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Your Guide to the January Transfer Window in Ligue 1

The January window is a time for reflection, and for assessment not only of a season to date, but of how a squad can be improved. It is often said that the best players rarely move in January, but the right addition of depth in a certain position can make all the difference in a team’s season.

A handful of deals have already been announced, most notably Julian Draxler moving from Wolfsburg to Paris Saint-Germain, but loans and departures can affect sides as well. Renato Civelli’s presence will surely be missed at Lille, for example, while youngsters from the bigger clubs might seek a move for playing time. This year, there is also the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), which runs from mid-January to early February, and will see the likes of Rachid Ghezzal, Serge Aurier and Mehdi Abeid away from their club sides.

With the following capsules, though, we will seek not to only to assess teams’ needs, but also identify one or two reasonable targets. This is done with the understanding that many clubs in France are in dire straits financially, and any deal aside from a loan may be impossible or unrealistic at best.

We have also sought to identify players on a team who could potentially benefit from a loan move owing to a lack of opportunity at their respective club. Things can move quickly in January as teams scrap for a limited pool of players; this piece is therefore written with the best information available as regards injuries, contracts and AFCON involvement as of December 31, 2016.

Eric Devin, Chief Features Writer

 

OGC Nice

Nice will probably be glad of their elimination from the Coupe de la Ligue at the hands of Bordeaux. Their lengthy list of injuries, as well as a looming suspension on the part of Mario Balotelli has a real chance to derail their title campaign. Metz and Bastia will allow an easy return to Ligue 1 action, but Guingamp and Monaco lurk at the turn of the month. Without fixture congestion, Les Aiglons should be able to negotiate things fairly well, but the loss of Younés Belhanda to a broken toe is frustrating. Anastasios Donis has looked bright in a handful of cameos; he may get a chance to impress in the new year.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Valentin Eysseric (knee, late January) Younés Belhanda (broken toe, early February) Jean Michael Seri (AFCON) Yoan Cardinale (hamstring, return unknown) Dalbert Henrique (shoulder, return unknown) Paul Baysse (knee, return unknown)

Team Needs:

Lucien Favre has done well to juggle the team’s lineup to cope with the loss of Paul Baysse in central defence, but ideally another centre back would be helpful, as would another attacker, as he seems not to trust the likes of Said Benrahma or Alexy Bosetti, both of whom played in Ligue 1 last season. A loan makes more sense here, as Belhanda and Eysseric will return soon enough. Nice have the money available to pay the wages of more highly regarded players, so their options are more impressive than most.

Targets:

Oumar Niasse, Everton

Senegal are involved in AFCON, but Niasse hasn’t been called up to the national side in close to a year. Having been frozen out by Ronald Koeman, his time in Russia showed he is undoubtedly talented, but could benefit from a change of scenery. Mario Balotelli’s combination of injury history and temperament make him an unreliable source of goals; were Alassane Pléa to suffer a serious injury, Nice could struggle badly in attack.

Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Tottenham Hotspur

Has impressed in flashes, but with only 36 minutes played in the Premier League, his career is in danger of stalling should he continue to ride the bench for Mauricio Pochettino. There may be more opportunities in the Europa League with Spurs, but N’Koudou’s work ethic and versatility would make him an important player for Nice, especially if Henrique’s return is a long time coming.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Said Benrahma, Albert Rafetraniana, Alexy Bosetti

 

AS Monaco

Monaco are flying at present, a feisty loss to Lyon all that has kept them from the top of the table. They will be aiming to keep the team healthy and fresh with an eye towards their clash with Manchester City in February. The domestic cups will take a back seat to the league, with a huge clash with Nice looming in February.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Adama Traoré (AFCON), Nabil Dirar (AFCON)

Team Needs:

Traoré, so impressive during his time at Lille, has failed to catch the eye of Jardim this season. Injuries have played their part, as has the form of Tiemoué Bakayoko, but the winner of the Golden Ball at 2015’s U-20 World Cup obviously isn’t the answer in midfield, the only area that needs depth. Joao Moutinho is a tidy player, but without one of Fabinho or Bakayoko, Monaco risk being overrun physically. There is a bit of doubt over the ability of Kamil Glik and Jemerson to continue to feature, but in Andrea Raggi and Abdou Diallo, Monaco should have enough cover.

