Ligue 1 Season Preview | Title, Relegation & Golden Boot Pick
France's Ligue 1 kicks off this weekend with a lot of drama surrounding it's biggest club, PSG.
Kylian Mbappe has been the center of the craziest transfer drama we've seen in a long time, which may create a betting opportunity to back some other clubs down the board. There are changes this season in France as they have moved from 20 to 18 teams, meaning one less match every weekend. Additionally, the bottom two teams will be relegated with the 16th-placed finisher taking on the third-best from Ligue 2 in a playoff.
It should be a fun season in France with the top of the table becoming much more competitive, as we saw last season with Lens a team that was in Ligue 2 four years ago soar up the table to finish second and earn a Champions League spot. Could we see something similar this season?
Lille (+3500 via FanDuel)
There is a ton of drama surrounding PSG at the moment with Mbappe. This is about as good a time as ever to try and fade them in Ligue 1. So, who are the contenders to dethrone PSG? The prices on Marseille and Monaco are not good enough, Lens have had a couple of their key player walk out the door, Rennes didn’t have good enough underlying numbers and that leaves the only team to knock PSG off their perch in the last six years – Lille.
Before we dive into Lille, let’s talk about PSG first since this is really who we are fading. They have made some significant summer upgrades to their attack bringing In Goncalo Ramos from PSG, Kang-In Lee from Mallorca and Marcos Ascensio from Real Madrid. They also solidified their defense with Martin Skinar from Inter, Lucas Hernandez from Bayern Munich and Manuel Ugarte from Sporting Lisbon. However, they lose their best playmaker from last season in Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe and the club is in a stalemate right now.
As of the time of writing this, Mbappe has not been included in their squad for the opening Ligue 1 matches. Messi and Mbappe combined for 8.6 shots, 1.33 xG, and 15.9 touches in the penalty area per 90 minutes last season. Messi had 120 passes into the penalty area and Mbappe had 76. The next two closest were Renato Sanches with 64 and Marco Veratti with 55. Sanches is rumored to be moving to Roma on loan and Veratti might be off to the Saudi Pro League. So, PSG are really going to be relying on an injury prone Neymar and a lot of new faces to keep up an elite level of offensive production.
After the World Cup PSG they cruised to a title, but they really weren't the best team in the league. In fact they were fifth in npxG. So, who was the best team post World Cup? Lille. They put up a +19.1 npxGD, which was four goals better than anyone else.
image via understat.com
What made Lille so good was their defense. For the season, they were No. 1 in Ligue 1 in npxG allowing 1.10 per 90 minutes and they only allowed 29.3 xG from open play. What makes them so good is their defensive solidity when they are out of possession, in addition to their pressing. Lille wree second in Ligue 1 in PPDA and were really good once they won the ball going forward in transition, having the second-most shots off of forced high turnovers.
Lille kept their main goalscorer Jonathan David, who bagged 24 goals for them last season. Their midfield pairing of Benjamin Andre and Angel Gomes are back and their best defender Tiago Djaló, who missed the entire second half of the season due to injury, will be back in the lineup. They also brought in a highly rated young Icelandic attacking midfielder, Hákon Arnar Haraldsson, to help their offense.
There is so much value on this squad at +3500 to dethrone PSG.
Stade de Brestois (+163 via bet365)
This team was the definition of below average last season. Brest finished the season nine points safe from the bottom four, but they had the second-worst expected goal differential of the teams that survived. Lorient had the worst, but they have the same owners as Bournemouth and made some moves in the transfer market to improve. Brest did not.
Instead, Brest sold their best attacking player Franck Honorat to Gladbach. He had a 0.50 xG + xAssist rate per 90 minutes last season. They brought back Martín Satriano on loan from Inter to try and bolster their offense. He was on loan with them during the 2021-22 season, but only had a 0.33 xG per minute scoring rate in 10.4 90s, so he’s not going to significantly upgrade their offense that only averaged 0.98 npxG per 90 minutes.
Brest made a managerial change in the middle of last season bringing in Éric Roy, who hadn’t managed since 2011, and it did not go well. Brest ended up with a -9.2 npxGD in his 21 matches in charge as they tried to play out of a 4-1-4-1 and control more possession, but it didn’t go very well until the very end of the season when they got some results against the bottom of the table.
Now that we only have 18 teams it’s going to make it even harder for these bottom tier teams getting four less matches than relegation-type competition. So, I like the price on Brest to get relegated at +163.
Wissam Ben Yedder +2000 bet365
This is another market where we can fade PSG – more specifically Kylian Mbappe. Again, at the time of writing this he's in a stalemate with PSG and they have dropped him for the opening matches of Ligue 1. So, as we look down the board, Lois Openda and Florian Balogun are both gone from their respective teams, Jonathan David is too short at price of +800 and Alexandre Lacazette is also too short at +1000. Let's go down the board a little bit and take a look at Wissam Ben Yedder at +1400.
image via fbref.com
Ben Yedder only played 23.5 90s for Monaco last year, but when he was on the pitch he was efficient, putting up a 0.74 xG per 90 minute scoring rate, which was third in Ligue 1 only to Mbappe and Balogun. He is getting 2.8 shots per 90 minutes with increased competition within his squad in the form of Breel Emobolo, but when Ben Yedder is on the pitch he is the one taking penalties.
Monaco's offense last season was top five in xG averaging 1.63 per 90 minutes and they will not be taking part in any European competition, which means Ben Yedder can put his full focus into Ligue 1 and hopefully play over 30 90s to give him the best chance at winning the golden boot.