Three January Transfers to Change Three Teams’ Seasons
Guest poster Stefan Robert look at three clubs who could be eyeing January reinforcements and considers a player who would be an ideal addition for each.
Marseille – Thiago Mendes (Lille)
Despite all the talk of ‘OM champions Project’, Marseille have been largely underwhelming on the pitch this season. Whilst they have improved their league position (note that they were 12th in Ligue 1 at the time of the McCourt takeover), they are still rather far from the level of rivals PSG, Monaco and Lyon.
Marseille arguably need more than one reinforcement in January. Although, there are a number of areas where they are lacking in quality and depth, Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud has been clear that there will be “little activity” in the January window and that they will be mostly looking to offload players. In attack, although Mitroglou has been a disappointment, the president, coach and sporting director have publicly distanced themselves from the idea that he could be offloaded and replaced. Instead, a new left back has been mooted following Evra’s departure, and a midfielder too. However, we are going to select a midfielder as the ideal addition, and one who can play both as a pure defensive midfielder as well as a box-to-box type. When Marseille have fielded both Maxime Lopez and Morgan Sanson in the same lineup, their midfield has been porous and they have often been unable to keep a hold on games. Moreover, when Luis Gustavo is absent, they are notably not the same side. Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa has improved as the season has progressed but when either he or Gustavo are missing, they have a problem dominating the midfield battle. Gregory Sertic has been repeatedly injured and hasn’t been at the level when he has played.
Whilst OM have been linked with several midfielders in January, including Roma pair Gonalons and Strootman, it is Thiago Mendes who would be the ideal addition. Thiago Mendes’s arrival is unlikely – Lille don’t want to sell for less than 20 million euros and Marseille have apparently cooled their interest. However, he would be a perfect signing. Capable of chipping in with the defensive duties, he can also roam forward as an energetic box-to-box midfielder. He is technically better that Zambo Anguissa and has more pace and energy than Gustavo. He can also strike the ball and has scored a few crackers this season already. He’d be the perfect accompaniment for Gustavo. Thiago Mendes has only been in Europe for six months, yet if he continues to improve at this rate, it won’t be long before far bigger clubs than Marseille are eyeing him. It’s now or never for OM to bring the Brazilian to the Stade Velodrome.
Saint-Etienne – Loic Remy (Las Palmas)
After 22 matches, the Ligue 1 heavyweights hover only one point above the relegation zone. What makes matters worse is that they’ve only managed 20 strikes in those 22 games. The fact they are on their third coach this season further reiterates the crisis that has unfolded this season – exacerbated by the fact that they have now also been knocked out of the Coupe de France.
However, there are some positives to be taken in recent weeks. Les Verts have shown a keen desire to strengthen in the January window. They’ve already snapped up Yann M’vila who, if he can return to fitness and form should turn out to be a stellar signing reminiscent of when Marseille signed Lassana Diarra in 2015. Also arrived is former Rennes winger Paul-Georges Ntep, whom the club will hope rediscovers his form from last time he was in Ligue 1. Rumours are also increasing the Dortmund defender Neven Subotic could be on his way to the Geoffroy Guichard.
Surprisingly though, is the lack of links with a striker. Saint-Etienne did bring a forward in last summer in the form of Lois Diony from Dijon. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked out, Diony has failed to hit the net once and has now been loaned to Bristol City. Arguably, les Verts’ playing style hasn’t suited him. He has often played as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation and is perhaps more suited to playing in a front 2. Nonetheless, a new striker could really be the difference between staying up and going down. As the old cliché goes, it’s goals that win games, and Saint-Etienne really need someone with that killer instinct in front of goal.
One player who is said to be on the market and could do a job is Loic Remy. The former France international is currently on loan at La Liga side Las Palmas from Chelsea. Despite the fact that he has managed 5 strikes in 12 games, it’s reported that Las Palmas are keen to ship him out. His wages would be high, but if a fit Loic Remy could be brought in on a temporary deal, he could be the catalyst to a strong finish to the season. He has the experience and quality to be a superb acquisition. He’s quick, technically sound and most of all has proven he can score goals. The most likely reservation many would have about seeing Remy in green is the fact he is a former Lyon player. However, stranger things have happened in football and he wouldn’t be the first player to have represented both les Verts and les Gones.
Bordeaux – Marcus Coco (Guingamp)
Much like Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux are also having a difficult season. After 22 matches, they currently sit in 12th place, their predicament having cost coach Joceyln Gourvennec his job. Les Girondins should be good enough to avoid a relegation battle. However, they are not far off it and if results fail to improve then they could be in trouble.
The board has recognised the need to do something about their woeful predicament and they have thus shown intent in the transfer market. Paul Baysse has returned to the club and should provide an experienced, steady and composed presence that has been missing since Nicolas Pallois left for Nantes last summer. They’ve also brought in Soualiho Meite from Monaco on loan until the end of the season. Meite should prove an astute signing. He’s tall, strong and can sit in the holding midfield role comfortably, breaking up opposition play – one of the notable deficiencies in the Bordeaux squad this season has been the lack of muscle in midfield. The likes of Vada and Otavio are small in stature and unable to match some of their more physical opponents in Ligue 1. Up front, Nicolas De Preville has been a flop and has only managed one goal in Ligue 1. However, it is not a striker we’ve selected as an ideal addition to Bordeaux – they still have other options in that area (Gaetan Laborde and Alexandre Mendy are both very capable on their day).
Instead, a left sided attacker would be the perfect final piece in the puzzle to safeguard Bordeaux’s season. There has been far too much dependency on Malcom this season. Whilst the Brazilian has been spectacular at times, when he has drifted into obscurity, so have Bordeaux. They seem to lack any invention and don’t quite seem to know who to turn to to create play. Guingamp’s Marcus Coco could be the man for the job. A versatile winger, Coco is comfortable attacking down both flanks but likes to try his luck with long-range efforts when the opportunity presents itself. He has the hunger and desire but also the quality that could lighten the burden on Malcom. In comparison to last season, 2017-2018 hasn’t been a great season so far for Coco as he has lacked form. Perhaps it is time for him to move on and a club like Bordeaux could be seen as an ideal step-up should he wish to progress further. Coco is still young at 21 and he might well need to make that change in order to reinvigorate his game. With Malcom on the right and Coco down the left, Bordeaux would surely improve in the final third.