Guillaume Rippert has departed, this could be the weakest part of their defence. At least Laval’s backup options, Ben Djemia, Perrot and new signing Adrian Monfray are half decent. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some (or all) of those players became eventual first choice starters. Rating 6/10 Midfield Laval had a really strong looking midfield towards the end of last season but they’ve effectively lost 3 starters during the summer so look set to be downgraded in this area. The trio of Baby, Coulibaly and Adeoti have all left the club which leaves a hole. The departure of Adeoti to Caen is especially a big blow. Young and talented, he was often the heartbeat of the side, propelling them with energy and motivation. Laval have signed Ludovic Guerriero from Chateauroux, but he’s nothing more than average at this level. Their two key players in the middle of the park are Hassan Alla and Anthony Goncalves. The former is close to 34 years old now though, so no spring chicken. Goncalves is coming off a stellar year, but all the pressure is now on his shoulders to deliver, because there’s nobody else! A youngster worth watching is Martin Mimoun who played well towards the end of last season. He could start over 20 games this term and has the potential to develop. But overall they lack quality and depth and this looks set to be one of the poorest midfields in Ligue 2. Rating 4/10 Attack Without wanting to sound too cocky, it’s rare I’m wrong with my analysis of players in French football. I was however completely off the mark regarding Christian Bekamenga last season. I honestly thought he’d be a terrible signing and completely ineffective, but he proved me wrong by scoring an amazing 18 goals! He turned himself into a complete stud and some of his performances were superb. It looked like they might keep him, but it’s now virtually certain he leaves. Les Tangos literally have nobody else who can score goals, quite simply they have to replace ASAP! It’s not as if they have great wingers either, although Anthony Robic was half decent last year. Tiberi and Renouard out wide simply aren’t reliable enough or always injured. A young kid definitely worth keeping an eye on is Serhou Guirassy. Tipped by some to have a big future, there will definitely be opportunities for him this season and I could see him starting quite a lot of games. If they can replace Bekamenga then Laval will at least have some threat in attack, but for now they are in deep trouble and seem very toothless. Rating 3.5/10 Coaching & other factors Denis Zanko took over in February last season and managed to keep them up thanks to a late push. He won 5 of his 7 home games in charge which was an excellent return. Laval are known for being fairly good in front of their own fans. Nobody enjoys travelling to Le Stade Francis le Basser, especially for high profile TV games where the atmosphere can be intense. On the road they are usually pretty poor and only managed to register a couple of victories on their travels last season. Despite keeping them up, Zanko isn’t known for being a particularly good coach so he might struggle this year, especially as he has few weapons to work with. Overall conclusion This is going to be a struggling campaign for Laval and they are one of the favourites for relegation. Les Tangos only just managed to survive by the skin of their teeth last season and this time around they could easily fall short of the required mark. The squad looks weaker than it was and they’ll likely regress. There are question marks in all areas of the field and this must be a huge worry for fans. Laval will still be competitive at times and I doubt they’ll get cast adrift or anything. However, I personally have them as one of the favourites for relegation and if they went down it wouldn’t be a surprise. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 20th NIMES GK and defence Goalkeeper Cyrille Merville has moved to Creteil and this is a massive blow because he was worth many points to them last season thanks to a string of key saves. They haven’t brought in a replacement either, so youngsters Mathieu Michel and Gauthier Gallon will compete for the no1 spot. This is a big worry because they look set to be downgraded quite a lot in between the sticks. At the back, they’ve also lost their best defender Benoit Poulain. At Ligue 2 level he was a complete stud and a massive part of their team. When he played, Nimes were always much more solid at the back and conceded far fewer goals. One new signing I do like is Fethi Harek from Ligue 1 side Bastia. Capable of playing in the middle or on the left he’ll easily be their best defender this season. There are massive question marks about the rest of the backline though. At RB, Jeremy Cordoval can’t properly defend, he’s far too attack minded. Their other new signings Barillon, Elie and Renaut don’t figure to be much better. They still have Romain Sartre on their roster, but he’s regressed in recent years and can’t be relied upon. I personally don’t think this defence will be very good and I could see them conceding quite a lot of goals. Rating 4/10 Midfield Nimes have lost Pierre Bouby but at least they still have some options in the middle of the park. Nenad Kovacevic will probably be their key man. He performed well for most of last season although did tail off towards the end. They have signed Jonathan Lacourt from the French lower ligues. He does have past experience at this sort of level, but bad injuries have plagued him in recent years. Technically he’ll be alright but there are massive question marks surrounding his physical nature. Larry Azouni is another addition from Marseille. He never had much game time with them and could prove to be a pleasant surprise, supposedly he’s looked really good in pre season. Les Crocos also have Hsissane and Parpeix as options in the middle of the park, but neither of them are anything special. The midfield might be better than the defence, but only by default. Compared to most others in the ligue it lacks overall quality. Rating 5/10 Attack Nimes were very inconsistent in attack anyway last season, and losing vincent Gragnic is hardly going to help them. He provided them with a steady stream of goals and assists in the last couple of years but has moved to Auxerre. Replacing him is Argentinian Pedro Galvan who I know nothing about. He’s been playing in Israeli football for many years and comes with a good track record, but he could equally be a complete bust. Nimes’ best striker last season was Samir Benmeziane, who actually registered a double digit goal tally. Despite this, he often came in for some criticism and missed too many chances. He’s a poacher, but not much else and its possible he could regress this year with no Gragnic around to help him. It’s important for Nimes that they keep winger Ousmane Cissokho. He’s an extremely fast player and also very good technically. But it looks like he’ll be sold before the end of the transfer window with a number of clubs interested.. Les Crocos have signed Toifilou Maoulida from Bastia, but at 35 years old he’s past his best and will likely contribute little. Nimes might not be too bad in attack but there are currently a lot of question marks regarding who is exactly going to stay. This makes them very difficult to analyse in this department. Rating 6/10 Coaching and other factors It was a masterstroke by Nimes to appoint Rene Marsiglia as coach back in January. The ex Nice man worked wonders to keep them up, but unfortunately he resigned this summer. Supposedly he was unhappy about the direction the club was heading, and who can blame him if their best players are being sold? Coming in as replacement is the useless Jose Pasqualetti. He has experience but quite frankly I regard him as a terrible manager! At Istres last season, he effectively led them to relegation, even though he was sacked before the end of the campaign. Pasqualetti is a very attack minded coach but tactically he hasn’t got a clue. Nimes are renowned for being a strong home team, but with him in charge that might change. It’s possible Pasqualetti could be sacked before Christmas, such is his poor track record. Overall conclusion Nimes performed well during the 2nd half of last season but its extremely likely they’ll regress this year. A number of key players have left, with big question marks surrounding their replacements. There are major concerns all over the field and they’ve appointed a poor manager who has a bad history of leading teams towards relegation. Undoubtedly, this team will be involved in the battle to survive and they’ll just have to hope that there’s three other teams who are worse. I don’t personally think Nimes will be able to avoid going down, and I make them favourites along with Laval to finish bottom of the table. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 19th GFCO AJACCIO GK and defence Clement Maury is the projected starter in between the sticks with Jules Goda backing him up. Neither is particularly good and fans are worried as the season approaches that they don’t have a reliable Ligue 2 standard custodian. The GFC defence performed very well last season, but can it be competitive at Ligue 2 level? The projected back four is going to be Rivieyran, Andreau, Filippi and Martinez. None of those players have significant ligue 2 experience, so new signing Matar Fall will probably make the eventual XI. Fall played for a number of seasons at Angers and isn’t a bad player, capable of playing on the right, left or centre of defence. Backup looks ok with David Ducourtioux, Julien Francois and Amos Youga versatile enough to fill in if required. The big question is whether or not the backline can make the step up to Ligue 2 level. The players are all young, so perhaps have the potential to improve, but who knows. Rating 5.5/10 Midfield They aren’t going to be propelled by youth in midfield though. Their two main guys in this area of the park will be Julien Francois and David Ducourtioux. Francois used to be a stud at Ligue 2 level, but he’s now 34 so won’t be as good as he once was. Nevertheless, his experience will be invaluable and he’ll be fiercely competitive. At 36, Ducourtioux is no spring chicken either, but I actually think he could be very effective at Ligue 2 level. This is a guy who’s been playing in the top flight for quite a while and hasn’t been too bad. It’s likely he can give GFC a couple of decent years service and like Francois, his experience will be invaluable. Their other main midfielder is captain Louis Poggi but they look a bit thin on the ground in terms of depth. When at full strength they should be competitive enough here, but as always when you rely on older players, fitness and injuries can be a worry. Rating 5/10 Attack GFC have lost their top scorer from last season, Famara Diedhiou who has moved to Sochaux. This is a blow because he’s a young and promising player, only likely to keep getting better. They’ve signed Gregory Pujol from Valenciennes, someone who is a very interesting addition. Pujol is actually a quality striker and despite being 34 years old could potentially have a big impact at Ligue 2 level. He’s never been a striker to rely on pace ,so age shouldn’t be too much of a factor. Just 2 or 3 years ago he was one of the better strikers in Ligue 1 and if given the service he should go well, capable of scoring 15+ goals. The problem with Pujol is keeping fit. He just never seems to be able to avoid injury for a prolonged period of time. GFC will have to pray he can somehow stay fit because they don’t have an awful lot else upfront. Adrien Thomasson has signed on loan from Evian but the rest of their players are young and inexperienced. Perhaps someone can step up because scoring goals will be a big problem if Pujol goes down. However, if he can find some good form then GFC will be a threat upfront. A lot rests on his shoulders this season unless they can bring in another addition. Rating 4.5/10 Coaching and other factors Thierry Laurey is the man in charge. He has some Ligue 2 experience but his past record is nothing special. Nevertheless, he guided them to promotion last season, an achievement which has to be respected. GFC are renowned for being strong at home. The Corsicans had the best record in fornt of their own fans in both of their recent promotion campaigns. In those two seasons they were a combined 25-7-5 (54-15) at Le Stade Ange Casanova, but when they were in Ligue 2 last time, this form dried up. They finished with a poor 3-7-9 in the 2012/13 campaign, although it’s worth noting that year some matches weren’t played at their own stadium. They absolutely need to hope that they’ll be strong at home this season because being islanders, its unlikely they’ll be very good on the road. Overall conclusion The general consensus is that GFC are a better team compared to the last time they were in Ligue 2 a couple of years ago. But I’m sure there are still a few old scars which will haunt them until they can prove their competitiveness. They will at least have promotion momentum and it seems like there’s a good togetherness at the club. I like some of their signings wh0 should improve their chances, but I’m never a fan of any team relying on older players. The squad is relatively small and if they suffer prolonged injuries to key men, then the Corsicans could be in trouble. This is a team that will definitely be involved in the relegation battle, but they won’t get cast adrift like they did last time around. It’s touch and go whether they can survive or not, it just depends how strong they are at home. