LIGUE 1 SEASON OVERVIEW: Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG are favorites but watch out for the others!
The French elite is often referred to as a “peasant league” due to its lack of competitiveness – but this year promises to be a season like no other.
For only the second time in the past nine years, the Ligue 1 season begins with Paris Saint-Germain failing to enter the campaign as defending champions.
A slow start under Thomas Tuchel was punished by the first Lille leaders, who managed to push back the eternal title winners by the time Mauricio Pochettino had moved to PSG.
But the off-field drama almost eclipsed Les Dogues’ surprise title win last season. The division’s TV rights battle involving Canal +, BeIN Sport and Amazon Prime has left clubs in the dark about the extent of their finances in a world hit by the coronavirus.
The French Ligue 1 season starts on Friday with Lille, the current defending champion
Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG will have to be at their best if they want to reclaim their title
Top-level player sales and bank balancing are expected in the French elite to cover costs – which should give mega-rich PSGs an edge like they’ve never experienced before.
Yet PSG’s shock 1-0 defeat to Lille in the Supercopa de France proves that Pochettino’s pursuit of a very first management league title may not be as easy as he would have hoped. So where are we heading into opening day of the Friday season?
Although Lille have both hands on the title and are determined to continue their ascent in the standings, PSG remain the big favorites to regain their crown – in part due to their incredible summer activity.
Lille took the first big win of the season by beating PSG in the Supercoupe de France last week
Pochettino’s men have signed several Champions League winners Sergio Ramos, Euro 2020 tournament player Gianluigi Donnarumma and former Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum – all on free transfers.
Along with the signing of Â£ 60million from right-back Achraf Hakimi, the very core of the PSG squad has been revamped ahead of the new season with some serious winners – and the summer spending may well continue.
PSG are expected to offer Â£ 43million for Manchester United and World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba, with the 28-year-old arguably the closest he’s ever been to leave Old Trafford since joining the club five years ago.
Lionel Messi could be another free transfer signing following his departure from Barcelona this week, but it should be a long and drawn-out process this summer.
But the likes of Sergio Ramos (left) and Gianluigi Donnarumma (right) have joined PSG this year
Achraf Hakimi is another major signing from Pochettino’s PSG this summer for a price tag of Â£ 60million
The task of keeping a grip on their current players has also been largely successful since the end of last season. Brazilian star Neymar signed a new contract in May, while Mauro Icardi is expected to stay at the club despite interest from Roma.
There are still doubts about the future of Kylian Mbappe, who only has one year left on his contract, but PSG are currently expected to keep their star man this summer and try to convince the 22-year-old to engage. a new deal during the season.
PSG’s transfer activity has been completely different from that of Lille – which have suffered a massive exodus of players and staff since their title was confirmed.
Most shocking was the departure of head coach Christophe Galtier, who said his “time is up” with the French champions and has since joined his rival from Nice.
The Lille champions have a new coach in the former coach of GuingampJ ocelyn Gourvennec (left)
Former Guingamp boss Jocelyn Gourvennec, who led his former team to a shock title in the Coupe de France 2014 before relegating them five years later, was named Galtier’s surprise replacement and already has the French Supercup title at its assets under the colors of Lille.
On the game side, Boubakary Soumare joined Leicester while goalkeeper Mike Maignan joined AC Milan to replace Donnarumma.
The hard core of the Lille team has suffered a heavy blow – with no replacement arriving yet.
However, there is still room to be positive from a Lille point of view. Despite constant reports linking them to separations, Les Dogues have, so far, managed to keep star forward Jonathan David, midfielder Renato Sanches and defender Sven Botman.
Lille managed to keep striker Burak Yilmaz (left) and Renato Sanches (right)
The experience of Jose Fonte and Burak Yilmaz on both ends of the pitch will be important – both have been essential in leading Lille to the title and there is no reason they cannot do it again.
But could another top French team serve as additional competition for PSG’s star team?
Lyon looked promising at one point last season and signed former Dortmund coach Peter Bosz in a smart date, but losing star striker Memphis Depay to Barcelona on a free transfer is a nightmare.
The Dutchman scored 20 goals and added 12 assists last season and was the talisman and captain ahead of OL and as Moussa Dembele is back from his loan at Atletico Madrid there is a clear loss of creativity at the front.
Peter Bosz is new Lyon manager looking to replace Memphis Depay goals
Moussa Dembele is in Lyon after his loan to Atletico Madrid while Houssem Aouar is still there
The outings have been regular in Lyon this summer with no new faces so far, pointing to financial problems behind the scenes.
Joachim Andersen, although on loan to Fulham, has moved to Crystal Palace for Â£ 15million to raise funds and Houssem Aouar could join him through the exit door this summer for a reduced price.
The opposite could be said for Monaco, who have been very busy in the transfer window to add to their attacking talent at the club.
Young winger Ismail Jakobs, 21, is a smart signing for the German side in Cologne and could add to the considerable number of goals Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland have scored this season.
Monaco hope Kevin Volland (middle) and Wissam Ben Yedder can shoot in goal again
After scoring a large number of goals in previous seasons, Niko Kovac’s side finally have a goalkeeper they can count on.
Alexander Nubel is expected to be Manuel Neuer’s long-term replacement at Bayern Munich and his loan move to southern France could be the first sign of things to come.
Marseille, meanwhile, has also been busy in the transfer market. Ahead of his first full season in charge, Jorge Sampaoli has been smart in the transfer window and brought in several youngsters to create an exciting potential squad this quarter.
Arsenal duo William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi are smart loan signings and both have something to prove, as does ex-Leicester winger Cengiz Under – who also made a temporary deal.
Marseille has been very busy in the window with several new arrivals this summer
Nice has also been busy in the market with Justin Kluivert one of the new arrivals of Christope Galtier
Brazilian midfielder Gerson is Flamengo’s permanent top-tier arrival on a Â£ 22million deal, while Arkadiusz Milik and Dimitri Payet are the key men up front.
Also keep an eye out for Galtier’s Nice, who are trying to replicate last season’s Lille success with smart young rookies.
Jean-Clair Todibo, Justin Kluivert, Mario Lemina and exciting Dutch winger Calvin Stengs have all moved this summer, and will circle 21-year-old forward Amine Gouiri who finished last season with 16 goals.
Does anyone think PSG are just going to walk towards the Ligue 1 title this season? Think again.