PAUC aiming for more in fresh campaign
If PAUC Handball enjoyed a historic season in domestic competitions, with a third-place finish in the French league in June, it was a disappointing one in Europe.
After qualifying for the group phase of the EHF European League Men 2021/22, the club based in Aix-en-Provence only won one game and finished last in group C with three points.
With a deeper squad and with more experience under their belt, PAUC are aiming to perform better in the group phase. Progressing to the Last 16 would create history for a young club playing only their fifth European season.
- in the 2022/23 season, PAUC will be playing their fifth European season, but they have never made it past the EHF European League group phase
- last season, they eliminated Norwegian side ØIF Arendal in qualification round 2 before finishing last in group C with three points
- PAUC will start their EHF European League campaign in the group phase, after finishing third in the French Starligue
- while important players such as Karl Konan (Montpellier) and Iñaki Peciña (Chambery) left the club in the summer, Aix replaced them with young and talented additions
- major signings for 2022/23 include EHF Champions League winner Youssef Ben Ali, defence specialist Gerdas Babarskas and right back Diogo Silva
Most important question: What happened to PAUC in the EHF European League Men last season?
Looking back a few months after the end of last season, it still looks surprising that PAUC did not perform better in the EHF European League Men. How could a team featuring French national team players Nicolas Claire and Wesley Pardin, as well as talented centre back Ian Tarrafeta, only take three points in the group phase?
"We were really frustrated about our results last season," summarised coach Thierry Anti – and we can definitely understand his feelings.
A couple of bad results at the start of the group phase put the team on the wrong track, and while every game was seen as a potential turning point, PAUC went out of the race for the Last 16 pretty quickly.
"We will now progress with humility," said captain Nicolas Claire, who is fully aware that the names in a team do not create success easily.
Under the spotlight: Kristján Örn Kristjánsson
Playing in the EHF Cup in 2018/19 actually allowed PAUC to sign the young Icelandic right back. For their first ever European away game, the club from Aix-en-Provence travelled to Vestmannaeyjar.
Their terrific trip included a crazy boat journey, during which most players were sick. But all they could see on the court was Kristján Kristjánsson, who scored 12 goals against them across the two games.
The right back is now in his third year in France, and last season he was one of the key players for Aix. While he has improved a lot defensively, he has kept his offensive impact, often being one of the best players for PAUC in 2021/22.
How they rate themselves
While the PAUC staff and players are aware of what they can achieve, they were disappointed at what they delivered last season. So instead of bursting out goals that they might not be able to achieve, they would rather work with humility.
"Our goal is to do a better journey and to go as far as possible," said Thierry Anti, the coach who took former club HBC Nantes to the EHF FINAL4 in 2017.
His captain and long-term Aix player, Nicolas Claire, does not say anything else. Based on their squad, PAUC might be among the favourites for the title, but Claire would rather "take it game by game, considering our results from last year".
Did you know?
Thierry Anti has always been one coach to make wonders with players that might not be in the spotlight on the international scene.
The former HBC Nantes and Sporting CP coach might have some ideas at the back of his head for his season, judging by the signings PAUC made this summer.
Three of the additions played in the French second division last season, while one – Youssef Ben Ali – won the EHF Champions League with Barça. We bet you can say that Aix's signings covered the whole scope of handball.
What the numbers say
One – that is how many times PAUC were victorious in the EHF European League group phase last season.
Before their success against BM Logroño La Rioja in the last round, they also drew at home against eventual quarter-finalists RK Gorenje Velenje. For a team that went head-to-head with some of the best sides in Europe in the French league, last season was quite a disappointment, to say the least.
Newcomers and departures
Newcomers: Tomas Moreira (BM Logroño La Rioja), Diogo Silva (FC Porto), Jordan Camarero (Tremblay), Xavier Labigang (Besançon), Adrien Vergely (Valence), Youssef Ben Ali (Barça), Gerdas Babarskas (Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc HB)
Departures: Theo Jacques Clarac (Bordeaux), Iñaki Peciña (Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc HB), Karl Konan (Montpellier HB), Micke Brasseleur (CSM Constanta), Marko Racic (RK Nexe), Ivan Filipovic (no club)
EHF European League
Group phase (1): 2021/22
Qualification round 1 (1): 2020/21
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Qualification round 3 (1): 2018/19