LIGUE 1 22/23 GUIDE | Troyes – Can City Group resources and an efficient squad see ESTAC safe once more?

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Key Man: Rominigue Kouamé – As part of Ligue 1’s most under-the-radar team, central midfielder Rominigue Kouamé’s performances went largely unnoticed outside the Stade de l’Aube last season. However, few Ligue 1 midfielders offer the calm dynamism, neat technical ability and considered passing of the Malian international midfielder. Having failed to break through at Lille, Kouamé is something of a late bloomer by today’s standards after failing to settle on loan with Paris FC and in Belgium too. But, at 25, he’s finally found a home and his best form. Summer interest has been largely absent, but another season of the same consistent, effective style and Kouamé won’t be sticking around at ESTAC much longer.

Signing To Watch: Andreas Bruus – Having lost Giulian Biancone, who impressed under Batlles in the first half of last season as a wing-back before oddly losing his place under Irles who moved him to centre-back, reinforcements at wing-back were desperately needed. Dane Andreas Bruus fills the gap left by Biancone’s €9m move to Nottingham Forest. A Danish youth international, the 23-year-old right-back, who can play anywhere on the right-hand side, has already amassed some considerable European experience and recently became first choice at Brondby, who finished fourth in Denmark last season, where he tallied 85 senior appearances. Following a group of exits in this area of the team, he’ll need support however.

Squad Analysis – Backed by the City Group of football clubs, led by Manchester City, Troyes have access to resources and players their rivals don’t. Although the Champagne club’s signings have been hit and miss over the last 18 months, what was once a huge squad has been trimmed neatly in the last two transfer windows leaving a well-balanced and surprisingly deep group in certain areas for a club at this end of the league. However, if coach Bruno Irles persists with a three-at-the-back system, over his favoured four, he’ll need at least one more established centre-back and another right-back to support new man Bruus from Brondby. With everyone fit, however, there is significant competition for midfield and forward slots. Former Chelsea striker Ike Ugbo’s return from Genk is a low-key win after his solid start to life in Ligue 1 last season, with more experienced incumbent strikers Renaud Ripart and Mama Balde now under pressure.

Strengths – While Troyes are less reliable in attack than some of their rivals at the bottom end of the table, the quality of the supply to their forwards is some of the best in Ligue 1’s relegation fight. A fight which could include up to ten teams this season with four clubs automatically dropping to Ligue 2 as the league cuts to 18 teams. Assured, passing midfielder Xavier Chavalerin’s arrival from Champagne rivals Reims last year was something of a coup while the stabilising, technical sentinel Florian Tardieu has long been underrated in the second tier and he adapted well to top-flight football last season. Key man Kouamé is the best of the bunch and, as something of an all-rounder by comparison, he’s the glue that holds the ESTAC engine room together. Although Chavalerin may play further forward on occasion, Troyes’ rivals will be making envious glances at Irles’ midfielder trio.

Weaknesses – Irles’ attempts to move to his favoured four-man defence proved fruitless last season as he inherited a squad built for a 3-5-2 setup by his predecessor, Laurent Batlles, who was surprisingly removed mid-way through the campaign despite his team keeping their heads above water following promotion. Either way, it’s an area of the side that could be exposed at his level. World Cup winner Adil Rami agreed a new deal at 36 but is continuing to slow. American international Erik Palmer-Brown’s suitability to Ligue 1 remains in doubt after some shaky displays last season, despite becoming first choice, while new centre-back signing Jackson Porozo from Boavista is also unproven at this level. Only the workmanlike Yoann Salmier can be truly relied upon at this stage. Such uncertainty is likely the reason Irles has stuck to a trio of defenders as all of the above look more comfortable with more support around them.

Verdict – Having traditionally struggled to survive in Ligue 1, yo-yo-ing between the top two tiers of French football in the last two decades, ESTAC eased to safety with surprising aplomb last season, despite Irles being dropped in unexpectedly in place of promising young coach Batlles, who joined Saint-Etienne this summer. Although signings have been thin overall, Troyes have kept much of the same quality in midfield and attack, making them a solid, if unremarkable, outfit in the bottom third of Ligue 1. Although the four automatic relegation spots will be a concern, much like last season, Irles and friends should have just enough to quietly edge to safety.


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