Ligue 1

Ligue 1 2018-19: A Parisian procession to Ligue 1 title

 
11:33am on Thursday 10th October 2019
By
Martin Macdonald

Paris Saint Germain eased to their second Ligue 1 championship in a row, and sixth under Qatari ownership, on matchday 33 of the season, without even kicking a ball as second-placed Lille were held to a goalless draw by Toulouse. Kylian Mbappe fittingly scored a brilliant hat-trick later that evening as PSG ran out 3-1 winners against a struggling Monaco side to start the celebrations.

CHANGES

There was much excitement around French football in the summer of 2018 as the national team won their second World Cup at the tournament in Russia.

PSG, as has been customary, were huge favourites going into the campaign in which they had a new head coach in Thomas Tuchel who was taking over from the outgoing Unai Emery. Kylian Mbappe, the breakout star of the World Cup, made his loan deal permanent while the club from Paris also brought in legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Juan Bernat, Thilo Kehrer and Leandro Paredes to bolster an already star-studded squad.

In an attempt to comply with financial fair play, PSG sold Goncalo Guedes to Valencia for £36m with Javier Pastore and Yuri Berchiche both generating fees in excess of £20m. Odsonne Edouard also made his loan deal to Celtic permanent, bringing in a further £9m.

Lyon signed young French forward Moussa Dembele late on in the window from Celtic for £20m to replace the outgoing Mariano Diaz, who moved to Real Madrid.

Olympique Marseille brought in Kevin Strootman who arrived from Roma in a £22m deal. Duje Aleta-Car from Salzburg was signed for £17m while Nemanja Radonjic from Red Star arrived for a fee of around £10m. These incomings were partly funded by selling Andre Zambo Anguissa to Fulham for £22m.

With the massive departure of Mbappe finalised, on top of sales of Thomas Lemar to Atletico Madrid, Fabinho to Liverpool and Terence Kongolo to Huddersfield, Monaco were extremely busy over the summer window. Aleksandr Golovin arrived from CSKA Moscow, Benjamin Henrichs and Willem Guebbels arrived for £18m each with Jean Eudes Aholou and Nacer Chadli also coming in.

SEASON SUMMARY

With the national team lifting the World Cup in Russia in July followed by the busy transfer window, there was tentative optimism around French football that this would be the year of a proper title challenge to PSG.

This optimism was to be misplaced, however, as PSG bulldozed their way to the Ligue 1 title. The Parisians won their first 14 league games, setting a new record in the process, and remarkably didn’t lose a league game until the third of February, in a 2-1 reverse to an exciting young Lyon team who struggled to maintain consistency throughout the campaign.

The lavish Paris squad responded to this defeat by winning their next eight games in a row, becoming champions in April by beating Monaco 3-1 in which the mercurial Kylian Mbappe scored all three goals.

The real story of the Ligue 1 season was to be found away from the procession to the title as 16/17 champions and runners-up in 17/18, Monaco, endured a nightmare season as they fought and eventually survived relegation, finishing in 17th place. In the end Lille and Monaco would swap positions from the year previous, with Lille assembling a superb campaign, ending the season as PSG’s closest challengers.

After Monaco’s busy summer of comings and goings, popular head coach Leandro Jardim struggled to integrate the new players and cope with the key departures, and was relieved of his duties in October as the club languished in the relegation zone after an awful start to the campaign. Things started promisingly with a 3-1 away win over Nantes but they wouldn’t win again until the 24th of November.

Rookie coach and club legend, Thierry Henry, had replaced Jardim to some scepticism, with his only coaching experience being an assistant to Roberto Martinez at Belgium, and his reign was disastrous.

He too was sacked in late January after yielding only two league wins during his time in charge.

Jardim was then reappointed as head coach, which proved to be both popular and successful. He oversaw an upturn in results and performances, with a seven-game unbeaten run that proved vital in securing their Ligue 1 status.

AWARDS

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

After stellar World Cup the young forward stepped out of Neymar and Edinson Cavani’s shadows to be the undoubted star of this PSG side.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

CHRISTOPHE GAULTIER

An outstanding season for Lille saw them jump from 17th position in 2017/18 to a remarkable second place behind PSG and Champions League qualification.

TOP GOALSCORER

KYLIAN MBAPPE - 33 GOALS

Thirty-three goals in 30 games for the dynamic forward propelled him to the top of the scoring charts.

MATCH OF THE SEASON

Lille 5-1 PSG: The champions-elect travelled to Lille looking to secure the Ligue 1 title but were denied for the second weekend in a row as home side struck five times in a game that exposed all the worst flaws of this richly-assembled squad.

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