French Ligue 1 Review


France is fast becoming one of the less popular leagues in World Football, with the 70% tax rate pushing players to better paid places. Despite this issue and that of teams financially struggling, bar PSG and Monaco of course, the 2012/13 season was a good spectacle for all concerned.

PSG won the title quite easily in the end, despite playing terribly at times. They often won the hard way, against poor opposition, and they regularly lost their discipline and went down to 10, sometimes 9 – but ultimately always came back to draw, but too often lost valuable points. Marseille finished 2nd with Andre-Pierre Gignac scoring a lot of key goals, and Joey Barton providing much controversy with constant poor tackles and comments on Twitter about players such as Thiago Silva.

Struggling Lyon finished 3rd, beating off late competition for the Champions League spot from Saint Etienne and Nice. Gone are the days where they would win titles so easily, especially with financial issues – selling off the likes of Kallstrom, Pjanic and more recently Lovren and soon Bafetimbi Gomis, due to his high wages. They may struggle to compete next season with the on-coming spending storm that is Monaco.

Saint Etienne (5th) and Nice (4th) were the surprises of the season, both competing for European places – Nice finishing last season 14th so to get into Europe is massive for them! Plaudits go to the two top players, Eric Bautheac, who scored 10, and Dario Cvitanich who scored 19. Saint Etienne have spent the last few seasons around the upper-mid table position, usually 7th-10th but with the help of ex-AC Milan flyer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scoring 19 goals and 8 assists, they have launched themselves into the top 5 and European football once more. With Aubameyang leaving and Yohan Mollo returning to his parent club, you can’t help but think this could be a one off for Les Verts.

Marseille had a great season after the disappointment of finishing 10th in 2011/12 – grabbing 2nd from under the noses of Lyon, Gignac and Valbuena were key, as well as Joey Barton having a positive effect, on the pitch at least. Bastia were terrific in their second season back in Ligue 1, finishing 13th, mainly thanks to PSG loanee Jerome Rothen, who scored many a vital goal and 8 assists, Bordeaux loanee Anthony Modeste (13 goals) and Rising Star Florian Thauvin, who had 10 goals and several assists, although they have now lost him to Lille for a pittance, £3m.

Four teams were particularly disappointing this season. Montpellier, fresh from winning the title, finished 9th, losing top scorer Olivier Giroud to Arsenal and Captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to Newcastle for a combined £15m didn’t help, but the likes of Belhanda and Cabella didn’t perform regularly enough to sustain a similar title challenge. Rennes dropped from 6th to 13th, which for them represented a bad season, and lost key man Yann M’vila for just £7m to a Russian side. Evian had a great 11/12 season, ending 9th, but only narrowly avoided relegation this year, ending up 16th. Despite the great performances of Dmitri Payet, Lille struggled to 6th place – that man getting 12 goals and 12 assists, but losing influential star Mathieu Debuchy in January didn’t help. Rene Girard has replaced Rudi Garcia, who has departed for Roma.

Relegated this season were Troyes, Nancy and Brest, with all three being pretty atrocious most of the season, Nancy going 20 games without a win and Brest losing 11 on the spin. Replacing them are some very prestigious clubs who have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Nantes, Guingamp and Monaco – who under rich new owners have already spent in excess of £100m on the likes of Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho!

Bordeaux won the cup this year, and again a passage into Europe – beating Evian in the final, and they will be hoping to do better than the last 32, which is where they bowed out this campaign. Amazingly there were only four sackings this season, teams seemingly sticking with who they had rather than change, although the odd few decided a change was needed. Good to see nowadays, with a lot of teams quick to pull the trigger and sack managers after a short spell of poor form.

The top scorer this season was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with 30 goals, Aubameyang came 2nd with 19, joint with Cvitanich, and 3rd was Lyon outcast Bafetimbi Gomis with 16. The assists chart was much more competitive, Valbuena and Payet tied with 12, Mollo and Gael Danic tied on 11 and Aubameyang, Javier Pastore and Rothen tied with 8 a-piece.

Our player of the season award goes to Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who we feel dragged Saint Etienne from mid-table mediocrity to Champions League contenders, he will do well at Dortmund.