Targets:

Thomas Partey, Atletico Madrid

Partey will likely be with Ghana for AFCON, but his playing time with Atletico Madrid has stalled even with injuries to Tiago and Augusto Fernandez. Diego Simeone has preferred to experiment with Saul Niguez and Koke in central midfield, and Partey, who played more than 800 minutes last season across all competitions, has barely featured this term, bar a recent pair of Copa del Rey fixtures. He is cup-tied, but could feature in the league, allowing Jardim to play Fabinho and Bakayoko in European competition.

Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United

More prosaic than Partey or either of Monaco’s regulars in midfield, Schneiderlin has been thoroughly frozen out by José Mourinho, and has gone from a regular with France to being a peripheral figure. His wages are a significant stumbling block, but his quality is of the standard needed by Monaco.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Adama Traoré, Corentin Jean

 

Paris Saint-Germain

The defending champions have struggled badly this season, at least by their standards. The team has had problems absorbing their new arrivals, with the exception of Thomas Meunier, and new manager Unai Emery has had issues implementing his preferred 4-2-3-1. Javier Pastore, expected to be a centrepiece in the formation, has been a huge miss, and Draxler will be relied upon to fill the creative void left by the Argentine.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Javier Pastore (knee, unknown) Adrien Rabiot (thigh, January) Serge Aurier (AFCON)

Team Needs:

The winner’s mentality and goal-scoring ability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the biggest miss, so a striker to challenge, if not displace Edinson Cavani is the obvious target after the arrival of Draxler. Presnel Kimpembé has added needed depth at centre back, and the versatility of Marquinhos provides cover at right back during Serge Aurier’s time at AFCON.

Targets:

Luan, Gremio

More of a false nine that an orthodox centre forward, the player has been linked with Barcelona in the past. His club are thought to be seeking €20M or so, which seems an outsize fee for a backup, but given QSI’s deep pockets, his goal-scoring prowess may prove too tempting.

Lucas Alario, River Plate

Like Luan, Alario is far from the physical presence of Cavani, but his goal-scoring record with River is hard to ignore. Despite standing a shade under six feet, Alario is nonetheless a powerful header of the ball and possessed of a wiry strength. Averaging a goal every other match, Alario recently earned his first call-up for the Albiceleste and his movement could also provide more opportunities for Lucas and Adrien Rabiot.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Jesé, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Hatem Ben Arfa, Hervin Ongenda

 

Olympique Lyonnais

After a middling start to the season, Lyon appear to be back on track under Bruno Genesio. Injuries have played their part, but with seven wins in their last eight in the league, the club are within touching distance of the Champions’ League. The Europa League and the contract situation of Rachid Ghezzal may prove distractions in the run-in, but the team have also received surprising performances from youngsters Mouctar Diakhaby and Lucas Tousart, showing that Lyon’s vaunted academy has hardly missed a step.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Rachid Ghezzal (AFCON), Nicolas N’Koulou (AFCON)

Team Needs:

With Christophe Jallet returning from an injury, Lyon have needed depth at right back, but could potentially use an additional winger. Rachid Ghezzal has been in fine form as Lyon have settled on a 4-3-3, but Maxwel Cornet seems to have taken a step back this season, and lacks the creativity of the Algerian besides.

Targets:

Nicolas Pepé, Angers SCO

Recently capped by Cote d’Ivoire for the first time, Pepé’s emergence has meant that Angers have scarcely missed Billy Ketkeophomphone. He is a superb dribbler, but lacks the same vision and creativity that Ghezzal has. Angers have been quoted as asking €10M, with Cornet or Mateta moving the other direction, either permanently or on loan. Promising but lacking the experience of Cornet, the move would represent a gamble, but could pay off massively.

Juan Iturbé, AS Roma

The Paraguayan winger has struggled with the capital side to replicate the impact he had three seasons ago at Verona, but he is undoubtedly talented. He was supposedly close to a move in the summer, and could be an ideal long-term replacement for Ghezzal.

Potential Loanees/Departures:  Clement Grenier, Aldo Kalulu, Olivier Kemen, Jordy Gaspar

 

EA Guingamp

The season couldn’t have started more brilliantly for Guingamp. The team have done well to integrate veteran arrivals and youngsters alike, and new manager Antoine Kombouaré has done well to balance a deep squad. In fifth place at present, Guingamp will do well to finish in the European places with Lyon and Marseille in good form, but the season has been a testament to his abilities and the work ethic of his players.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Jordan Ikoko (AFCON), Moustapha Diallo (AFCON), Nicolas Benezet (adductor, return unknown)

Team Needs:

The departures of Ikoko and Diallo will be keenly felt, and depth at centre back could also be helpful, even if Lucas Deaux is an option there. After a busy summer, it would be no surprise if Guingamp hold firm this winter, with little available in the way of funds.

