Olympique de Marseilles fans walked away from the live football online action Stade Velodrome last Sunday evening with a slight air of disappointment despite their 2-2 draw with super-rich Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain.
Although top of the table heading into the game, Marseilles were seen as relative underdogs in the light of PSG’s expected domination of French football. Having finished a dismal 10th in Ligue 1 last season, the club witnessed an exodus of key players determined to earn bigger wages and play European football abroad.
In the summer defenders Stéphane Mbia and César Azpilicueta left for English clubs QPR and Chelsea respectively, while Marseilles’ key defensive midfielder Alou Diarra moved to West Ham (check out their current price in the Premier League multiples with bet365) for just £2.2m: not good for preparation against their big-spending Parisian foes.
This flushing of the old let manager Élie Baup bring in fresh faces and Marseilles look a different team, although the main thing to have changed since last season is the form of Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Gignac had just 12 goals in two years before the start of this season and yet has been a revelation for Marseilles, netting six in 10. The 26-year-old is finally proving the predatory striker he always had the talent to become and had he flourished earlier in his career he may have made more than a poultry 16 appearances for France.
Gignac scored both goals on Sunday evening to cancel out PSG’s €23m signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His first was a sublime example of a striker with confidence, confusing the defender before firing low into the far corner of the goal: while his second – a rising header from a corner – proved his dangerous aerial ability.
Meanwhile at the back, Marseilles have become far more resolute. Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda has conceded just seven from eight in Ligue 1 this season compared to 11 at the start of the last campaign. New right-back Kassim Abdullah appears a strong acquisition while Rod Fanni is proving a rock in the heart of defence.
England exile Joey Barton also appears to have settled into the squad. Although banned from domestic matches this autumn, the loanee has started both of Marseilles’ UEFA Europa League games and proved solid in the centre of midfield, giving the French side a greater confidence to go forward.
With Gignac in goalscoring form and Baup’s assured defence, Marseilles look a completely different team from last season. The striker has grown this autumn and his goals could well spark a full Marseilles revolution as the club looks to banish the nightmare of last year.
Written by Alex Corcoran
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