Toulouse – Marseille 1:6
With Olympique Marseille’s recent drop in form, rumours about Bielsa’s future and players (Doria) speaking out publicly against the manager, it looked like L’OM’s title hopes were over. 1-6 was probably a flattering scoreline, but an encouraging one nonetheless.
Marseille had defensive selection issues as Fanni and Dja DjeDje were suspended while N’Koulou is still recovering from injury. The biggest line-up shock was Michy Batshuayi’s inclusion despite missing a penalty in their previous match vs Caen before being replaced by Gignac who scored.
The majority of the match was played in Marseille build-up. The centre-backs spread wide, the full-backs pushed up, and Romao dropped, with Imbula usually being vertically adjacent to him. OM’s wingers moved into the halfspace, often on Toulouse’s defensive line to overload central areas. Ayew, Payet, Ocampos and Batshuayi would be very horizontally fluid, swapping positions and overloading either side of the field as well as Ayew, Payet and Imbula with vertical movement, dropping to pick up a pass from the CBs.
OM’s build-up was mostly focused around either central passes to a dropping player who would have space to turn, or playing wide through Mendy especially. This was often effective when an OM full-back could get the ball behind the press of Toulouse’s wingers because Toulouse’s fullbacks couldn’t press due to the positioning of OM’s attackers.
Toulouse played Bielsa at his own game, pressing high, probably due to the fact they were 2-0 down after six minutes. Trejo marked Romao while situationally joining Pesic in pressing the CBs. The wingers pressed the full-backs, Doumbia man-marked Imbula and Grigory marked the space in front of the back four.
Said pressing was effective at times with Romao struggling to find any time on the ball and the OMs fullbacks often too high and isolated. This often allowed Toulouse to two-way press the OM CBs when they were out on the touchline. Marseille were dispossessed eight times in their own half.
OM started their build-up very deep, in an attempt to stretch the Toulouse press and find space in behind, allowing them to move up the pitch as quickly as possible as if they were counter attacking. Marseille did this most effectively when involving Mandanda in build-up. This created numerical superiority and meant that Romao could find himself in space behind the press unmarked. Mandanda made 25 short passes during the match however this could have been used more often.
Marseille’s chance creation
Marseille’s early goals were essential as it meant Toulouse would have to attack. OM are very proficient in attacking transition. All of Marseille’s front four showed their ability on the counter attack. Ayew’s fast wide movement gave width to the counter attack which directly led to their third goal. Payet showed his pace and ability to beat players, Ocampos showed his clever movement and good passing vision, and Batshuayi showed his movement and finishing to round off a fantastic fourth goal.
A lot of OM’s final third play is oriented around wide overloads. Batshuayi’s horizontal movement facilitated this, often pulling wide to create triangles with Ocampos/Ayew and Payet to help them penetrate through the flanks and halfspaces while the opposite winger moved into a CF position. The fullback on the other side would move high up the pitch to create width. On occasion they would overload the penalty area with three forwards while the fullback moved into an advanced crossing position, with Payet playing as a false 10, drifting to create combinations and overloads. He is a highly important player for Marseille, making 4 key passes and 7 crosses in this particular match, more than any other player.
Batshuayi showed that Belgium have yet another talented young player to choose from. He made a good run into the channel, turned well using his strength, and finished brilliantly to put OM up after just one and a half minutes. He adds more pace than Gignac does in the attacking transition and finishes just as well as the Frenchman, converting both of his two shots. He could improve aerially as he didn’t win a single aerial duel all match. I expect him to feature more regularly in Bielsa’s side in the remaining matches of the season.
OM in defence
Marseille often adopted a 4-1-4-1 shape in defence due to Imbula pressing higher up on Doumbia. Toulouse played a more direct game due to Marseille’s pressing and made only 56 defensive third passes, compared to OM’s 132.
Olympique Marseille played with a man-oriented zonal system in most situations however their back four were very tight and position oriented when Toulouse had possession in the final third. Romao was often forced to play in the back four in defensive transition when OM lost the ball due to Toulouse’s good pressing. He showed poor defensive mentality for Toulouse’s goal, dropping too deep and playing Yedder onside when he should have just been position oriented.
Bielsa’s men were fantastic however they sometimes struggled in build-up which could cost them vs superior opposition. They don’t have good depth in the squad, playing Lemina, a CM at right-back and they are at a threat of burning out before the end of the season. They currently sit only four points behind leader Lyon, but in my opinion, are unlikely to finish above third in the league.
Toulouse didn’t actually play too badly for most parts and it would have been interesting to see how the match developed if Marseille didn’t score a string of early goals. They need to improve on-the-ball and only real chances came from winning the ball high up the pitch in pressing. They are two points from safety.