Tag Archives: Joey Barton

Marseille 2012-2013 Season Review

After a woeful domestic campaign during 2011/12, hopes weren’t particularly high at the start of the 2012/13 season. Having won the Coupe de France, Marseille stuttered to a 10th place finish last time round. OM started the season having lost high profile players Lucho Gonzalez, Stephane Mbia, Alou Diarra and Cesar Azpilicueta, along with club legend and manager Didier Deschamps. With the loss of these ‘stars’ and with the less than favourable appointment of Elie Baup as manager, many felt that a top-10 finish would be a success. To many teams seemed to have better players, stringer squads and greater finances, not a position Marseille are used to being in.

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With Elie Baup at the helm Marseille began their season early in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round and managed to see off a tricky Eskisehirspor team with two disciplined performances that were to become the blueprint for the rest of the season.

Much to everyone’s surprise OM’s ligue campaign stared perfectly, with 6 wins from 6. At the time most put this down to a ‘generous’ fixture list, though it did contain a tricky trip to champions Montpellier and a Rennes side who usually start the season well. It looked as though all of this hard work had been in vain though as the side were humiliated 4-1 by Valenciennes in week 7 in one of the worst performances of the season. Individual errors were costly and OM offered little in attack.

Despite this loss, Marseille managed a moral boosting win in the Europa League, 5-1 over AEL Limassol, however, PSG were up next. Even with the Valenciennes loss hanging over them, Marseille equalled and in fact, bettered psg in most areas across the pitch. 2 superb strikes from Zlatan were equalled by 2 fantastic strikes from the in-form Andre-Pierre Gignac. Such was the quality and threat that OM possessed in this game, Ancelotti’s team ended the game with 7 recognised defenders on the pitch playing out for a draw. The passion of this game in the stands, was equalled by our Olympians, and if psg hadn’t have played with such negativity in the second half Marseille could have and probably should have picked up all 3 points.

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With APG in the kind of form that made him hot property when he signed for OM in 2010, the team struggled without him when he sustained a metatarsal injury in mid-October. During this time Marseille were knocked out of the Europa League at the end of the group stage, knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue and picked up Ligue 1 losses to Troyes, Lyon and Lorient allowing PSG and Lyon to finish above OM in the standings before the winter break.

With all 3 teams equal on points at the end of December though it was probably Marseille who should have been happiest. psg were undoubtedly disappointed that they had not already managed a significant points gap between themselves and their challengers, while Lyon were probably a little disappointed to be on the same points as OM.

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One of the most unusual signings in France was Joey Barton signing for Marseille on loan. Hitting the headlines when ‘exiled’ to Marseille, he continued to upset most with his twitter-rants and comments and then proceeded to upset people even more by actually playing well on the pitch and putting in strong yet disciplined performances, he even had the audacity to set up the 2 goals that gave OM a win in a tough away trip to Stade Brestois, picking up the man of the match award in the process!

After the winter break Marseille dropped more points against Sochaux, Rennes, Nancy, Evian and PSG. The purchase of Romao, Sougou and Kadir on a shoestring budget seemed to have backfired for Baup and the board as the squad struggled to find their rhythm. With APG also struggling to find his early season form, the departure of Loic Remy to QPR meant that OM were relying on Jordan Ayew who is yet to live up to his potential or discover what the word consistent means.

Having got these poor results out of their system, Marseille managed to finish the season strongly. Being knocked out of the Europa league may have been a blessing given the lack of squad depth and European experience of some of the newer players.

Baup seemed to realise that defensively, Marseille had not been performing to their best standards and put a great deal of emphasis on defensive stability for the reminder of the season. With Lucas Mendes becoming accustomed to the Ligue 1 style, he and Nkoulou developed an impressive partnership that stopped almost anything getting to the equally as impressive Steve Mandanda who found some of his best form at the end of the season too. So good was this partnership that the team only let in a meagre 4 goals in the final 10 weeks of the season.

