Evian Thonon Gaillard: 2015/16 Ligue 2 Preview
Coach: Safet Susic
Stadium: Parc des Sports D’Annecy
Last Season: 18th in Ligue 1
It’s unclear if Dane Jesper Hansen will stay at the club. He probably won’t but it doesn’t matter because Benjamin Leroy will be a more than satisfactory no1 keeper at this level. The backline contains some quality but really lacks depth. The starting back four will be Abdallah, Mensah, Betao and Juelsgaard. Betao is a new signing from Dynamo Kiev and someone who has been at the club before. The Brazilian should be a good signing, whilst Mensah will go reasonably well in ligue 2. The two fullbacks will also be competitive enough, especially Abdallah who spent many years of his career in the division. But apart from the old and injured Aldo Angoula, they virtually have nothing else in defensive areas except youngsters. The club acknowledges that they need to reinforce, but for now it’s too thin on the ground. Their starting back four is fairly strong but what if a lot of injuries occur?
Evian have lost their best player Daniel Wass. He was head and shoulders above anyone else in the team and will be desperately missed from wide area. The Annecy side were poor in midfield anyway, but other players such as Kone, Ninkovic and Camus have also departed. They are left with two ‘dinosaurs’ in Olivier Sorlin and Cedric Barbosa. Amazingly, the latter is now 39 years of age and really should be hanging up his boots. Evian have been heavily reliant on these two players in the last few seasons but I’m not sure what is left in either tank. Costa Rican Yeltsin Tejeda is an interesting one. Many predict he will leave the club before the end of the transfer window, but if Evian keep him then they will have a very good player in their ranks still. ETG have signed two midfielders I know little about, Morgan Kamin (Monaco B) and Kevin Hoggas (Belfort). They will have a degree of competitiveness in the middle of the park, but it’s nothing special.
The Evian attack is very young and pacy, but this might not necessarily mean goals. The main man is likely to be Clarck N’Sikulu who caught the eye last season with some strong performances. Whether or not he can bag them 10-15+ goals remains to be seen but he has potential. Another player worth keeping an eye on is Gianni Bruno. He is someone who has perhaps failed to build on what was a promising start to his career. Maybe a season down in Ligue 2 might do him some good, but he isn’t someone you can rely on. Evian have signed a couple of young players on loan, one of them being Monaco man Quentin N’Gakoutou. He was at Arles last season but hardly did anything of note so could be a complete bust again. There’s hope that some of their guys in the final third could really develop and hit the ground running, but overall I feel there’s more question marks than answers. I’m not convinced they will create and score regularly enough.
The useless Pascal Dupraz has finally made way for a new coach, Safet Susic. He managed Bosnia for 5 years taking them to the 2014 World Cup, but was sacked back in November after a poor start to the Euro 2016 campaign. Known as a counter attacking manager this is his first venture back into club management for quite some time. He’s a bit of a ‘wildcard’ and I’m not totally sure what to expect from him. He could prove to be a masterstroke appointment or a complete bust. Evian aren’t a very well-supported team but nobody really likes travelling to their ground, especially in winter when it’s often cold, damp, rainy or even snowy. So they can potentially build up a strong homefield advantage but crowd intimidation is never going to be a factor.
I have mentioned before how relegated teams have really struggled in recent seasons. I expect Evian to be one of those outfits who will find it hard adapting back to Ligue 2 level. Let’s face it; they were really punching above their weight in Ligue 1 for a number of seasons. In terms of name, reputation and resources this is more their ‘natural’ level. But after years of constantly fighting against the drop, it could be difficult to suddenly turn that around and become a winning outfit. It’s quite clear they are behind in terms of recruitment and the squad seems light in all areas. Fans might expect more but I think they’ll have a year of consolidation…at best. Just look last year how Ajaccio and Valenciennes nearly went down to the National league! Now, I’m not saying that this will happen with Evian but I think they’ll be worse than many expect.
Prediction – 12th