Fourteen matches into the Ligue 1 season and we are starting to finally figure out which “new players” are making an impact on their new teams.
At the end of the summer transfer window, a lot of big name players were moving left and right. Andre-Pierre Gignac and Loic Remy to Marseille along with Yoann Gourcuff and Jimmy Briand to Lyon were just a the biggest of the Ligue 1 moves. Still, there were smaller moves, like Anthony Le Tallec to Auxerre, that were just as important to their respective clubs.
And while these names were the ones that got all of the media attention, they haven’t exactly panned out like most people expected. Both Gignac and Gourcuff could be considered disappointments so far this season. Loic Remy had the health issues. And Jimmy Briand has just been really bland. He has played well in some matches, and not in others. Basically, there really isn’t anything to write about those players. Hopefully, by the end of the season, that will change.
So who are they players that have truly made an impact since their transfer to another team? I am going to pick my top seven and list them below. Of course, there are many players that have made an impact with their teams so far, but these are just my top seven. So here we go.
7. Marco Estrada – Montpellier – like with many of the teams that I am going to mention, Montpellier had to fill some holes with the departure of some key players. After the loss of setup man and scorer Alberto Costa to Valencia in Spain, Rene Girard needed to fill a hole. He did that with Marco Estrada.
Estrada wasn’t exactly known in France. Hell, when he arrived, I didn’t know who he was. The 27-year old was a proven player in his home country of Chile. Therefore, I was worried that he would have a harder time adapting to play in France. Still, South American’s seem to adapt to France well. And since his arrival, he has been the perfect setup man for the Montpellier offense.
While many not being as much of a goal scorer as Costa, his worth is already being shown with this ability to make sharp and accurate passes and crosses.
6. Stephane Dalmat – Rennes – sometimes a move for a player is a good thing. And while Stephane Dalmat has always been an average player at most of the places he has played, there has always been the feeling that he could contribute more. But since Dalmat has arrived at Rennes, he seems to have found a bit of a spark that most of us expected from him ten years ago.
Since Dalmat’s arrival, he has been very impressive in not only pushing the ball up, but creating chances as well. And because he is a good, pure midfielder, this has allowed Antonetti to move traditional midfielder Jerome Leroy (another classic underachiever), into both the right and left forward positions. Since this change, both Dalman and Leroy have been able to become a more important part of the team, instead of being overshadowed by like likes of Jimmy Briand or Asamoah Gyan in the past.
5. Cesar Azpilicueta – Marseille – of course, the last two years, Marseille has been in the spotlight when it comes to summer transfers. This year wasn’t any different. And while Remy and Gignac where their big signings, Cesar Azpilicueta from Osasuna has been, by far, the most productive of their new signings.
Going into this season, I was weary of the Marseille defense. With the exception of Taye Taiwo, who I think is one of the best defenders in Ligue 1, I have always been skeptical of Gaby Heinze and even Souleymane Diawara. And in the right back position, many OM supporters were not happy with the departure or Laurent Bonnart, who had always been a solid player in that position. But Azpilicueta has changed that.
Since his arrival, he has been more than a great defender. He knows how to defend. He knows how to play the ball. The have a good eye for the pitch and knows his surroundings, so he doesn’t play in a little five-yard box. Most of all, he know how to use his head. Not saying that Bonnart didn’t, but Azpilicueta seems to have a bit more defensive skills than OM’s former right-back. He should have a bright future of the Stade Velodrome.
4. Olivier Giroud – Montpellier – like with Estrada replacing Costa, Rene Girard needed to find someone to replace departing forward Victor Montano. During the off-season, Girard picked up two key players. One of those was Oliver Giroud, who has now become the “go-to” man at Montpellier.
Going into this season, nobody really knew who would step up and be the offensive leader for Montpellier. Youngster Hatem Ait-Fana had a fine season last year, and looked to be a favorite for that position this season. But he has been far from effective. Another player that Girard brought in was Hasan Kabze from Rubin Kazan. Luckily for Montpellier, Kabze was a free transfer, because he has been dismal in league matches.
