Posts Tagged ‘French Football’

Deschamps’ rises Marseille again.

If there is a man who can turn around the fortunes of Olympique Marseille at any point in time, look no further than Didier Deschamps. Deschamps captained Marseille to the Champions League crown in 1993, as well as winning two league titles. Since returning in 2009, he has overseen the club’s first league triumph in 18 years and picked up the Coupe de la Ligue twice as well as two Trophées des Champions.

The early months of this season looked chaotic with no league win after nine rounds of games with Marseille at rock bottom of the league. It was no surprise to see some passionate Stade Velodrome faithful asking for the head of their head coach. During the mini-crisis, some disillusioned fans attempted to invade the pitch a pitch with a banner calling for the return of former coach Éric Gerets. This despicable act was followed up with a clash between Deschamps and sporting director Jose Anigo in the press, club owner Margarita Louis-Deryfus delivered a devastating blow with a poorly timed reminder that Champions League qualification was “imperative” and warned that she could walk away from the role that she had taken over from her late husband, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, in July 2009.

The prospect of a long season of in-fighting and under-achievement loomed, but he has been able to turn the corner.

So what went right?

Steps were taken to improve the harmony within the changing room. Scores were settled at a crisis meeting between Louis-Dreyfus and the players in a bid to hurl themselves out of their misery.

After club president Vincent Labrune fined him for criticising Deschamps, Anigo distanced himself from the squad and focused his attention on recruitment (with Deschamps and Anigo barely on speaking terms, Labrune has been forced to act as a go-between in discussions over potential signings).

Summer recruits Jérémy Morel who joined from Lorient to replace Taye Taiwo, Cameroonian stopper Nicolas Nkoulou a promising and youthful successor to Gabriel Heinze, Gennaro Bracigliano, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano all took some time to fit.

Deschamps has also made efforts to get closer to his players, distributing uncharacteristic on-pitch embraces after matches and joining in with ball exercises in training. Required tactical adjustment were made while under-performing stars like Lucho Gonzalez and Mathieu Valbuena were dropped from the starting XI momentarily.

All these changes have impacted positively. Three straight wins in late-October steadied the ship, before OM’s campaign exploded into life with a 3-0 humbling of PSG and a magnificent comeback at Borussia Dortmund that took Deschamps’ men into the Champions League last 16.

They have been flying ever since.

Valbuena has returned to the starting line-up after his sensational winner against Borussia Dortmund. The departure of Ghanaian brothers André and Jordan Ayew, Charles Kabore to the Africa Cup of Nations has only reduced Deschamps’ options but their absences were barely noticed in the 2-0 defeat of champions Lille recently. Marseille are now dominating their opponents and playing attractive football. Even maligned striker Brandão, back at the club after an exile in Brazil following his arrest on rape charges in March last year, has been granted a warm reception by the Vélodrome.

Rémy’s burgeoning partnership with Valbuena has been a key factor in the revival. Five of Remy’s nine league goals have been created by Valbuena who tops Ligue 1 assists chart with 11 decisive passes. Rémy said;

“Sometimes, it feels like we’re the only ones playing and that everything will come off”

Champions League qualification remains the minimum requirement this season, but the current run means supporters’ eyes are beginning to linger on the eleven-point gap separating them from leaders and sworn enemies PSG in the league table.

“As the manager of the club, you could say that my role is to expect the worst,”

says Labrune.

“But you could also say that we can always dream.”

The were 2 goals up against Lyon on Sunday, but ended the game with 1 point, thanks to a fight back from Lyon.

With OM still in contention for four major honors having made it to final of Coupe de la Ligue where they can retain their title for the third straight year.  They are also in the round of 32 in the French Cup, eleven points behind leaders PSG in French Championnat and are in the round of 16 knock-out stage of UCL.

President Vincent Labrune’s courage must be commended for keeping faith in a manager who is a proven winner and has never let Marseille down in the past.

Didier Deschamps’ Marseille has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.