Targets:

Said Benrahma, OGC Nice

With Benezet still to come back, as well as Marcus Coco, Nill de Pauw and Yannis Salibur all available, this move isn’t the most obvious, but its popularity in the local press doesn’t seem to be going away. Benrahma is a talented player, and deserves a move, but Kombouaré’s reputation for developing talent seems to be all that is giving this legs.

Abdoul Ba, RC Lens

The hulking centre back has fallen out of favor this season, but Kombouaré will know him well from last season and may see him as a long-term replacement for Jérémy Sorbon. He has also been linked with Blackburn, but a tilt at European football may prove more appealing that scrapping to avoid relegation from the Championship.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Jérémy Livolant, Théo Guivarch

 

Olympique de Marseille

Marseille are arguably the most intriguing club in France this winter. The team have seemed galvanized under Rudi Garcia, as his swashbuckling 4-3-3 has wrung the best from youngsters Maxime Lopez and Zinedine Machach. Florian Thauvin has also improved dramatically under Garcia’s tutelage, and the team appear to be pushing for European football ahead of schedule. That said, given the expectations of the club under Frank McCourt, purchases will be made, likely starting this winter, especially as several key players (Thauvin, Bafetimbi Gomis, William Vainqueur) are only on loan.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Abou Diaby (ankle, end of February), Henri Bedimo (knee injury/AFCON), Clinton N’Jie (AFCON)

Team Needs:

In Bedimo’s injury absence, neither Karim Rekik nor Tomas Hubocan have proved suitable deputies. Even if Diarra does leave, the team have decent depth in midfield, but could seek another forward, or winger. Yohann Pele has had a decent start to the season, but is 34 and could perhaps do with a higher level of competition than Brice Samba.

Targets:

Jordan Amavi, Aston Villa

The news that Villa owner Tony Xia has rejected an offer approaching €30M for the former Nice left back may seem a surprise, but his performances are continuing to improve after a long injury lay-off, and he is still just 22. It is hard to imagine Marseille spending a sum that large on one player, but given his contract runs through 2020 and that he is one of Villa’s few attractive assets, it may take that much to prise him from Birmingham.

Cristian Tello, Fiorentina (on loan from Barcelona)

This link has legs mostly because of Andoni Zubizarreta, and a mooted €15M fee seems high given the winger has spent the last three seasons disappointing on loan after a strong 2012-13 with Barcelona. However, N’Jie will be away with Cameroon and is only on loan, meaning that Tello, who can play on either wing, could be a good addition to give the team depth, as Garcia seems to have little time for Remy Cabella or Romain Alessandrini.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Aaron Leya Iseka, Lassana Diarra, Antoine Rabillard, Romain Alessandrini

 

Stade Rennais

Rennes have defended resolutely this season, but have lacked a cutting edge, a situation unlikely to improved with the departure of Giovanni Sio to AFCON. Rennes do have deeper pockets than most Ligue 1 clubs, owing to the backing of billionaire owner Francois-Henri Pinault. Often injured star Paul-Georges Ntep is out of contract in the summer, and the team may seek to flog him for another striker.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Pedro Mendes (hip, January), Sanjin Prcic (knee, January), Clement Chantome (shoulder, unknown), Ramy Bensebaini (AFCON), Giovanni Sio (AFCON),

Team Needs:

A centre forward, plain and simple. Wesley Said has impressed in flashes, but is still young. Kermit Erasmus clearly isn’t the answer, and can be filed away with Philipp Hosiner and a host of other failed moves for the club. The club were close to European football last season, and a striker who could contribute 8-10 goals over the rest of the season would push them over the edge, if Pinault hasn’t become gun-shy by this point.

Targets:

Martin Braithwaite, Toulouse FC

Supposedly the subject of a €10M offer from West Ham United, the newly dapper Toulouse forward has had a sterling start to the season, establishing himself after stepping out of the shadow of Wissam Ben Yedder. Contracted until 2019, Braithwaite has the ability to push Rennes up the table, but given the interest from abroad and the length of his contract, his valuation may be more than Rennes can afford.

