Ligue 1 Team of the Season 2011-2012 (Originally on O-Posts)

Posted on August 8, 2012

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All statistics used are from the excellent Who Scored.

This season the French league has thrown up all sorts of surprises, the biggest surprise being Montpellier Hérault storming their way to their first top division title in the club’s history. However, this season has also seen some excellent displays from players who may not be considered world-class simply because of the league they play in. I’ve been following the French league for a few seasons now, and there have always been players who stood out, the best of which now struts his stuff for Newcastle United – Yohan Cabaye. So without further ado, here is my 2011/12 Ligue 1 team of the season (in a 4-2-3-1 formation).

Goalkeeper: Steeve Elana (Brestois)

This may come as a surprise to some, simply because he is part of a side that were battling relegation, and have been doing so for most of the season.  But this ongoing battle with relegation has brought out some stunning performances from the 31-year-old. And he should be looking for a move in the summer so he can end his career on a high.

Left-back: Cheikh M’Bengue (Toulouse)

Despite only scoring one goal and providing one assist, Cheikh has become one of the most consistent players in the league. Throughout the season, M’Bengue has shown that he’s very efficient on the ball, averaging over 30 passes per game, although he only has a 50% cross success rate.

Centre-back: Sylvian Marchal (Saint-Etienne)

The 32-year-old’s experience has shone through this season for Les Verts, after putting in very impressive performances against the likes of PSG and Nice. His distribution out of defence has been excellent for someone who is under a lot of pressure to remain responsible with the ball at the back. He has completed 803 out of 946 passes this season (84.9%).

Centre-back: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier)

Belhanda and Giroud have been labelled as the stars that led Montpellier to glory, and rightly so. But Yanga-Mbiwa has been an integral part of the squad for Montpellier, holding firm at the back whilst playing the ball well out of defence. From January onwards, the Montpellier captain has been at the centre transfer speculation and there’s good reason for it.

Right-back: Mathieu Debuchy (Lille)

After an excellent season, the Lille right-back has attracted the interest from some of Europe’s elite. Bayern Munich and Valencia are both rumoured to be interested in the 26-year-old, although Lille’s coach, Rudi Garcia, has been quoted saying he fully expects him to stay. His ability and determination whilst going forward, partnered by his brick wall mentality when approached by attackers has earned him a call up to France’s Euro 2012 squad. He currently has three caps for Les Blues, but that figure is expected to increase with the absence of first-choice right-back Bacary Sagna.

Central-midfielder: Maxime Gonalons (Lyon)

At only 23, Maxime Gonalons has made himself one of the hottest talents in France. Lyon only managed fourth place this season, ten points adrift of third. This was due to lacklustre performances from many of Lyon’s big players – but not Maxime, he was the silver lining in Lyon’s cloud. Averaging over three tackles and interceptions per game, Gonalons has been the rock in Lyon’s midfield.

Central-midfielder: Yann M’Vila (Rennes)

The Arsenal-bound midfield sensation has been in the spotlight since his fantastic 10-11 season. This season he bettered the Yann M’Vila of last season with a series of sensational and professional performances. The France international has completed 2272 passes this season, the only player in Ligue 1 to have completed over 2000.

Attacking-midfielder: Younes Belhanda (Montpellier)

Averaging over two KEY passes per game in the league this season, Younes Belhanda has been the creative hub of Montpellier’s league winning side this season. As well as being a good distributor of the ball, Younes has also proved he can score goals, helping his team’s cause with 10 goals this season.

Left-winger: Eden Hazard (Lille)

Twenty goals, sixteen assists in 35 starts and three sub appearances, not much else I can say apart from: sensational. He managed a hattrick on his last game for Lille as well as an assist, what a way to go. After another successful season Hazard is moving, but his destination is still unknown. However, he is still the best player in the league by a country mile and has been an invaluable asset to Ligue 1 (and still is for the time being).

Right-winger: Nenê (PSG)

The somehow uncapped Brazilian veteran has stolen the headlines in France this season after showing that, at aged 30, he isn’t past his best. Statistically he’s been sound this season, scoring one more goal than Eden Hazard (21, Hazard has 20) and getting himself eleven assists. Two years ago he signed for less than €6million, and with the prices clubs are paying these days, €6million seems like a bargain for a player of his calibre.

Striker: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier)

Leading the line for the first-time champions was made to look easy after the Frenchman scored 21 goals, making him joint top goal scorer with Brazilian winger Nene. His ability to shoot from range as well as being strong in the air has drawn the attention of Europe’s big guns. The club’s hierarchy have been quoted saying he’s worth £50million, which, if Torres is anything to go by, seems about right.

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