Can OM get out of deep water against the islanders?
Week 11 sees two teams with one solitary win each paired together at the Stade Velodrome. Although 7 points from 10 games might have been expected from a team promoted from Ligue 2 last season, where they had one of the smallest budgets in that division, the same cannot be said for their Mediterranean neighbours. 15th place and with a lowly 9 points has seen the Marseille fans confidence in Manager Didier Deschamps plummet lately, with angry boos and shouts for DD to be sacked rather surprisingly being aired after OM’s last minute defeat to Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Before the season kicked off this game would have been viewed as a straight forward home victory for Marseille, however, given their form at the minute, and the off-field problems with club owner, the game takes on a much greater significance.
OM have picked up 1 win and 3 draws from their home games this season, whereas Ajaccio have failed to pick up a victory on their travels, but have returned from away games with a point against Lyon, Brest and Dijon. Marseille have not been defeated in their last 4 league games but have joined draw specialists Auxerre on 6 draws this season. Ajaccio have not won a game since their only victory of the season in week 5, 3-1, at home to Valenciennes. At the Stade Velodrome OM have won 7 of the 10 fixtures between themselves and Ajaccio, however their last meeting in 2005 saw a 1-1 stalemate registered, and the meeting before that saw ACA take all three points back to Corsica in a 2-1 victory.
Didier Deschamps finds himself with another selection dilemma ahead of this game, with injuries and yet more suspensions becoming something of a common theme this season. Stephane Mbia is still injured with a broken foot, while Souleymane Diawara and Charles Kabore are both banned. After serving their suspensions in the 0-0 draw with Toulouse, Valbuena, Azppilicueta and Diarra could all be welcomed back to the starting 11. Other injury concerns ahead of this game are for Lucho, A. AYew and N’Koulou who all picked up knocks against Arsenal mid-week. If Deschamps continues with his current selection policy he will look to start as many of his ‘big guns’ as possible, unfortunately these players are the ones who have continually misfired for the majority of the season. Another defensive shuffle is not ideal preparation for an already shaky defence, and although the names in the attacking areas should bring fear to most Ligue 1 defences, they have played with no cohesion or real attacking threat too often this season. I would personally look to play Gignac from the start in this game. He looked sharp and eager when he made his substitutes appearance midweek, and could play as the target man OM have been looking for. Although he may not run onto Lucho’s through-balls, his presence would allow Remy to drift out of position into the channels as he tends to do, without leaving a void in the strikers position. Cheyrou and Valbuena make obvious starting right and left midfielders, who should look to swap flanks if things are not working, this would also give each of them the chance to cut inside and shoot from distance if required. My starting 11 would see OM play a more traditional 4-4-2 with a very attack minded forward line. OM should expect to see a lot of possession, and if the midfield can utilise this around the half-way line, drawing in the ACA players, they can look to exploit the pace of Remy, Cheyrou and Valbuena by playing balls into the channels allowing plenty of time and space to then create goal scoring opportunities. (Mandanda – Azpilicueta, NKoulou, Fanni, Morel – Cheyrou, Lucho, Diarra, Valbuena – Remy, Gignac).
Ajaccio will hope to bounce back from their unsurprising defeat at the hands of Ligue 1 leaders PSG last week. Former player and now manager Olivier Pantaloni has ensured goals and opportunities have come from both midfield and attack this season, with Sammaritano weighing in with 4 goals and fellow midfielders Kinkela and Cavali providing 6 assists between them. Ajaccio have a habit of coming out of the blocks fast in the 2nd half and have scored 5 goals this season just after half time. They are, however, susceptible to switching off towards the end of each half letting in 5 at the end of the 1st half and another 9 in the last half hour of games. Should things not be working out for OM, a tactical change in striking options against a tiring defence could pay dividends in the final 20 minutes of play.
As I said last week, much of the result depends on which OM team turns up to play. I feel that much of the criticism of Deschamps is perhaps unjustified, giving what he has brought to the club over the past 2 seasons. However, one thing is for certain, the players and performances this season have been well below par. Something has to give soon, and it does not appear that our owner is blessed with patience and may listen to the fans and look for a new manager. If the Marseille squad of this season turns up I expect a draw, 1-1, however if a slightly better team turn up I would hope for a victory (no matter how unconvincing), 2-1 or 3-1.
Swanny (@OMarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)