Racing Club de Lens: Season 1, end of year report
As we entered the new year, we were enjoying mixed fortunes. We were firmly in the playoff spots, but some way off the league leaders. But the headline news was an extraordinary run in the cup that saw us defeat PSG after a nerve-shredding penalty shootout, and then an even better performance that saw us better Lyon 2-1 in normal time. Unfortunately, our reward for these heroics was a visit to Nice where our luck ran out in a 0-1 defeat. Even more unfortunate was the effect this run had on our league form, as we recorded just two wins in our first six league games of the year, including a disappointing home loss to Lorient.
In the event, this proved to be our last loss of the season as we embarked on a brilliant run of form that saw us drop just 6 points from our final 14 games:
Although even this wasn't enough to overhaul the vast gap to a brilliant FCSM side who were worthy champions, we nevertheless over-achieved by securing the automatic playoff spot. We never did find a way out of our complete reliance on superstar winger Tony Mauricio, who finished as our top scorer and leading provider of assists by some margin. No suprise that he also secured the most PoM awards, contributing to 34 goals in 42 appearances. Loan striker Julien Ngoy provided 13 goals in 39 matches, and would have done much better had he learned the essential art of not being offside.
In defence, our own Three Musketeers in central defence, Zakaria Diallo, Aleksandar Radovanovic and Steven Fortes, can take much of the credit for a great season, helping us to a league leading defensive record of 23 clean sheets and just 21 goals conceded.
Looking ahead to next season the squad will require some new faces, both because we have a few players who have reached the end of their careers, and because much of the squad wasn't good enough for L2, let alone the top flight. On the other hand, there are number of youngsters on the fringes of the first team who will need careful assessment and opportunities. The board has made £16m available for transfers, with a substantial increase in the wage budget too, so reinforcements are definitely possible.