By Jean Sebastien Maire
After 5 stages in the French Orange Ligue 1, Marseille was 13th with one win, two losses and two draws. A pretty bad start considering that the club was defending its title. Still, Marseille has not lost in the French championship since mid-august and a loss against Valenciennes. Since then, they have won 5 games, and earned 3 draws against Bordeaux away, Monaco at home and Saint-Etienne away. Those results showed some kind of improvements, especially against Bordeaux and Saint Etienne where Marseille deserved the win but had to settle with heartbreaking draws both in the last minutes of the games. At mid-October, the team is now 4th in the rankings, 4 points behind Rennes which is the surprising leader. It remains that this series of 8 games without a loss did not come without any interrogations. Improvements made in the defensive sector with Souleymane Diawara’s comeback, who is considered as the pillar of the defense, and one of the most active players in the title’s quest last year, were not followed by any signs of improvement in the offense, in which both newcomers: Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac had difficulties to adapt and to justify the big bucks paid for them (around 30 million Euros for both). One had to wait until the game against Saint Etienne to see Gignac score his first goal at the 8th stage of the league, and the following game against Nancy for Remy to add a goal to his stats with Marseille. One can argue that they both came in late with near-deadline transfers, and that the atmosphere in Marseille is much more demanding than in their former teams (Nice for Remy and Toulouse for Gignac), that can explain their lack of immediate impact on the team. The last win obtained at home against Nancy in a very poor fashion, with a goal that should have never been accepted for Marseille and two hand balls in the area not awarded to Nancy tarnished this home win, sanctioned by heavy boos at the end confirming the fact that Marseille is not yet back to its last year’s level.
In Champions League, things did not go Marseille’s way from the very beginning with a loss at home against Spartak Moscow 0-1, followed right after by another loss at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge 2-0 which left them 3rd in the group with 0 point, only trailed by Zilina because of the goal average. The Champions League was one of Marseille’s top priorities this year, but it seemed that once again Marseille would have to settle for the Europa League in a pretty group where they could have expected to finish second behind an untouchable Chelsea. Next up was Zilina, a Slovakian team considered as the weakest in the group. At home, and with lot of difficulties Marseille won 1-0, with a goal by S. Diawara at the 48th minute after one of the worst first half played by Marseille in months. These 3 points allow Marseille to have a shot at the qualification once again, but it will need them to win away in a always hard to play Spartak Moscow during the Russian winter on November 23rd, as well as away in Slovakia at Zilina, a very courageous team as they showed in Marseille, on November 3rd.
This will not be an easy task, especially with that level of playing showed lately.
Next weekend, another test expects Marseille, away in Lille, a team which is known to develop one of the best playing style in France with talented players like Eden Hazard, Adil Rami, and Gervinho. A win there next Sunday is seen as much needed raising Marseille’s confidence, just before an essential month of November.