William Jebor, Wydad Casablanca (on loan from Rio Ave)

An intriguing option, the bulky Liberian looks like a low-rent Bafetimbi Gomis, and not just because of his dreadlocks. A strong header of the ball and deceptively quick, he could do well to link play with the likes of Ntep or Kamil Grosicki, provided the pair stay.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Paul-Georges Ntep, Ermir Lenjani, Dimitri Cavaré, Afonso Figueiredo, Nicolas Janvier

 

AS Saint-Etienne

Sainté invested heavily in the summer, moving decisively to strengthen their midfield’s offensive abilities. Bryan Dabo, Jordan Veretout and Henri Saivet all have decent track records in Ligue 1, but have flattered to deceive this term. Injuries to the likes of Robert Beric and Romain Hamouma haven’t helped matters, either. The team did well to top their group in the Europa League, but

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Stéphane Ruffier (hamstring, February), Henri Saivet (AFCON), Cheikh M’Bengue (AFCON), Oussama Tannane (adductor/AFCON),

Team Needs:

More creativity in attack. Beric and Alexander Soderlund are capable enough, but without Hamouma, the team struggled badly to create chances for the two centre forwards. An attacking left back, even if M’Bengue isn’t selected for AFCON, might also be helpful, but isn’t a priority. Benoit Tremoulinas has been linked, but supposedly favors a return to Bordeaux, where Diego Conteno has struggled this season.

Targets:

Romain Alessandrini, Olympique de Marseille

Out of favor once again, the winger performed well at Rennes but has struggled with fitness in the recent past. Kevin Monnet-Paquet and Oussama Tannane have been largely frustrating this season, but Alessandrini has the right pedigree to make a new situation work, with Les Verts one of a handful of clubs likely to be able to afford his wages, even on loan.

Wanderson, Ludogorets

Impressive in the Champions’ League, where his club became the first Bulgarian side to advance to the knockout rounds of European competition, the Brazilian would offer a directness and goal-scoring ability from the left that ASSE currently lack, without an onerous price tag.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Oussama Tannane, Arnaud Nordin, Jérémy Clement, Benjamin Corgnet

 

Toulouse FC

A surprising start to the season has tailed off sharply. Injuries to Issa Diop and Alexis Blin have been the chief culprits, but the team will also be hit sharply by AFCON. Manager Pascal Dupraz has impressed with his man motivation, but his tactical nous has been found wanting in the absences of Yann Bodiger and Blin.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Steeve Yago (AFCON), Oscar Tréjo (appendix, unknown), Francois Moubandjé (adductor, unknown), Alexis Blin (heel, unknown), Yrondu Musavu-King (adductor, unknown)

Team Needs:

Another defender or fullback might be helpful, but that the club have consistently been linked to a cadre of strikers is no coincidence. Paris Saint-Germain loanee Odsonne Edouard has been an unqualified disappointment, and Ola Toivonen still looks off the pace. If Braithwaite does depart, relegation could once again become a worry; any movement made this winter will be to strengthen the forward line.

Targets:

Corentin Jean, AS Monaco

An afterthought for Leonardo Jardim this season after the returns of Valere Germain and Radamel Falaco, Jean has already been heavily linked to Pascal Dupraz’s side. He failed to make much of an impact in a dreadful Troyes side last year, but that was down more to circumstances than his talent; he is deserving of another chance.

David Henen, Everton FC

The young Belgian, who can play up top or on the wing, has seen his career stall to some extent at Everton. He has played well for the club’s reserves, and has featured in a handful of EFL Cup matches, but needs regular football at a higher level of play. With his versatility, he could spell either Jimmy Durmaz or Braithwaite

Potential Loanees/Departures: Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro, Martin Braithwaite, Mathieu Cafaro, Ibrahim Sangaré

 

Girondins de Bordeaux

Bordeaux are in a quandary at present; they have spent heavily on young talent, but have failed to coalesce with any consistency under Jocelyn Gourvennec. The former Guingamp boss has showed bizarre loyalties to Diego Rolan and Jérémy Menez, to the detriment of the development of other youngsters.

The club’s directors seem to have made some missteps as well, as Enzo Crivelli and Frédéric Guilbert have performed well on loan, while Menez and Jeremy Toulalan have underwhelmed, with the latter admittedly frustrated by injury. The talent throughout the team is there for a European challenge, but something needs to change.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Nicolas Maurice-Belay (knee, return unknown), Cedric Carrasso (knee, return unknown), Adam Ounas (AFCON)

Team Needs:

A left back, a striker, and a defensive midfielder. Toulalan and Jaroslav Plasil have always played with class, but time is clearly catching up to them at 33 and 34. Diego Contento seems to be regressing, and being removed at half-time against Monaco was only the latest in a string of poor performances. Up top, Gaetan Laborde has shown some promise, but Rolan and Menez have been horrific.

