LIGUE 1 22/23 GUIDE | Lorient – An untested coach, a wildly inconsistent striker and a soft centre, but Enzo Le Fée brings hope

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Key Man: Terem Moffi – Between Christmas 2020 and the end of the 2020/21 season, Lorient mustered 30 points, the fifth most in Ligue 1 over that period. Last season, however, much changed. Christophe Pélissier’s side managed just 16 more points in 2021 and endured a 15-game winless run into 2022. That undulating form largely correlates with the goal record of Terem Moffi. The Nigerian striker’s power, eye for goal and pace made him one of France’s most unpredictable and deadly forwards in the 20/21 campaign, managing 14 goals for a bottom-half promoted side. However, the now 23-year-old added just three more between August and March the following season, including a baron spell of 15 league games. Moffi looked overawed and lost as his confidence and precise finishing disappeared with Lorient slipping toward relegation. Despite barely making it to 36 points, Lorient and Moffi showed signs of improvement this spring, however. Moffi’s brace in a 6-2 mauling of Saint-Etienne was a turning point for both player and club as the fire in his eye seemed to rekindle and the striker ended the season with eight league goals. In a congested bottom half, Moffi’s goals could determine if Lorient survive in Ligue 1 for another year.

Signing To Watch: Gedeon Kalulu – At 24, right-back Gedeon Kalulu’s arrival in Ligue 1 is a little overdue. Having caught the eye for some time in the second tier, he’s been linked with several top-flight sides over three years with Ajaccio, despite his team’s wild inconsistency. An intelligent, skilful and composed full-back, both defensively and when overlapping, the powerful defender is ready-made for Ligue 1 but his best performances slowed to a trickle last season. He was even dropped briefly in the spring by Ajaccio coach Olivier Pantaloni, despite his team edging towards promotion. As a result, Lorient’s poaching of Kalulu is something of a coup, with bigger clubs likely put off by his recent inconsistency but, considering his talent, Kalulu remains an exciting prospect and may not be around long at the Moustoir if he returns to his best.

Squad Analysis – In desperate need of a new goalkeeper, Lorient snapped up RB Leipzig reserve Yvon Mvogo after a season as PSV’s second choice on loan. However, after a mixed year in Holland, it remains to be seen if the Swiss can move away from the erratic goalkeeping displays posed by Paul Nardi and Mathieu Dreyer of late. The loss of four senior defenders, including the hapless Houboulang Mendes and veteran Jérémy Morel, means much of untested coach Régis Le Bris’ back line, outside the starting full-backs, looks shaky and lacking in depth. However, midfield general Laurent Abergel leads a much more adept area of the squad with sentinel Bonke Innocent impressing after his winter arrival from Malmo while both Thomas Monconduit and Quentin Boisgard are useful reserves at this end of the league. Le Bris has a variety of attacking options, many of whom have threatened to offer consistent threat and creativity, but only Armand Laurienté, who could leave before September, can be relied upon.

Strengths – Enzo Le Fée may be Lorient’s best hope of surviving the season. A graceful, technical creator, Le Fée was expected to adapt far quicker to top-flight football following FCL’s 2020 promotion, but the slight attacking midfielder has been engulfed by an uncompromising league, out-muscled and outplayed. However, a bolder, more persistent Le Fée, now 22, produced some of his balletic best to help keep his team in the division at the end of last season. Playing with more intensity and a willingness to take responsibility, the new focused Le Fée could finally be ready to lead Lorient as was previously hoped.

Weaknesses – Lorient were fortunate not to be relegated last season, but Pélissier’s side were saved (even if Pélissier’s job wasn’t) by the woefully underachieving Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne. Other than cajoling the best possible form from Moffi, a tally of 63 goals against can’t be repeated if FCL are to survive the culling of four teams this season. New coach Le Bris will likely move to four at the back which will suit a pair of adept full-backs in Kalulu and the reliable Vincent Le Goff. However, having improved in a three-man set-up, leading centre-back Julien Laporte has never been assured as part of a pair and, with the unproven Montassar Talbi joining from Russian football, Lorient could suffer with a soft centre.

Verdict – This is new coach Le Bris’ first senior head coaching role after he was promoted from managing the reserve and youth setups at the club. It’s a risky move considering how reliable Pélissier has proven here and at Amiens, but FCL are hoping that fresh ideas from a young, innovative coach will revitalise a flagging club. However, with Moffi wildly inconsistent, little quality at centre-back and key creator Laurienté likely to leave, Le Bris has received something of a hospital pass from Pélissier and president Loïc Fery.

GFFN

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