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Despite it bringing on a ‘boring’ tag on Marseille’s approach to games, a solid defence was something that OM fans have craved for a long time. With the quality in their attacking ranks through Valbuena, Andre Ayew and Gignac there was always a likely chance that OM would score, and this is exactly what happened during Marseille’s 7 game streak without conceding, which allowed them to overtake Lyon and claim 2nd spot guaranteeing Champions League football next season. In my opinion the boring tag was a little unfair in the way it was used. Yes, OM weren’t netting 4 goals a game, but the squad were doing the best with what they had. Other teams would show ‘disciplined’ performances and were ‘clinical’ in front of goal while ‘grinding out results’ is often the sign of a good team. Hopefully, Baup and the other coaches can build on the defensive stability and work on the flow of football further up the pitch utilising the strength and pace that OM have in attack and therefore allow Marseille to not only keep tight in defence but also out score the opposition when needed (the 2 away psg games were indicative of a lack of this where the defence was breached).

 

Given the disappointment of last season, the uncertainty at the beginning of the season, pushing PSG so close for the title and finishing 2nd in the ligue is a huge achievement for Marseille. It remains to be seen how they manage next season to find out if it was an overachievement. Securing Champions League football is a huge boost though, and should hopefully ensure we hold onto our top players like Mandanda, Nkoulou and Valbuena. With some shrewd investment and signings that add to our squad depth this has the potential to be a team that develops further and pushes PSG all the way next season too.

Lyon 0-0 Marseille match report – physical battle ends goalless

No team could find a winner as the ‘Olympico’ fixture ended in a stalemate at Le Stade Gerland. It was a tactically enthralling match but devoid of major chances. Both teams cancelled each other out in what was a very committed display by each respective outfit. Both teams desperately needed all 3 points in order to keep up the pressure on PSG but overall a draw was definitely the fair result here.

Sougou given start

Following his impressive display last weekend, Sougou was given a starting spot by Elie Baup and he was arguably OM’s most dangerous player in the first half. Most of the danger OM created was on the right hand side where the ex Cluj man and Rod Fanni were linking up pretty well. The weak spot on Lyon’s defence was at right back due to the absence of Anthony Reveillere, but for some reason OM never seemed to target Dabo in this encounter.

Apart from the inclusion of Sougou, the OM line-up had a very familiar look about it and there were no surprises. Lyon lined up in a 4-3-3, which included a fairly defensive midfield which didn’t include a playmaker. Both Grenier and Gourcuff were on the bench and the hosts generally struggled to create anything much all night. Unsurprisingly, Lyon targeted Jeremy Morel and Lacazette caused him a few problems in the first half. However, the left back gradually adjusted and eventually was more than able to match the OL youngster.

Physical battle

You could tell that both teams knew the importance of this match. There was a clear focus, determination and fight from all of the players on the field. A defeat for either side here would’ve been a significant blow, but if either was to have any title ambitions then they needed to push on and take all 3 points. This was a very physical battle and some of the tackles flying in were excellent to see. If you like your tactical battles and smashmouth football then this was the sort of fixture you’d have enjoyed. However, for those who prefer open and flairy football then you needed to be looking elsewhere for your kicks.

In the 2nd half, OM arguably created the most dangerous chances. The closest they came was through an Andre Ayew header which passed very close to the post. But in general, both defences have to be given credit for shutting down most attacks. It was the sort of match in which one major error could’ve proved the difference between victory and defeat, but none came. A lot of energy was being used up by the players and it was impressive to see some players have such a strong physical engine.

Fear of defeat

As the last 10-15 mins unfolded, you could tell that both teams really wanted to open up and push hard for the 3 points. But ultimately, the ‘fear’ of defeat was just too much and it prevented the game from opening up. Sometimes if you really want success then you have to take a risk. This is where I will criticise Lyon because they were the home team and the onus was on them to take victory which would’ve kept the pressure on PSG. To some extent, OM can also be criticised for not ‘going for it’ as much as they could’ve, but realistically an away point at Lyon is a fairly good result under normal circumstances.