Targets:

Benoit Tremoulinas, Sevilla FC

Tremoulinas isn’t, at 31, the player he once was, but as part of Bordeaux’s most successful side in recent memory, he can provide the right combination of strong play and leadership that is sorely lacking in this team.

Paul Georges-Ntep, Stade Rennais

The Breton club will surely want to extract a pound of flesh for the former France international, even if he is out of contract in the summer. However, Bordeaux are desperate, and even if Ntep isn’t a striker per sé, he has enough goal-scoring ability to easily play as part of a two.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Pablo, Isaac Kiese Thelin, Mauro Arambarri, Theo Pellenard

 

Montpellier HSC

Montpellier, after enduring a horrific start to the season, have shown generally improved form over the last two months or so. Europe is probably out of the question, but their adoption of Frederic Hantz’s counterattacking ethos has seen them become one of the league’s most enjoyable sides to watch. The emergence of Steve Mounié and Ellyes Shkiri has also been a pleasant surprise, and Morgan Sanson looks back to his pre-injury best. Still, though, Montpellier will do well to hold firm this January, with Sanson and others being eyed up by bigger clubs.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Daniel Congré (knee, February) Ryad Boudebouz (knee, out until early February) Casimir Ninga (knee, April), Anthony Vanden Borre (adductor, unknown), Yacouba Sylla (AFCON)

Team Needs:

Another centre back is the top priority, but funding the move is a tough ask. Ligue 2, a loan or a cut-rate youngster are the most likely options, but don’t rule out the sale of Sanson or Jerome Roussillon to allow a purchase. Some depth in central midfield is also needed, but again, a loan move is more likely than a sale.

Targets:

Jaroslav Joch, Zaglebie Lubin

A report in L’Equipe has linked Montpellier with the Polish youth international, and given the recent impressive track record of his countrymen in Ligue 1 (Kamil Glik, Igor Lewczuk), La Paillade could do worse. A rumored fee of €1M could be a stumbling block, though.

Ambroise Oyongo, free agent

Montpellier have a knack for free agents, and despite likely being a part of Cameroon’s squad at AFCON, Oyongo could leap at the chance to showcase himself in Europe, especially on a short-term contract that would benefit both parties. An attack-minded left back, Oyongo would face stiff competition from Roussillon, but could deliver in a big way after being linked to the club by 10Sport.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Kévin Berigaud, Morgan Sanson, Morgan Poaty

 

LOSC Lille

This has been a complicated four months for Lille. Their elimination from the Europa League stung, as did the team’s struggles under Frédéric Antonetti, but there are some positive signs in last few weeks. Interim manager Patrick Collot has the team clicking in a dynamic 4-2-3-1, and while a European return is probably out of the question, relegation is longer a worry, either.

The team, newly controlled by Gérard Lopez will probably seek to make some kind of splash in the transfer window. Under Lopez’s stewardship, wages will be less of an issue for Les Dogues than most of their competitors, and it would be a surprise not to see a high-profile arrival or two this winter, especially with so many potential AFCON absentees.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Rio Mavuba (thigh, unknown), Naim Sliti (AFCON), Youssouf Koné (AFCON), Yves Bissouma (AFCON), Mounir Obbadi (AFCON), Eric Bautheac (groin, unknown)

Team Needs:

Obbadi recently proved his worth upon returning to the team, adding needed thrust from midfield in Patrick Collot’s new formation, but interest from Bastia, Guingamp and Montpellier may have turned the veteran’s head. Even if the former Monaco man stays, Lille could do with more creative impetus, as well as another central defender, Renato Civelli having given notice of his departure as well.

Targets:

Clement Grenier, Olympique Lyonnais

Grenier’s arrival would necessitate a change in formation, but he could easily play in midfield in a 4-3-3. The former France international has been a peripheral figure this season, fourth choice in central midfield, but is still just 25. Despite his injury history, he is exactly the type of player who could revive his career with Lille, although Nice have also been linked.

Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool FC

Frozen out by Jurgen Klopp and playing with the reserves, Sakho will be desperate to feature for a top-flight team, even if on loan, and his wages will be no issue. His mobility makes him an ideal partner for Marko Basa, and his effort should be at a high level provided a return to Ligue 1 is proper motivation.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Mounir Obbadi, Julian Palmieri, Eric Bautheac, Junior Tallo

 

AS Nancy Lorraine

While not as pleasing on the eye as Dijon, or as big of a draw as Metz, Nancy fully deserve their place as the best of the three promoted sides. Pablo Correa’s madcap rotation policy has been questioned, but the team’s placement speaks for itself. Veterans Benoit Pedretti and Alou Diarra have been impressive in midfield, and young centre back Clement Lenglet continued his rapid rise, although his move to Sevilla complicates things. Even under new ownership, Nancy are unlikely to make any significant moves, as Correa has admitted only a loan is a realistic possibility, even in light of Lenglet’s sale.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Guy-Roland N’Dy Assembé (adductor, unknown), Youssef Ait-Bennasser (AFCON), Serge N’Guessan (AFCON),

Team Needs:

Like many clubs in the bottom half of Ligue 1, Nancy are in need of a striker. Again a loan move is most likely, but with the sale of Lenglet, funds could be available.  Reinforcement in midfield could happen as well, with Ait-Bennasser and N’Guessan unavailable for at least a month each.

Targets:

Alexandre Guedes, CD Aves

A product of Sporting Club de Portugal’s academy, Guedes is 22 and has been capped by Portugal at various youth levels. He is currently in his second season with the second division club, and has a rumoured price tag of €1M, with a decent goal record. He is a gifted player technically, but is somewhat poor in terms of strength. Nonetheless, with the rest of Nancy’s attack not exactly lacking in that regard, he could be a welcome creative spark.

Jérémy Clement, AS Saint-Etienne

Frozen out after the arrivals of Bryan Dabo, Jordan Veretout and Henri Saivet, Clement has had to make do with playing for the reserves in the fifth tier. It’s a rapid downturn for a player who featured more than thirty times last season, but a loan move could be a welcome tonic for the former Paris Saint-Germain man. Clement is 32, but that’s hardly ancient for his position, and his assured presence would allow Correa to continue his preferred rotation.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Karim Coulibaly, Michael Chretien, Guy-Roland N’Dy Assembé

 

SC Bastia

Bastia look set to stay another season in Ligue 1, and once again their loanees are getting the job done. Allan Saint-Maximin looks a future star, and Enzo Crivelli has been the perfect replacement for Brandao as a target man. The defence has slipped slightly, with serious injuries suffered by Sebastien Squillaci, Alexandre Djiku and Abdelhamid El-Kaoutari, but now that the club are actually allowed to purchase players, they will likely jump at the chance to do so this month.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Sebastien Squillaci (knee, end of season) Abdelhamid El-Kaoutari (knee, February), Lassana Coulibaly (AFCON)

Team Needs:

El-Kaoutari’s arrival from Palermo seemed to be the perfect solution for an aging defence. Just 26 and a Moroccan international, he had done well at Montpellier, and seemed eager to resume his career in Ligue 1, but injuries have curtailed his season. Left back is also a position of need, as Mainz loanee Stefan Bengtsson has been disappointing as well.

Targets:

Julian Palmieri, LOSC Lille

The player enjoyed his time at Bastia, only leaving for a chance at European football with Lille. Now seemingly behind Franck Beria in the pecking order at left back, he might welcome a return on loan. Bengtsson has an impressive pedigree, but his performances thus far haven’t been to the standard for which the club had hoped.

Loick Landré, RC Lens

The Paris Saint-Germain academy product and former U-21 French international has seen his career come to a stuttering halt this season. After being a regular for Lens under Antoine Kombouaré, he has made only one start this season, having lost his place to Jean-Kevin Duverne and Dusan Cvetinovic. Still just 24, a loan spell with Bastia would improve his profile ahead of the summer while lessening the load on the likes of Gilles Cioni and Florian Marange.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Florian Raspentino, Axel Ngando

 

Dijon FCO

Dijon are by the most pleasing on the eye of the three promoted teams, but results haven’t always gone their way. 15th place is a strong enough position, but they are level on points with the three teams below them, and a hard-charging Nantes are looking up the table. Still, there is little to complain about here, and while another striker might be welcomed, the club did their business well in the summer.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Mehdi Abeid (AFCON), Fouad Chafik (AFCON), Marvin Martin (adductor, unknown), Florent Balmont (calf, unknown), Yunis Abdelhamid (AFCON)

Team Needs:

Again, another striker would be ideal, but given the club’s considerable (by their standards) outlay in the summer, a loan deal might be more appealing. Strikers of any quality are hard to buy in January, and Dijon will do well to scour the benches of other clubs to find their man.

