Ligue 1 was extremely interesting and exciting last season and had the most nail-biting title race for a while (until Lyon lost way near the end). With Aston Villa recruiting as many as four players from French Ligue 1 and Sevilla sporting director Monchi recently praising the quality of the league, more interest and anticipation in the French league has been generated.
Can PSG make a mark in Europe?
Di Maria’s arrival will only bring more expectations for the Parisian giants. It isn’t surprising that the player talked about the Champions League in his first official interview as a PSG player as it is known now that continental success is the next step for PSG. The French side has been immensely successful after the Arab money started pouring in but their success has only raised the bar higher for them. More domestic success would be good, but it could mean little or nothing if the club doesn’t take another step in the Champions League. Europe remains the ultimate goal for PSG and the capital club will be expected to do better in the competition next season and at least reach the semifinals, especially with the eye-catching addition of Angel di Maria.
Who will challenge PSG in France?
Last season, Marseille and Lyon were impressive and exploited PSG’s poor start to ensure the the title race to the wire. But both lost their way at one point which meant that Blanc’s side crossed the finish line with comparative ease. The big question this time is whether someone can literally give PSG, a run for its money. The Parisians are reinforced with the marquee addition of Angel di Maria, but that’s not all that they have in their favor. Arguably their best player last season, Javier Pastore and highly rated Lucas Moura extended their contracts recently; Marco Verratti, who is going to be subject of huge bids in the future is staying put at the club; Zlatan, too, will continue at PSG despite Milan interest. These are just some of the factors working in their favor.
Marseille and Monaco have both lost key stars (the former with unarguably, the bigger overhaul) and have tried to replace them, but whether it will work in their favor remains to be seen. Lyon look like the best bet to make another title challenge and truly compete with PSG. The club has made some smart additions in the form of Rafael, Claudio Beauvue, Jeremy Morel. Marseille legend Mathieu Valbuena looks like he might be on his way too. More importantly, the club has kept hold of its stars, Nabil Fekir, Corentin Tolisso, Anthony Lopes and of course, Alexandre Lacazette.
Is Alexandre Lacazette a one season wonder?
Lyon have so far successfully managed to keep their main man from last season, Alexandre Lacazette. There have been various reports linking the striker with big money moves to the Premier League, but Lyon have stayed firm in their resolve to keep the man. These reports have however, led many to say that the Frenchman is “overrated” and not worth the money. Lacazette hit 27 goals in just 33 Ligue 1 starts. Even though the 24-year-old seems to be bettering himself with every season, he needs to ensure he is among the top goalscorers in the coming season as well if he wants to shed the (surprising) “overrated” tag. The player has struggled somewhat in the pre-season, for whatever reason, and he needs to kick on the season from where he left the last one.
Can Marcelo Bielsa weave his magic at Velodrome and prevent Marseille from falling behind after a massive exodus?
Thankfully for Marseille, at least Marcelo Bielsa has decided to stay on. The club has undergone a massive exodus and lost key players from last season with Gignac, Ayew, Imbula, Payet, Fanni and Morel all leaving the French club for one reason or another. These players were absolutely essential to Marseille doing exceedingly well in the league last season, for a long time. In fact, much of the entertainment in Ligue 1 last season came from Marseille. Bielsa’s team was crowned the autumn champions, but they sadly couldn’t keep up in the second half of the season. From being on top of the table at one stage, they finished fourth and missed out on a Champions League qualification place, which was the main objective at the start of the season. However, it’s a new season and the Bielsa effect has shown more than once at the Velodrome. The manager is back for a new season and the club has got as many as nine new players, with more yet to come in. Its been an incredibly busy summer for Marseille and Bielsa will show his credentials if he can guide the club into a top three finish, which should be the target for the season. While it will be much tougher, El Loco might just cross the finish line.
Can the league in general produce good quality of football and make it an attractive destination for players and prevent talent being “pillaged” from French football?
The fact that so many Ligue 1 players are being targeted and bought by other leagues shows how much talent is present in France right now. However, it isn’t surprising that players quickly decide to leave the country and the league as soon as interest from elsewhere comes in, notably the Premier League. England has always been a more attractive option, especially with the amount of wages an English club could offer. Why would Dimitri Payet leave Marseille, an elite Ligue 1 club which did pretty last season, drop everything for West Ham United, with all due respect, a mid-table Premier League club? Besides that, competitiveness also plays a role. EPL, La Liga and even the Serie A is said to be more competitive and players naturally want to be a part of it. It will be interesting to see if the trend somehow differs this time and we can get yet another genuine title-fight which involves more than two clubs and there is competition elsewhere in the league as well. Only then will players stop leaving the league so easily.