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 18th ORLEANS GK and defence Thomas Renault, whom I know little about, is the projected starting goalkeeper, although they’ve signed Arnaud Balijon from Istres and he could compete for the spot. Balijon regressed last season at Istres, but there’s a chance he could rebound because in past years he was fairly decent. The Orleans defence was extremely stingy last season and by far the best in the National division. Maxime Brillault and Antoine Ponroy, both past failures at Ligue 2 level will hope to finally make the step up properly, a couple of other starters might be fullbacks Gregory Tamas and Ousmane Sidibe. They’ve signed RB Bruce Abdoulaye and he has some useful Ligue 2 experience which could help them. Curiously, they’ve also signed another right back Gauthier Pinaud from Strasbourg. I would imagine he or Abdoulaye might end up playing on the right hand side of midfield if required. As always with promoted teams, there are question marks, but technically this could be a fairly strong defence and it’s shaping up to be alright. Rating 6/10 Midfield There’s only one player in their midfield who I’m familiar with and that’s new signing Guillaume Loriot. He has decent past experience at both Ligue 1 and 2 level and could be a decent addition if he can stay injury free. It looks like Julien Delonglee and Mathieu Ligoule will be the starters at defensive midfield, but they don’t appear to have many backup options. Loic Puyo could be a key man for them but he’s more of a playmaker who prefers wide areas. Overall Orleans look a bit too lightweight to me in the middle of the park and could do with bringing in a couple more players, preferably of proven calibre at this level of football. Rating 4.5/10 Attack Orleans have retained their top goalscorer from last season, Wilfried Louisy Daniel who netted 14 times in 33 games. Their big signing this summer is Robert Maah from Romanian club Cluj. He might potentially be very good at ligue 2 level, but then again he could be a potential bust signing if things don’t work out. Luigi Glombard is another new addition from Niort and he’s a fairly good right winger at this level of football. Loic Puyo is their main playmaker capable of operating in attacking midfield or on the left wing, whilst they have a few other options out wide including Jean Paul Mendy and Loic Loval. It looks like Orleans should have a decent amount of pace in the final third and they’ll be a reasonable threat. They won’t be a prolific goalscoring team, but competitive enough in this department. Rating 6/10 Coaching & other factors Olivier Frapolli is head coach and he hasn’t managed a team in Ligue 2 for a number of years. It’s difficult to know how much of a success he’ll be this time around, but he’s had a couple of good seasons with Orleans which bodes well. They only lost once last year at home but it was their away form which enabled them to be crowned champions. A 9-6-2 road record is pretty impressive and at least they won’t be reliant on home form like GFCO Ajaccio will. Only time will tell though. Playing away in Ligue 2 will be much more difficult and it’d be more advantageous for them to ensure home is quite a fortress. Overall conclusion Orleans are a difficult team to predict because anything is possible with them. I like how they’ve kept a very settled team and not lost anyone of significance. They’ve also added a few decent players who could really help strengthen the squad. But there’s always an element of unpredictability with promoted teams, sometimes they just struggle to adapt to a new level. It’s unlikely Orleans will be able to escape a relegation battle, but it’s certainly possible they could stay up. If things really go well then they might even end up in a midtable berth. Overall though, I think they are a difficult team to analyse and are probably best watched in the opening stages of the season. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 17th CHATEAUROUX GK and defence Landry Bonnefoi is their no1 keeper and he actually had a surprisingly good year last season, despite a shaky start. He should be able to do a reasonable enough job. Kevin Millieras as backup isn’t the worst of options either should he be needed. The backline has lost a couple of regulars in Marvin Esor and Remi Fournier, but arguably they’ve signed better replacements. Fabian Boyer comes in from Angers and he’s a potential stud. For one reason or another, things just didn’t work out at his previous club. Some have criticised him for a poor attitude but he has great ability if he works hard enough. Another signing for Chateauroux at the back is Laurent Bonnart. He’s an experienced campaigner and versatile enough to play on either the left or right. Of course, Les Berrichonne still have Loic Nestor, someone who I’ve always rated highly, whilst youngsters Denys Bain and Johann Obiang have potential. Slight lack of depth is maybe a little bit of a concern. But overall I’d say this defence should be decent enough, albeit nothing special. Rating 6.5/10 Midfield This is a concerning area for Pascal Gastien’s men. He’s keen to keep hold of Amara Baby but it’s expected he’ll leave before the end of the summer. They only have young and fairly inexperienced midfield players at their disposal in the middle of the park. The likes of Dudouit, Darrieux and Ehua perhaps have some potential, but all are miles away from being the finished article. Chateauroux simply don’t have any steel or ball winners for them in the middle. It’s likely some players will be forced to play out of position and drop deeper. Guys like Roudet and Tait could suffer from this. It looks like the coach is only going to employ one defensive midfielder to limit the damage, but I would say they really need to sign at least one experienced midfielder. They look far too lightweight in this department and it could cost them. Rating 4/10 Attack Les Berrichonne have a great collection of wingers at their disposal. Players such as Kinkela, Tait, Chamed, Bourgeois, Makengo and Roudet are all decent options. They have plenty of individuals capable of supplying goals, but perhaps lack a standout striker who can find the back of the net. They’ve signed Gregory Thil from Dijon, but I don’t expect him to do too much. He’s old and played badly last season, although his aerial and poaching ability might come in handy at times. The coach will at least have loads of options at his disposal and overall I quite like the look of them in the final third. Chateauroux have plenty of pace, so should be able to hit sides quickly on the counter attack. They lack a really good forward but should be competitive enough here. Rating 7/10 Coaching & other factors Jean Louis Garcia actually led them to relegation so it’s no surprise he’s parted ways with the club. They surprisingly managed to get Pascal Gastien, who’s just had a superb season with Niort. Gastien is likely to get the absolute maximum out of all the players, and this helps when you only have a mediocre squad like Chateauroux. Gastien will likely employ fairly negative tactics, although due to the nature of this squad he might be forced to be more attacking. At least last season he proved his willingness to open up more in certain matches. Les Berrichonne will always be one of the strongest home sides in the division. They love playing on their own artificial surface, and certain visitors hate it. But on the road it’s a different story. They ended up with a terrible 1-6-12 record. The club has only won about 1 of its last 40 away games in ligue 2! Gastien could help them improve on those awful stats, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Overall conclusion Chateauroux have been given a lifeline and they really need to take advantage of that fact. They should improve upon last season with Pascal Gastien in charge, but it’s unlikely they’ll tear up any trees. I would say a lower midtable finish is their most probable position but it’s also possible they could get sucked into the relegation battle. Their home form will be strong, but as always, their road nightmares could prove a big problem. You know what you’ll get with Les Berrichonne but under the guidance of their new coach it’s difficult to see them going down. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 16th

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 Part 2 - Lower midtable sides VALENCIENNES GK and defence VA have lost their no1 keeper Nicolas Penneteau, so Magno Novaes will be taking over. He’s not too bad and should be alright at ligue 2 level, albeit nothing special. Backing him up will be youngster Paul Charreau, who is completely unproven. As things currently stand, defence is Valenciennes’ best area. Once this backline gets to know each other better and manages to gel, they should be fairly solid. A couple of new signings look set to form a formidable CB pairing. Both Yunis Abdelhamid and Adama Coulibaly have been two of the better Ligue 2 defenders in recent years. Out wide they have Kenny Lala and Loris Nery who are both capable of being very good at this level of football. They also have Saliou Ciss who is fairly versatile, although in general their backup options are limited. There is talk of be signing another defender at some point which would help them out. Of course, they’ve lost a number of players such as Lindsay Rose and Brou Apanga. But when at full strength VA should at least be relatively stable at the back. Rating 7/10 Midfield Coach Bernard Casoni says he wants to bring in ‘at least one more’ midfielder before the end of the transfer window. This needs to happen because right now VA are simply too thin in the middle of the park. Fabrice Abriel comes in form Nice and he might be able to do a decent job at this level. At 35 though, he’s no spring chicken anymore and time isn’t on his side. Enza Yamissi is their best remaining midfielder, Pape Camara is another option, although a lot depends on how well he comes back from a long term injury. They have a few half decent youngsters but you don’t want to rely on any of them starting matches on a regular basis. I have no doubt VA will strengthen this area of the field at some point soon. It looks like they’ve started the reinforcement by adding Sekou Baradji from Dijon, but more needs to be done. Rating 4.5/10 Attack There’s not an awful lot to write about here because VA hardly have a striker on their current roster. Anthony Le Tallec remains at the club, but he’s nowhere near good enough to lead the line, even at ligue 2 level. He could do a half decent job as a backup/number two striker, but that’s about it. Obviously, Valenciennes are going to have to strengthen a lot upfront in order to be competitive. Aurelien Chitu is their only other viable option right now, apart from that they’ll have to rely on youngsters. The coach says that at least one reinforcement will be signed soon but realistically they need 3 or 4 additions in the final third otherwise this attack will be very toothless. As things stand, I can only award a very low 2/10 rating. I do expect the situation to improve as the season progresses, but it will certainly take some time before they have an identity upfront. Rating 2/10 Coaching & other factors Gone is Ariel Jacobs and taking over is Bernard Casoni. Considering their current circumstances, Casoni is about the best sort of option VA could have right now. He’s experienced, tough and has a history of working with recently relegated clubs who have cash problems. Casoni will bring some much needed discipline to a team that is very much in downbeat mode at the moment. Overall, he should be an asset, but don’t expect any miracles from him, his last spell at Auxerre was fairly unremarkable. Valenciennes used to have a formidable home record at their old Stade Nungesser, but since they’ve moved to Le Stade Hainault it hasn’t been the same. I expect a fairly morgue like atmosphere at times this season and playing in front of their own fans won’t necessarily be much of an advantage. Overall conclusion It’s been an extremely turbulent summer for Valenciennes and I think they’re in for a long tough season ahead. VAs Ligue 2 status was only just confirmed a couple of weeks ago and their preparations for the new season have been in turmoil. This cub has financial issues and is being strongly watched by the authorities this year. It might be difficult for them to sign a lot of players which isn’t good news because they really need to strengthen. Their immediate aim is to avoid relegation and I think long term this should be achievable. But things won’t start easy and during the first half of the season they’ll likely be in the bottom half of the table, perhaps even lingering in the relegation places for a while. They should get better as the season progresses and if their off the field issues improve then it’s possible they could reinforce well during January. Alternatively, the whole club could go tits up and their season turn into a proper mess. If they manage to finish in the top 10 it’d surprise me, but I’m not exactly sure how far down the table they’ll end up. