After much confusion over arranged friendlies, cancelled friendlies and newly arranged friendlies, along with doubt over the venue of OMs home games this season, Marseille eventually played their first game under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa on the 19th July in Austria against Bayer Leverkusen.
2 games later and Bielsa’s Marseille have a 100% record, showing some excellent discipline, attacking intent, structure and tactics that have been missing during the Baup/Anigo eras.
Sat 19th July – 19:00
Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Marseille (Yurchenko; Thauvin, Reinartz O.G., Amalfitano, Payet)
Stade SV Seekirchen, Austria
Dja Djedje Romao Lemina Mendes Mendy
Thauvin Payet Alessandrini
Subs: Fabri, Morel, Cheyrou, Amalfitano, Batshuayi
One of the many questions fans were excitedly asking ahead of Bielsa’s first game in charge of OM was ‘what crazy formation will El Loco’ start with?’ Knowing that Bielsa is something of a taskmaster, with huge expectations of his players, many have doubted how OM’s players would adapt to this level of discipline, having shown very little of it under previous managers.
Bielsa set out with an unusual line-up which varied between a defensive 5-1-3-1 and attacking 3-3-3-1. In the defensive 3, only Mendes was a recognised defender as Lemina and Romao joined him. Mendy and Dja Djedje supported as wing-backs, with Imbula sitting just in front of the defence. The attacking 4 of Alessandrini, Payet, Thauvin and Gignac was probably the most expected aspect of the squad.
The game started evenly with both teams creating chances, but failing to really test the opposition keeper. That all changed after 30 minutes when Payet played an excellent through-ball for Thauvin, beating the high Leverkusen defensive line, Thauvin composed himself and beat Leno when one-on-one. Leverkusen looked the most likely to score during the rest of the first half, but only tested Samba once.
During the interval Bielsa made 3 changes, bringing on Morel, Cheyrou and Batshuayi in pace Mendy, Alessandrini and Gignac. The changes worked well with all 3 players fitting into the system seamlessly. Just before the hour mark, OM doubled their lead. New boy, Batshuayu broke down the left and attempted to cross, only for Bayer defender Reinartz to deflect the ball into his own goal.
Amalfitano looked to have put the game beyond the Germans with an audacious lob on 78 minutes, only for Yurchenko to leave Samba with no chance with a good strike. Amalfitano continued to look impressive though and he added to his performance with an assist for Payet’s goal only a minute later.
The slightly more physical side to the game looked as though it may take over in the dying minutes, but thankfully most remembered that this was a pre-season friendly.
The win was an emphatic way for Marcelo Bielsa to begin his tenure at OM, with a number of Marseille players impressing with excellent performances, for both themselves and the team as a whole. Particular standouts were Imbula, Amalfitano, Payet and Thauvin.