After more than two months of break, Ligue 1 returns this Friday evening with a meeting between Lyon and Ajaccio as the opening of a season which promises to be exciting. That of confirmation after a last joyful exercise, but also of novelty, with the autumn World Cup and the four descents marking the passage from twenty to eighteen clubs. And always this same hope of seeing the game end up winning.
It’s the end of weaning, and the beginning of a new adventure of which we still don’t know anything. After a 76-day break, Ligue 1, France’s favorite soap opera, far ahead of all the others, is back. At the heart of a summer punctuated by over-analyzed friendly matches, then a painful and too long transfer window like every year, it was time to rediscover the thrills of competition. This weekend must be that of the first curiosities, the first sensations and the first too hasty conclusions, which also make up the charm of a story that must be written for ten months, hoping that the party will this time take over violence in the stands. This must also be the season of confirmation, after an exceptional 2021-2022 vintage in terms of spectacle (1,067 goals scored, the highest total for 40 years), play, and even suspense if we put aside the easy coronation of PSG. That of novelty, too, since the fall World Cup will interrupt the routine for more than a month, between November 13 and December 28, until the matches scheduled during the usual Christmas break. That’s it for the agenda, place for the land.
Paris and the ambitious
A few hours before the start of its new season, the French championship had not seemed so exciting for a long time. Above and below, the debates should be exciting until the end. The first place, however, still seems reserved for Paris Saint-Germain, revamped at the end of spring, but still considered untouchable when designating potential candidates for the title. In the speech, the PSG has also chosen to adopt another method, perfectly embodied by the induction of Christophe Galtier as coach: Ligue 1 does not count for butter. It remains to be seen whether the promise of finding a concerned team and a less chaotic collective will be respected. Especially since behind the Parisian ogre, the ambitious have rarely been so numerous. Among them, AS Monaco, orphan of Aurélien Tchouaméni, but with an incredible dynamic before the cut, could be cut to tickle the defending champion in the event of a drop in speed during a season where the Mondial will be the number one goal for the stars.
Stade Rennes, 4e of the last financial year, has also changed little less than a month from the closing of the transfer window, which looks like a good idea after an attractive season (101 goals scored in all competitions). OGC Nice, for its part, took advantage of the departure of Galtier to recover Lucien Favre, whose first visit to the Côte d’Azur between 2016 and 2018 had left a good memory. Lille, crowned a year earlier, turned the page Jocelyn Gourvennec to move on to that Paulo Fonseca with the desire to find colors and a place in the top 6. The two Olympics, they have chosen to live a paradoxical summer: OM, runner-up to PSG, said goodbye to Jorge Sampaoli and hello to Igor Tudor, already challenged on the Commanderie side, when OL preferred to maintain their confidence in Peter Bosz, despite an 8e historically disappointing place and an institutional revolution with the sale to a new American investor. An intriguing, uncertain picture, which should not leave aside the outsiders like Lens, Strasbourg or even other surprises capable of shaking up the hierarchy dominated by the richest.
The game is worth the candle
At the center of concerns, the game remains. After a period during which defensive strategies were dominant in France (you had to be “hefty” and “solid” ), the search for beauty and attack seems to have taken over. Some technicians from other countries are no strangers to this philosophical evolution, Marcelo Bielsa in the lead, but it is also carried by a new generation of French coaches, less locked into a now archaic model, led by Franck Haise ( Lens), Julien Stéphan (Strasbourg) or the newcomer Régis Le Bris (Lorient). Last season, the playing teams were often rewarded, up and down. This will also be the challenge of this 2022-2023 exercise, that of the passage from twenty to eighteen clubs, and therefore of the four direct descents into the second division.
A distressing prospect for the teams destined to fight to stay in the top flight, but also for the others, never safe from an accident, as evidenced by the relegations of Bordeaux and Saint-Étienne last May. Nantes and Montpellier, for example, can bite their nails. There will be emotions for everyone, as always for almost a century in the first division, from Troyes to Reims via Brest. The promoted (Toulouse, Ajaccio, Auxerre) that we want to (re) discover at the highest national level will also have their share of the cake. Ligue 1 belongs to them, to them as to us, simple observers of its players, and that is why we find it every summer with undisguised pleasure.
By Clement Gavard