It was one of those matches where an early goal inside the first 20 mins could’ve really opened things up. I really feel that this was a fixture with great potential. If both teams were free from the mental pressure of not wanting to lose then we could’ve seen a completely different game. But at the end of the day the only winners tonight were PSG as they now have a 4 point gap to Lyon, and 7 to OM. With 10 games left to play, Elie Baup’s men must keep fighting hard for every point in order to claim a place in the top 3, or possibly even higher. Recent away performances have been encouraging, which is vital because trips to Nice and Lille are on the horizon soon. It would be nice if we could turn a few of these decent displays into goals and 3 points though………………..

 

OM player ratings and notes :-

Mandanda 6/10 – With the exception of one poor clearance he had a good night. Strong command here and had very safe hands when called upon.

Morel 5/10 – Lacazette gave him a few problems early on, but he eventually settled into the match fairly well.

Mendes 5/10 – Had a fairly nervous first half, but improved after the break when he made a few crucial interceptions.

N’Koulou 6/10 – Looked pretty assured here and hardly put a foot wrong all night.

Fanni 6/10 – Defended smartly and offered himself in attack as much as he could. Final balls into the box could’ve been a little better.

Romao 5/10 Did a fairly solid job in the middle of the park and helped OM have a strong backbone in this area.

Barton 6/10 – Worked well with Romao in the middle and also helped set up a number of attacks.

Andre Ayew 5/10 – He probably should’ve worked Dabo more than he did, but remained a threat, especially in the air.

Sougou 6/10 – Had an impressive first half in which he was OM’s best player Quietened down after the break before being taken off for Jordan Ayew.

Valbuena 5/10 – Some nice moments as always but he was a frustrated man in this match. Struggled physically against some OL players.

Gignac 5/10 – Never really had a genuine chance but he fought hard for the cause upfront.

Jordan Ayew (sub, 73rd min) 5/10 – Was lively and gave the team some energy, maybe could’ve done more with the ball.

My Lyon player ratings :-

Vercoutre 5/10
Umtiti 6/10
Lovren 4/10
Bisevac 7/10
Dabo 5/10
Gonalons 6/10
Fofana 5/10
Malbranque 5/10
Lacazette 6/10
Lisandro 4/10
Gomis 4/10
Grenier (sub) 6/10

Man of the match – Bisevac.

Tough MOM to award here because nobody really stood out. But the OL centre back was very solid throughout, making a number of key tackles and blocks when it mattered.

 

Marseille v Troyes – 3/3/13 – Match Preview

Sun 03/03/13 – 16:00 (UK)

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ref. – Laurent Duhamel

Background –

The meeting between Marseille and Troyes in week 9 could have been the turning point in Marseille’s season. Before the game they were top of the Ligue by 3 points and had only suffered 1 defeat after their best ever start to a season. During the game in Troyes, OM lost Gignac to a broken metatarsal, lost the game 0-1, and lost their place at the top of Ligue1 to psg, something they have failed to gain back since. The loss of Gignac had a huge impact on the team, only winning 2 of the 6 games he missed out on. Having lost out on 3rd place due to other results this weekend, hopefully Marseille can turn the end of their season round with a much needed win over Troyes. A week of back to back losses to psg and a cup exit is one thing. Losing out on 3rd place and a defeat to the ligue’s bottom club would be another!

 

Marseille –

Having matched and bettered psg for most of the Ligue game last Sunday, Elie Baup decided to name an unchanged team against psg’s much changed team for the Coupe de France game midweek. It may have been fatigue or disappointment but OM failed to get anywhere near psg’s much changed team in most departments. The concentration, effort and endeavour that the world had watched on Sunday evening, was nowhere to be seen in the cup. Defensive blunders were back, misplaced passes made a return and wayward shooting continued. A performance like that was never going to beat a reserve psg team, so improvements must be made against a team who will arrive in Marseille fighting for survival.

Benoit Cheyrou and Morgan Amalfitano are both still absent, though N’Diaye returns to the squad. The full squad available for selection consists of: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, N’Diaye, Romao, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Kadir, Gignac, J. Ayew and Sougou.

