Our journey through Europe’s top leagues takes us to France’s Ligue 1. The French league developed a reputation for being low quality but much like the Bundesliga, this pre-conceived notion based purely on the title race is a myth. While I will say that Ligue 1 does not have the same quality of football as the Bundesliga in my opinion, it is definitely more competitive than the average Premier League fan on Twitter or Instagram would have you believe.
If you haven’t checked out our 2. Bundesliga awards, I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with them as some of the names mentioned could come up as top performers in the top flight of Germany this season. The bottom half of the table can be found here while the top half of the table can be found here.
With all that said, let’s crack open the bottom half of the Ligue 1 table!
20th – Girondins Bordeaux
The Kaiser: Josuha Guilavogui (CB / CM)
Transferring to Bordeaux in January, Guilavogui changed Bordeaux’s defensive structure for the better, but not better enough. He offered speed and physicality along with great passing ability but Bordeaux would still end up dead last.
Football player: Yacine Adli (CAM / CM)
Adli continued his development into an exciting talent, with a goal and 7 assists in midfield. While his performances off the bench – and there were plenty – wouldn’t be game-changing every time, he carried himself with a certain energy that not all midfielders in the team did.
The Bomber: Hwang Ui-Jo (ST)
Ui-Jo wasn’t fantastic in terms of his link-up play but he would pick up 2 assists to go with his 11 goal haul for the season. Not the most physical despite his tall stature, and not the most adept on the ball either, but a serviceable pacey target man.
Meister of the Season: Jean Onana (CM)
At the base of midfield, Onana provided a proper platform for what should have been a much better season for Bordeaux. He would deliver, winning duels in the middle consistently and even getting forward with late runs to score thrice and assist twice this season, but there was just something missing from both his play and the matter which cost them their place in France’s top flight.
19th – FC Metz
The Kaiser: Fali Candé (LB / LWB)
Candé would be maraud down the left well for Metz during the second half of the season. Admittedly he played better during the first half where he was in Portugal playing for Portimonense, but he was still good in France.
Soccer player: Fabien Centonze (RWB / RM)
You could count this as cheating since Centonze occupies the same role as Candé, just on the right flank instead of the left, but upon closer inspection it is clear that Centonze gets further forward and gets narrower, playing as an attacking midfielder instead of a wing back at times. He is a personal favorite player of mine and I hope he can stay in the top flight or atleast return to it in 2023.
The Bomber: Nicolas de Preville (ST / CAM)
The wings were Metz’s strongest area this season, and it all came to feed into the play of Préville, who offered himself as a great option in the air and breaking away from the last line. A tally of 5 goals and 2 assists marks what has been a good campaign for him personally.
Meister of the Season: Boubakar Kouyaté (CB)
Really the only reason the wing backs had so much license to get forward, Kouyaté offered defensive solidity. His ability to counter pacey counter-attacks was matched by his ability to build to wider areas when in possession and cycle it around to build play.
18th – Saint-Etienne
The Kaiser: Timothy Kolodziejczak (CB)
Kolodziejczak is definitely not at his best since his days in Seville, but he was still the best defensive presence in the Saint-ientienne squad.
Football player: Mahdi Camara (CM / RB)
There’s something about the last name Camara and producing industrious defensively-astute central midfielders that can also play as full backs. While the midfield was an utter disappointment, Camara was the best of the lot in my opinion. Bonus points for being employed further up as a 10 once too in a hilarious game against Clermont Foot which also involved Kolodziejczak playing as left midfielder, and scoring the winning goal in it too!
The Bomber: Wahbi Khazri (ST / LW)
Khazri is a veteran of the league, and while his ability to sweep balls across flanks of play has diminished, his finishing and striker’s instinct have only improved, netting him 10 goals.
Meister of the Season: Denis Bouanga (CM / LW)
Khazri’s partner-in-crime up front showed his class with great play in the final third, with consistent take-on success rate and an eye for a pass to go along with his ability in the air. 9 goals and 6 assists is a great return for a striker in a team falling this far behind expectations.
