With the French transfer window closed, there’s uncertainty over which clubs did the best business which we’ll be able to gage as the season goes on. It’s set to be an interesting season in Ligue 1 – with PSG already having lost their first game of the season to Monaco, who spent the window doing their best impression of an airport departure lounge – as Phillipa Booth discusses.
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The opening rounds of Ligue 1 are – as in many other leagues – slightly unsettled affairs as new managers take charge and players come back from holiday, but also the transfer window is still open.
With much of Ligue 1 best described as ‘selling clubs’, it can be difficult to get a read on how things are going to go when a large sections of teams are – if not explicitly up-for-sale – certainly available for a decent offer.
Now the window has slammed shut, there is a whole new period of uncertainty as we try to gauge who has done good business while large numbers of players are off risking injury over the international break.
PSG did most of their business early, but were part of a deadline-day drama as sporadic centre-back David Luiz went back to Chelsea to put a massive dent in their net spend, and also hope in Presnel Kimpembe’s heart.
Having suffered their first defeat of the season away at Monaco in game three – it took until late February for that to happen last season – they notably have not replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic, putting Edinson Cavani up front, and also hope in Jean-Kevin Augustin’s heart.
Lyon did surprisingly little other than hang on to Alexandre Lacazette and promising youngsters Corentin Tolisso and Rachid Ghezzal, who were also linked with moves away.
Nicolas Nkoulou comes in from Marseille to try to fill the Samuel-Umtiti-shaped hole in the centre of defence following his move to Barcelona. Monaco’s transfer window – as is traditional – resembled an airport connections lounge as they got 14 players back from loan, sent four back from loan, and loaned 10 out – including some of the same players who’d come back. But overall, they look to have done very well, with new options across their backline which was friable at times last season.
Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy at full-back, and Kamil Glik in the centre, look like very good options, and they arguably didn’t need to do much up front as two of those returning loanees were Valere Germain and Falcao.
But it’s further down the table where some of the most interesting business was done. Nice were looking weakened after the departures of Hatem Ben Arfa to PSG and Germain back to Monaco, but pulled off a deadline day one-two punch with the arrivals of Younes Belhanda on loan from Dinamo Kiev and Mario Balotelli on a free from Liverpool.
Just as I was fearing their Europa League campaign might be problematic with a squad shorn of its two highest goalscorers, and fulcrum Nampalys Mendy, the Gym’s late business certainly puts hope in my heart.
Even more under-the-radar, Bastia continued a club tradition of not really spending any money and banking €4.5m for wingers Floyd Ayite, who moved to Fulham, and Francois Kamano to Bordeaux.
However, they have brought in a wealth of attacking talent on loan or on frees including Lenny Nangis, Allan Saint-Maximin, Enzo Crivelli and Thievy Bifouma. Yes, they did spend €250k on attacking midfielder Farid Boulaya from Ligue 2 Clermont, but also brought in defensive cover in the shape of Abdelhamid El-Kaoutari on loan to replace Julien Palmieri and Francois Modesto.
The Corsican outfit are traditionally strong, and occasionally armed, at home, but look to be going for goals rather than obdurate defending this season, which could lead to an enjoyable level of chaos.
It will take at least a couple of weeks to see how all this pans out, but as we prepare for game four, PSG look at least holdable, with St Etienne the next team to try their luck at the Parc, while Lyon and Monaco look promising. Unai Emery’s men might be targeting the Champions League again, but may not have everything go their way on the domestic front.