Ligue 2 End of Season Stuff

Valère Germain
He was not this season’s top scorer, nor was he the assist leader; Valère Germain was simply the best player in the best team. Germain’s consistency was impressive and his continuous improvement over the last two seasons has been startling. In the second half of the season, when Ibrahima Touré lost his shooting boots and went five months without a goal, Germain was often the one to be found opening the scoring or playing a significant role in helping a teammate do it instead. Monaco would not have finished top of the league without him – 27 of their 76 points, some 35%, were the direct result of his goals and assists – and it seems a shame that such a promising player, who at his current rate of progress could be playing for the national team in a few years, will not be permitted to lead Monaco’s attack in the top division.

Jocelyn Gourvennec
With a budget of just €10m (the tenth biggest in the league and a third of Monaco’s resources) Guingamp nonetheless played some scintillating football, especially at home where they lost just once all season, deservedly finishing as league runners-up. The small Breton club have some excellent players, but there is wide agreement among journalists and fellow coaches that the majority of the credit for this achievement should go to Jocelyn Gourvennec, who is developing a reputation as a coach of some repute. Appointed to the post upon Guingamp’s relegation to the National in 2010, Gourvennec took his side back up to Ligue 2 in his first season in charge of a professional club. After a year of consolidation, Gourvennec steered his side to promotion with an emphasis on attractive football, extracting consistently excellent performances from players who were fairly average elsewhere: Jonathan Martins-Pereira, Fatih Atik, Christophe Mandanne and Mustapha Yatabaré – all of whom are in their mid-to-late 20s – all enjoyed probably the best seasons of their respective careers. Should Guingamp keep hold of their players and above all their talented manager, they could provide some excellent entertainment in Ligue 1 next season.

Gianelli Imbula
But then you knew that already. Guingamp’s Gianelli Imbula is ridiculously composed, supremely talented and scarily powerful. There are players who are constantly available for a pass because their off-the-ball movement is so intelligent, and there are player like Imbula who are constantly available for a pass because their touch is so good and upper body so strong that being surrounded by opponents has no discernible impact on their play. Not that Imbula’s movement is bad, far from it. He also possesses a reliably positive passing game, a product of his upright stance and attacking mentality. As good for his age as a midfielder could ever want to be.

Raphaël Guerreiro
2012-13 has been a good year for young talent in Ligue 2, from Monaco’s bright young attackers to Nantes’ promising midfielders, by way of Paul-Georges Ntep, Nicolas Benezet and Zacharie Boucher. I have picked, more or less at random, another player undergoing a similar positive development: Caen left-back Raphaël Guerreiro, a near ever-present (he started 37 out of 38 games) in the tightest defence in the league. He has added some additional defensive steel to his already impressive attacking game and, having decided to represent Portugal at international level, he was rewarded for his good form with his first u20 call up earlier this year. It surely will not be too long before his undefendable crosses start flying across the penalty areas of Ligue 1.

Filip Đorđević
Filip Đorđević has been in France for over five years now, and has always mixed glimpses of talent with long periods of, to put it kindly, unspectacular play. But in the early weeks of this season he exploded into life, and by November he already had more goals than in any other season of his career. His role changed slightly after the mid-season arrival of Fernando Aristeguieta, but he still popped up with vital goals, not least an excellently taken volley away at Caen in week 36 that effectively secured Nantes’ promotion to Ligue 1.

Caen’s forward line.
No stand-out flops here, but Caen’s collective inability to put the ball in the back of the net cost them dearly, especially in the final run-in. Consecutive home draws in April against Lens and Dijon sides reduced to ten men were particularly painful examples of a wider problem. They didn’t manage to score more than twice in any game after Christmas (and managed the feat only four times all season). Last summer’s loss of Romain Hamouma and the failure to adequately replace his directness from wide positions was probably the difference between promotion and another season in the second tier.

This should go to Le Havre’s perennially pleasing Oxbridge combination, but their kit is ruined by being sponsored by SuperU. I would give it to Caen out of spite, but their stripes are too thin, so Chateauroux it is.

Durak’s preposterous volley for Niort against Dijon in week 9

Angers 1-1 Caen, week 33
Ligue 2 is almost always a close-run thing, with plenty of matches that both teams are happy enough to not lose; only occasionally will you get games that both teams are obliged to win. With Monaco, Nantes and Guingamp playing well and picking up points, Angers and Caen went into their match in week 33 knowing that a draw would not be of much use to either. Cue a fantastic, end-to-end chance-fest that got better and better as the clock ran down and only finished 1-1 thanks to two excellent goalkeeping performances from Damien Perquis and Greg Malicki. The latter was my pick for goalkeeper of the year, playing probably the strongest season of his career at the age of 39.

TEAM OF THE YEAR (4-1-2-1-2)
Malicki; Jonathan Martins-Pereira, Raggi, Cichero, Guerreiro; Mendy; Imbula, El Jadeyaoui; Gragnic; Germain, Yatabaré.


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