AMIENS SC Season 1, Episode 5
It’s been a while since I last did an article on this Amiens career, mainly due to real life getting in the way. So I wanted to do a quick update to bring you all up to speed before the fun stuff starts:
JANUARY 2023 TRANSFER WINDOW
It seems that our current domination of Ligue 2 isn’t enough for the key players in Amiens. Firstly, we had Gomis refusing to sign a new contract and he ended up leaving for Nimes (well below us in Ligue 2) for £375k and now we’re treated with another contract rebel. This time it’s Ball Playing Defender Nicholas Opoku.
With 18 months remaining on his contract, and fearing another Gomis situation, I was eager to tie him down for a few more years. As he’s currently on £4.3k per week his new demands of £16.5k per week were most surprising. Especially considering our top earner is only on £7k per week. Even at Ligue 1 level, I think that would be a high wage for us to be paying (especially as I’ve not done a great job with the club finances…. More on this in the next update).
After talks naturally broke down he informed me he would be reviewing his options and letting his contract run down. Sigh. I put him on the transfer list and soon accepted a £2m offer from Malmo, only for him to turn down their offer.
Veteran striker Papiss Cisse agreed to sign for Eyupspor in Turkey. Despite still banging in goals for fun, his attributes are seriously declining so it was time to let him go.
Finally, I had some good transfer news, Juventus loanee Chibozo signed a pre-contract agreement with us, despite stiff competition from clubs across Europe. He’s a 5-star potential player so it’s a good capture for us.
Other than a few players going out on loan, that’s all the transfer activity. Due to our healthy lead at the top of the table, and no areas in desperate need of improvement I decided to brave it and focus on the players currently at the club, rather than bring anyone new in.
JANUARY TO MAY 2023
The season restarted with the news that Gael Kakuta was also voted the Ligue 2 Player of the Year award, which is nice. He’s another whose physical attributes are starting to worsen, but I’m counting on him being a key figure next season.
As you’ve guessed from the title of this article, we won a lot of games so I won’t bore you with blow-by-blow accounts.
Back on the pitch, we kicked the action off with a cup game against Ligue 1 side Rennes, in which they needed a (dubious) penalty from Kalimuendo to beat us 0-1. We defended soundly against a front line of Terrier, Kalimuendo and Gouiri and even created some good chances but it wasn’t to be.
Resigned to concentrating on the league, we picked up a victory over Guingamp before falling to our first defeat of the season. As an added kick to the groin, the player who scored the goal was none other than OUR OWN player Aliou Badji, on loan with Bordeaux with seemingly no stipulation of not being able to play against his parent club.
Spurred on, we put together a seven 7 game unbeaten run, conceding only 1 goal before a disappointing loss to St. Etienne in which we conceded in the 3rd minute and couldn’t find an equaliser despite being totally dominant for the other 87 minutes.
The team showed lots of fight and moments of class in a 1-1 draw with Grenoble where we played 70 minutes with 10 men thanks to Opoku getting a straight red after a flying elbow and then coming from behind in a grudge game against Iron Gomis’s Nimes side to win 3-1.
A tale of two youngsters
After a Cisse injury, I’d made the decision to give George Ilenikhena a good run of games to show what he can do and he didn’t disappoint, scoring a hattrick against Guingamp and then another hattrick just four games later against Dijon. Which saw us win the Ligue 2 title with three games remaining! In fact, in the last 8 games, he scored 7 goals. He’s 16 years old!
When looking at the results table below, you’ll also notice another name cropping up around this spell of the game: Mamadou Fofana. Not to be confused with the combative defensive midfielder of the same name, Fofana the younger was penned to be the backup Shadow Striker but failed to impress, or develop, despite many opportunities early on in the season. However, thrown into the starting line up he took his chance with a string of impressive performances, with four goals and three assists in seven games.
An injury-plagued team (more on this later) did take a few losses in the final few weeks, but we were comfortably in the lead and there was no need to panic. We even beat 2nd placed SM Caen 2-0 after being knocked down to 10 men in the 5th minute for this beautiful challenge – exactly the kind of tackle I’d hope they’d put on Gomis!
Injuries from January to May
A matter of definite concern is the number of injuries picked up over the last half of the season. They were a mixture of game and training related but I can’t recall such a bad spell of injuries for a long time.
- Chibozo – 2 weeks (Pulled thigh)
- Leautey – 4 weeks (Sprained ankle ligaments)
- Chibozo – 3 months (Torn calf muscle)
- Gene – 3 weeks (Pulled ankle ligaments)
- Cisse – 4 weeks (Calf strain)
- Gelin – 4 weeks (Twisted ankle)
- Kakuta – 2 weeks (Damaged heel)
- Xantippe – 4 weeks (Pulled groin)
- Kakuta – 2 months (Strained knee ligaments)
- Leautey – 2 weeks (Gashed lower leg)
- Gelin – 3 weeks (Strained ankle ligaments)
- Fofana – 2 weeks (Calf strain)
These are just the big ones and don’t include anything under 2 weeks. Of which there were many!
Chibozo, Gene, Kakuta and Xantippe are all listed as being susceptible to injuries so I think I need to look at my training schedules and their training intensity so there’s a chance some of these are down to my bad management.
As you can see, even with 4 defeats from our last 6 games we still won the division at a canter and with the added bonus of being able to meet the board stipulation of developing the youth by throwing some youngsters into the fire.
There were a lot of impressive performances which I’ll cover in the next instalment which have given me plenty to think about as I’m building a squad to face the rigours of Ligue 1.
The soon-departing Cisse led the team with 16 goals from 21 starts, 3 ahead of Kakuta’s 13. Wonderkid Ilenikhena scored 9 and showed his prowess with a non-penalty xG of 0.71 per game.
Hassane Bande, despite numerous niggling injuries topped the assists column, whilst Gomez and young playmaker Lachuer also showed their creativity. Gomez was also impressed with his effort and teamwork by leading the squad in completed pressures per game and Opoku – now happy to stay at the club and work on a new contract – put up a very impressive 4.46 interceptions per 90.
Veteran Regis Gurtner also scooped the Ligue 2 Goalkeeper of the Season award, which further justifies my faith to give him another shot at captaining the team in Ligue 1.
As it’s been so long between updates, you might not remember that sometimes, appeasing the “dark arts” gods can bring good fortune. My harsh treatment of the traitor, Gomis, caused the almighty to give me a very promising youth intake. Let’s see how it worked out.
Firstly, the diversity of this intake is great. We have players from Belgium, Senegal, Morocco and Algeria, as well as France. Two elite talents are an amazing result. Martin Lemoine can play anywhere down the spine of the team. Due to his strong finishing and poor pace, I’ve initially chosen to train him as a Shadow Striker. Said Zniber is training as a striker and looks like he could develop into a deadly finisher.
There’s now a promising core of talent at the club and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all develop.
COMING NEXT TIME
- Club finances & wages
- Player Stats Review