The votes have been counted up, so can we start by thanking everyone who took their time to vote for Marseille’s Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season. In the end it became quite close between 2 players in each category with Cesar Azpilicueta coming a close 2nd in the Young Player category and Mathieu Valbuena 2nd in the (Senior) Player voting. The winners were as follows:
Consistently Classy NKoulou Captures Young Player Award
Young Player of the Season – Nicolas NKoulou
Having signed from relegated rivals, AS Monaco, last summer, Nicolas NKoulou has improved and progressed to become one of Marseille’s most consistent performers in what was a disappointing 2011-2012 Ligue 1 campaign for the club. Nkoulou played 46 matches throughout the season, the highlight coming in the Coupe de la Ligue final victory against Lyon.
At the age of 22 NKoulou has demonstrated competence, skill and an air of calmness to his game that has far surpassed many of his ‘superior’ and more experienced colleagues. Having played alongside Diawara, Fanni and Diarra at various points, NKoulou provided the most assured performances consistently. NKoulou has not only been the best of the OM central defence, he has managed to continually improve as the season progressed and showed experience beyond his years in high-pressured games against Inter and Bayern in the Champions League. He has managed to demonstrate pace, strength on the floor, height in the air and skill on the ball in equal measures.
After a number of teams were interested in NKoulou before Marseille managed to claim his signature, it remains to be seen whether or not OM can retain him for next season. Marseille fans will hope that another defender can be signed to partner NKoulou and they can create a solid defensive unit that can ensure they don’t concede some of the poor goals they have at times this season. If NKoulou continues to improve at the rate he has this season he will ensure that he is considered one of Ligue 1’s Players of the Season next year.
Player of the Season Award in Safe Hands as Mandanda Picks up the Prize
Player of the Season – Steve Mandanda
Well done Steve Mandanda who managed to pick up our fans vote for (senior) Player of the Season. Mandanda’s consistent form and heroic saves this season helped ensure that despite finishing 10th in Ligue 1, Marseille’s defensive record was still 5th best, conceding only 41 goals in 38 games.
The French national understudy, played in every Ligue 1 game and only missed out on 1 Champions League game due to a last minute sending off in the 1/8 round 2nd leg match against Inter Milan. Although Marseille conceded due to the penalty that Mandanda conceded, their progress into the next round meant that Mandanda missed the critical first leg against Bayern Munich. Mandanda’s absence, could be singled out as one of the reasons Marseille struggled to threaten Bayern, as Elinton Andrade let in two very soft goals in the first leg.
This error, along with a few rare others lead to goals in Ligue 1, were a few minor blips in what was otherwise another outstanding season for Mandanda. The goalkeeping rock undoubtedly ensured that Marseille managed a reasonably modest finish in the standings and ensured OM kept a clean sheet in order to hold on to the Coupe de la Ligue victory over Lyon. It has been clear that Mandanda has not been helped by a regularly changing centre-back partnership this season, and the club captain has often been left frustrated by the amateurish marking during set-pieces. This will hopefully be something the team will work on as a whole during pre-season to help them stop conceding ‘easy’ goals. Mandanda’s main strengths are undoubtedly his shot stopping skills, one-on-one against a striker, you are fairly confident who will come out on top. Some of his excellent saves this season have helped Mandanda keep his French place and will travel with the squad to Poland/Ukraine for the European Championships, despite some excellent performances from a number of other French ‘keepers this year.
As with NKoulou, Mandanda has been linked with a move away in the past, and rumours are rife that he is likely to leave the Velodrome this summer. Once again, if Marseille want to progress and improve on this season Mandanda must be one of the players they keep tight a hold of.
Thanks again to everyone who voted.
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & Andrew_Js3)