The Squad Report will be a recurring post where I take a look at different clubs in Europe and how they have performed on the field as well as the transfers they have made. First off, I will be looking at a team in the Ligue 1 title race, OGC Nice
For the first time in recent memory, as the first leg of the Champions League knockout stages have been played approach, PSG is not running away with the title, in fact they are in 2nd but only ahead on goal difference after 23 games played. The two teams above them (Monaco and Nice) are very different in how they have played this season. Monaco have been a phenomenal attacking team, having the most goals scored in Europe’s top 5 leagues. However, OGC Nice have achieved success in a different way, which I’ll be taking a look at in this article.
Off The Pitch
One of the most impressive things about Nice being in the top 3 is their success this summer when it comes to transfers. PSG have spent a whopping €144.6 milion, Monaco spent a more respectable €50.5 million, but Nice have only spent €15.25 million! In fact, Nice’s transfer strategy becomes even more remarkable since 5 out of the 10 outfield players in the most used Starting XI are new transfers.
Over the past few years, Nice has primarily bought young players for low transfer fees or promoted players from their academy, then once they develop further they will sell them for a much higher fee. Previous players that have been sold include Mendy (Leicester), Amavi (Aston Villa) Ospina (Arsenal). This past season Nice lost their 2 main attackers in Hatem Ben Arfa & Valere Germain. This should’ve been a huge loss as these two players accounted for 56% of all of the league goals scored by Nice.
When purchasing new players, Nice make use of free transfers and loans for many players in the squad. The highest profile example of that this season would be the free transfer of Mario Balotelli from Liverpool. However, out of the most used starting XI (which does not include Balotelli), 6 of the players are new transfers.
On The Pitch
Before the season it was clear that the on the field performance would be changing as Nice appointed a new manager. Lucien Favre was probably most known for his 4 year stint as the manager for Borussia Mochengladbach. During this period, he guided them to the Champions League multiple times (They currently sit in 10th this season). Strangely enough over the past 2 years at Gladbach his team went from one of the top defensive teams to one of the highest goalscoring teams almost overnight.
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In his first season with Nice, Favre has improved their numbers across the board. The amount of points is definitely what jumps out the most but this season, Nice have increased their goalscoring while also decreasing their goals against.
Defensively, Nice has been great, with the 2nd best GA. However, looking at the underlying numbers provides some interesting insight. Strangely, Nice have been last in interceptions and are one of the bottom 4 teams in tackles. Part of this can be explained by their high possession figure (57.1%). In addition to this, Nice are in the bottom 4 of shots allowed, which means they are allowing a lot of shots from opposing teams. This is strange as they have a high possession figure, and a low number of goals against yet opposing teams are still able to take many shots.
Offensively, Nice has been good in this category as they have the 4th best GF. As I mentioned before, they have a 57.1% possession figure which is the 2nd highest amount in Ligue 1. Nice also have the 2nd highest pass accuracy rate at 87.6%. When it comes to their shooting statistics, Nice are in the middle of the pack when it comes to the amount of shots, but they are a top 4 team when it comes to shots on target. This suggests that they don’t take too many shots but the shots they take are high quality.
Whether or not Nice can overtake Monaco & PSG to win the Ligue 1 title remains to be seen. The injury to their main striker Alassane Plea definitely will hurt their chances. However, their upcoming clash against PSG will go a long way to deciding the title, or at least 2nd place. If they don’t win the title, Nice should still be happy with a Champions League position where they will be hoping to do better than their showing in the Europa League this season.