Many would have trouble arguing with a decision to change the entire defensive unit after a number of consistently poor and shaky performances from Mandanda, Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes and Morel, though how beneficial or suitable a defensive 5 of Samba, Abdallah, Diawara, Romao and NDiaye would be remains to be seen. Seeing that Baup has often failed to see the obvious issues in defence all season (set piece marking, conceding from set-pieces and defensive leadership) it is probably safe to assume that the defence will remain unchanged.

Likely starting lineup: 4-2-3-1

Mandanda

Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel

Romao, Barton

Kadir, Valbuena, Andre Ayew

Gingac

 

Marseille should look to play on the break again, this is where they saw the most success against psg, and they should see a little more benefit from a slightly weaker opposition. Too often last week, OM’s counter play was rushed, and therefore crosses from Valbuena, Gignac or Kadir were trying to pick out only one other attacking player. If OM are to play this was the whole attacking unit needs to break with much more pace, this should not really be a problem for Valbuena, Kadir or Andre Ayew.

 

Who are they? –

After Nancy’s win over Sochaux yesterday, Troyes have dropped to the bottom of the Ligue 1 table and sit 7 points from safety. A shock win at Marseille would undoubtedly give them a huge lift ahead of playing Stade de Reims next week which could then put them only 1 point from safety with the advantage of a huge confidence boost in the process.

At present though they have the 2nd worst defensive record in the ligue, conceding 46 (Bastia have conceded 51), and one of the poorest attacking records too, 14th in the attacking table). Some of Troyes’ good attacking play this season has come from play down the wings. If Marseille allow Troyes to attack in this way, then they should ensure that Nkoulou and Mendes are in position to defend effectively.

Bahebeck and Camus are likely to be the two players working the wide positions for Troyes. Fanni and Morel must be careful to push their respective opponents wide and force them into crosses from difficult positions, allowing the rest of the OM team to take up suitable defensive positions. Allowing these two players time to dribble and possible cut inside would be most dangerous and is likely to give Troyes licence to shoot from distance and potentially score.

Along with the impressive Camus, Benjamin Nivet is sure to be the man to watch. Playing in a position just behind Yattara, Nivet has contributed 8 goals and 2 assists for Troyes so far. His ability to provide through his through balls means that if he is not closed down quickly, he is likely to cause problems. Either Barton or Romao must decide who is to press Nivet quickly. Once the ball has left Nivet, both players can drop deeper if needed, or push out and attack the defensive midfield line of Othon and Xavier. But it is important that Nivet is pressed immediately, this is something that did not happen with Beckham midweek and he was given the freedom to spray the ball around with ease, of course Beckham was playing deeper than Nivet will be expected to play, ensuring that Barton and Romao to not have to take up to advanced a position.

Possible Troyes line up (4-2-3-1):

Thuram

Faussurier Rincon Saunier N’Sakala

Othon Xavier

Bahebeck Nivet Camus

Yattara

 

Summary –

Having been in and out of the title race this season, last week’s defeat to psg, seemingly ruled OM out for good, however, with psg’s shock defeat at Reims this week, and Marseille’s game against Lyon next week, OM could end next Sunday only 2 points from top spot (I know there are a lot of variables in that, but what the hell!).

Marseille’s last 3 games against Troyes at the Velodrome have resulted in a Marseille 9-3 aggregate scorline, with Troyes winning only once in the last 7 meetings (0-1 in 2001). If Marseille want to ensure a Champions League qualification, which would be good progress for this squad, then they need to begin with a win over Troyes. This would put them 2 points clear of Saint-Etienne in 4th who face a tough game against Rennes next week.

 

Predicted score: Marseille 2v1 Troyes

 

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Marseille 1.44

Draw 4.10

Troyes 8.00

 

 

Other Ligue 1 games

Montpellier 2-0 Rennes

Reims 1-0 psg

Bastia 1-0 Ajaccio

Toulouse 0-0 Evian

Sochaux 1-2 Nancy

Saint-Etienne 4-0 Nice

Lorient 1-1 Valenciennes

Brest v Lyon

Lille v Bordeaux

 

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)