|There is stiff competition for the goalkeeping spot, but Marseille’s Steve Mandanda has enjoyed a very solid start to the campaign and gets the position marginally ahead of Hugo Lloris of Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain’s Salvatore Sirigu. Presently second choice for France, the Congo-born custodian has commanded his box with increasing assurance this season and regularly saved his side when they were out of sorts early in the campaign. Has been the steadiest goalkeeper in Le Championnat.|
|Mathieu Debuchy has been the standout right-back in Ligue 1 this season by some distance. He has operated in a very attacking fashion down that side of Lille’s team, excelling in getting forward and supporting his offensive team-mates. While he has been a valuable weapon for LOSC when they’re on the attack, he’s also been a member of the league’s tightest rearguard. |
Toulouse are a team who have been known for their solid defensive work for several seasons, and new addition Aymen Abdennour has continued that tradition in impressive style. Signed from Etoile du Sahel in the summer for less than €500,000 (£417,000), he has performed at a level many times above that transfer fee. Already Arsenal are reported to have taken notice in the solid 22-year-old, who has been a rock for his new club.
Lyon may not be the giants of the French game that they once were, but they remain in the race to reach the Champions League. Their young side has been led from the heart of the defence by Dejan Lovren, who is now showing the kind of form that prompted them to spend so lavishly on the Croatian two years ago. When Cris was sidelined, he took the reins convincingly.
Down the left-hand channel, Montpellier’s Henri Bedimo has impressed on a frequent basis, offering great attacking power from a deep area on the field. Has shown his love of pushing forward on a regular basis, but equally the 27-year-old has grown a more mature head, showing greater defensive acumen. As a result of his performances, Montpellier have become one of Ligue 1’s best defensive sides.
|Perhaps the revelation of the season in France has been Jamel Saihi of Montpellier. The busy holding midfielder has been essential to the sound functioning of his side both offensively and defensively. Has made a prodigious number of tackles for la Paillade, but he has also been their chief playmaker from deep, setting the tempo of their performances in front of the back four. Quietly efficient, the 24-year-old Tunisian is a player to keep an eye on in 2012. |
It’s often commented in the French media that it’s remarkable that Florent Balmont is not in the France set-up. The industrious midfielder has been a fulcrum from Lille for several seasons, and his consistently good performances in the middle of the park have been vital in les Dogues setting about their title defence in a positive fashion. Certainly doesn’t do anything spectacular, but he doesn’t have too many poor games and acts as a steadying presence for his side.
Playing less than 1,000 minutes of Championnat football this term hasn’t prevented Mathieu Valbuena from leading the assist chart by quite some distance. His set pieces have been invaluable to Marseille, as seven of these have resulted in goals for team-mates, while ‘le Petit Velo’ has chipped in with four strikes of his own. Was dropped for a period in the autumn because of a slip in his form, but there can be little doubting his value to Didier Deschamps’ side.
The most-talked-of player in Le Championnat is Eden Hazard, and last season’s Ligue 1 Player of the Year has picked up where he left off for Lille. Provides a great deal of imagination for les Dogues, and is honing his attacking game impressively. Can dribble as well as anyone, has excellent vision and his finishing is improving ... little wonder so many top clubs are watching the 20-year-old Belgian. Boasts six league goals to his name.
Javier Pastore might be PSG’s record signing, but he’s been eclipsed in the first half of the season – albeit marginally – by the familiar face of Nene, who was initially pushed into the shadows by the arrival of the Argentine. A wicked set-piece taker, the Brazilian-born player continues to be the main creative source for les Parisiens. With seven goals and four decisive passes, he is the leading source of goals for the Parc des Princes outfit.
|Olivier Giroud’s ascent in the footballing world has continued at pace at the start of this campaign, and he can legitimately stake a claim to being the outstanding player in Ligue 1 over the first half of the season. With 13 goals, no one can boast a greater tally, while his total of five assists has only been surpassed by Valbuena. Big and strong going forward, he also possesses fine technique and has been clinical in front of goal over the last five months, during which time he’s also made his France debut.|