Targets:

Pape Sané, SM Caen

Scorer of a dozen goals last year with Bourg-en-Bresse, Sané has found both goals and playing time hard to come by at Caen. He has made a handful of starts, but scored only once, deep into injury time against a Metz side with ten men. He may not be up to the standard of Ligue 1, but could be worth a chance.

Kwon Chang-Hoon, Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Kwon is 22, and has been capped several times by South Korea, although not within the last year. An attacking midfielder with a good goal-scoring record, his role in the team would be essentially to replace what the club might have expected from Marvin Martin.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Pierre Lees-Melou, Dylan Bahamboula, Romain Amalfitano, Valentin Rosier, Anthony Belmonte

 

Angers SCO

Stéphane Moulin’s already thin squad will be hit hard by AFCON. The good form of Karl Toko Ekambi and Nicolas Pepé has seen the two young wingers burnish their international reputations, and likewise for Famara Diedhiou as he has settled in more comfortably in recent weeks. Their departures, as well as injury to Billy Ketkeophomphone mean that for the duration of AFCON, Angers will have only player (Pierrick Capelle) who has scored for them this season available. A return to Ligue 2 looks likely, unless the club want to go all-in this window.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Yoann Andreu (knee, end of season), Billy Ketkeophomphone (knee, end of season), Alexandre Letellier (knee, unknown), Karl Toko Ekambi (AFCON), Nicolas Pepé (AFCON), Famara Diedhiou (AFCON), Cheikh N’Doye (AFCON)

Team Needs:

A wide player with good versatility, and reinforcement in midfield. The team haven’t really missed Ketkeophomphone, but missing their entire forward lineup, January could be ugly as the team are forced to rely on the likes of Gilles Sunu and Férébory Doré. The team have already brought in Abdoulaye Bamba as a replacement for Andreu; his ability to play either fullback position will be helpful.

Targets:

Pedro Henrique, Stade Rennais

Increasingly marginalized by the development of Adrien Hunou, Henrique is a decent enough player who doesn’t really fit properly into manager Christian Gourcuff’s system. Capable of playing on either wing in a 4-3-3, he could do well with a loan move, and the geographic proximity of Angers might be attractive to the Brazilian.

Thomas Ephestion, AS Béziers

A big, powerful player with good acceleration, Epehestion is exceptionally raw, but Moulin has demonstrated a knack for improving players with little top-flight experience. A former Marseille academy player, he has also been linked with Montpellier, but may favor the greater opportunity available to him at Angers.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Nicolas Pepé, Romain Thomas, Karl Toko Ekambi

 

FC Nantes

Things are finally looking up for Les Canaris after a painful start to the season under René Girard. New manager Sergio Conciecao has the team playing a high octane attacking style, and promising youngster Amine Harit has been at the heart of things. While the club’s new signings have been a mixed bag, their energy under the Portuguese portends well for the rest of the season, with a top-half finish not impossible.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Yacine Bammou (AFCON), Remy Riou (ankle, unknown)

Team Needs:

The squad has good depth in midfield, in attack and at centre back, but could use some reinforcement in wide areas. Nantes aren’t as loath to spend as some teams in this part of the table as they have shown in the recent past. A return for Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has been confirmed, but how he will fit into a more mobile attack is anyone’s guess.

Targets:

Max-Alain Gradel, Bournemouth

Gradel has been recalled by Cote d’Ivoire for AFCON, but will want to find a club where more playing time is available. A loan move had been mooted in the summer, but the hard-line tactics of Waldemar Kita scuppered the deal. Gradel was superb for Saint-Etienne two seasons ago; were he to find that sort of form again, relegation would be far from worrisome.

Ermir Lenjani, Stade Rennais

Lenjani has struggled this season after he appeared to enjoy his time at the Beaujoire last season, and rumors linking him to a return have been consistent. His role in the team would be as a squad player, as Amine Harit and Lucas Lima seem to have made the left side of the attack their own, but Nantes face a decent amount of fixture congestion, especially this month.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Wilfried Moimbé, Fernando Aristeguieta, Alexander Kacaniklic

 

