2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year
Now that the dust has settled and we are well into 2022, let’s take a look at the year that is behind us and find out who are on our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year:
2021 was a strange year for French football since the Ligue 1 ended prematurely in the year prior and teams like Lyon and Monaco who usually are title challengers failed to secure even a European competition spot and had to deal with the consequences of that. This alongside the tv rights deal that fell through and made the whole financial situation of the league complicated, were problems that most of Ligue 1 teams had to cope with it, mostly outside the pitch.
But on the pitch, Ligue 1 was livelier than ever and continued its legacy of developing world-class talent, with almost every team in the league putting their trust in young players and reaping the benefits of that trust. It was also the first time in three years that PSG’ reign over the French football was challenged as Lille was crowned champion in the end. However, the Ligue 1 table in 2021/2022 suggests that things are back to normal once again with PSG back on top. Nonetheless, let us discuss the players that made the Ligue 1 exciting this past year as we pick our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year:
Ligue 1 Team of the Season of 2021
One thing to note here is that we are not picking a team from any specific season but rather the entirety of 2021 which falls into two seasons. The formation that we are going for here is 4-2-3-1. So, let’s find out who makes the cut for the Ligue 1 team of the season of 2021:
Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan (Lille OSC)
Let’s kick things off with a goalkeeper that is no longer in Ligue 1 but totally deserves to be among the
Ligue 1 Team of the Season of 2021
and that is Mike Maignan who is currently at AC Milan. The former PSG keeper joined Lille OSC in 2015 and has been an ever-present figure in Lille’s rise to become a top club. In fact, one might argue that he was one of the contributing factors of Lille’s excellent displays in the past couple of seasons especially that last one.
Lille’s shocking Ligue 1 title win from last season was built on a strong defense that was led by the experiences Jose Fonte who had Mike Maignan behind the defense to stop any threat that gets past them. Maignan played every minute of the campaign and only let in 23 goals, achieving a whopping record of 21 clean sheets which is only 1 short of theLigue 1
But Maignan’s genius doesn’t stop there as the 26-year-old is also on par with Keylor Navas in the save percentages as both keepers have an 80% save record, with Maignan being a lot busier than Navas as he saved 86 times next to Navas’ 71 saves. He was also a fairly great sweeper keeper with 26 sweeper actions throughout the season. Although his passing left a lot to be desired and he wasn’t without mistakes, especially on corner kicks.
All in all, Mike Maignan gave Keylor Navas, who is arguably one of the best keepers around, a run for his money while almost achieving a Ligue 1 record and was crowned champions in the end. The role that he played in Lille’s historic title is reason enough to put him on our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Right Back: Jonathan Clauss (Lens)
Ligue 1 is known for producing gems season after season and Lens’ Jonathan Clauss is certainly one of them. The Ligue 1 veteran who even spent a couple of years in the 2. Bundesliga with Arminia Bielefeld, surprised everyone with how great he was last season and has continued his form well into this season. Clauss even got included in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
So what makes Jonathan Clauss a great full back is basically the fact that he has the attributes of a great wide midfielder from the 2000s but also greatly contributes toLens
’ defensive efforts. He is a great interceptor of the ball and averaged being dribbled past once a game during the season which is a great number for an attacking full back or wing back. But where Clauss shines is when he joins tha attack and has the ball at his feet.
Clauss was by far the busiest crosser in Ligue 1 in the last season ranking at number 1 with 135 crosses. He was also a great progressive passer and was among the league’s elites when it came to successful passes into opposition’s box, which means he is one of the best attacking full-backs in the league, if not the best. Clauss has improved stats in all these categories during this current season as he is currently one of the best playmakers in the league, if he could be called that!
