Ligue 1 Winter Break Season Review
Ligue 1 is entering the winter break after the matchday ending on December 22nd and they are set to resume on January 7th but this break is a good opportunity to take a look at each teams performance so far. I made pre-season predicitons and it is interesting to see where the clubs stack up now in comparison to my predictions.
Angers: 6-7-6 record (25 Points, 11th in league)
It’s been a fairly decent start to the season for Angers as the club are looking at another mid-table finish for the seventh consecutive season. They are entering the winter break however in poor form with one victory and three defeats in league competition and a 2-0 against a lower division french club in the French Cup round of 64. The top performing player for the club so far has been forward Sofiane Boufal with 5 goals, 4 assists and 4 man of the match performances in 18 games. The 28 year old Moroccan winger has made a big improvement from an underwhelming season last year where he scored 1 goal in 14 games for Angers and three average seasons at Southampton in the Premier League. Jimmy Cabot and Thomas Mangani have also performed fairly solid in the midfield and defenders Romain Thomas and Ismael Traore have been doing a good job holding down the defensive responsibilities. I had them predicted finishing in 18th place prior to the season and I have been impressed with their performance so far and I definitely think they should manage to avoid relegation.
Bordeaux: 3-8-8 record (17 Points, 17th in league)
It’s been a tough season for Bordeaux as I had a lot of confidence with the addition of Vladimir Petkovic as the new manager as Petkovic had a lot of success with the Swiss national team over the past several years. If Bordeaux maintains this pace, it will be the club's worst finish in decades as the club has been a staple in the top division since the 1980s. They are the worst defensive club in the league with 43 goals conceded and they are only one point ahead of the 19th place club in the league. Offensively Bordeaux have found a lot of weapons with Honduras international forward Alberth Elis scoring 7 goals in 11 games in his first season with Bordeaux. Yacine Adli, Remi Oudin and Ui-jo Hwang are all having good seasons for Bordeaux to start this season. I had initially predicted Bordeaux to finish in 10th place but after losing Toma Bosic to Lazio and their poor performances defensively it will be hard for them to get up to midtable. I am still confident that Bordeaux won’t be relegated this season however as I still believe in Petkovic and this team has the talent to avoid relegation.
Stade Brestois 29: 6-7-6 record (25 Points, 12th in league)
They have done a solid job under new head coach Michel Der Zakarian as they are looking towards a mid-table finish after narrowly avoiding relegation last season with a 17th place finish. Romain Faivre has been one of the top players in the league this season as the midfielder has 7 goals, 5 assists and 3 man of the matches in 18 games. The 23 year old is just getting better and his contract with Stade Brestois is until 2025 and that gives this smaller club a lot of hope moving forward. Forwards Franck Honorat, Steve Mounie and Jeremy Le Douaron have contributed a combined 15 goals offensively this season in a very balanced attack. My pre-season prediction had Stade Brestois in 16th place as I was concerned about left back Romain Perraud leaving the team and the club's lack of quality but I did have faith in Der Zakarian to keep them up in the league and it looks promising.
Clermont Foot: 4-5-9 record (17 Points, 16th in league)
After a strong start to the season in their first year in the top french league, Clermont Foot have really dropped off these past couple months heading into the break. They have gone 2-2-6 in their last ten games but they did manage to win their final game before the break 1-0 against Angers. Mohamed Bayo has done a solid job as the main striking option offensively for Clermont Foot with nine goals, two assists and three man of matches in 17 games this season. I have actually been impressed with their resilience in many games this season as I wrote them off in my predictions with a 20th place finish but they are definitely showing some fight to stay up this season.
FC Lorient: 3-7-9 record (16 Points, 19th in league)
The biggest concern with FC Lorient entering this season for me was the club's lack of depth and their poor defensive performance last season. I felt like if this team had a shot it was with their offensive group but Terem Moffi has dropped off this season with only 2 goals in 18 games compared to 14 goals in 32 games last season. They have scored only 15 goals through 19 games this season and that is a league low. The best player for FC Lorient so far this season has been midfielder Thomas Monconduit with 3 goals, 1 assist and 2 man of the match performances through 16 league games. I had predicted them to finish in 19th place this season and they are currently sitting in that spot. Unless they make some major moves during the winter transfer window, I don’t see FC Lorient staying up.
