Ligue 1: Will Patrick Vieira be a success? How will Mbappe and Neymar fare?

Patrick Vieira

The new Ligue 1 season begins on Friday, and with that comes some interesting storylines to follow.

With the help of French journalists, BBC Sport looks at what is new – and what isn’t – for the 2018-19 season.

Vieira’s European managerial debut

Five of the 20 Ligue 1 teams have named a new manager this summer – including Patrick Vieira’s appointment at Nice.

The Arsenal and France legend was manager at New York City FC, the Major League Soccer club linked to Manchester City, for two and a half years before his June appointment on the Cote d’Azur.

He won more MLS regular-season games than any other manager during his time in the US, but this is his first managerial role in Europe.

Vieira had been in charge of Manchester City’s Under-21 side before moving to their US sister club and was linked with the Arsenal job before replacing Lucien Favre at Nice.

This will be the 1998 World Cup winner’s first time working in France since leaving Cannes for AC Milan as a teenager.

But he could face a difficult challenge in charge of a team who finished eighth in Ligue 1 last season. Top scorer Mario Balotelli wants to leave, while Alassane Plea – their only other player to score more than five times last season – has already left for Borussia Monchengladbach.

They have also lost creative midfielder Jean Michael Seri to Fulham for a reported £25m.

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Vincent Menichini, a journalist for regional newspaper Nice-Matin, says Vieira will be given time to prove himself.

“Vieira won’t be under huge pressure,” Menichini told BBC Sport. “Nice are a club who are targeting a place in the top half of the table and, above all, he has to help the young players to progress.

“Vieira has been warmly welcomed, he’s enjoying Nice, he’s been given a lot of freedom. The owners aren’t interfering. He’ll have time to prove himself. The board always trusts the coaches here.”

The 42-year-old is setting the bar quite high for himself – he says he wants to be “a mix” of former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and his ex-Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho.

“Arsene gave us quite a lot of freedom and Mourinho went more into detail about opponents, what he saw in the players, unlike Arsene, whose philosophy was different,” Vieira told L’Equipe.

“It’s important to give information to the players to try and play a good game, but at the same time, you have to give them that freedom to be able to express themselves. There was more giving of responsibility with Arsene. A mix of the two would be very good.”

Champions Paris St-Germain have also changed manager.

Unai Emery left the capital side before becoming Arsenal boss, and has been replaced by Thomas Tuchel, the former manager of Borussia Dortmund – the club that ex-Nice boss Favre now coaches.

Nantes have hired Miguel Cardoso after the exit of Claudio Ranieri, while Fabien Mercadal has taken over at Caen and Alain Casanova has become Toulouse boss.

Neymar v Mbappe – a fascinating dynamic

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When Neymar joined Paris St-Germain for a world record £200m last summer he was seen as the player most likely to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s duopoly on the Ballon d’Or.

But four weeks later he was joined at the club by teenage superstar Kylian Mbappe, who joined on an initial loan from Monaco before the move became permanent for 180m euros (£165.7m).

“With Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, I believe PSG have two of the best attacking prospects in Europe,” Le Parisien journalist Yves Leroy told BBC Sport. “They are both pretenders to the title of best player in the world when you consider that it will no longer be Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.”

While Neymar, who missed the final few months of the season through injury, outperformed Mbappe last season in Ligue 1 by almost every measure, this year could be different.

“Things could evolve this season, depending on whether Neymar returns to his best level,” said Leroy. “If that happens, he is ahead of Mbappe in terms of stats and influence.”

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They had very different summers at the World Cup. While Neymar was ridiculed for his diving before Brazil went out in the quarter-finals, Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele.

The 19-year-old, who scored four goals in total as France lifted the trophy, was named the best young player of the World Cup.

“If you just consider the last few months, then it’s clearly ‘advantage Mbappe’. He’s just won the World Cup whereas Neymar has been injured and mocked for his exaggerated reaction to fouls,” said Leroy.

“In spite of that, Neymar remains PSG’s biggest star, because he is an absolute global star whereas Mbappe is only just gaining global recognition. Mbappe is intelligent enough to not claim to be the number one and to work with Neymar.

“For the moment, they have a good understanding and it’s a win-win situation. It will be interesting to see how Neymar behaves with Mbappe, who could win the Ballon d’Or before him.

“Neymar will not leave this summer unless something extraordinary happens. The question will no doubt resurface in a year’s time. I have no doubt that they complement each other. They like finding each other, because they take up different positions. Of course, all these theories need to be confirmed on the pitch.”

Mbappe is now joint third favourite, at 10-1, to win the Ballon d’Or – shorter odds than Lionel Messi. This could be the first year since 2010 that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the odds-on favourite for this year’s award, do not take the top two places.

Croatia’s Luka Modric is second favourite, with Neymar down the list with odds of 33-1.

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Will we see a title race this season?

The bookmakers rank Paris St-Germain at 1-8 odds to win the Ligue 1 title, similar to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership.

They have won five out of six league titles since their takeover by Qatar Sports Investments – and this summer have signed one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Gianluigi Buffon.

Lyon (16-1), Monaco and Marseille (both 20-1) are seen as the next likely candidates to win the league.

The tone for the season may well have been set in the Trophee des Champions, France’s version of the Community Shield, when PSG beat Monaco 4-0 without Mbappe or Neymar in the line-up.

VAR

The video assistant referee system will be used in France this season – making the Premier League the only one of Europe’s top five leagues not to use it.

Hawk-Eye will now provide both Ligue 1’s VAR and goalline technology, with the league having elected to terminate their deal with GoalControl after use of the system was suspended in January after some high-profile errors.

Read Original Article via BBC Sports

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