Aside from his excellent passing skills, Clauss is a great shot as well and has contributed a lot to Lens’ attack. While he recorded 3 goals and 6 assists last season. He has bettered his numbers this season and is now on 9 assists, which is 2nd best in the league, and 2 goals. it is almost criminal how underrated Jonathan Clauss is and with him being 29 years of age and at the prime of his career, a move to a bigger club would be great for him. For now he gets to be our right back in the
2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year
Center Back: Sven Botman (Lille OSC)
A player that raised a ruckus in the news lately by being linked to a host of top clubs recently was Lille’s Sven Botman. While a move in January didn’t take place, the interest from the Premier League clubs and AC Milan just echoed what we have been saying since last season. That Sven Botman is certainly one of thegreatest young defenders in Europe
right now and deserves to be in our
Ligue 1 Team of the Year
Sven Botman, who helped Lille OSC to a shock Ligue 1 triumph over their rivals PSG, Monaco and Lyon. A towering center back, Botman was a product of Ajax’s academy but actually made his senior debut for another Dutch club, Heerenveen, when he was on loan there during the 2019-20 season before deciding to join Lille on a permanent basis at the start of the last season.
After joining Lille for a €9 million, Botman immediately was brought to the first team where he became one of the most important players for Lille, going on to start for Lille in 37 of their 38 matches in the Ligue 1 as they led the league for much of the campaign and eventually won the league to everyone’s surprise. A ball playing center back who is insanely good in 1v1s as he has only been dribbled past 8 times this season while playing most ofLille
With the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and even Stefan de Vrij in front of him, Botman hasn’t had the chance to play for Netherlands’ national team but with the quality that he has shown in past year he is certain to get his chance sooner or later. And he will undoubtedly join a bigger club in the summer!
Center Back: Marquinhos (PSG)
The man that leads the strongest team in Ligue 1, Marquinhos, is the next defender on our Ligue 1 Team of the Season of 2021. PSG’s Brazilian skipper has truly inherited Thiago Silva’s mantle as a natural born leader and has led PSG to top
Ligue 1 table in 2021/2022
season. Although Marquinhos could play a number of roles in defense as well as the midfield, it is safe to say that Marquinhos strongest position is at the heart of defense.
While PSG isn’t a team that is under pressure a lot, especially in Ligue 1, and that in turn leads to its defenders not doing as much defensive work as their peers. It is safe to say that without looking at the numbers and stats, what a great defender Marquinhos is. The Brazilian has a knack for organizingPSG
’s extremely high line defense and is one of a handful of players in that side that actually does defensive work. Being a Brazilian also means that he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is a great passer and progressor of the ball.
But perhaps Marquinhos’ most impressive quality is the way he leads PSG from the back, either with his build-up play or by instructing and supporting his team mates. Even though there are much bigger characters in that side than him the 27-year-old has managed to keep the players in line and the team in harmony. Like any Brazilian he also likes to score a goal from time to time, having scored 3 last season and already matching those numbers in this season.
Left Back: Caio Henrique (Monaco)
The last defender in our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year is yet another Brazilian and that isMonaco
’s Caio Henrique. Much like our other fullback, Jonathan Clauss, Caio Henrique is very much an attacking fullback or sometimes even a left wing back. The 24-year-old has been a staple of Monaco’s attack since he joined the club fromAtletico Madrid
for 8 million euros after he had spent a few years on loan in teams like Fluminense and Gremio.
While Henrique doesn’t really shine in defending when compared to most of fullbacks in the league, he really comes into his own when joining the attack. Caio Henrique averages almost 2.5 touches in the attacking penalty box per game and attempts an average of 61 passes per game which puts him above most full backs in the league.
Henrique managed to assist his teammates 4 times last season and this season he has already bettered that record by assisting 5 as well as scoring a goal. The Brazilian has a lot to improve but if he continues the way he has had in the past couple of years he will definitely be a household name in Ligue 1. For now, though his performances in the past year were impressive enough to put him on our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Central Midfielder: Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco)
For years now, AS Monaco has always prided itself in developing exceptional young talents. From the days of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet to the more recent emergence of Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar and now it seems that their next big gem is here and that is Aurélien Tchouaméni. The 22-year-old midfielder is honestly one of the top talents across all of Europe in any position and he has already started performing exceptionally well and attracting the attention of the likes of Chelsea.
Ligue 1 is famous for cultivating qualitymidfielders
, especially defensive ones, and when it comes to defensive work in Ligue 1 in the past season as well as this one, there are no better performers than Tchouameni. His aggressive style of defending as well as his big stature and surprising amount of skill and technique makes Tchouameni a player very much in the style ofArsenal
’s Thomas Partey. The fact that he could deliver magnificent passes that lead to goals only reinforces that comparison. Tchouameni is also surprisingly good in the air which makes him a complete midfielder.
With Tchouameni being exceptionally well at both tackling and intercepting, Monaco has become a lot more solid defensively. As of writing this article Tchouameni has a combined 138 tackles and interceptions which make him the best in the league, a title he also held for the entirety of last season with 206 combined tackles and interceptions. He is also been among the top 10 of Ligue 1 in terms of applying pressure in both seasons.
While his overall passing skills could be improved, Tchouameni has still managed to be one of the best progressive passers in Ligue 1, completing 117 progressive passes this season and being the 3rd best in the league in that regard, which along with his other stats just shows why he is on our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Central Midfielder: Yacine Adli (Bordeaux on loan from AC Milan)
Joining Tchouameni in the midfield of our Ligue 1 Team of the Year is Yacine Adli, who is a player that has been on the radar of many big clubs and even football fans for quite some time. The Frenchman finally joined AC Milan in the summer only to be brought back on loan to Bordeaux and because of that there is pressure for him to perform but the youngster hasn’t disappointed yet as he has become one of the best Ligue 1 players of 2021.
Initially a PSG youth player, Yacine Adli spent a couple of seasons with their reserve side. Although he made a brief appearance for them during the 2017-18 season, in order to gain more experience, he was loaned out to Bordeaux in 2019 and subsequently became a permanent player for the club for a fee of €5.5 million and a hefty 40% sell-on clause. A great passer of the ball, Yacine Adli can best be utilized as a box-to-box midfielder or a playmaker operating in the central spaces.
Which makes him the perfect player for anAC Milan
side that lacks creativity in the middle of the park and have gone out to pay Bordeaux €8 million to acquire Adli’s services and loan him back to them to gain more experience.
So far the 21-year-old has recorded 6 assists and a goal this season as well as the 5 assists and 2 goals he delivered for Bordeaux last season. Adli is among the best progressive passers in the league rivaling the likes of Dmitri Payet and Monaco’s Tchouameni and that is exactly why he is a part of our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Attacking Midfielder: Dmitri Payet (Marseille)
Dmitri Payet may be a controversial figure but there is no denying that he has immense talent and has been consistently one of the best playmakers of the last decade, on par with the likes of Mesut Ozil in terms of chances created. While the amount of talent that he has would certainly land him a contract at any top European clubs his character has always made the big clubs wary of him but now, finally at Marseille, Payet feels at home and has built something of a madhouse which he and his team seem to thrive on.
After his return toMarseille
in 2017, Payet has consistently performed well but he may have his best season yet as he has been the architect behind Marseille sitting high on the Ligue 1 table in 2021/2022. Payet is a titan in creating chances. the 34 year old has had 138 Shot-Creating-Actions so far this season in which he leads the league by a large margin and 16 Goal-Creating-Actions in which he is only second behind Kylian Mbappe.
So far this season, Payet has scored 8 and assisted 9 goals, becoming one of the best players in the Ligue 1 and that is on the back of 10 assists and 7 goals he had last season. He may have not reached the heights everyone believed him to but now even at the twilight of his career Marseille’s skipper shows why he deserves to be among our
2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year
Left Winger: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Was there any doubt that Kylian Mbappe would be on our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year?! The guy has been touted to follow in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronald’s footsteps and practically excels at anything a striker should do. Even from back when he was a 17-year-old kid at Monaco, Ligue 1 just seemed too easy for Mbappe and 2021 proved to be no different.