Lille: 7-7-5 record (28 Points, 8th in league)
It has been a bit of an adjustment to start the season for Lille as they are not in contention to win the league again this season but they finished top of their group in the Champions League and are now entering the next round against Chelsea. Canadian forward Jonathan David has had a strong start to the season with 12 goals in 19 games this season and veteran Turkish forward Burak Yilmaz has 4 goals and 3 assists in 17 games. Midfielders Benjamin Andre and Renato Sanches have had strong starts to the season and I'm excited to see what they can do in the Champions League playoffs. I actually predicted them to finish 6th as I figured they would have a down season with a new manager and the loss of some key players during the summer transfer window so sitting in 8th place isn’t that surprising.
Lyon: 6-7-5 record (24 Points, 13th in league)
This is a surprising start to the season as Lyon have been consistently finishing in the top five of Ligue 1 for the past couple decades but they find themselves in 13th place at the break and seven points behind fifth spot. This team has had strong performances in the midfield so far this season from Lucas Paqueta, Bruno Guimaraes and Houssem Aouar to start the season. I think their forward options with Karl Toko Ekambi, Moussa Dembele, Xherdan Shaqiri and Islam Slimani need to perform stronger to close the season if they hope to reach a Champions League spot. I predicted them to finish third and I still believe this club is capable of pushing for a top finish in the league given the quality of their roster.
Marseille: 9-6-3 record (33 Points, 3rd in league)
It’s been a solid start to the season for Marseille as they are tied for second place with 3rd place in the league but they have fallen 13 points behind PSG for first place in the league. Dmitri Payet has arguably been the best player in the league this season as the 34 year old has 7 goals, 7 assists and 4 man of the match performances in 15 games to start the season. Valentin Rongier and Matteo Guendouzi have both had terrific performances to start the season in the midfield. I predicted them to finish in 5th place entering the season and I think they have performed fairly well to start the season.
Metz: 3-7-9 record (16 Points, 18th in league)
Metz have been a disappointment to start the season for me as they are sitting in a relegation position after a 10th place finish last season. They have been the third worst defensive team in the league this season with 39 goals conceded in 19 games. Right-back Fabien Centonze has been their best player this season with 4 goals and 1 assist in 17 games and a player rating of 6.97 to start this season. Youngsters Ibrahima Niane, Pape Sarr and Pape Ndiaga Yade have underperformed to start the season. I had faith in those young players and head coach Frederic Antonetti entering this season with a 9th place finish but they are falling into relegation territory at the midway point of the season.
Monaco: 8-5-6 record (29 Points, 6th in league)
Monaco are off to a solid start to the season and entering the winter break they have won three of their last four games. It’s been a very impressive start to the season for youngster midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Sofiane Diop. Veteran forwards Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland have combined for 15 goals and 8 assists to start the season. I predicted them to finish in 2nd place entering the season and they are only four points behind currently in sixth place but I think they can definitely end the season in the top three.
Montpellier: 9-4-6 record (31 Points, 5th in league)
Consecutive 8th place finishes in the league but Montpellier are currently in 5th place in the league and only two points behind second place to start the season. Midfielder Teji Savanier has been spectacular to start the season as the 30 year old has 5 goals, 6 assists and a 7.8 rating in 16 games so far this season with 7 man of the match performances. Forward Stephy Mavididi leads the team in scoring with 6 goals, 3 assists and a 6.93 rating in 18 games so far this season. I predicted Montpellier to finish the season in 8th place and I think they could drop down to 8th place but the performance of Teji Savanier in particular has been really inspiring.
Nantes: 8-4-7 record (28 Points, 7th in league)
Nantes had a relegation scare last season with a 18th place finish but they have rebounded to start the season with a 7th place position entering the winter break. Randal Kolo Muani and Ludovic Blas are tied for the team lead in goals with seven goals so far this season and forward Moses Simon has two goals and six assists in 18 games. The top performer for FC Nantes so far this season has been defender Andrei Girotto with 3 goals, 1 assist and a player rating of 7.13 in 19 games so far this season with 3 man of the match performances. Goalkeeper Alban Lafont has been a great addition to the club with a player rating of 6.75 in 19 games after joining the club from Fiorentina. I predicted them to finish in 15th place despite a lot of positive summer transactions and I feel like they will maintain a top 10 position for the rest of the season.
Nice: 10-4-5 record (33 Points, 2nd in league)
Christophe Galtier once again proves how strong of a manager he is after winning the French league last season with Lille, he joins Nice and they find themselves in second place. World Class performances so far this season by Amine Gouiri, Andy Delort and Youcef Atal while midfielder Mario Lemina has quietly had a fantastic season. I will say that I have been disappointed with the performance of Calvin Stengs to start the season but Nice have looked really good. I predicted them to finish 4th this season and I was fairly confident with this team finishing in the top five this season. My opinion has not changed and I think they will finish somewhere in the top five.