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 15th CLERMONT GK and defence Clermont are weakened in between the sticks because Fabien Farnolle has left the club. He was one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 2 last season and made a number of good saves. They have signed Franck L’Hostis from National team Amiens as a replacement, I’ve no idea how good he is. They also have a couple of younger keepers but overall I’m not really liking their goalkeeping situation too much. At the back they have lost Imorou and Da Silva, but both look to have been adequately replaced. Hugo Konongo comes in from Evian whilst the experienced Baptiste Martin from Belgium club Kortrijk could be a very handy addition. Cedric Avinel stays which is a massive boost, he’s one of the better CBs in the ligue. The likes of Bockhorni, Salze and Lippini aren’t too bad either. Lippini is actually a very good RB but is coming off ACL surgery so might be rusty. Clermont have reasonable depth in defence and overall they should be fairly solid in this department. Rating 7/10 Midfield In the middle of the park Clermont have a few options. Ekobo, Betch and Moulin are all pretty decent and should be able to do a reasonable job for them this season. Clermont are very stable in this position, there aren’t any new arrivals or departures. Depth is a bit questionable here, at least in terms of quality. They will rely on some youngsters, although this year they’ll also have Messi available at their disposal. Eugene Junior Messi that is………. a Cameroonian who didn’t feature last season because of administrational reasons. The main worry I have is a lack of tough defensive midfield type players. Moulin is quality but more of a creative type who won’t want to track back much. When at full strength this will be an ok midfield, but if injuries start to rack up then they could struggle. Rating 5/10 Attack Clermont were one of the lowest scoring teams last season but perhaps they’ll be better this year with a couple of new additions. Harry Novillo comes in from Belgian club Mons. A product of the Lyon academy, he has raw ability and this sort of move could potentially suit him. Clermont do have one stud upfront, Idriss Saadi who will only keep improving. He looked in good form towards the back end of the previous campaign, even if he did miss too many chances at times. Clermont look set to lose the explosive Yanis Salibur which is a blow. But he’s a selfish player and keeping him would perhaps be a gamble. The Auvergne club have a lot of options in the final third, albeit nobody else of real quality. Still, it helps to have depth, plenty of pace, giving options for the coach. If they employ more positive tactics, Clermont will surely score at least 10 more goals than they did last season. Rating 6/10 Coaching & other factors Clermont have been a complete and utter mess in this department during the summer. The club made a shock move by appointing Helena Costa as coach. This obviously surprised everyone that they were willing to be so radical by appointing a female manager. But she stepped down at the end of June due to personal reasons, claiming that she felt disrespected at the club. I don’t personally think it would’ve worked with her in charge. It just felt like there was too much intensity along with media hype and it would’ve been difficult had results gone pear shaped. Amazingly, Clermont have now appointed another female coach in the form of Corinne Diacre. She won over 100 caps for the French Womens National team and by most accounts is fairly well respected. The good news for the players is that she supposedly gives amazing blowjobs, so if anyone performs well, then they’re in for a treat! hahahaha….joking. In all seriousness, I think Diacre has a better chance of succeeding than Costa. It helps she’s french, has proper experience of playing and seems to have an open personality. Clermont were ridiculously boring under the management of Regis Brouard and they needed a change of boss. Diacre might surprise. She has intelligence and I can guarantee you she will work much harder than some males would in the same position. She will be desperate to prove any doubters wrong and I’d expect her to leave no stone unturned. Overall conclusion All of the focus will be on the coach, not the players and this might work in Clermont’s favour. On paper, they don’t have a bad looking side. Ok, it’s nothing special but they have decent players in all areas of the field. All in all, I think the Auvergne outfit should be able to hold its own in the middle of the pack. Things could potentially go pear shaped if the appointment of Diacre doesn’t work out, but my gut feeling is that she’ll be a pleasant surprise and could bring energy and drive to the club. If Clermont can retain their solid defence, whilst also improving their goalscoring tally, they could even threaten the top 10 places. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 14th ARLES GK and defence The Arles goalkeeping situation is rather questionable. They’ve lost their no1 from last season Ludovic Butelle and his replacement appears to be Thomas Bosmel. The latter arrives from Caen and has always warmed the bench there, can he step up to the required level and be good enough? I’m not sure. At the back, Alres have lost three quality defenders, so there’s a chance they could be impacted negatively here too. Their most important loss is Sebastian Cantini who was possibly the best RB in Ligue 2, whilst rock solid CB Yunis Abdelhamid also departs for pastures new. Young and talented Steven Fortes is another who’s left, although they still have a few decent options at the club. Gael Givet has a strong pedigree, as does LB Erwan Quintin. They have signed Gary Bocaly from Montpellier. Amazingly just a couple of years ago he won a ligue 1 title with the Mediterranean club! Since then, he’s suffered bad injuries, but if he can rebound and return to old form, Arles might yet again have one of the best RBs in the Ligue. I don’t think they’ll be as strong in defence this season but there’s enough here that should make them fairly solid. Rating 7/10 Midfield Arles were never particularly strong in midfield last season. Once again, they seem to lack options and quality in this part of the field. Hugo Rodriguez is probably their main man now in the middle. He’s a very good example of what you’d call a genuine box to box midfielder and pretty versatile. They don’t really have an awful lot else though. The likes of Damien Plessis and Adrian Coulomb are ok, but nothing special. They have signed Fawzi Ouaamar on loan from Monaco, a youngster I know nothing about, maybe he could be decent. But overall this midfield looks to be be lacking in both quality and depth. I’ve seen worse, but personally I think Arles will struggle a bit in this area. Rating 5.5/10 Attack Their attack force has suffered a major blow due to Maurice Dale transferring to Nancy. He was their top scorer last season and will be missed. As of yet, they don’t seem to have found a replacement. There’s been talk that Mamadou Niang or Aruna Dindane might join the club, but nothing is confirmed yet. Another big blow is losing Livio Nabab to Auxerre. He would’ve been the best attacker left on their roster, but instead left winger Teji Savanier now probably takes over that accolade. They have a few ok players such as El Gabas and Mendes, but could really do with a star striker to help them out. Youngster Quentin Ngakoutou has signed on loan from Monaco, perhaps he could be alright, I’m not sure. Ex Brest man Larsen Toure is another new addition, but he’s nothing better than average. Arles are never going to be the most prolific scoring team but they could help themselves out by signing at least one player of proven pedigree upfront. I’m sure they will get someone eventually, but right now they look fairly toothless upfront. Rating 5/10 Coaching and other factors This is where Arles do have some factors in their favour. Firstly, they have a very good head coach, Franck Dumas. The ex Caen boss is extremely experienced at this level and has twice led sides to promotion. Those sort of ambitions aren’t expected this season, but Dumas is a wily old fox who will get the most out of his mediocre squad. Tactically, he can mix things up too, and I’d say he’s one of the top 3 coaches in Ligue 2 this season. The Provence side also have a massive advantage at home. They never get big attendances, but quite simply Le Parc de Sports is a place nobody wants to visit – especially in the middle of winter. The pitch here is renowned as being awful when bad weather sets in and Arles usually adapt well in order to play on it. They only lost twice here last season and hardly conceded any goals. On the road, it’s unlikely they’ll be particularly good, but they have to be respected as a strong home force. Overall conclusion On paper, Arles don’t appear to be anything special, but they should have enough about themselves to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle. You know what you’re going to get with this team; they’ll be solid, hard working and not the greatest side to watch in terms of entertainment. They will grind out results and gradually accumulate points – I expect to see them involved in a lot of draws. But I would say this squad has gotten weaker compared to last season, so they could maybe have a few problematic issues. Under the guidance of Franck Dumas though, and with a likely strong home record, somewhere between 12-15th is their probable finishing position. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 13th TOURS GK and defence Tours are definitely downgraded in between the sticks because they’ve lost the talented Benjamin Leroy to Evian. They will have to rely on young custodians this season, Benjamin Bertrand is the current projected starter. It’s almost a certainty that they’ll be weaker without Leroy and it’d be a surprise if any of their young keepers perform that well consistently. At least the backline should be fairly decent, as long as their players play to their full potential. Leo Schwechlen had a shocker last season, but he was fighting injuries and used to be capable of much much better. If he can rebound they’d definitely have a solid first choice back four. Fousseni Diawara is known for having concentration lapses but has great experience and is physically strong. At LB, Samuel Bouhours is proven quality, whilst their other CB Bogdan Milosevic was a big hit last season putting in a number of good performances. There is however a slight doubt that Milosevic won’t be allowed on the payroll due to a FF decision. Thomas Fontaine is another starting option, but if Milosevic can’t sign on then overall depth is questionable. If they can avoid injuries and certain players regain their best form, then this defence could be fairly strong though Rating 6.5/10 Midfield Tours have a couple of strong central ball winners. The first is old legend Pascal Berenguer, who at 33 years old might not have much left in the tank soon. This could be his last season as a good ligue 2 player so he’ll put everything into the campaign. Tours struck gold when youngster Baptiste Santamaria stepped up from the reserves and played really well last season. He has the potential to develop into a real stud and they have to hope he doesn’t suffer some sort of slump in his second campaign. Behind these two guys, they don’t have an awful lot of other options. They will rely on the likes of Xavier Chavalerin and Bryan Bergougnoux to fill in when needed, but neither of those players are naturally suited to playing central midfield, even if both are capable of doing it. If possible, they could do with bringing in a new midfielder, but with their transfer issues this wont be easy to do. Rating 6/10 Attack He hasn’t officially departed yet, but Tours will be losing key striker Andy Delort at some stage this summer. He scored a whopping 24 goals last season and will be extremely difficult to replace. There’s some talk that they’ll be able to bring in a decent ligue 1 striker on loan, Emiliano Sala from Bordeaux was a name mentioned. They would only be able to potentially sign someone after Delort has been sold, and even after that it might not be possible. Tours still have a few decent attackers on their roster though. Kouakou and Ketkeophomphone are great wingers when in form, whilst the likes of Chavalerin and Bergougnoux are both pretty decent too. The latter wasn’t quite as vintage last season, but still a key playmaker for the club. Obviously they now lack a quality central striker. Youssef Adnane is currently projected to start there and whilst being ok, he’s nothing special. Tours still have a reasonable enough attack, but without Delort it definitely won’t be as good. Rating 6.5/10 Coaching and other factors Olivier Pantaloni is in charge and Tours definitely have a weapon with him at the helm. I would say he’s one of the top five coaches in ligue 2 and has a great track record. He managed to achieve a remarkable promotion with Ajaccio a few years ago, and even more remarkably he was able to keep them up! Pantaloni will generally get the most out of his players and likes to play with an attacking philosophy, which suits this club. Tours are known for having a good home record and Le Stade Vallee du Cher is a fairly intimidating place to visit when they have a decent crowd. On the road they’ll have plenty of bad days, but due to the nature of their tactics, should be able to win a few matches too. Overall conclusion One thing that must be mentioned about Tours is their difficult transfer position. The DCNG (french financial watchdog) has strongly restricted their ability to sign new players. As of yet, Tours haven’t been able to bring anyone in, and loans might be their only possible options this season. Obviously, this is going to hamper them a lot, but they still have a number of good players left at the club. Combined with having a decent manager and likely strong team spirit, they could perform ok. At times, they’ll probably be a pleasant surprise, but its difficult to see them challenging with the top clubs this season. I would say a midtable berth is more likely and there’s a chance they could tail off as the season gets longer, due to their small squad. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 12th CRETEIL GK and defence Creteil had the 4th worst defence last season but they’ve signed some players to try and rectify that issue. It seemed they never really had a proper no1 GK in the previous campaign but now Les Belliers unquestionably have one of the best in Ligue 2 thanks to the addition of Cyrille Merville. He’ll be worth his weight in gold and was regularly impressive for Nimes in recent years. Backing him up is Yann Kerboriou so they’ll have no problems should Merville go down with injury. Creteil have signed a couple of decent fullbacks – Marvin Esor and Aurelien Montaroup. They’ve lost Jordan Ikoko and Dani De Cruz from this backline, but neither should be missed that much. With the likes of Di Bartolomeo, Mahon de Monaghan and Diedhiou, this defence certainly has some depth and reasonable ability. Experienced journeyman Herita Ilunga is another new signing for them at the back who should go alright at Ligue 2 level. I have to say they look suitably upgraded and I’d expect an improvement with their defensive stats. Rating 7.5/10 Midfield The Parisian outfit are powered by a couple of engines in the middle of the park – Cheikh Ndoye and Ibrahima Seck. Ndoye actually weighed in with a number of goals last season and is the more important player. Both individuals are strong physical players and tough units to break down, albeit can lose focus and concentration sometimes. Creteil have Mathieu Lafon as a third option in midfield and he played quite well towards the back end of last season, so could be useful. They do however lack depth in middle, so would be in trouble if injuries and suspensions kick in. A lot depends what formation the coach decides to use. It doesn’t look like he’ll be able to ‘pack the midfield’ in something like a 4-5-1 system with the players he has available. I’d like to see them sign a couple more midfielders for the sake of depth. Rating 6/10 Attack There were strong rumours that key striker Faneva Andriatsima was going to pack his bags and move on, but he’s now signed a contract extension through to 2016 which is a massive boost. Andriatsima was their leading goalscorer last season and a massive part of their offence. Another key part was old legend Jean Michel Lesage, who scored 8 goals and supplied a whopping 11 assists! He’s now 37, but might have one more season left at this level. He’s bound to decline soon though, so Creteil can’t bank on him repeating those sort of numbers this year. Les Belliers do have a few other options at least, Ludovic Genest being one of them. The ex Bastia man was signed in January and had a fairly good 2nd half of the season. Guys like Ludovic and Ben Sangare are ok options too, whilst Marcel Essombe will probably score between 5-10 goals this season if he plays regularly. Creteil’s attack force isn’t stunning by any means but they’ll be reasonably dangerous, capable of scoring a few goals. Rating 6/10 Coaching and other factors Creteil have undergone a coaching change this summer. Jean Luv Vasseur was amazingly signed up by Ligue 1 side Reims, although might not necessarily be missed that much. Vasseur was nearly sacked around March time last season and only a late string of victories enabled them to avoid relegation. Replacing him is the experienced Philippe Hinchberger. There’s no doubt that he knows how to manage teams in ligue 2, but he’s never really achieved anything that great. After 5 years at Laval he was sacked around February time last season, perhaps a change of scenery will do him good. I’m not sure if Hinchberger suits Creteil though. He’s renowned as a ‘home’ manager but Creteil will never be able to fulfill their potential here due to low crowds. Le Stade Dominic Duvauchelle just isn’t a fortress and never will be. This Creteil squad is better suited to playing on the road but whether or not they have the right manager to utilise this remains to be seen. Overall conclusion There’s plenty of positive things to say about Creteil but it’s debatable whether they can seriously threaten the top ten places. Their backline was a big problem last season but I expect that to improve thanks to new signings and a more defensive minded coach. However, they could be light of numbers in midfield and their attacking players might not fulfill potential if the coach is too conservative. Most of the squad stays in tact which will probably help their cause. There’s definitely some potential with this team and I’d expect them to avoid the relegation battle. However, a midtable berth is ultimately their most likely finishing position. Lack of an ambition and hiring just an average coach in will probably let them down. MEATMAN PREDICTION -11th

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 Part 3 - solid midtable, possible promotion dark horses NIORT GK and defence Niort are well set in between the sticks with Paul Delecroix as their no1 shotstopper. He had a great campaign last year and he’s likely to progress even more this time around considering he’s only 26 years old. Niort have the experienced Rodolphe Roche as backup who should be able to do an ok job if called upon. The big problem that Niort have is they’ve lost stud CB Nicolas Pallois who was superb last season. They’ve also lost Johan Letzelter who was one of the best backup RBs in the ligue. Nevertheless, Niort still have some good defenders in their ranks. The trio of Frederic Bong, Tristan Lahaye and Quentin Bernard are all extremely solid options. The big question is who is going to partner Bong in the middle? It’s projected to be either Mathieu Sans or Yoann Bardet. Sans has never been anything special, whilst Bardet comes from Bordeaux, having failed to make the cut at the top level. If injuries and suspensions kick in, then Niort could have some issues at the back, but if they keep everyone fit then it should be ok. Rating 7/10 Midfield Niort have a couple of extremely strong midfielders, but not much else. Djiman Kouakou and Mouhamadou Diaw are both real quality options and they’ll be absolutely fine when those two line up together. The problem is they have virtually no backup should either go down with injury. Niort will have to rely on youngsters or switch someone out of position if and when this happens. Le Chamois will often start someone like Jimmy Roye in central midfield, but this is a complete waste because he can’t win the ball properly and is far better suited in a more advanced role. I have said the exact same thing for the last two years, Niort need to sign more midfielders! Surely before the end of this window they’ll bring someone in, but this never seems to happen, so who knows! Rating 6/10 Attack Emiliano Sala scored 18 of their 51 goals last season, but now he’s gone back to Bordeaux following a year on loan. He’ll be greatly missed and was one of the main reasons why they did so well last season. The big problem that Niort have is finding a replacement striker who can score 10+ goals. They don’t have anyone of sufficient quality right now so they’ll have to pray someone steps up and improves. They have signed Andre Dona Ndoh from National side Luzenac. He scored 22 goals in the 3rd tier last year, but it’ll be much harder at ligue 2 level. Besides, an injury will likely keep him out until early October which makes things tougher on him. Seydou Kone has been signed from Istres, but he’s just an average player at best. On the positive side, Niort do have Jimmy Roye who is a stud no10 type player, guaranteed to assist (and score) plenty of goals. They also have winger Florian Martin who is an absolute wizard at set pieces. This isn’t the worst attack in the world, but Niort lack a quality goalscorer who can spearhead them upfront. Rating 6/10 Coaching and other factors It was the opinion of many people that Pascal Gastien was the main reason Niort did so well last season. His coaching definitely made a big difference and he got the absolute maximum out of a fairly mediocre set of players. But he’s left for pastures new and takes on a different challenge at Chateauroux. Replacing him is Regis Brouard, a stylish but fairly boring type of manager. During his time at Clermont, they were one of the lowest scoring sides in Ligue 2 and also one of the worst to watch in terms of entertainment. That won’t worry Niort fans too much, traditionally over the years they’ve been renowned for their solidity, but compared to last season things will be different. Gone will be the free flowing nature of their performances, instead replaced by a more methodical approach. Niort are known for having a strong homefield advantage and had an impressive 10-7-2 record at Le Stade Rene Gaillard last season. They will hope to maintain that sort of level this year, but it won’t be easy to achieve. Overall conclusion Niort did remarkably well to finish 5th last season and at one stage it looked like they might obtain a shock promotion. It was just one of those years where a team overachieved and everything went their way. Les Chamois managed to keep most of their players fit and healthy throughout the whole campaign, but there’s no guarantees this will happen again. The overall squad does look a bit thin on the ground, although when at full strenght it’ll be ok. It’s inevitable that Niort will regress this season and slip down the table, the question is how far. They should be a solid, low scoring and tactical type team, not the greatest to watch. Midtable is their most likely finishing position and it’d be a surprise if they got sucked into the relegation battle. However, expectations might be incorrectly high after last season so there’s an outside chance things could go really tits up if they start badly. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 10th AC AJACCIO GK and defence Throughout their whole three year stay in Ligue 1, Ajaccio were fortunate enough to have a world class goalkeeper at their disposal. Guillermo Ochoa has now gone though and this is a massive blow, he was worth a huge number of points to them each season. The Mexican was their best player by a country mile and demonstrated that at the World Cup where he was one of the top 3 keepers on show. Instead now, they’ll rely upon Anthony Scribe and Ousmar Sissokho, neither of whom are particularly good. The backline itself remains relatively stable at least, despite one of two departures. They have signed Cedric Kante from Sochaux, and despite being 35 years old he might have one more good season left in him, especially at Ligue 2 level. Projected to start alongside Kante is Ronald Zubar, who has the potential to be one of the better defenders in the division. Cedric Hengbart is likely to start on the right hand side, whilst either youngster Mickael Leca or new signing Paul Babiloni will get the nod at LB. This defence should be ok when at full strength, but nothing special. There is also a lack of depth should injuries occur, which is a slight worry. Rating 6.5/10 Midfield This is definitely Ajaccio’s strongest area. They have three very good players, the standout star being Johan Cavalli. He’s the heart and soul of the club and would easily get into most Ligue 1 sides. He’ll be one of the best midfielders in the division this season and should be able to weigh in with a number of goals and assists. Alongside him in the middle will be Benoit Pedretti and Ricardo Faty. Both have the potential to go extremely well, as long as they can stay fit. This is questionable though because neither has been able to stay clear of injury problems in the last couple of years. When fit and in form though, both will be very formidable opposition. Ajaccio have signed Jordi Quintilla from Barcelona B. I know nothing about him but perhaps he’ll be decent coming from a club of that origin. Claude Goncalves and Brandon Deville haven’t been used much during their time at the club so far, but they aren’t bad backup options to have on the bench if required. As long as their main men can stay on the field, this’ll be one of the better midfields in Ligue 2. Rating 8.5/10 Attack Ajaccio haven’t been a particularly high scoring team in recent years and I don’t expect that to change too much this season. A new addition is Nicolas Fauvergue from Metz. He isn’t a bad striker and good in the air, but he won’t exactly tear up trees. He also has a bad injury record, so likely won’t be available for the whole campaign. Another player with a dodgy past fitness record is left winger Benoit Lesoimier, who comes in from Brest. He’s not a bad player on his day though and quite technically gifted, so overall should be a decent-ish signing. Their final addition upfront is striker Mouaad Madri, who signs from National side Dunkerque. It’ll be hit and miss if he can adapt to Ligue 2 level, perhaps he could be useful. Pacey right winger Denis Oliech remains, but they don’t have an awful lot of other options in the final third. ACA will have to hope some youngsters step up because currently they are too thin on the ground in this department. Rating 6/10 Coaching & other factors Christian Bracconi is the man in charge and it’s difficult to assess his performance last season. He did his best when taking over an impossible job, the club was already completely ruined due to Fabrizio Ravanelli’s incompetence. Bracconi seemed reasonably popular with the players and did instill some team spirit. This’ll be his true test though so only time will tell if he’s good enough for the job. Ajaccio are traditionally a very strong home side, no teams like travelling to Corsica. But on the road they are renowned for being fairly poor and it’s unlikely they’ll have a particularly good away record. It could be their potential downfall if they want to launch a promotion push. Overall conclusion Ajaccio had a brutal season last year, finishing rock bottom of ligue 1, only just managing to get over the 20 point mark. It’s felt like they’ve been in decline for a while, and despite having plenty of time to prepare for life in Ligue 2, it’ll still be tough adapting to this level. They won’t have any momentum and It’s unlikely they’ll have too much energy or fresh impetus. The squad looks alright, but I don’t think they’ll prove to be anything special. The president has called for an ‘immediate bounceback promotion’ and fans are expecting at least a top 6 finish. I’m not convinced they can achieve that though and there are probably going to be at least half a dozen teams better than them. Ajaccio should be a solid midtable outfit, but it’s never easy after a tough relegation and I’m not expecting anything remarkable from them this season. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 9th SOCHAUX GK and defence Yohann Pele will be their no1 option in between the sticks. He’s a pretty decent goalkeeper and now that he’s seemingly recovered from his career/life threatening injury, I’d expect him to go fairly well for them this year. There will always be a nagging doubt in the mind whether or not he can last a full campaign though. Sochaux have lost some defenders this summer but still seem in reasonable shape. Zouma and Stunzu in the middle should be a formidable partnership, whilst Julien Faussurier on the right (or left) hand side is likely to be one of the better fullbacks in Ligue 2. They’ve signed JP Mignot from St Etienne and his experience at the back should help them, albeit he’s 33 now, so getting on a bit. Backup and depth looks to be reasonable too, sprinkled with a few talented youngsters such as Jerome Roussillon, providing he can stay fit for once. This backline isn’t massively special but it’ll be fairly competitive, enabling Sochaux to keep things fairly tight. Rating 7.5/10 Midfield At the moment, I don’t really like the look of the Sochaux midfield. They are going to rely too much on younger players who don’t really have much physical strength. The likes of Lopy, Iilaimaharita, Dias and Malsa are all decent prospects for the future, but are any of them genuine quality options right now? I’m not personally convinced and Sochaux need to bring in some more experienced players to reinforce. It looks like Laurent Agouazi will be signing from Caen soon and he’ll be a boost, but they need to add at least one more proven talent. Youngster, Romain Habran has signed on loan from PSG and I know little about him, he could be a great signing or a total bust. Just overall, I think they are lacking steel and toughness in the middle of the park and I’d say it’s their worst area. Rating 5/10 Attack The loss of Roudet, Jordan Ayew, Mayuka and almost certainly Cedric Bakambu will hit them hard. Instead, Sochaux will rely on youth again as they’ve signed two of the highest scorers in the National division from last season. Famara Diedhiou comes in from GFCO Ajaccio, whilst Karl Toko Ekambi arrives from Paris FC. Now it’s quite possible both of these players could be great signings and I’ve heard each has some nice potential. But it’s never easy making the step up to Ligue 2 level, so until both prove they can score goals here, then there’ll always be question marks. Elsewhere, Florian Berenguer has signed from Dijon. He’s only a mediocre talent but a very versatile player, capable of playing in a number of different positions which should help them. Of course, Teddy Butin remains and he’s capable of scoring 10-15 goals at this level, if he can stay fit. But he’s never managed to do that throughout his whole career, so it’s doubtful he’ll stay injury free. Thomas Guerbert might do well for them out wide, although he’s coming off a long injury layoff so it might take some time for him to regain top form. Sochaux are hoping winger Roy Contout stays at the club, but it’s more likely he’ll leave before the end of the summer. This attack force doesn’t look too bad and I can see Les Lionceaux scoring a reasonable amount of goals. It would be nice if they could add a more experienced striker to the squad, just to improve overall depth and quality. Rating 7/10 Coaching & other factors Herve Renard nearly managed to keep Sochaux in Ligue 1 last season, but he ultimately failed to achieve what would’ve been a miraculous escape. He’s now left and this is a big blow because he gave so much energy and life to the club. Taking over as coach is Olivier Echouafni, a relatively inexperienced manager. His only previous coaching job was at Amiens last season in the National division, but he did well with them. They were 17th when he took over and finished a very respectable 6th. Amiens were known for their great defensive record under his guidance, so he’ll probably try and employ similar tactics at Sochaux. Unfortunately, Les Lionceaux aren’t known for having a very strong home record and I’d imagine their crowds will be fairly small this season. This wont help them having a potential morgue like atmosphere in a big stadium. But perhaps with a solid defensive mindset they’ll be able to perform alright on the road. Overall conclusion I expect Sochaux to be the best of the relegated teams, but I just don’t see them achieving an immediate bounceback promotion. Fans will hope for a top three push but I’m not convinced they have enough all round strength to launch a serious podium bid. It’s never easy after relegation and in recent years most teams have struggled to adapt back to Ligue 2 level. None of the last 12 sides relegated from Ligue 1 have managed to obtain an immediate promotion the following season. The hangover of going down could definitely affect them in a negative way but they should still be a solid top 10 team. If they could sign a couple of decent players before the end of the summer then maybe they could challenge the top 6. Right now, the bookies have them as one of the favourites to win Ligue 2. I don’t really understand why this is the case and it’s possible they could be an overrated team this year. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 8th AUXERRE GK and defence Donovan Leon is their first choice GK now that Olivier Sorin has moved to Rennes. It’s worth nothing that Leon featured in most games after Christmas last year and performed pretty well. I actually think he’s quite a good shotstopper, albeit sometimes eccentric. Backing him up is Geoffrey Lembet, who isn’t too bad. Auxerre have lost 3 of their starting back 4 from last season. The most notable departure is rock solid Adama Coulibaly, but they’ve arguably replaced him with someone better in Sebastien Puygrennier. The former Nancy and Monaco man will be one of the best CBs in Ligue 2 this season, he’s a very good addition. If they can keep Wily Boly then it would make for a strong CB pairing, although it’s 50/50 if Boly stays or not. AJA have signed talented young right back Ruben Aguilar from Grenoble and he’s expected to start immediately. The improving JC Castelletto would be the current starting LB, although he’s versatile and can play anywhere on the backline. Depth isn’t too bad for Auxerre either. If they can keep Boly (or replace him well) then this should be a fairly solid defence. Rating 7/10 Midfield It looks like Auxerre will be about average in this department. They’ve lost Prince Segbefia who could be missed, but I personally think he was someone who blew too hot and cold. Their one new signing in the middle is Pierre Bouby from Nimes, a solid dependable and consistent player. Bouby is also versatile and capable of filling in a number of positions if needed, overall I really like this addition. He should link up well with Ait Ben Idir who is Auxerre’s best returning midfielder. It would help if they could keep Thomas Monconduit because he would add some nice depth, but it’s probable he’ll leave the club at some point this summer. So instead Auxerre will rely upon some younger players like Gavory, Boe Kane and Lefebvre to fill in when needed. Who knows, one of those might step up and become surprisingly good. Of course Vincent Gragnic can also play as a deeper midfielder if needed, although is better suited in a more advanced position. Rating 6/10 Attack The big signing for Auxerre this summer is playmaker Vincent Gragnic. He’s comfortably been Nimes’ best player in the last 2-3 years and is a proven stud at Ligue 2 level. Gragnic could easily score at least 10+ goals and supply the same number of assists for Auxerre this season, as long as they utilise him properly. The other key man for them in attack is winger Frederic Sammaritano who can be impressive when fit and in the right mood. Auxerre knew they needed to improve upfront season and another new addition is Livio Nabab from Arles. With the right sort of service he could net 10+ goals if employed as a central striker. The likes of Haller and Viale aren’t really good enough, but at least add some depth. Maybe Tafsir Cherif on loan from Monaco might prove to be decent, but I know nothing about him. Overall I actually quite like the look of Auxerre in the final third this season. On paper it certainly seems to have improved and with Cheikh Diarra recently arriving on loan from Rennes, I expect this team to score a lot more goals. Rating 8/10 Coaching & other factors Jean Luc Vanucci is in charge and there are plenty of question marks surrounding him. Yes, he managed to save them from relegation at the back end of last season, but they were far from impressive. He doesn’t have too much experience at this level and if things start badly he could be sacked by Christmas. On the other hand, he’s very much a ‘club man’ and seems popular with the players. Squad morale is reportedly much better compared to last season, so maybe Vanucci is the right man to lead them, who knows. Auxerre had a shocking away record last season and this is something they really need to improve upon. Thanks to a couple of late wins they at least managed to end 2-6-11, but in truth they performed even worse than that. They are traditionally quite a strong home side, although since their relegation from the top flight Le Stade l’Abbe Deschamps can resemble a morgue in certain ‘low key’ Friday night games. The atmosphere can be downbeat at times which won’t help their cause. Overall conclusion Last year was a weird one for Auxerre. They were set for a comfortable midtable position until they sold PG Ntep in January. This completely rocked their boat because they were over-reliant on him and couldn’t adapt. Panic set in and somehow they got sucked into a relegation battle, when realistically they had midtable ability within their ranks. I’d expect AJA to improve this season. With more stability, a climb up the table is almost inevitable. I really like the additions of Puygrennier, Bouby, Gragnic & Nabab. There are perhaps some question marks surrounding the coach, but I’d expect them to have a solid season and threaten the top 10 places. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 7th DIJON GK and defence Dijon welcome back Baptiste Reynet following a bust move to Lorient. He returns on loan and will be the no1 keeper this season. Florent Perraud as backup is decent, so Dijon have their goalkeeping situation sorted. The backline stays exactly the same and looks to have plenty of depth. Once again, they seem to lack a standout star though, so will hope the likes of Zakaria Diallo and Pap Paye can really become studs. Cedric Varrault is the ‘leader’ of this defence, but at 34 years old I don’t think he has much left in the tank. A number of niggling injuries affected him last season so it’s not even likely he’ll be able to play 25+ games or maintain his form throughout the whole campaign. Samuel Souprayen is probably Dijon’s best defender, but despite plenty of overall depth I don’t think they have enough ‘elite’ players at the back compared to some other teams. Rating 7.5/10 Midfield They’ve lost Remi Mulumba who goes back to Lorient after a loan spell, but he wasn’t that important for them last season anyway, so unlikely to be missed. Dijon have options in the middle of the park but once again seem to lack sufficient star quality compared to some other sides. The trio of Gastien, Cisse and Marie will all compete for places, whilst youngster Bryan Babit is worth keeping an eye on, he has good potential. Dijon also have a number of players capable of starting in a central attacking midfield role. This is a competent midfield for sure, they just lack a stud star who can really make a big difference. Rating 7/10 Attack They have a few decent options but yet again nobody of sufficient calibre who you’d really say is top class at ligue 2 level. Julio Tavares was very good in 2012/13, but poor last year only performing well on a sporadic basis. Philippoteaux, Amalfitano and Kone complete their options upfront, but neither of those players are consistent enough. At least they’ve shipped out Gregory Thil on loan to Chateauroux, he’s truly awful these days and completely regressed. Youngster Lois Diony is perhaps one to watch and has shown some raw ability, it’s possible he could start more games this season. I think Dijon need to sign a proven striker who will definitely get them 10-15 goals this season. Until they bring someone in like that, then this attack force is only average in my opinion. Rating 6/10 Coaching and other factors Olivier Dall’Oglio is still in charge and this’ll be his 3rd season at the helm. He has guided Dijon to a top 6 finish in both of his first couple of years in charge, but many people would argue he should’ve done better. Considering the weapons and decent players that have been at his disposal, I actually think Dall’Oglio has been a failure. He is nothing more than an average coach at Ligue 2 level and other teams will have the edge on Dijon in this department. At least Les Rouges have been very strong at home during his time in charge, finishing with the 2nd best record in each of the last two seasons. But Dijon have consistently been poor away during this period too. They only won 3 road games last season, 2 of which came right at the end of the campaign when nothing was at stake! If they really want to maintain a proper promotion bid then away results simply MUST improve. Overall conclusion The squad has stayed remarkably settled during the summer. This could be a good thing but I personally think they needed to recruit some new blood and freshen things up. Fans will hope for promotion but I just can’t see it happening. Poor coaching combined with a likely bad away record will be their main downfall. Dijon should still be one of the better teams in the division and I expect them to be very strong at home. But I just don’t see anything suggesting they can take that extra step towards the podium. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 6th

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 Part 4 - in the hunt for promotion LE HAVRE GK and defence Starting in between the sticks will be Abdoulaye Diallo, on loan from Rennes. He did an ok job for them during the 2nd half of last season, but he’s nothing special. Backup is a concern for Havre, it’ll either be Pierre Bois or the recently signed Stephen Milosavljevic. Both are young and inexperienced. In front of the keeper, Havre at least have one of the best looking defences in the ligue. They have a ton of options available to them at the back, including a mixture of established players and promising youngsters. Zargo Toure and Maxime Le Marchand are the first choice CB pairing and this looks very formidable. At RB Jordan Ikoko will probably start, although a couple of others might push him. Ikoko is on loan from PSG and big things are expected of him in the future. On the left, Jerome Mombris was a revelation last season and will hope to maintain his level once again. Le Havre have loads of backup options. Steven Fortes signed from Arles and he’s another who looks set to have a promising future. Evene Cyriaque Louvion isn’t the worst option in the world and would be a regular starter for a number of Ligue 2 teams! If they had a top class GK I would rate this defence 10/10, but its still very impressive. Rating 9/10 Midfield Havre look alright in this department but could do with a bit of extra quality. They have a lot of defensive type midfielders in their squad, but lack some creativity. Romain Saiss and Distel Zola look set to start for them in the middle of the park. Both are good ball winners and tough physical players. Jean Pascal Fontaine and Sebastien Flochon are their other options, but neither is anything special. Le Havre definitely lack a star player in midfield and now that Walid Mesloub has gone, they definitely lack a central playmaker. Depth is pretty good, a number of defenders are capable of playing in midfield if required. They could be hard to break down centrally but it looks to me like there’s a few midfields better than this one in Ligue 2. Rating 7/10 Attack The aforementioned Walid Mesloub has transferred to Lorient and he’ll be missed. Mesloub weighed in with 7 goals and 9 assists last season and will be difficult to replace. A lot now rests on the shoulders of left winger Alexandre Bonnet, who might be asked to play in a more central role this season. Bonnet is their standout player in attack, although they do have some good options on both wings. Le Bihan, Malfleury, Manzala and the newly arrived Ludovic Gamboa are all fairly decent. Havre won’t have too many problems supplying good crosses, the big question is who is going to get on the end of them? They lack a really good striker who can get them 15+ goals in a season. Possible options include Yohann Riviere who had big injury problems last season, Moussa Sao who struggled to adapt in his first campaign for the club, or youngsters such as Lys Mousset, who are promising, but raw. Le Bihan is actually projected to start upfront, but he’s much better as a winger and has never been a natural striker. There are strong rumours that Le Havre will sign an established striker before the end of the transfer window. If they could bring in a quality player then this attack force would look much better. For now, it’s above average, but nothing too special. Rating 7/10 Coaching & other factors Eric Mombaerts was close to the sack at one stage last season but their form improved and he’s been kept on as coach this summer. He has a lot of experience and is very good at managing youngsters, something which is pretty important when in control at a club like Le Havre. But at times last season Mombaerts looked clueless and lacked ideas. This is a concern because more is expected of this supposed ‘elite’ level coach. Their home record was distinctly average and Le Stade Oceanne hasn’t become a fortress since they moved to their new home a couple of years ago. The big positive was that they looked like one of the best away teams last season, despite only ending up with the 9th best record. Le Havre are perfectly set up on the road with their quick counter attacks. Overall I think Mombaerts is an asset for them, but he needs to sharpen up his tactics this season, especially at home. Overall conclusion On paper, Le Havre look set to challenge for promotion. But I said that at the start of last season and arguably they had an even better squad at their disposal back then. They might just lack a couple of pieces that will stop them going up. Lack of creativity in the middle coupled with the lack of a proven quality goalscorer could be their downfall. The other problem is that this team seems to have no ambition sometimes. They’ve always been a ‘selling’ club and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they shipped some guys out in January. They could potentially lose assets because they never seem to try and hold onto players. They finished 12th last season and an improvement on that spot is very likely, but quite how high they can go remains to be seen. It’s possible they could reach the podium but it’s more likely a few factors will prevent them from fulfilling their true potential and they’ll fall short. MEATMAN PREDICTION -5th NANCY GK and defence