Ligue 1 transfers driven by relegation fears rather than title hopes


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As the January transfer window drifted to its close, the narrative across France was one of survival, rather than improvement. The most active clubs in Ligue 1 were those who are trying to stay in the division, rather than those jockeying for a place in the Champions League. None of the clubs occupying the European places made significant additions, leaving the heavy lifting to those hoping to avoid the drop, with St-Étienne, Bordeaux and Troyes all notably active.With the league title seemingly sewn up but uncertainty lingering over their form in Europe, to say nothing of their Coupe de France exit on Monday against Nice, PSG looked likely to be active in the market. There were plenty of mooted exits, from Georginio Wijnaldum to Colin Dagba, but in the end they were only able to see off Rafinha and Sergio Rico, both on loan. Moves for Tanguy Ndombele and Ousmane Dembélé did not materialise, leaving Mauricio Pochettino with the same conundrum he faced before January: a bloated squad that, despite its obvious gifts, will probably fall short in Europe once again.In the battle for the top three, Marseille – who were beaten 2-1 by Lyon on Tuesday night in Ligue 1 – made some minor improvements, signing Cédric Bakambu and former Arsenal left-back Sead Kolasinac. Both players fill holes in the squad – Bakambu has already looked a sharper option than the woefully underperforming Arkadiusz Milik, while Kolasinac is likely to be second choice behind Luan Peres.Nice signed Jordan Amavi from Marseille on loan. He will provide stiff competition for Melvin Bard at left-back following the departure of Hassane Kamara. Billal Brahimi, who has arrived from Angers, is an intriguing prospect who could push the team’s summer signings, Justin Kluivert and Calvin Stengs, for a wide role.The relegation battle, then, was where most of the action took place, with St-Étienne, Bordeaux and Troyes making deals at a furious rate. St-Étienne secured a vital win over Angers last week and then added a few experienced players, including Eliaquim Mangala, Bakary Sako, Joris Gnagnon and Enzo Crivelli. The team is still unevenly constructed but these moves give the squad experience at a high level. Troyes, who have struggled for goals, also buoyed their attacking options in intriguing fashion, securing loan deals for Lébo Mothiba and Iké Ugbo, who was one of the best attackers in the Belgian league last season.Bordeaux, however, continue to look at sea. They did succeed in shifting high earners Ótavio, Laurent Koscielny and Josh Maja but their new arrivals are unconvincing, aside from Marcelo – although even he comes with question marks given the petulance he displayed under Peter Bosz – and Anel Ahmedhodzic, the young Bosnia international who appears to be a good investment for the league’s leakiest defence so far this season.Best window: LyonTanguy Ndombele playing for Lyon. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty ImagesThe departure of Bruno Guimarães is a blow – he has a wand of a right foot and his friendship with fellow Brazilian Lucas Paquetá helped the two on and off the pitch – but Lyon’s squad has improved in January. Tanguy Ndombele played the best football of his career at Lyon and, even if the purchase option in his loan deal (a reported €50m) is unlikely to be activated, he will contribute to a team that desperately needs goals. The same is true for the versatile Romain Faivre, who will probably replace Houssem Aouar in the short term. Lyon needed to bring in more attacking options without sacrificing the renewed solidity they have shown so far in 2022, and their signings have done that.Worst window: LilleThe club’s inability to tie players to long-term contracts continues to haunt them, with left-back Reinildo Mandava following Jonathan Ikoné through the exit door. Lille did well to keep Sven Botman but, with Burak Yilmaz and José Fonte getting no younger and no convincing option to replace Mandava, they missed an opportunity to improve before their Champions League tie with Chelsea later this month. They signed Hatem Ben Arfa and Edon Zhegrova, but they already have Renato Sanches, who is capable of playing in a wide role, and Isaac Lihadji, Timothy Weah and Angel Gomes as options in attack. Ben Arfa may contribute the odd goal, but he seems a further obstacle to that trio’s development.Best move: Romain Faivre to LyonWhile €15m for Faivre looks somewhat steep given that Brest only paid €400,000 for him 18 months ago, it should prove good value in the long-term. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder is comfortable on either flank or playing centrally. Some might see him as another obstacle to Rayan Cherki’s development but he is a natural replacement for Houssem Aouar and may even be an upgrade in the long-term, given the academy product’s somewhat indifferent form this season.Most puzzling move: Paul Bernardoni to St-Étienne on loanPaul Bernardoni in action for Angers. Photograph: John Berry/Getty ImagesWhile Bernardoni’s form has admittedly dropped this season, he is a more than serviceable Ligue 1 goalkeeper. His loan move from Angers to St-Étienne is baffling for a multitude of reasons. In Étienne Green, St-Étienne have a young stopper who is continuing to come into his own, having made his debut for the England Under-21s. Angers are having a decent season but they are not yet safe from relegation. Their backup goalkeeper, Danijel Petkovic, was decent enough for Lorient in his last run of regular games, but that was more than two years ago. With Angers’ next five matches coming against European contenders, things could look far less comfortable come the international break unless Petkovic can recapture the best of his time in Lorient.Move that didn’t happen: any other player to NewcastleBruno Guimarães playing for Brazil. Photograph: Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty ImagesOne could definitely find fault with Bruno Guimarães’ choice to sign for Newcastle. Suffering a relegation in the next few months would be damning for a player who hopes to represent Brazil in the World Cup later this year, even if it does come with an improved wage packet. He had continued to improve at Lyon this season and will be fondly remembered by supporters, but what of the other players linked with a move across the channel?Hugo Ekitiké has stayed at Reims, hardly a club of great means, despite a dizzying series of offers; and Sven Botman has turned down a litany of appeals from Newcastle. Given the middling quality of their other signings, save Guimarães, relegation will continue to be a threat for Newcastle, and the club will have learned a firm lesson about the debate between sporting success and financial reward when it comes to their ability to attract players to St James’ Park. This is an article from Get French Football News Follow Eric Devin and GFFN on Twitter


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