Posts Tagged ‘Marseille’

Tactics: Ligue 1’s leading lights find diamonds in the rough

James RodriguezParis Saint-Germain and Monaco may have stockpiled all the money in Ligue 1, but the playing fields of the French top flight have been awash with diamonds this season.

Over the past few months, a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond – known as a milieu en losange in France – has become the must-have tactical system for the league’s leading teams, with Lille, Monaco and Lyon successively enjoying improved fortunes after adopting the tactic and Marseille potentially poised to follow suit.

Lille were the pioneers, with coach René Girard installing the system within weeks of his arrival from Montpellier during the summer. Having initially declared an intention to persist with the 4-3-3 formation favoured by his predecessor, Rudi Garcia, he jettisoned the tactic after only 45 minutes of the club’s first friendly match, a 3-2 win over Dijon in July.

The system he introduced was designed to get the best out of Marvin Martin, who operates in the number 10 role ahead of a three-man midfield. Once seen as France’s answer to Xavi, he endured a disappointing debut season after signing from Sochaux but has spoken positively of the “freedom” afforded him in the new system. It is a set-up with which the 26-year-old is familiar, having come to prominence at Sochaux by supplying the bullets for Brown Ideye and Modibo Maiga as the club from eastern France recorded a surprise fifth-place finish under Francis Gillot in 2011.

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Report: Early bird Wilshere takes Arsenal to brink

“London (AFP) – Jack Wilshere scored two goals, the first after only 27 seconds, as Arsenal beat Marseille 2-0 on Tuesday to move to within touching distance of the Champions League last 16.”

My AFP match report on a straightforward night’s work for Arsenal, and another steep learning curve for Marseille, can be read here.

Pitchside Europe: Marseille resistance keeps things interesting

“As in all the great rivalries, much of Marseille’s sense of identity is derived from their fierce opposition to everything PSG, and the events of the last year or so have only served to make the distinction between the clubs clearer. If PSG are the nouveau riche aristocrats, OM have become the sooty-faced street urchins, scrapping and scheming for everything they can get. In André-Pierre Gignac, the striker no-one wanted, who matched [Zlatan] Ibrahimović’s brace at Stade Vélodrome, they have a fittingly unglamorous figurehead for their resistance to the billionaires from Paris.”

My latest Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport, on how Marseille exposed the shortcomings in Paris Saint-Germain’s star-studded squad, can be read here.

Report: Gignac matches Ibra as Marseille hold PSG

“PARIS — André-Pierre Gignac matched Zlatan Ibrahimović goal for goal to earn Marseille a 2-2 draw at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday and keep OM three points clear of their arch rivals at the top of Ligue 1.”

My AFP match report on how André-Pierre Gignac and Zlatan Ibrahimović upstaged Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (OK, nearly upstaged) in Sunday’s night Classique at Stade Vélodrome can be read here.

Pitchside Europe: ‘Big Mac’ Gignac bites back

“[Gignac] has emerged as the unlikely inspiration behind Marseille’s revival under new coach Elie Baup. His £250,000-a-month salary makes him OM’s most handsomely remunerated player, but where he was once an emblem of the club’s ill-considered excesses, he has come to symbolise their hopes of renewal. The cost of renovating the Vélodrome and the drop in earnings caused by last season’s 10th-place finish means that Marseille have been able to sign just one player — 23-year-old forward Florian Raspentino, from Nantes — and their chances of success this season will depend on their thin squad digging deep and following Gignac’s example.”

This  season I will be writing exclusively about Ligue 1 for Eurosport Yahoo!’s Pitchside Europe blog, and you can read my piece on André-Pierre Gignac’s revival with Marseille here.

Related link: Nerves fray as PSG remain grounded

Report: Brandão gives Marseille third straight League Cup

“PARIS — An extra-time goal by substitute Brandão gave Marseille a 1-0 win over Lyon at Stade de France on Saturday that allowed them to claim the Coupe de la Ligue for a record third successive season.

My AFP match report on Saturday’s Coupe de la Ligue final can be read here.

Tactics: How the Champions League quarter-finalists line up

The eight remaining teams in this season’s Champions League are drawn from seven different countries and range in experience from quarter-final debutants APOEL to nine-time champions Real Madrid. They are nonetheless united by a number of tactical factors. All eight sides deployed four-man defences in their last-16 ties, while the majority of the teams preferred single-striker formations. Benfica and Milan were the only two teams to play with no wide midfielders.

The diagrams below depict the eight teams’ tactical line-ups from the first legs of their last-16 ties, before there were any leads to be defended or deficits to be overturned.

NB: The diagrams (screenshots from the UEFA website) show average positions from the first 15 minutes of matches only, so as to provide a clear indication of how the teams approached each game in terms of formation.

APOEL: 4-1-4-1

The average positions of APOEL's players in the first 15 minutes of their 1-0 defeat at Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie; UEFA

In the first leg of their tie at Lyon, APOEL played in a compact 4-1-4-1 formation and placed so much emphasis on defending their penalty area that they did not muster a single shot at goal until Gustavo Manduca tested Hugo Lloris with a rising drive in the 88th minute. Ivan Jovanović’s side were more proactive in the return leg, however. Esteban Solari played up front in support of Aílton, while Manduca was named in the starting line-up and scored the goal that levelled the tie in the ninth minute.