Nancy uncovered an absolute gem of a keeper last season thanks to the emergence of Paul Nardi. In fact, he was so impressive that Monaco actually bought him this summer for £3 million. However, he’s been loaned back for a year which is a massive boost. Nardi will be one of the best keepers in the ligue, although he’s still young and will sometimes make the occasional rookie error. In front of him, the first choice back four is possibly the best quartet in the ligue. Their CB pairing of Joel Sami and Francois Bellugou is very formidable, whilst Joffrey Cuffaut on the right hand side is another quality option. Vincent Muratori is the starting LB and another with loads of experience. The worry for Nancy is they lack serious depth should injuries or suspensions kick in. They will rely on youngsters such as Badilla, Amadou and Lenglet to fill in if required. Newly signed Fabrice Ehret (also a winger) would at least be decent cover on the left if Muratori got injured. The good news is that the aforementioned first choice back four are extremely durable and not the type of players who will go down with injury often. You never know, but it’s fairly unlikely more than one of them will be missing for any match. That would be fine because they can carry one player in this defence, such is the overall strength of it. Rating 9/10 Midfield This is the area where I have most concern regarding Nancy. They’ve lost Thomas Ayasse and Thomas Mangani – a couple of rather unspectacular but dependable players. At Ligue 2 level both are fairly useful and nice to have around either as a first choice or backup option. I think they’ll lack steel and physicality in the middle of the park this season unless reinforcements are brought in. Lossemy Karaboue is a very versatile player but currently projected to start at CM. He’s probably better suited out wide or in an advanced role, he’s more of a creative type, not so good as a ball winner. Remi Walter will likely be their first choice defensive midfielder. He’s a promising talent but only 19 years old and a bit raw for a team with promotion aspirations. Maybe Nancy will bring in some more midfielders before the end of the transfer window. They certainly need to, because right now they lack overall quality and depth. Rating 6/10 Attack Nancy don’t have an awful lot of depth in attack, but the weapons they have available to them are of substantial quality. First mention has to go to their star player, Jeff Louis. He took the ligue by storm after the winter break last year and was clearly the best player in the whole division from January – May. I’m surprised they’ve managed to keep him, a number of Ligue 1 clubs were sniffing around. If he could stay, it’d be fantastic news for Nancy. In my opinion he’ll be the best player in Ligue 2, as long as he stays fit and doesn’t let any off field issues distract him. He’s quite simply a pure stud and a fantastic number 10. I would back him to deliver at least 20 goals and assists (combined). The problem is he probably will depart either this window, or in the winter. This season it looks like Nancy will actually have a decent striker ahead of him on the field. They have signed Maurice Dale from Arles, a much better option than the departing Benjamin Jeannot. Dale should be able to score at least 10 goals as long as he gets the right service. Another option upfront for them is old legend Mustapha Hadji who returns to the club. He’s 34 now, so no spring chicken but he has great technical skill and at Ligue 2 level still might have a lot to give. Unfortunately, Nancy also lack depth upfront and this could be a problem because Louis, Hadji and Dale are all big injury risks. But simply because of the presence of a star player like Louis (for now), this offence has to be rated highly. Rating 9/10 Coaching & other factors One of Nancy’s biggest assets is their coach Pablo Correa. He took over last season and despite inheriting a fairly poor squad, nearly managed to mastermind an immediate promotion. For them to finish 4th was definitely a very creditable achievement. He’s probably the best coach in Ligue 2 this season so that has to be a factor to consider. He will get the very best out of his players and ultimately that could be the difference between something like 3rd and 4th. Nancy play on an artificial surface so in theory should have an extra advantage at home. This hasn’t always been the case in recent years but Correa has also proven himself to be a very good road manager. They won’t have to rely on having an amazing home record because it’s likely they’ll pick up quite a few points on their travels. Overall conclusion When at full strength, the Nancy first choice XI will be one of the best in the ligue. If they can avoid injuries to key players then they’ll have a great chance of launching a promotion bid. However, if you scratch the surface its obvious they lack quality depth and backup options aren’t up to the standard required. They might be able to cope for small periods but if they suffer prolonged absences to important individuals they they’ll be in a sticky situation. At least they have a very good coach in charge who will get the absolute maximum out of the team. It also helps that they are an ambitious club and actually want to get promoted! They will definitely be a team in the mixer and the extra edge of having Pablo Correa as coach might just be the key difference come the end of the season. If they went up, I really wouldn’t be surprised, but the only reason I’m predicting them 4th is because of the aforementioned slight lack of depth, There also the strong possibility that they could end up selling someone good (ie Louis) which would harm them. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 4th BREST GK and defence Presuming they manage to keep everyone, Brest look pretty good at at the back. Alexis Thebaux is their no1 GK and at this level he’s fine. Johan Hartock will probably be warming the bench and he’s generally ok. Brest have a number of solid defenders such as Moimbe, Falette, Martial and Traore. A new addition is RB Stephane Tritz who has experience at this level and should go ok. In the 2nd half of last season they were very hard to break down and this backline is capable of being very solid indeed. There have been some rumours that guys like Martial and Moimble might leave before the end of the summer, but right now I see no issue with the Brest defence, they wont concede many. Rating 9/10 Midfield Likewise in the middle of the park, Brestois look to be in good shape. They have strong duoof physical defensive midfielders – Perez & Ramare. Adding to this lineup is Malian Cheick Doumbia & Jason Ranneaud from lower Ligue Lyon-Duchere. Of course, Brest’s main man in central areas is Bruno Grougi. Many would class him as an attacker but he does sometimes operate as a deep lying playmaker. Grougi is really good at delivering set pieces and a key heartbeat in the Brest team. They look to have plenty of depth in the middle of the park and this feels like a really stable area for them. Rating 8/10 Attack Brest have lost left winger Benoit Lesoimier and right winger/striker Jonathan Ayite, but perhaps neither will be missed that much. When on form, both of those players were capable of changing games but injuries never seemed to be on their side. The amount of games that each missed, especially Ayite was ridiculous. Brest can now move on with some (hopefully) less brittle players capable of playing 30+ games a season. They have signed two wingers, Cuvillier and Belghazouani. These are a couple of additions I like. Cuvillier is proven quality at Ligue 2 level and weighed in with a lot of assists for Nancy last season, whilst the pace of Belghazouani can never be underestimated. Brest have one very good striker in Nicolas Verdier who is capable of scoring 15+ goals with the right service. There is talk he might leave before the end of the summer though and it’s imperative he stays. Alexandre Alphonse could become useful if he can stay injury free for once. At full strength, this’ll be a decent attack. They even have Gaetan Laborde on loan from Bordeaux to add some extra depth, and it’s possible he might push for a starting spot. Rating 8/10 Coaching & other factors Brest have the experienced Alex Dupont in charge and he’s a great fit for this club.In the past he’s obtained promotion with Brest, and back then he had even less quality to work with. Dupont is a naturally defensive manager, but proven at getting results. It might not be pretty, but his methods can be effective. Dupont isn’t just completely defensive though and does like to employ counter attacking tactics on the road. Brest will be effective on their travels this season, hard to penetrate but dangerous on the break. Historically, they’ve always been strong at home too. Brest is an awful place for anyone to visit in the middle of winter, when the pitch is all cut up and conditions horrible. They will have an advantage in front of their own fans, especially in the 2nd half of the season, because they’ll know how to play best on their likely poor quality surface. Overall conclusion Brest ended last season really well. From the start of February until the final round, they only lost two games (against Metz and Caen, both of whom got promoted). So clearly they ended incredibly hot and are likely to start this season with some momentum. Not too much has changed within the squad so this sort of form should be fairly easy to maintain. It was never going to be easy for them to settle down immediately following relegation, but I feel this season they can get right back into the promotion mixer. They won’t be the greatest team to watch in terms of entertainment, but I expect them to be really effective & hard to beat. They’ll be awkward opponents and I can’t see them losing many matches. Lack of goals due to negative tactics is perhaps the only slight worry, but with such good all round strength the Brittany outfit are a prime candidate to finish on the podium. MEATMAN PREDICTION -3rd TROYES GK and defence The one question mark for Troyes at the back is actually in goal. They signed Denis Petric last season but he was a bust for half of the year, not performing very well. He’s expected to be their no1 GK this season, but Franck Grandel and Mathieu Dreyer will push him close. Neither is that good, although Petric has potential if he can regain his old form. The ESTAC backline wasn’t that tight last season, but on paper it’s one of the best in the ligue. Maxime Collin is one of the top fullbacks around, whilst Lionel Carole complements him well on the other side. In the middle N’Diaye, Saunier and Ricon are all solid options. They have signed Mory Kone from Parma who might feature, whilst even the experienced Florian Jarjat can do a half decent job when required. I would expect their defensive stats to improve this season because the quality is there on paper. A number of their defenders are known to regularly get injured though, so keeping everyone fit would help. Rating 8/10 Midfield This is an area where Troyes have reinforced because they were too lightwright last season. They’ve signed Thomas Ayasse from Nancy who will bring some steel to the side, whilst talented youngster Jessy Pi comes from Monaco on a season long loan. Big things are expected of Pi in the future and its possible he could thrive at Ligue 2 level. Of course, they still have the legendary Benjamin Nivet in their ranks. At 37 years old, it’s debatable how much more he’s got left in the tank, but you can’t deny his technical skill. Troyes have other options such as Quentin Othon, Jimmy Cabot and Khassa Camara, and they’ll also have Thiago Xavier available once he’s recovered from an ACL injury. As the season progresses, this midfield should go from strength to strength and I really like the look of it. Rating 9.5/10 Attack Troyes will be led in attack by star striker Ghislain Gimbert, one of the top marksman in Ligue 2. He scored 14 goals in just 25 appearances last season and only injury prevented him from playing more games. I expect him to threaten the 20 goal barrier this year providing he stays fit. Troyes will hope that young starlet Corentin Jean can finally come of age this year too. Everyone knows he’s got a massive future ahead of him, could this be the season he breaks through in a big way? On the wings, Troyes have great options. The likes of Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Yoann Court, Stephane Darbion can