FC Metz

Metz gambled on experienced signings in the summer, and with the exception of Renaud Cohade, most of them have not worked out. Injuries, age, and general declines in form have pushed Metz towards the bottom of the table. To be fair, they were targeted as the weakest of the promoted sides ahead of the season, so that they are even in the play-off spot is somewhat of an achievement. The team will be hit hard by AFCON, and discipline has been an issue as well.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Mevlut Erding (quadriceps, unknown), Kévin Lejeune (hamstring, unknown), Yann Jouffre (calf, unknown), Ismaila Sarr (AFCON), Georges Mandjeck (AFCON), Cheick Doukouré (AFCON)

Team Needs:

Milan Bisevac has been an unqualified disaster, less than a year after leaving Lyon, and while Guido Milan has had a decent season, central defence has to be the priority in the window. Jouffre is a talented player, but simply can’t be counted on due to his injury history; another creative player could also be brought in. Cheick Diabaté, in on loan, is available and could be the difference given his experience, even if his time with Bordeaux ended badly.

Targets:

Dráusio, Catania

The lanky Brazilian has good experience in his native country, but his bizarre move to third-division Catania has done little to enhance his reputation. Good in the air and quick for his size, he could welcome the step up as a new challenge.

Edwin Gyasi, Aalesund

A product of AZ Alkmaar’s academy, Gyasi is a lanky winger, and would fill the injured Jouffre’s role as a right-sided attacker. He is much more direct than the former Lorient player, and while not as accomplished of a passer, his directness would certainly see him contribute more in the way of goals.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Eiji Kawashima, Vincent Thill, Chris Philipps

 

SM Caen

Caen have been looking better after a poor start, with Bordeaux loanee Frédéric Guilbert impressing as manager Patrice Garande has switched to a five-man defence. Relegation worries won’t go away, though, and the club will do well to hold onto the likes of Jean-Victor Makengo and Yann Karamoh come the summer. Staying up would be an achievement at this point, as an aging core of players have continued their decline.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Jordan Nkololo (AFCON), Syam Ben Youssef (AFCON), Jeff Louis (knee, unknown), Mouhamadou Dabo (knee, unknown)

Team Needs:

A wide player able to spell Vincent Bessat, and perhaps another centre back to add depth. Caen still have money after the sale of Andy Delort in the summer, but loans have been mooted more than permanent deals.

Targets:

Anthony Mounier, Bologna FC

The former Lyon, Nice and Montpellier winger is out of favor with the Italian club this season, and Caen are one of several clubs linked to him. He has always delivered in Ligue 1, and would be a serious upgrade to Caen’s attack, but wages could be an issue.

Benjamin Corgnet, AS Saint-Etienne

While Jérémy Clement had also been linked with the Norman club, the news that Ismael Diomandé won’t be participating in AFCON means that Caen moving for another defensive midfielder seems unlikely. Julien Ferét isn’t getting any younger, and a loan for Corgnet could do wonders for both club and player.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Pape Sane, Jordan Nkololo, Chaker Alhadhur, Jordan Leborgne, Hervé Bazile, Syam Ben Youssef, Vincent Voisin

 

FC Lorient

Lorient are a bit of a wild card this winter. The club will be heavily affected by AFCON, and will be desperate to strengthen the league’s bottom side. They have money from the sales of Raphael Guerreiro and Didier N’Dong, but how they spend it is anyone’s guess.

Long-term Injuries/Potential AFCON Departures:

Benjamin Lecomte (quadriceps, January), Pape Paye (achilles, unknown), Benjamin Moukandjo (AFCON), Zargo Touré (AFCON), Majeed Waris (AFCON), Walid Mesloub (AFCON)

Team Needs:

Sylvain Marveaux has done his best, but a higher level of creativity is needed, as Romain Philippoteaux isn’t of a sufficient standard, and Jimmy Cabot is still a prospect. A more defensively oriented midfielder could also go a long way towards giving a poor back line more protection.

Targets:

Abdoulaye Doucouré, Watford

Doucouré has played just six minutes in the Premier League this year, and would surely welcome a reprieve from what has been a frustrating spell at Watford. A chance to rehabilitate his reputation and potentially secure a move to the Championship or a Ligue 1 club come the summer will be motivation enough, and Lorient should have the resources to handle his wages.

Fabien Lemoine, AS Saint-Etienne

The veteran has lost his place to the club’s cadre of loanees, and would be an immediate upgrade in terms of defensive solidity in midfield. Even with Henri Saivet likely heading to AFCON, he still faces an uphill battle for playing time with Les Verts, and his class and composure would be welcomed at the Moustoir.

Potential Loanees/Departures: Lindsay Rose, Issam Ben Khemis, Benjamin Jeannot, Mohamed Mara

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