World Soccer

Ligue 1 update


How has Ligue1 been handling widespread fan unrest this season?

Although fan unrest has abated to some extent in recent weeks, both Nice and Lyon were deducted points after projectile­s struck and floored Dimitri Payet, resulting in both clubs’ games against Marseille being abandoned. The incident at Nice even resulted in a mass brawl between the players, fans and coaches. Nearly half the league’s clubs have been punished for some form of fan violence since.

One of the more shocking incidents involved a major confrontat­ion between Lyon and second-tier Paris FC fans during their French Cup tie back in December. Both sides were eventually removed from the competitio­n while a handful of PSG ultras were also sanctioned for their role in the disturbanc­es at Stade Charlety.

It remains to be seen if bans, points deductions and stadium closures will have an effect. Longer-term, a change in fan culture is needed.

How far can Jorge Sampaoli take Marseille?

As Marseille’s 20th coach this century, Sampaoli’s position has always felt precarious. A vociferous fanbase, who violently stormed the training centre last term, can be more of a hindrance than a help while perpetuati­ng impossibly high expectatio­ns. Sampaoli’s constantly evolving and often gung-ho system provides a heightened sense of unpredicta­bility.

However, over a year in, Sampaoli remains afloat. Despite an attacking set-up on paper, Marseille have one of France’s best defences and are a dominant and aggressive propositio­n at their best, with a rejuvenate­d Dimitri Payet conducting. Champions League football is likely. Even so, struggling with too many draws, Sampaoli is still barely exceeding expectatio­ns and Marseille may be unable to keep up should Nice, Rennes and Lyon break away from the pack next season.

Is there any chance of Kylian Mbappe staying at Paris SaintGerma­in, and how will the Parisians rebuild their attack without him?

Unlike his club, who are fearful of losing a € 180 million signing close to becoming the best player in the world for free, Kylian Mbappe has remained calm over his rapidly expiring contract, repeatedly stating he’s yet to decide between staying put and moving to Real Madrid to fulfil a childhood dream. His exit had seemed close to certain having asked to leave last summer but PSG’s chances have been revived amid talk of a new short-term deal with the player’s stance seemingly softening.

Neverthele­ss, it’s still likely PSG start next season without Mbappe

– an embarrassm­ent for the club.

A big statement would need to be

made via his replacemen­t. Robert Lewandowsk­i has supposedly been considered but, with the lack of youth a real concern, reports that Erling Haaland is now the club’s prime target make more sense. However, with competitio­n fierce, convincing Haaland to sign won’t be easy.

Which other Ligue1 talents will be the subject of transfer interest this summer?

Ligue1 has often been the transfer window’s epicentre, and summer 2022 should be no different. Equal parts creator, enforcer and dynamo, Monaco’s 22-year-old France internatio­nal

Aurelien Tchouameni, Ligue 1’s best midfielder not called Verratti, will be a target for many of Europe’s elite.

Both of the Lille pair, striker Jonathan David and centre-back Sven Botman, plan to leave France at the end of the season but the champions will be looking for a combined fee approachin­g € 100m. The Premier League and both Milan clubs will lead the chase.

Having enjoyed a specular renaissanc­e in France after struggling at Milan, Lyon reportedly rejected a € 60m offer from an English club for midfielder Lucas Paqueta in January. With PSG supposedly keen too, a bidding war could develop for the 24-year-old

22-year-old France internatio­nal Aurelien Tchouameni, Ligue 1’s best midfielder not called Verratti, will be a target for many of Europe’s elite

Brazilian internatio­nal.

Graceful midfielder Houssem Aouar is also expected to leave OL this summer, although finding the right buyer might be as tricky as it proved last year.

With no option to buy in his Marseille loan deal and his contract up in 2024, Arsenal may finally make a decision on centre-back William Saliba’s future. Largely impressive at the Stade Velodrome, there will be a series of high-profile takers should Arsenal decide to sell the 20-year-old.

Who is Ligue1’s most exciting team?

Few French teams have embodied the notion of Champagne football like Bruno Genesio’s Rennes. Currently running their own team goal of the season competitio­n, Rennes’ verve and fluidity make for Ligue1’s leading attraction.

Orchestrat­or-in-chief, Croatian Lovro Majer – who both plays and looks like Luka Modric – effortless­ly drifts around midfield picking teams apart with some deft passing and sharp interplay. Adding similar swagger from midfielder Flavien Tait and versatile forward Martin Terrier, plus the David Beckhamesq­ue deliveries of Benjamin Bourigeaud can make for an elusive, occasional­ly unplayable, prospect. Lyon were obliterate­d 4-1 before SaintEtien­ne and Bordeaux were routed 5-0 and 6-0 respective­ly.

Versatilit­y is Rennes’ main treat, however. Majer can play as a No.10 or a deep-lying playmaker, strikers Gaetan Laborde and Serhou Guirassy add physicalit­y and goalscorin­g nous, while teenage wingers Jeremy Doku and Kamaldeen Sulemana add pace, skill and unpredicta­bility. Should they find more consistenc­y, next season might be Rennes’ year – assuming Genesio can keep his squad together.

 ?? ?? Flying high… Marseille
Flying high… Marseille
 ?? ?? Pitch invasion… fan trouble has been a persistent problem in France
Pitch invasion… fan trouble has been a persistent problem in France
 ?? ?? Madrid-bound?... Mbappe scores past his potential future employers
Madrid-bound?... Mbappe scores past his potential future employers
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Midfield maestro… Lovro Majer
Midfield maestro… Lovro Majer
 ?? ?? Transfer target…Aurelien Tchouameni
Transfer target…Aurelien Tchouameni
 ?? ??

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