And we go again. After a two-month hiatus, involving the FIFA World Cup, French football’s top-flight league returns. There’s likely to be a buzz in and around the country, after the French national team conquered all in Russia, and that feel-good factor may well spread to the camps of different sides.
But whatever the mood is going to be, there’s no doubt as to who the clear favourites for the title are. Paris St. Germain are under a new manager, Thomas Tuchel replacing Unai Emery, who lasted two seasons. The main reason Emery’s exit was so inevitable even before it started was Le Parisiens’ poor showing in the Champions League. Two last 16 exits don’t make for good reading for a club with such lofty ambitions, and therein lies Tuchel’s task ahead of the new campaign, to better the previous seasons’ European exploits.
Two of their front three come into the season with their reputations having been enhanced from the World Cup in Kylian Mbappe- the best young player in Russia- and Edinson Cavani, while the other- Neymar- has something of a point to prove, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, although there’s the problem of potential burnout. A first Champions League is the aim, getting to the semis seems like the minimum expectation.
That PSG’s main focus probably rests with Europe just about says how far they are ahead of the rest. The sides closest to PSG last season haven’t had the most promising of summers. Monaco may have snapped Aleksandr Golovin from under the noses of Chelsea, but they’ve lost Fabinho, Joao Moutinho and Thomas Lemar this summer, which means, whichever additions they get, Leonardo Jardim’s side are likely to be weaker this term.
Lyon, third-placed, looked to have lost Nabil Fekir to Liverpool, earlier in the summer, but the captain looks set to stay, and that would be huge for Les Gones. Bruno Genesio’s men haven’t lost any key players this term, but haven’t added anyone major, so won’t seem like more of a threat than last season. There’s also the case of whether the seven-time league champions can arrest a potential blip much sooner than they did last term.
Marseille, fourth last term, haven’t had the most active of transfer windows, they’ve made Jordan’s Amavi loan move from Aston Villa permanent, and have acquired young defender Duje Caleta-Car from Red Bull Salzburg, but have lost Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. The experienced side from last season still remains, and Champions League is very much the aim.
Rennes stormed to fifth place last term, but Sabri Lamouchi’s team have lost Wahbi Khazri, and repeating last season’s feat will be a hard ask. Nice, have a new manager at the helm, Patrick Vieira taking charge after the departure of Lucien Favre. Vieira will do well to match last season’s eighth place finish, with Nice having lost Jean Michel-Seri, Maxime Le Marchand, Mario Balotelli and Alassane Plea, key players who will leave massive holes in the side.
That may leave St. Etienne as the favourites to be the best of the rest, well the best of the other rest. Since the appointment of Jean-Louis Gasset in the middle of last season, Les Verts have picked up the pace, and ended the campaign in seventh spot. The signing of Khazri will bolster their chances. Bordeaux managed to finish sixth last term, Gus Poyet replacement Jocelyn Gourvennec at the turn of the year, and overseeing an upturn in form, but it remains to be seen whether it’s the start of sustainable progress or just new manager bounce.
Lille may also want to be consider themselves part of the discussion for a top six spot, but after their torrid season last term, a season of stability is what should be on the cards. The sales of Ibrahim Amadou, Yves Bissouma and Kevin Malcuit will make even that consolidation a tough task for Christophe Galtier. Nantes are under a new manager, Miguel Cardoso replacing Claudio Ranieri. Their low-key transfer business this summer means mid-table may be the best they could hope for.
New boys Reims and Nimes will be aiming for little more than survival, as will Caen, who narrowly survived last term, just like Toulouse, whose transfer activity makes it seem like they’re hell-bent on not letting their close call repeat itself.
The 2018/19 French Ligue 1 season begins with Marseille hosting Toulouse.