Paris-based correspondent Jonathan Johnson analyses what has been an exciting start to the new season in Ligue 1 and picks his top performers to date. Zlatan leads the way but it's not just big money buys that are catching the eye over the Channel
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip
Last Updated: 28/09/12 1:33pm
A superb start to the new Ligue 1 season has, as always, thrown up some surprises. Flying out of the blocks are Marseille who struggled last season under new France manager Didier Deschamps and a new-look Lyon side after their overhaul by President Jean-Michel Aulas this summer.
Last season's strugglers FC Lorient, Ajaccio and newly-promoted Corsican rivals Bastia have also made strong starts to the campaign.
Free-spending Paris Saint-Germain were surprisingly slow to get started but are warming up now, into third with three consecutive league wins, as well as an impressive return to UEFA Champions League football.
At the wrong end of the table Sochaux started poorly again but have enjoyed a recent resurgence. Reported Arsenal target Yann M'Vila failed to secure a move away; he is stuck at Rennes who have seen their summer transfer policy collapse due to a string of forced sales, player discontent and M'Vila's dwindling transfer value.
Newly-promoted Troyes are also struggling - no surprise there - and there has been one managerial casualty already after Pablo Correa was axed by Evian only four games in and replaced by sporting director Pascal Dupraz. Les Croix de Savoie managed to pull off a similarly risky move in January when they let go of Bernard Casoni to replace him with Correa. It is unlikely that they will be as lucky this time around.Top five players so far...
Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived in Ligue 1 amidst much fanfare and so far the towering Swede has been worth every penny of his €20million transfer fee having made a flying start to life in the French capital. Eight goals in six starts has seen pundits tripping over themselves to shower him in superlatives.
Prior to the club's recent 2-0 victory over Toulouse 'Ibra' boasted an impressive return of four goals from five shots on target and, so far, he has handled the considerable pressure well following his switch from AC Milan. People were quick to criticise his decision to join the affluent PSG revolution being overseen by Leonardo, but the club have found form already and look like a coherent team on the pitch and not just a group of talented individuals.
With the capital club already making an impact in the Champions League and Ibrahimovic instantly recognised as the team's talisman, it is only a matter of time before the Swede becomes the undoubted leader of the side. With Captain Christophe Jallet's place in the side now under scrutiny following the arrival of Dutch international Gregory Van der Wiel from Ajax, that time could be sooner rather than later.
Alain Traore started last season like a house on fire for Auxerre but the club were relegated despite a string of top-class displays from the Burkinabe international. Not that his dip in form was the reason l'AJA dropped out of the top-flight for the first time in over 20 years. In short, he was surrounded by a team of inferior players which meant he was leading a one-man mission at times.
Formerly linked with Newcastle United and famously on the radar of Sir Alex Ferguson as a young prodigy, Traore has made the move to Brittany to join ambitious outfit Lorient for €5million after netting nine goals and providing three assists last season.
Traore will link up with Benjamin Corgnet, a former target of Chelsea, who has joined the club from Ligue 2's Dijon following their relegation last term. Corgnet was the club's outstanding performer with eight goals and two assists and it is no surprise that he moved on.
It is a massive coup for FCL, who spent a similar sum to tie up the Traore deal, as well as snapping up experienced attacker Ludovic Giuly from Monaco. The trio are a perfect complement to the club's famed Arsenal-style football.
On the pitch, Traore has netted four goals and provided one assist in just five games. He bagged a late equaliser at home to Montpellier, before former Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere got an even later winner, and then followed it up with a goal and an assist in a comprehensive 3-0 demolition of Nancy at the Stade du Moustoir. In the Breton derby away to Rennes he was even better as he netted two sensational strikes as les Merlus enjoyed a rare derby day victory.
Marseille may have hit the headlines this summer after shedding a host of big names and then landing Joey Barton on loan, but it is thanks to Andre-Pierre Gignac's red-hot form that they have shot to the summit of Ligue 1.
Gignac was linked with a move to Fulham last season before an injury put paid to his hopes of securing a move away from the Stade Velodrome during a dark spell for the former Lorient and Toulouse man. He was a laughing stock under previous manager Didier Deschamps following a series of heated confrontations, morale-damaging performances and injury problems.
However, he has turned it around this season and the club's fans are now viewing him as a new signing. No longer is he seen as an expensive mistake. With Deschamps in charge of the national team Gignac can forget being called up for les Bleus, but it is fantastic to see one of Ligue 1's recent prodigious talents come good once again.
Following his outstanding campaign last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has become hot property and is one of Ligue 1's best marksmen. Over the summer he was linked with a big-money move to Spurs but instead stayed at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard. If he can replicate last season's 16 goals and six assist haul then other European sides will be taking notice of the Gabonese international.
Previously something of a Ligue 1 journeyman in the past, Aubameyang finally found a permanent home with Christophe Galtier's vibrant side and the security of completing a permanent move to les Verts proved to be the catalyst for a breakthrough season.
This season is now a battle to prove his quality consistently and staying in France looks to be a wise decision so far. 'Auba' has made an excellent start with four goals and an assist from six games so the early signs are promising. If he can maintain this form and ASSE can stay difficult to beat, there is no reason why Aubameyang can't lead the club back into Europe.
Wissam Ben Yedder
One of this season's early revelations is Toulouse's French-born Tunisian wonderkid Wissam Ben Yedder who has made a flying start to the season. Expected to play second fiddle to former Arsenal and Liverpool target Emmanuel Riviere, the 22-year old attacker has ousted his more experienced team-mate from Alain Casanova's starting line-up and seized his early opportunities with both hands.
Four goals in six games with one assist is an impressive record for someone who had previously only made a handful of substitute appearances, scoring one goal. There is plenty more to come from this raw, young talent and he is one of the reasons that le Tefece sit in seventh position so far, despite pre-season predictions of a difficult campaign. Europe could be the next stop for the boys from the Pink City, who count France international and Arsenal target Etienne Capoue amongst their ranks.
Best of the rest
There were a host of other stars that didn't make it into the top five but have still enjoyed fantastic starts to the season. Bastia's Wahbi Khazri has three assists in six appearances, most from the bench, and looks like a tremendous prospect. Blackburn came close to signing him last January when he was playing in Ligue 2.
Michel Bastos has been linked with Spurs and Arsenal recently and looked like he was on his way out of the Stade Gerland over the summer. However, three goals in four early games have seen his direct threat, pace, power and an eye for the exquisite earn him a rare second chance under Aulas.
Marco Verratti was the least heralded of PSG's summer arrivals but so far he has proven one of their most valuable. Unknown outside of Italy before this season but now a regular starter in the capital, Verratti is the missing piece of the PSG jigsaw. Occupying the deep-lying playmaker role that Carlo Ancelotti earmarked Javier Pastore for, the diminutive Italian has shown remarkable maturity and sensational performances versus Toulouse and Dynamo Kiev in particular, have marked him as one to keep an eye on.
Anthony Modeste meanwhile has netted two goals so far this season following his loan move to Bastia from Bordeaux, proving that miracles really do happen. Modeste endured a disappointing loan spell with Blackburn last season and was derided for his poor finishing. Eager to prove to les Girondins boss Francis Gillot that he is worthy of a place in the first team, despite Yoan Gouffran and Henri Saivet currently knocking in the goals, he needs to add greater consistency to his game if he is to recognise the considerable potential we saw glimpses of at Nice.