For the first time in a while the Ligue 1 will not be what it previously was. This summer saw a mass exodus of talent away from France into other leagues, primarily the English Premier League. Teams like Marseille are now a shell of themselves from this past year and are hardly recognizable. Think about the talent, outside of PSG, that has been plucked from the Ligue 1 in the past few years: Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Remy Cabella, Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Debuchy to name a few. In the early part of the last decade the French league belonged to Lyon as they won 7 straight titles from 2001 to 2008.
Things changed between 2009 and 2012 where four different teams (Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille, Montpellier) lifted L’Hexagoal, the Ligue 1 trophy. The parity was great for the league as with any league the deeper the quality of the teams the more chances to attract star talent. Now we’re headed back to the way things were, Paris Saint Germain is now the Lyon of the early 2000’s. The rich are getting richer and the rest of the league is fading into the peripheral. No French team has won the Champions League since Marseille did it in 1992-1993. The season kicks off tomorrow August 7th with PSG vs. Lille.
The question in the French Ligue 1 this season will not be who will win the title but by how many points will Paris St. Germain clinch it? If I could put a bet down versus PSG or the field there is no question that I’m taking PSG. The last three French Ligue titles have gone to PSG and I see no opposition in their way to derail a 4th straight. Theoretically the Parisians should only be stronger once they add Angel Di Maria to their midfield. Whenever you can upgrade on Yohan Cabaye with Angel Di Maria that’s a good day. The deal was confirmed today in the amount of £44.5M over four years.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will continue to score goals even though his league totals have diminished each of the last three seasons but then again so has his games played. In 2012/2013 Ibra scored 3o goals in 34 games, the following season 26 goals in 33 games but last season just 19 goals in 24 games which was third best in the league. On the bright side for PSG they have a pair of world class strikers with the other being Edinson Cavani who added 18 goals last season making the two headed monster a Ligue 1 beast.
While the focus will be on the two forwards and the arrival of Angel Di Maria let’s not forget about the supporting cast who are pretty stacked. The two Brazilian central defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz are a duel threats and leaders of the back line. The midfield of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Blaise Matuidi, Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura and Marco Veratti are about as deep as you’re going to find. PSG will win the league and most likely earn another domestic ‘treble’ (Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue) like they did last year. Their true goal should be comfortably winning the league which did not happen last year thanks to a slow start and advancing past the quarterfinals in the Champions League.
So if the title is locked up then who is going to compete for second, third and fourth? Right now I have to say Lyon could be the team yet again to finish second. Most important for them they’ve been able to keep their two youthful strikers. They have last year’s league leading goal scorer in Alexandre Lacazette (27 goals) and also Nabil Fekir who had 13 goals and 9 assists in 34 games. Lyon brought in more reinforcements signing Claudio Beauvue from Guingamp (17 goals last season), former Manchester United fullback Rafael and are looking to bring in midfielder Mathieu Valbuena on a loan deal. It’s anyone’s guess right now and I’ll give the slight edge to Lyon over Monaco.
Monaco has once again decided to loan out Radamel Falcao and have used that money to invest in younger talent. They’ve brought in some new faces like Adame Traore, Ivan Cavalier and Guido Carrillo. Both Anthony Martial (19 years old) and Bernando Silva (20 years old) will return to the club each led the team in scoring with 9 goals on the season. Monaco took a small gamble and signed Stephan El-Shaarawy the former AC Milan winger. He’s 22 years old and has untapped potential and if he finds his form then this will be a steal of a signing. The past three seasons in the Serie A he scored a combined 19 goals while battling injury, 16 of which were in 2012-2013. If El-Shaarawy can get on the score sheet then that will be a huge plus for a team who is desperate for goals.
My last selection was going to be Marseille but with all the change that has gone on this off season I have no idea where they are going to finish. Andre-Pierre Gignac has left for Mexican club Tigres, Andrew Ayew signed with Swansea City in England, Dimitri Payet is headed to West Ham United and Giannelli Imbula will play for FC Porto in Portugal next season. Gignac (21 goals), Ayew (10 goals) and Payet (7 goals) were three of the top four scorers on the club. You can’t just replace 38 goals in one summer, it’s not possible on their budget. Their club additions were About Diaby and Lassana Diarra who are both can’t make it through a full season even remotely healthy and last I checked Diaby was expected to miss four to six weeks with an injury. Remember this is the club that ran a 3-3-3-1 formation last season, their manager is a lunatic.
I’m going to flip a coin between Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Lille to determine who gets the fourth and final spot. The winner is Lille for no reason other than I had to pick someone and that their leading goal scorer was Salomon Kalou a former Chelsea winger. My relegation picks are educated guesses as well, my favorite French team Evian Thonon Galliard was relegated this past year so I’m not too thrilled about that. They fell short of the cut line by five points so themselves, Metz and Lens were all sent to Ligue 2.
My Top 4
1. Paris St. Germain
3. AS Monaco
My Bottom 3
Top Scorers 2014/2015
27 – Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon
21 – Andre-Pierre Gignac, Marseille
19 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG
18 – Edinson Cavani, PSG
Top Assists 2014/2015
17 – Dimitri Payet, Marseille
12 – Javier Pastore, PSG
10 – Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, AS Monaco
9 – Nabil Fekir, Lyon
Pre Season Best XI
- GK – Anthony Lopes, Lyon
- D – David Luiz, PSG
- D – Thiago Silva, PSG
- D – Nicolas Nkoulou, Marseille
- D – Marquinhos, PSG
- M – Blaise Matuidi, PSG
- M – Javier Pastore, PSG
- M – Jeremy Toulalan, AS Monaco
- F – Edinson Cavani, PSG
- F – Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon
- F – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG