It’s the Adam and Erics 2022! The complete review of the Ligue 1 season | Ligue 1

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Match of the season: Marseille 2-3 Lens

Competition is tough for this award after a thrilling and competitive Ligue 1 season that left everything but the title to be decided on the final day. An average of 2.81 goals were scored per game, the most for over 30 years. Lyon were involved in some of the most entertaining games of the season: they were subject to two of Rennes’ most compelling and fluid team displays, losing 4-1 and 4-2; and they were on the wrong side of two memorable comebacks – from Nice, who overturned a two-goal lead to win 3-2 – and from promoted Clermont, who scored twice late on to force a 3-3 draw. PSG’s misadventures were also memorable. Alban Lafont became the first goalkeeper to be rewarded 10/10 by L’Équipe since 1997 after his masterful display in Nantes’ 3-1 win over PSG. And PSG’s 3-0 drubbing at Monaco signaled a resurgence led by new coach Philippe Clement. However, few footballing theaters can match the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille for atmosphere and it was there that Lens edged a breathless encounter 3-2 in September aided by a runaway train of a performance from midfielder Seko Fofana. AW

Lens celebrate at the Stade Vélodrome.
Lens celebrate at the Stade Vélodrome. Photograph: Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty Images

Goal of the season: Wahbi Khazri v Metz

Taking the ball on the turn inside his own penalty area, the mercurial Tunisian strode upfield and, spotting Alexandre Oukidja off his line, he let fly with an effort that left the Metz goalkeeper stranded, the ball nestling in the net. Wahbi Khazri could not save St-ientienne from relegation but he provided plenty of entertainment over the season. the D

Save of the season: Anthony Mandrea v Nantes

After record signing Paul Bernardoni was surprisingly loaned to St-ientienne and his replacement Daniel Petkovic failed to impress, Anthony Mandrea became Angers’ third first-choice goalkeeper of the season. His short stint is probably already over following the arrival of Yahia Fofana from Le Havre, but Mandrea’s ludicrous stop at Nantes will live long in the memory. Quintin Merlin’s expertly delivered dipping cross had pushed Mandrea out of position as he edged off his line into no-man’s land. It seemed Ludovic Blas would be able to head the ball into the now unguarded two-thirds of the Angers goal. However, at almost point-blank range and despite Blas connecting with the ball at some speed, Mandrea managed to recover and leap back across his goal to direct Blas’ header over with his left fist at full stretch. AW

Player of the Season: Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappé dominated the Ligue 1 season on multiple levels. As comfortably the league’s leading player, the 23-year-old managed 39 goals and 26 assists in 46 games across all competitions, the most goal contributions of any player in Europe’s top five leagues. With 28 goals and 19 assists in the league – many of which secured late, undeserved points for PSG – he was the first player to top both the goals and assists charts in a Ligue 1 season. Numbers aside, he also showed a new maturity and authority to go with his typical explosiveness. His decision to sign a new three-year contract, which had seemed near-impossible before Christmas, was a major victory for Ligue 1 and could signal a shift in balance among the European leagues chasing the Premier League. Mbappé’s future was the main news story for much of the season but he handled the incessant questions with the same poise and maturity he displayed on the pitch. AW

Kylian Mbappé dominated the season.
Kylian Mbappé dominated the season. Photograph: Patrick Hertzog / AFP / Getty Images

Young player of the season: William Saliba

William Saliba, long a favorite of Arsenal fans (if not of Mikel Arteta) was a known quantity in Ligue 1, having broken through at St-ientienne before turning into a decent spell on loan at Nice. Injuries and the form of other players kept Saliba out of the Arsenal team, but he was the first name on the team sheet at Marseille this season, playing the full 90 minutes in every league match bar two. His recovery pace, ability in the tackle and preternatural calmness on the ball made him a paragon of consistency all season, no mean feat for a defender who has only just turned 21. A first call-up for France was just reward for his season. His future may be in doubt but there’s no lack of certainty about his talent. the D

Biggest flashpoint: Nice v Marseille

Dimitri Payet after being struck by a bottle.
Dimitri Payet after being struck by a bottle. Photograph: Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Dimitri Payet was at the center of the season’s two major flash points. Lyon (who were also expelled from the cup following fan violence) were deducted a point after the Marseille forward was floored by a projectile thrown from the crowd in November. That match was abandoned, just like Marseille’s trip to Nice had been a few months earlier – except this time a mass brawl involving Nice fans, both teams and both benches ensued in-between. After Payet threw the offending bottle back into the crowd, Nice supporters poured over barriers to confront players. The chaos continued well into the night with multiple flare-ups between the teams, Marseille refusing to resume and Nice bizarrely briefly restarting the game alone. Amid a host of fines and bans, a Marseille coach was banned for the rest of the season after forearming a Nice fan to the ground, leaving him needing medical treatment. Crowd trouble remains an ever-present concern in Ligue 1, as we saw at the end of the season, when St-ientienne fans threw a barrage of flares at their own players as their relegation was confirmed. AW

Manager of the season: Antoine Kombouaré, Nantes

Antoine Kombouaré led Nantes to a top-half finish and the Coupe de France this season. With a thin squad and several players running down their contracts, Kombouaré improved players young and old alike, and tactically set out his stall in fine fashion, making Nantes both hard to break down and devastating on the counter. His job will be made no easier next season, with Randal Kolo Muani already having left, but for Kombouaré to have achieved this at a club as unsettled as Nantes is something truly special. the D

Moment of the season: Predrag Rajković meets Lionel Messi

PSG’s early-season victory over Reims was as routine as one would expect. Kylian Mbappé scored twice to seal a humdrum 2-0 win on the road. It did, however, generate no small amount of excitement as Lionel Messi made his Ligue 1 debut, playing the last 24 minutes off the bench. Reims goalkeeper Predrag Rajković took the opportunity to ask Messi to pose with his young son on the pitch. Like Rajković, we were all still in disbelief that Messi was actually on the pitch in France, and wanted to savor the moment, as well as the additional visibility his arrival brought to the league. the D

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Reims goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic asks Lionel Messi to hold his child for a photo.
Reims goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic asks Lionel Messi to hold his child for a photo. Photograph: Dave Winter / Shutterstock

Signing of the season: Gaëtan Laborde, Rennes

With only one goal since mid-March, Gaëtan Laborde tailed off towards the end of the season, but he gave Rennes a much-needed focal point in attack. For much of the season, his hard work and aerial presence made Bruno Génésio’s methods come to fruition. The 28-year-old has an outside chance of a France call-up. the D

Flop of the season: Georginio Wijnaldum

It may seem strange to pick out a player who arrived on a free transfer as the flop of the season, but Georginio Wijnaldum arrived with great pedigree and experience yet has only made 18 starts in a PSG midfield that is bereft of excellence save Marco Verratti. With the World Cup approaching, he may benefit from a loan move. Honorable mentions go to Lyon’s reverse youth movement; neither Xherdan Shaqiri nor Jérôme Boateng made much of a (positive) impact this season, even if the Swiss did contribute to what had seemed a vital win against Marseille behind closed doors. the D

Shock of the season: relegation

Although Bordeaux and St-ientienne have been in decline for some time, and both have narrowly avoided the drop in times, the notion that both would be relegated in the same season still seems unthinkable. Bordeaux, the champions as recently as 2009, finished bottom of the table and conceded a mammoth 91 goals in their 38 games, the most in Europe’s top five leagues. Switching the former Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic for the defensively-minded David Guion in February did little to help. St-ientienne’s managerial switch, sacking Claude Puel for Pascal Dupraz, seemed to have saved them at one stage. However, after a late-season downturn they eventually lost the relegation playoff on penalties to Auxerre. Both clubs had squads good enough for mid-table but their issues run far deeper. Perpetually protesting fans, rudderless transfer policies and severe financial concerns suggest both need major overhauls. With Ligue 1 being cut to 18 teams, they may be gone for some time. AW

Trouble in St-ientienne following their relegation.
Trouble in St-ientienne following their relegation. Photograph: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / AFP / Getty Images

Team of the season

Starting XI: Anthony Lopes; Jonathan Clauss, William Saliba, Nayef Aguerd, Nuno Mendes; Aurélien Tchouaméni, Séko Fofana; Benjamin Bourigeaud, Téji Savanier, Kylian Mbappé; Wissam Ben Yedder. Substitutes: Walter Benítez; Andrei Girotto, Jean-Clair Todibo, Marco Verratti, Lovro Majer, Dimitri Payet, Martin Terrier.

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