[Squad numbers: 22. Dionisis Chiotis; 7. Savvas Poursaitidis, 3. Paulo Jorge, 4. Kaká, 98. William Boaventura; 26. Nuno Morais; 10. Constantinos Charalambides, 31. Hélder Sousa, 23. Hélio Pinto, 11. Ivan Tričkovski; 8. Aílton]

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Report: Lille thwarted by 10-man Rennes

“PARIS — A last-minute goal by Mevlüt Erding earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at home to Lille on Sunday that prevented the French champions from galvanising their grip on third place and closing the gap on leaders Montpellier.”

My AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including setbacks for Lille and Marseille and an extraordinary 4-4 draw between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain that allowed Montpellier to go top, can be found here.

Report: Last-gasp Ayew gives Marseille advantage

“MARSEILLE, France — A dramatic 93rd-minute header from André Ayew gave Marseille a 1-0 victory over luckless Internazionale in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie here on Wednesday.”

André Ayew’s injury-time goal prompted a hasty re-write of my AFP match report on Marseille’s game with Internazionale on Wednesday evening. You can read it here.

Report: Marseille extend run with fightback at Rennes

“PARIS — Marseille dug deep to come from behind and win 2-1 at Rennes on Sunday, extending their winning run to seven games in all competitions and returning to within two points of the Champions League positions in Ligue 1.”

My AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 matches, featuring a brace for Lille debutant Nolan Roux and a last-minute winner by Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud, can be found here.

ESPN Soccernet: Marseille on an inexorable rise

“Rémy’s burgeoning partnership with Valbuena has been a key factor in the revival. Of the former Lyon striker’s nine league goals, five had been created by Valbuena, who tops the Ligue 1 assists chart with 10 decisive passes. The pair are motivated by a shared desire to secure places in France’s Euro 2012 squad and their understanding is underscored by an off-pitch friendship. “Sometimes, it feels like we’re the only ones playing and that everything will come off,” says Rémy.”

I’ve written a piece for ESPN Soccernet on how Didier Deschamps has transformed Marseille from a side that won just once in their opening 10 league games into one competing for silverware on four fronts. You can read it here.

Related links: Benzema ready to flourish at Real Madrid | PSG benefit from capital gains

Report: Marseille ride luck to beat Le Havre in Coupe de France

“PARIS — Extra-time goals from Morgan Amalfitano and Loïc Rémy brought Marseille a hard-earned 3-1 victory over Le Havre on Sunday, sending them into the Coupe de France last 16 and extending their winning run to six straight games.”

My round-up of the weekend’s Coupe de France action for AFP, including narrow wins over lower-league opposition for Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux, can be read here.

Report: Rémy brace weakens Lille’s grip on title

“PARIS — Lille’s French title defence received a significant setback on Sunday as their 17-game unbeaten run came to an end in a 2-0 defeat at resurgent Marseille in which Loïc Rémy claimed both goals.”

Read my AFP match report on Marseille’s victory over Lille, as well as a round-up of all the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, here.

Pitchside Europe: Marseille chase another unlikely comeback

“The 2010 French champions endured a similarly challenging opening to the 2007-08 campaign, winning only once in their first 10 games, before recovering to finish third. A run of one defeat in 17 matches between early November and mid-March provided the foundation for a late-season tilt at the podium, but third place was only secured thanks to a 78th-minute Djibril Cissé strike in a 4-3 victory at home to Strasbourg on the season’s final day. With only the top three sides in Ligue 1 qualifying for the Champions League again this season, Marseille need to pull off a similar feat to retain their place among Europe’s elite.”

My latest Pitchside Europe blog for Eurosport, on Marseille’s bid to overturn yet another sloppy start to the Ligue 1 season, can be found here.

Tactics: Champions League lights up Marseille’s escape route

In the popular imagination, tactical innovations are often the product of deep rumination by battle-worn coaches desperate to reverse the fortunes of an ailing team. We are invited to imagine them pacing around their training ground offices late at night, a half-drained bottle of brandy within easy reach, or perhaps wide-eyed and manic, furiously rearranging salt and pepper mills to the bewilderment of their companions at a swanky dinner. Suddenly, the eureka moment arrives. The centre-forward needs to be withdrawn to a deeper role! The sweeper should play behind the defence! Wing-backs!

The reality, of course, is usually rather more prosaic – tactical shifts evolve by training ground experimentation, or are imposed upon a coach by injuries, suspensions or losses of form – but sometimes, a new strategy will present itself quite by accident.

With one sweep of Aaron Ramsey’s right boot, Marseille’s season lurched from desperate to tragi-comic on Wednesday night. Almost literally incapable of winning in Ligue 1 (where they have registered one victory in their opening 10 games), OM had found respite in the Champions League and were seconds from taking a valuable point from a dismal game with Arsenal when Johan Djourou’s cross drew in Marseille’s defenders like moths to a flame and left the Welsh midfielder with time and space to beat Steve Mandanda with an unflappable finish at the back post.

Defeat was cruel on Marseille, who had limited the visitors to just two clear second-half chances up to that point, although Borussia Dortmund’s unscheduled 3-1 defeat at Olympiakos means their chances of reaching the knockout phase remain in good shape. It would be unfortunate indeed for Didier Deschamps’ slide to slip from the competition at the group stage, for it is in the Champions League that their tactical escape route has been illuminated.

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