This past weekend saw the end of the Ligue 1 season. With the curtain drawn on 2012-2013, all eyes are now focused on the summer movements and next season.
It may be a little early to begin prognosticating on a champion with a summer full of player movement still to be had. But looking at the current core of each of the top teams, along with the most likely transfer scenarios for each club, can give a glimpse of who should be in the mix.
Barring a major exodus of talent or disaster, PSG will most likely enter the season as favorites to defend their title. The most likely exit for PSG will be Kevin Gameiro. He may be joined by Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore, but with PSG’s financial power there will be some talents coming to Paris keeping them top dog on paper.
The biggest threat to PSG come this fall will be Monaco. With the finances to match PSG, Monaco has already pulled off a stunning double swoop of Porto’s Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez (report per Ligue1.com). They are also in advanced stages of completing a move for Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid (report per Guardian.co.uk) with more targets possibly on the way.
With Monaco piecing together such a talented squad, it would be easy to pick them as the team most likely to keep PSG from going back-to-back with the Ligue 1 title. Monaco claiming the title next year would hardly surprise anyone with the players they are adding, and so picking them would go against the article title used to draw the reader in.
The surprise team referred to is Olympique de Marseille. As the “you are crazy” and “go crawl back under your rock” type comments start formulating, let me expound on my opinion.
Marseille has a solid nucleus that is just missing some support pieces. Steve Mandanda is one of Ligue 1’s best net-minders. Nicolas N’Koulou is a rock in the center of defense while Foued Kadir and Mathieu Valbuena form the core of a talented midfield. With Andre-Pierre Gignac leading the front line, Marseille has the ability to score goals.
Marseille has a team that finished a quiet second in Ligue 1. They have talent across the pitch that showed it could compete with PSG. This summer will see some exits from the Stade Velodrome, but this may move Marseille forward rather than backwards.
The potential summer exit of mercurial talent Andre Ayew may be a move that helps more than it hurts Marseille’s cause. The Gignac-Ayew combination was inconsistent at best. Both are very talented players, but did not develop the type of consistent connection on the pitch to maximize the Marseille attack.
Any funds from the transfer of Andre will help fund the strengthening of the Marseille squad. An exit by midfielder Morgan Amalfitano may also be in order as he has struggled to find himself since moving from Lorient.
Marseille will be more active buyers this summer after last year’s salary purge. Diego Capel of Sporting Lisbon (report per FoxSports.com) has been the biggest name linked with a summer move to Marseille to this point.
With players like Capel being linked, it would appear that Marseille are focused on adding some creative influences to their wings. Players who can create havoc out wide and whip crosses into the area will play to Gignac’s strengths.
If Marseille are able to land one or two of these type players their attack could become more consistent and dangerous. Even with those additions, Marseille will need to add some defensive support for N’Koulou and potentially some depth up top.
These type of additions will see Marseille become more able to compete with PSG and Monaco. Getting players that can perform while seeing off those who do not fit in their current system will create a more fluid environment.
Montpellier showed that having a solid squad playing to their strengths inside the system can get you to a title. PSG in its current form and Monaco in their future form will be tougher to overcome, but Marseille has more talent than the Montpellier team that pulled out the title two seasons ago.
The one advantage Marseille will hold over Monaco and PSG is the lack of expectations. Flying under the radar with less pressure may be the edge they need to overcome the big two. If Marseille can keep hold of N’Koulou and add players like Capel, then they may find themselves back at the summit of Ligue 1.