Ligue 1 Season Wrap-up
This season’s most attacking threat, neutral’s favourite, as well as most improved team were the title winners, AS Monaco. The principality side racked up a string of plaudits this season, scoring 107 goals, winning 30 matches and just being a generally exciting team to watch all season. They even broke a new record on the final game of the season, being the first club to win 12 consecutive matches within a season.
Such was the side’s attacking prowess that they had three of the league’s top 20 scorers, and five of the league’s top 20 assist leaders. This range of attacking options helped Monaco score 24 more goals than PSG this season to enter a league of their own.
What has been remarkable though this season, has been Monaco’s improvement upon their previous attempt, and the age of the squad in which they achieved it. Radamel Falcao on his return from his unsuccessful English Soujourn being the only key outfield player being above 24. Monaco decided some years ago that youth was the way forward, and it has paid off. This season Kylian Mbappé (18), Bernardo Silva (22), Thomas Lemar (21), Benjamin Mendy (22), Tiemoué Bakayoko (22), Fabinho (23), and Djibril Sidibe (24) all played key roles the season long to bring the title back to the principality for the first time in 17 years.
Monaco’s biggest task now will be to keep their youth brigade in tact and not get picked apart by the European giants in the off season. This may prove a step too far though as the vultures have already started circling and news of sizeable bids have started hitting the transfer pages. For now though, the group who brought the title home have a chance to bask in their success.
Whilst seeming to be hugely disappointing this season after achieving total hegemony of French football last season, looking a little closer and it’s not so bleak for the capital club. Whilst yes, they have fallen off the pace a little this season, they were still only 9 points from last season’s haul; they are victims of perception as a result of Monaco’s total resurgence. PSG fans can still look back at this season with some optimism, Coupe de la Ligue winners, and probable Coupe de France winners when they play Angers next Saturday gives fans some reason to smile.
Another team with an amazing resurgence this season was the South Coast’s OGC Nice. Lucien Favre taking the helm and improving the side by 15 points, challenging for the league title until the league’s final month. The test will be whether or not they can match their feat next season, or if the sophomore slump will kick in. Nice will enter the Champions League qualification in the play-off round next season.
Olympique Lyonnais were a good barometer for the change in the league’s competitiveness this season. Despite winning two points more than they managed to last season, they actually finished two positions lower on the table due to the increased performance of Nice and Monaco. Whilst two positions on the table may not seem huge, it means automatic group stage qualification for the Champions League has changed to automatic qualification for the Europa League, and the exponential drop in income that brings. Lyon’s big task this season will be holding on to key players, as Alexandre Lacazette, who scored his 100th goal for the club on the final day, and Corentin Tolisso will both be the subject of transfer speculation.
Marseille were another team that has improved significantly this season, from 48 points and 13th to 62 points and 5th. This improvement has come on the back of a buyout from American businessman Frank McCourt, and wise investment in players bringing back Florian Thauvin, recruiting Morgan Sanson (Ligue 1’s assist leader), and promoting Maxime Lopez from the academy. The process has been effective and will ultimately benefit French football to have its biggest club back being competitive again. Given their finish this season, Marseille will be in the qualification round for the Europa League next season.
Whilst there will be celebrations, joy, and partying for teams at one end of the table, so will there be tears and sorrow at the other.
Whilst making a late push to retain their top flight status, Bastia ultimately had given themselves far too much work to do with far too little time to do it. The Corsican club will be gracing the Ligue 2 next season with most of their Corisican neighbours.
AS Nancy are the other other unfortunate team to drop down automatically, their first season’s return to the top flight ending very briefly. A 3-0 win on the final day to AS Saint-Etienne not enough to keep them up, adding some pride to their final table position, but nothing else.
One goal, that is the difference. Lorient, scoring first against Bordeaux were on track to survive for another season, until Le Goff equalised for Bordeaux. Even then, they were nervous, but surviving. Equal on points with Caen, but a +3 goal difference keeping them in Ligue 1. PSG were predictably beating Caen, a missed Rodelin penalty helping the cause. However Caen weren’t sticking to the script, and to make amends for his early miss Rodelin popped up in the 91st minute to score an equaliser for Caen, keep them afloat and pushing Lorient into the bottom three.
Despite several high profile wins in the last month, Lorient fall into 18th place on the ladder and now their top-flight status depends on a two legged play off with Troyes.
Top Goal scorer:
Edinson Cavani grabbed the opportunity of replacing Zlatan Ibrahimović with both hands as he became both PSG and Ligue 1’s number one striker. The Uruguayan scored 35 league goals, seven more than Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette who was second with 28.
Although AS Monaco had many entrants in the assists leaderboard this season, it was Marseille’s new recruit Morgan Sanson that had the most this season with 12 assists. Sanson was part of a Marseille side that improved remarkably from last season, based on intelligent signings like Florian Thauvin, and Sanson.
How will PSG respond to being dethroned? Will they tug open the purse strings to make a statement in the transfer market? Or will they turn to youth, players that know Paris and have a connection with the club? Players such as Kimpembe and Areola have impressed at times this season and may be a way for the club to go in the future. Will Unai Emery get another shot at the league and Europe? Or was an embarrassment in the Europe and surrendering a league title that was won by 31 points last season too much? Whichever way they decide to go there will be some important answers given by the club’s hierarchy.
For AS Monaco the biggest transfer moves will be keeping hold of the core of their team that improved 30 points this season. Given central midfielder Youri Tielemans has already agreed a move to Monaco probably means that like-for-like player Tiemoué Bakayoko will be gone. That loss can be mitigated with the new signing, however too many more similar sales and the club may fall back into the sales pattern that lead to them ceasing to be a genuine title challenger last season.
Marseille were a significantly improved team this season under the management of Rudi García, and the ownership of Frank McCourt. This new ownership has brought new funds to the south-coast side and brought key players into the club, if this financial input and stability continues then Marseille could return as a key player within French football.