all supply some great crosses, and the likes of Cabot, Jean and Nivet can all play out wide if needed as well. It’s difficult to find a weakness in this Troyes attack. Some might argue they could do with having another proven quality striker alongside Gimbert, but that would only be necessary if he went down injured for a long time. Rating 9/10 Coaching & other factors Jean Marc Furlan remains in charge and he’s one of the most attack minded coaches in Ligue 2. His philosophy is to play nice attractive football, even if it costs them decent results at times. He came under fire last season in some games when they just fell asleep defensively, but he’s maintained that he’ll keep playing an attacking system this campaign. Troyes are usually a very strong home team and their pitch is one of the best in the division, always immaculately maintained and suits their fluid passing ‘on the deck’ sort of style. However, they are known for having problems on the road, especially during the winter on poor pitches at difficult locations. So this team won’t always enjoy travelling, but you can bank on them having one of the best home records in the ligue. Overall conclusion Troyes have one of the best squads in Ligue 2 and really should manage to obtain promotion this season. The club has been very settled during the summer and everybody knows each other really well. For one reason or another, things just didn’t work out for them last year. Maybe it was a relegation hangover or the Coupe de La Ligue semi final run, but basically they underachieved. This time around I’d expect them to strongly compete though, and only defensive issues could potentially cost them. Troyes will play just like Caen did last season and rely on their attack force to propel them towards Ligue 1. It’s likely ESTAC will be the highest scoring team in the division but they will also lose some stupid games away from home in which they dominate etc. So perhaps that sort of thing might cost them winning the title, but it’d be a surprise if they didn’t end up on the podium. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 2nd ANGERS GK and defence Angers have finally parted ways with dinosaur Gregory Malicki. I have no idea why they stuck with such an old keeper for the last few seasons because he was a clear weak link at times. Replacing him is Ludovic Butelle from Arles who’ll be an immediate upgrade. Angers have also upgraded their defence by signing Algerian Antar Yahia. I don’t know an awful lot about him, but this guy captained Algeria in the 2010 world cup and obtained over 50 caps for his country. Still only 32 years old, he’ll surely be one of the better defenders at this level of football. Khalifa Traore and Loic Guillon are a couple of other new additions who should be ok. Angers found some real gems last season in the form of Arnold Bouka Moutou and Romain Thomas. There’s no doubt that Moutou is one of the best left backs in Ligue 2 and if Thomas continues his form of last year, they should be formidable at the back. Angers are well set in defence and have loads of cover and depth should injuries kick in. Finally, they’ve gotten rid of the horrendous Jeremy Henin who was a liability at times, losing Djibril Konate isn’t that bad either because he was getting too old and slow. If everyone stays fit this’ll be one of the strongest defences in the ligue. Rating 9/10 Midfield They remain unchanged in the middle of the park with no significant arrivals or departures. When at full strength it looks just as formidable as the defence. With the likes of Auriac, Keita, Manceau and Frikeche, Angers have plenty of proven quality and options in the middle. They will sometimes play in a 4-4-2 formation and have wide midfielders who are capable of playing in a deeper role too. Once again, depth is vast and the coach has a number of possibilities at his disposal. You could argue that they lack a ‘star’ man in midfield, but when Auraic and Keita are on top form, both are capable of being superb. There’s not a lot more I can add here really, this just looks like really strong midfield to me. Rating 9/10 Attack Angers have lost 11 goal man Mohamed Yattara but I think they’ll be able to make up for that by scoring more collective teams goals. Jonathan Kodjia performed well at Caen last season and is a decent addition, whilst Abdoul Camara could be useful at Ligue 2 level following a move from Sochaux. Angers have loads of wingers and striker options. The likes of Ayari (although he is out injured until November), Boufal, Eudeline, plus a couple of others can all be great on their day. Once again, you could say that they lack a ‘star’ individual in this area of the field, but perhaps its not a necessity. Everyone will play their part and I’m sure players will be rotated a lot, which could be a real asset as the season progresses. Angers will definitely create chances and score goals, especially as they regularly employ positive tactics. Rating 8/10 Coaching and other factors This will be Stephane Moulin’s 4th season in charge. He’s led them to 11th, 5th and 9th placed finishes, very respectable numbers for a club like Angers. Moulin is a good coach and it’ll help Angers to have maintained stability in this department. They have performed well both at home and away during Moulin’s reign. His counter attacking style can be very effective on the road. They are well supported at home, although Angers do have a reputation for choking in big fixtures and never seem to play that well on TV. This could be a coaching or mental issue, I’m not sure, but it seems they often crack when the limelight is on them. Team spirit is often very good at Angers and everyone seems to play for each other. Overall conclusion Angers have come close to promotion in each of the last two seasons. Last year they blew a great chance but only won 2 of their last 14 matches! It seems they always falter around January/February time each season following a hot start. But there were reasons this happened last year. Firstly, their injury luck was ridiculous. Throughout the whole campaign they missed so many guys at regular intervals. I don’t think they managed to name their best XI in any match! This eventually caught up with them and around Feb/March all of the players were tired and fatigued. I have no doubt that if they can just keep the squad reasonably fit this year, at the very least they’ll obtain promotion. Angers have a great looking balanced squad with loads of depth, they don’t have any real weak areas on the field! They also have a massive hunger to succeed following close misses in recent years. Don’t underestimate the power of this motivation! Often the big failure of talented squads at this level is that they don’t care (example Lens last season). Angers WILL care though and they could actually walk away with the division this year IMO. The rest of the field is fairly weak and they have a great chance to take advantage. They will learn from their past mistakes and this time ensure they get over the line. MEATMAN PREDICTION – 1st

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 My overall predicted table as it stands 1 Angers 2 Troyes 3 Brest 4 Nancy 5 Le Havre 6 Dijon 7 Auxerre 8 Sochaux 9 Ajaccio 10 Niort 11 Creteil 12 Tours 13 Arles 14 Clermont 15 Valenciennes 16 Chateauroux 17 Orleans 18 GFC Ajaccio 19 Nimes 20 Laval However, news just came through today that Luzenac upon appeal have been allowed into Ligue 2. This will become a 21 team Ligue. I will be researching and previewing them within the next few days and post something up. Good luck to everyone this season. I will be posting weekly bets up on PL until about April time when I usually like to stop betting in France due to lack of value. As a reminder, all bets will also be posted upon my personal blog, and also my seasonal betting record will be shown there.http://meatmansoccer.wordpress.com/ And another reminder for those of you who don't know, my twitter account is @meatmansoccer so feel free to follow me if you want.

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 I didn't actually predict an exact position for any team correctly this season. I did however correctly get 8 of the top 10 and 2 of the 3 teams who went up. The three sides who I predicted to get relegated (Laval, GFCA & Nimes) all defied my low expectations. GFC achieved the remarkable by actually getting promoted, although in some ways in wasn't a surprise they were so good at home. Considering the talent on their roster and the lack of a quality goalscorer, it's amazing they managed to do so well. Laval were equally a shock, they just wouldn't lose games! Drawing a massive 21 times, they lost less games than anyone in the entire division (6 matches). Both GFC and Laval just showed that you don't need brilliant quality to do well in Ligue 2, although it must be said neither had any bad injuries all season which helped. Nimes was a slightly different situation. Once they were 'relegated' back in January they seemed to have no pressure on their shoulders and just 'went for it' hoping to get a place in the top 3. But they won their appeal against relegation, albeit will start next season on minus 8 points which will be interesting. At the top, Troyes finished miles clear but I personally didn't think they were anything special. They just had that champions knack of winning matches and scoring goals (often late) at the right time. Their defensive record was immense but actually many teams just seems to freeze in front of goal against them with the pressure. Deserved champions, but if you actually look at their games in detail they were as dominant as you might think. Angers should have cruised to 2nd place but a relatively poor away record cost them. They always seem to fuck up close to the line so they did well to finally make it up, but really this team should have picked up 70 points. For sure, it was also a wasted campaign for sides like Brest, Nancy and Dijon. When only 65 points would have got them up, they have to be fuming to have completed such a below par campaign. Ligue 2 was one of the hardest ligues to bet in this season. A big problem was the lack of a proper 'pecking order' A lot of teams were very similar to each other. Of the two teams cast adrift, Chateauroux were often priced fairly and with Arles I was 'too strong' on them at the start of the season, missing out on chances to oppose a team I believed in. This was actually one of the highest % overall home wins in Ligue 2 for a number of seasons. Also, the amount of draws was extremely low and away wins a bit on the high side. The best times to bet in this ligue are Sept - Nov and Feb-March. August, December, January plus anything from April onwards is usually best avoided. I will be following this tactic next season, albeit still with occasional value bets in the 'danger' periods. Next season only 2 teams will be relegated from Ligue 2 and only 2 teams promoted from L2, which will add a new dimension to things. I will be back in August with season previews, and hopefully next year the division will actually produce some actual proper power teams. I have high hopes that Brest Nancy, Dijon, Sochaux and maybe Metz will prove to be reliable teams. See you all then

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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15

This was actually one of the highest % overall home wins in Ligue 2 for a number of seasons. Also, the amount of draws was extremely low and away wins a bit on the high side.
Interestingly, this wasn't accurate for the smaller subset of matches involving favorites of below 2.00. The four-year total record (all I've compiled) for underdogs of: below 4.0...15-37-41 (40% draws) 4.0 to 4.99...55-96-162 (31% draws) 5.0 to 5.99...19-39-68 (31% draws) 6.0 to 7.99...9-18-45 (25% draws) Percentages for this season, top to bottom, were 25% (lower), 32% (higher), 36% (higher), 26% (higher).
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Re: Ligue 2 Preview 2014/15 Yes. There are two reasons I track such matches...in other leagues, matches featuring a favorite of 1.99 on down offer good odds on draw. And in Ligue 2, there are so many draws that, even though the odds are usually around 3.2, you can still do well taking draws. When I argue (often) that results are essentially random in football, this is the sort of thing I mean. Sides drop points when you least expect it, not when you most expect it.

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