After having won its first French title in almost two decades (its last one was won in 1991-1992), and a League Cup (its first) Olympique de Marseille, as the most popular club in France, thought that everything would go its way in this start of the 2010-2011. The month of July gave a new opportunity to win a title, the “Trophee des Champions”, the French SuperCup which opposes the Championship winner against the Cup winner, which was Paris Saint Germain, Marseille’s archrival. A game that saw most of the action taking place in the middle of the field between two teams preparing their season, Marseille won after the penalty kicks, thus adding a third trophy to an already very satisfying season. Everything seemed to go Marseille’s way but not only the mercato, the French way to name the period of transfers, remained very calm when it came to players arriving to the club, but also some players started to express their will to leave the club. Cesar Azpilicueta, a promising defenseman born in 1989 coming from Osasuna was the first player to sign a €7 million contract in favor of Marseille, and players like Taye Taiwo, or Benoit Cheyrou, two of the best players in the team last season finally decided to stay after several weeks of intense negotiations between them and Marseille’s general manager Jose Anigo and president Jean-Claude Dassier. The story was different for two crucial players in Marseille’s team, Mamadou Niang, the team’s captain, best striker of the League, and Hatem Ben Arfa, a flamboyant but inconstant left winger, who were both very important part in the quest for the title. Both wanted to leave the team and try their luck somewhere else in Europe, receiving a no-go from the team’s direction. This atmosphere put a hold on the efforts made by Coach Didier Deschamps, to build back a competitive group for the upcoming season.
The effects were shown right at the beginning of the season with a loss to Caen (photo), the winner of the French second division, at home 2-1, with almost no encouraging signs coming from the home team, only reacting after the first goal by Caen at the 52th with a goal by Mamadou Samassa at the 78th,, finally losing at the 88th minute in a heartbreaking finish. The flowing game in Valencienne showed the same problems, a defense lacking the presence of Souleymane Diawara, Marseille’s best defenseman last year, with no real rhythm in the possession and use of the ball, with once again a final 3-2 loss away in Valenciennes. It is obvious that these two losses were mainly due to what was surrounding the team during the month right before the start of the season, this came from a clear mishandling of the situation by the team leaders who considered that Marseille had enough players so that the team could once again play for the title in France and have a good season in Champions’ League, though they quickly realized that this was not the case. Fans in Marseille and all over France had to wait until the 3rd stage of the season, with a win against Lorient at home, with two goals by defensemen Heinze and Taiwo, to see their team have an attitude closer to what one should expect from a team running for a new title.
Meanwhile Niang finally signed for the Turkish League club Fenerbahce and Ben Arfa is supposed to sign for Werder Bremen in Germany, after several declarations made by his manager that “he will never wear Marseille’s jersey again”. At the same time, Marseille finally closed on deals with Loic Remy, a young but already highly regarded striker coming from Nice, and Andre-Pierre Gignac, former best striker in the French League two years ago for a total of around 33 million euros. This news come as relief in the blurry beginning that Marseille experienced this year, which might take a new turn, now that what was seen as the weak point in the team, the offense, will be filled adequately. Everything will be put on the test during next game which will be opposing Marseille and Bordeaux, one of the top teams in the French League, next Sunday.