Sunday, 7 July 2019

A Sensational Season Story: Strasbourg

It has been a rollercoaster two seasons for Strasbourg in Ligue 1. They secured their first ever campaign back in 2017 after winning the Ligue 2 title. Their first season brought survival and stability. The club has grown and things are getting better and in their second ever Ligue 1 season, they secured their highest-ever finish of 11th place. But not only that the club secured the French League cup which means Strasbourg could be playing in the Europa League next season. A tremendous achievement for a club who have only been a top-flight side for two years. 

Thierry Laurey has done a magnificent job in his three years so far and the club is going from strength to strength. He has built a squad on a relatively small budget but they are a difficult unit to break down as PSG have found out in their 4 Ligue 1 meetings. Laurey has preferred a back three in his time at the club but occasionally reverts to a four. Laurey's team are thriving under his leadership and the back three allows them to be dangerous as well as play two strikers up top. Laurey will admit their first half of the season was much better than their second with their season peaking at their cup triumph as Strasbourg finished the season with just two wins in their final 14 league games. But despite their disappointing second half of the campaign, their season has certainly been sensational purely for their cup win and highest ever league finish.

Laurey's squad is built on players with potential and a strong togetherness. Their three main strikers all impressed last season. Ludovic Ajorque, Lebo Mothiba and Nuno Da Costa combined scored 26 league goals between them. Both Ajorque and Mothiba notched 9 goals each to finish as joint top scorers. Laurey relies on his three strikers to deliver the goods and they certainly have but they will need to step up if indeed they qualify for the Europa League. But it isn't just their strikers who have impressed other players across the side have certainly played an important role. Midfielders Anthony Goncalves and Adrien Thomasson have impressed this season. Strasbourg didn't spend a penny on them and Laurey has certainly got a tune out of them. Both scored 5 goals from midfield but also played an important role defensively with their desire to get back and help the defence.

Strasbourg's star man of the 2018/19 season was right wing back Kenny Lala. The 28-year-old is firmly in his prime and sparkled on the Strasbourg right. He was outstanding both defensively and offensively. In his 34 games, the wing back scored 5 times but more impressively provided 9 for his teammates. Lala's dynamic running and brilliant crossing have been a vital tool in Strasbourg's last two seasons. While the full back is unlikely to come into Didier Deschamps' thinking, he was certainly one of the best full backs last season and he will certainly want to showcase his skills further in the Europa League as well as continue to push Strasbourg in the right direction. 

Plans are already underway for the new season with the Europa League qualifiers on the horizon. Strasbourg have also added to their squad. Lamine Kone is back on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell last season. A few new faces have also arrived with Lens midfielder Jens Bellegarde, young midfielder Diego Branco and Caen centre back Alexander Djiku have all signed for the club in recent weeks. Djiku arrives for a fee of £4M from Caen. Despite Caen's relegation to Ligue 2, Strasbourg were cleary impressed with the centre half who will add more options and presence in their preferred back three style. Laurey will explore more options ahead of another potentially special season. Strasbourg have been on the crest of a wave since their arrival in Ligue 1 and their 2018/19 season was certainly a sensational story.

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