You’d think that after nearly 5 years at PSG and almost daily talk of him leaving to join his dream club Real Madrid in the past two years, Kylian Mbappe’s performances would dip a little bit but the 23 year old has shown that his true strength is his professionalism and mentality that drives him forward and has strangely made 2021 the best year he has had at PSG, despite the talk of his eventual departure overshadowing his brilliance.
In terms of stats, Mbappe leads the league in successful dribbles (59). He is also the league’s second-best carrier of the ball (195 carries) behind Mateo Guendouzi. He leads the league in assists (10) which is already an improvement on his last season record and has as much goals to his name as well. We have also already how he tops the league in terms of goal creating actions (18).
This is all on top of the great form he had lasts season, scoring 27 goals and having 7 assists, as he picked up Ligue 1’s Player of the Year once again as well as being the top goal scorer of the league. these may be the last months of Kylian Mbappe at PSG and perhaps Ligue 1 ever but he is proving why he is the best of the best and why he will excel at anywhere he ends up next.
Right Winger: Jonathan David (Lille OSC)
When there is talk of Canadian football the discussion usually veers towardBayern Munich
’s Alphonso Davies but there is another Canadian that has also been achieving great things lately and that is Jonathan David, who has already broken records for Canada and become a Ligue 1 champion. The 22-year-old striker, started his career at the Belgian side Gent and in a span of couple of seasons now is attracting the attentions of the biggest European clubs.
David decided to leave Gent in 2020, having scored 37 for the club over the course of two seasons before even turning 20. He joined Lille OSC in a €30 million that made him the most expensive Canadian player of all time however life at Lille didn’t start as smoothly as he wanted it to, since he had problems adjusting to the league at first which resulted a few months of dry spells. But his fortunes soon turned around as he started contributing heavily to Lille OSC shocking Ligue 1 triumph against the European heavyweights, PSG.
David managed to score 13 goals and assist 2 as Lille were crowned champions and has carried his brilliant form well into this season as well, having scored goals this season. David has also incredibly scored 17 goals in 22 matches for Canada and is already their 5th top scorer of all time, 5 goals behind the top spot, which he will undoubtedly surpass in the near future. There are already rumblings about who will sign Jonathan David in the summer but there is no doubt that with his attitude, he will find success anywhere he decides to go to. The Canadian is a perfect addition to our 2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Striker: Amine Gouiri (Nice)
One of the best young footballers of 2021 has undoubtedly been Nice’s Amine Gouiri. The Nice striker has really come into his own and has helped Nice once again be among the top clubs in France ever since he joined them from Lyon at the start of last season. Amine Gouiri, who has long been touted to become a superstar on the count of his goal scoring exploits with France’s youth teams, has now finally found a rhythm to his game atNice
and is certainly gunning for a spot among France’s 2002 World Cup squad.
After joining Lyon at the age of 13, Amine Gouiri would go on to represent the club for the next 7 years, signing his first professional contract in 2017. However, his time there was largely unsuccessful as he failed to score even a single goal for the Olympians and was subsequently permanently sold to Nice at the start of last season for the price of €7 million. The story was quite different at Nice however as Gouiri scored 12 and assisted 7 in his first season to become Nice’s best player during the 2020-21 season.
And since the start of this season, Gouiri has picked up right where he left off last season, scoring 10 and assisting another 7 goals. while Gouiri is very much a central striker, his versatility, especially his passing and hold-up play allow him to create chances for his teammates, which explains his high number of assists.
His fruitful partnership with the experienced Delort beside him has taken Nice high on the Ligue 1 table in 2021/2022. While they are not in any sort of title challenge with PSG way ahead of them, Gouiri’s form has considerably bettered Nice’s fortunes this season, which is why he is the last player to appear in our
2021 Ligue 1 Team of the Year
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