Still, Giroud has been a very stable rock that Montpellier has been able to build their game on. Giroud and Estrada has become of the best tandems in all of Ligue 1, even if people don’t really know who they are yet. This, along with the coaching of Rene Girard, is part of the reason that Montpellier refuses to go quietly into the night.
3. Victor Montano – Rennes – it wouldn’t be right to say how much Montpellier miss Victor Montano and not put him on this list. The simple fact is that one of the reasons that Rennes are playing as well as they are is because of the addition of Montano to the team.
Like at Montpellier, Rennes had two huge offensive holes to fill with the loss of Gyan and Briand. And with Rennes being considered a contender for a European competition, the spotlight would purely be on the person that would have to replace these two competent scorers. Therefore, I was wondering if Montano, who really didn’t have any pressure at Montpellier, would be able to cope with the pressure in Rennes. The answer is easily yes.
With the change of play, Rennes seem to be an entirely new team. Their defense was always expected to be strong, with Fanni and Douchez being the defensive anchors, but would the offense be able give them the scoring they need? With the addition of Dalmat and Montano, Rennes have been able to show that they can score. Yes, they might not be the most impressive scoring team right now, but Montano is doing the job when it needs to be done. He will just get better with time.
2. Moussa Sow – Lille – In most of the other situations that were mentioned above, players were brought in to fill the hole left by another player. But in the case of Moussa Sow’s arrival in Lille, they were just adding a little more depth to their team. And with how offensively minded Rudy Garcia is, I don’t think that many people thought that Sow, who has been an average player most of his career, would have a big impact on the team.
But with nine goals so far this season, Sow has shown that he has what it takes to be the league’s leading scorer. Garcia is now making Sow the centerpiece of Lille’s offense. In the past, Garcia would play with three forwards up front, usually being Frau, Gervinho and one of his midfielders, usually Hazard or Obraniak. But with Sow being a pure striker, Garcia has been able to move both Gervinho and Frau back, with Frau playing more of a supporting role for Sow. And with Sow being able to disturb opposing offenses, this gives Gervinho more chances to strike on net.
The addition of Sow gives Lille an even stronger offense, even if they really didn’t need it. This is why Rudy Garcia is already starting to show why he should be the early front-runner for Manager of the Year for Ligue 1.
1. Nene – Paris St-Germain – now we are down to the last person. And while Lille might be in first place, and Sow is amazing, I feel that Nene is going to contribute more to his team in the end.
One of PSG’s many problems last year was the lack of depth. While having a good team on the surface, if one top-notch player went down, PSG were put in a bad position. But with the addition of Nene, PSG now has that depth. Yes, even one player can make your team much deeper than before.
First of all, Nene was one of last year’s leading scorers. And this year with PSG he is already the team’s leading scorer with seven goals.
Second, coach Antoine Kombouare has many options in how he wants to play Nene. If he want to make him attack the goal, he can do that. If he wants him to play support to Mevlut Erding and Guillaume Hoarau, he can do that. Basically, Nene can be the trick of all trades.
Third, Nene’s arrival should make Stephane Sessegnon a pure “number 10″ in the midfield, controlling the play in the center of the pitch. In the past, Sessegnon either played on the left side or would drift to the left while playing in the center, leaving a big hole in the middle of the pitch. Now with Nene’s arrival, Sessegnon can concentrate on really working that center part of the pitch and becoming a playmaking specialist.
The arrival of Nene has had a very positive effect on Paris SG. If they didn’t get Nene, they could easily be playing as bad as they did last year. That is why I picked Nene over Sow as the best pick up. If Sow wasn’t at Lille, they would be doing just fine. The same can’t be said for PSG.
Therefore, our best summer transfer pick for this year (so far) is Nene to PSG. Again, I am sure many people will have other picks as well, these are just mine.
Filed under: LOSC Lille, Montpellier HSC, Olympique Marseille, Paris Saint Germain, Stade Rennais FC Tagged: | Cesar Azpilicueta, Marco Estrada, Moussa Sow, Nene, Olivier Giroud, Stephane Dalmat, Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Montano