17th – Clermont Foot
The Kaiser: Akim Zedadka (RB)
Clermont’s gung-ho high octane style of football shocked the league at first, but teams would soon adapt. However, Zedadka would maintain his electric pace even as the season wore on.
Football player: Johan Gastien (CDM / CM)
On the other hand, if Clermont were ever ahead, Gastien was an expert at slowing games down and keeping the opposition at bay. A classic defensive midfielder, he would control the tempo of play in his half and sometimes even push further up the field to aid overloads.
The Bomber: Elbashan Rashani (LW)
A complete unknown even to French football enthusiasts the season prior, Rashani proved his worth in the top flight with 8 goals and 3 assists cutting in from the left flank. His play as a proper wide playmaker is questionable but when employed narrower he always delivered in some way or another.
Meister of the Season: Mohamed Bayo (ST)
One of the most exciting strikers in France, Bayo would show incredible touch in the box, much like a young Robert Lewandowski. His passing numbers certainly aren’t as high as the Polish marksman, but his touch was impeccable much like the Pole and he bagged 5 assists from his few key passes, along with a fantastic 14 goals.
16th – FC Lorient
The Kaiser: Julien Laporte (CB)
Laporte led the backline with the confidence of a player quickly reaching his prime years and knowing his abilities. Vocal, physical and great on the ball, Laporte really is the complete package as a center back.
Football player: Enzo Le Fée (CM / LM)
Le Fée was excellent taking the ball into the final third, often finding men in space over the top or in pockets with visionary passes. His dribbling was improved although he lacked the real danger in the final third as a killer ball player. However, he would find himself being a goal threat as he would score twice to go with his 3 assists.
The Bomber: Terem Moffi (ST / RW)
Moffi is a player I do not understand. He is not dominant in the air despite his over 6 foot stature. He isn’t lightning quick. What he is, is insanely intelligent and an extremely good shot. His ability to get into dangerous positions behind the backs of defenders and finish from less than ideal positions is uncanny. A combination of smart positioning and accomplished shooting technique netted him 8 goals and 4 assists.
Meister of the Season: Armand Laurienté (ST / LW)
Laurienté was perhaps the least striker of all strikers in this article. But he just worked. He would very rarely hang near the last line of defense, operating in a free role in the final third, usually sat in the space between the lines and trying to push play beyond the midfield by offering himself as an option. His returns and one-two play linking up with Moffi and making late runs eventually netted him 6 goals and 2 assists.
15th – ESTAC Troyes
The Kaiser: Gauthier Gallon (GK)
Gallon bailed an extremely poor backline out on numerous occasions with sometimes superhuman stops.
Football player: Xavier Chavalerin (CM / LM)
Chavalerin was key to Troyes’ ball progression and even more key to getting on the end of return balls, scoring 5 and assisting 2.
The Bomber: Mama Baldé (CAM / ST)
The forward line was okay at best, and a record of 3 goals and 2 assists isn’t anything exceptional or even above average, but neither was the attack as a whole.
Meister of the Season: Florian Tardieu (CM)
Tardieu was the one player other than Gallon that I was actually impressed with, honestly nothing about this individuals individuals ever caught my eye. Tardieu’s forward runs were ever so dangerous, and he would end the season with 4 goals and 2 assists.
14th – Angers SCO
The Kaiser: Romain Thomas (CB)
Thomas set a good base in the backline for the rest of his teammates to flourish as Angers underwent the process of changing systems from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2.
Football player: Thomas Mangani (CM)
Mangani from midfield showed intense stamina and attacking acumen even as his age advanced, and he scored 7 goals alongside his 2 assists.
The Bomber: Angelo Fulgini (CAM / CM / ST)
Fulgini, much like Centonze, is another one of my personal favorites, and much like Centonze, has performed very well. While his quality was not the same as it was the season before, Fulgini would still manage 5 goals and 4 assists.
Meister of the Season: Sofiane Boufal (ST / LW)
It had to be. What a player! Boufal was just phenomenal throughout the season, leading the attack with his 8 goals and 4 assists. His end product does not seem like that of one of the most in-form players of the season, but he was definitely one of them.
What do you guys think of these picks? Did I leave any players you would’ve kept in? Let us know in the forum below.