PSG: 14-4-1 record (46 Points, 1st in league)
What can really be said about the performance of PSG so far this season as they have dominated Ligue 1 and currently sit 13 points ahead of the team in second place entering the winter break. The bigger concern for this club is the Champions League as they finish second in group play with a 3-2-1 record and are entering a knockout stage contest against Real Madrid. Kylian Mbappe has been phenomenal this season with 9 goals and 8 assists in 17 games and Lionel Messi has 1 goal and 5 assists in 11 games in Ligue 1 competition. After the summer transfer window that PSG had, it was impossible to predict them finishing anything other than first in the league and they will finish the season finishing first in the league.
RC Lens: 7-6-6 record (27 Points, 9th in league)
This season has shown fans of Ligue 1 that RC Lens are a legit threat and that last season's 7th place finish wasn’t a fluke as this team has been hovering around fifth place all season. They had two tough games heading into the winter break with a 2-1 defeat against Nice and a 3-2 defeat against Nantes but manager Franck Haise has build a really strong group to compete with the best. Midfielder Jonathan Clauss has been one of their top players this season with 2 goals, 7 assists and a player rating of 7.25 in 18 games with 2 man of the match performances. I’ve also been very impressed with the performances of Seko Fofana, Florian Sotoca and Przemysław Frankowski to start this season. I didn’t believe this team had the overall quality to finish in the top 10 of the league in back to back seasons as I predicted a 14th place finish but they have surprised me and they could end up in the top 10.
Saint-Etienne: 2-6-11 record (12 Points, 20th in league)
This team has been a major disappointment as they have the worst goal differential in the league at -23 with only 17 goals scored and 40 conceded in 19 games so far this season. They haven’t had many strong performances but forward Wahbi Khazri has seven goals in 19 games with a solid 6.78 player rating so far this season. My biggest concern entering this season was the lack of quality in goaltending and defense for Saint-Etienne and so far that has been one of the many problems for the club this season. I predicted them to finish 11th but they will likely get relegated this season for the first time in decades.
Stade Reims: 5-8-6 record (23 Points, 14th in league)
They are sitting in the exact same position they were in last season when they ended the year in 14th place. The club has been fairly solid defensively while only conceding 22 goals so far this season under new manager Oscar Garcia. Defensive players such as Ghislain Konan, Azor Matusiwa and Yunis Abdelhamid top the list of best performers this season for improving the club defensively. 19 year old Hugo Ekitike has been their top offensive weapon this year with 8 goals and 3 assists in 17 games so far this season. I predicted them to finish in 12th place and I think they are on the right track to finishing around there or near 10th place if they continue to play solid defensively.
Stade Rennais: 9-4-6 record (31 Points, 4th in league)
Rennais has really humbled me as a sports writer and analyst because I was placing a lot of my opinions on this club and their placement this season based on Eduardo Camavinga and whether he was staying. Obviously the young superstar left the club to Real Madrid and I felt like that would be disastrous for this team but they have been just fine this season as they enter the break in 4th place. Gaetan Laborde has been their top performer with 6 goals and 4 assists a with 7.28 player rating in 15 games and forward Martin Terrier has 9 goals in 18 games. The club also has a new young superstar with forward Kamaldeen Sulemana who has 4 goals, 2 assists and 4 man of the match performances in 18 games this season. I predicted them to finish in 7th place based on the departure of Camavinga but they have done a great job so far and hold 4th place entering the winter break.
Strasbourg: 7-5-6 record (26 Points, 10th in league)
I had a soft spot for RC Strasbourg entering this season as the French club was the home of one of my all time favorite keepers in Eiji Kawashima as the Japanese goaltender is nearing retirement at 38 years old. Forward Ludovic Ajorque is once again having a great season for Strasbourg with 9 goals, 5 assists and a 7.31 player rating in 17 games so far this season. Habib Diallo and Adrien Thomasson are also having strong years offensively as they have combined for 14 goals and 3 assists this season. I predicted this team to finish in 13th place and they are likely to hold a mid-table finish this season.
Troyes: 4-5-10 record (17 Points, 15th in league)
Coming up to Ligue 1 hasn’t been an easy process for Troyes as expected but they do find themselves out of a relegation spot heading into the winter break. Midfielders Florian Tardieu, Tristan Dingome and Xavier Chavalerin have had strong starts to the season but the club hasn’t really had a forward break out as their main striking option. I predicted them to survive in 17th place this season but this club isn’t comfortably safe from relegation yet and the offensive struggles are very concerning if this club wants to avoid relegation.