Olympique Marseille – Girondins de Bordeaux: Uninspired Bordeaux and early red card a treat for Marseille in crisis (1-0)
Poor were the souls, those neutral football enthusiasts, who noticed there was a Ligue 1 match in the late afternoon of a Tuesday and decided to give it a go. No level of hipsterism would make it possible to even pretend to enjoy such a poor spectacle as a patched up Olympique de Marseille were good enough to run deserved winners against an atrocious Bordeaux inside an empty Vélodrome.
Tactical analysis and match report by Sergio Sampaio.
In a match that belonged to the eighteenth match day – supposed to be played in December, but postponed due to the yellow vests movement – Marseille and Bordeaux came face to face both desperate for points. The hosts had lost three of the last four games and lay in the tenth position with 31 points, well below their pre-season expectations of fighting for a Champions League spot.
Bordeaux were none the better, three points behind in twelfth and having trouble showing any consistency. They arrived in Provence after two defeats against Strasbourg and had only three wins in their last twelve league games.
If the Marseille fans already had plenty of reasons for lack of confidence in their team based on recent outings, the number of unavailable players certainly aggravated the feeling. Kevin Strootman and Florian Thauvin were suspended, Dimitri Payet and Adil Rami injured, Luiz Gustavo ill and Mario Balotelli was ineligible as he was not yet a Marseille player when the match was originally supposed to take place. On top of that, manager Rudi Garcia himself was suspended and, due to the game being played behind closed doors, he was not even in the stands.
In the face of all these constraints, Garcia had switched to a 4-4-2 formation that better suited those available. Hiroki Sakai, returning from the AFC Asia Cup, took the right back position and freed Bouna Sarr to play further up on the right wing. Jordan Amavi started at left back while Duje Caleta-Car was brought on to partner the promising Boubacar Kamara in the center of defence. Maxime López and Morgan Sanson occupied the midfield, Lucas Ocampos played from the left and Clinton N’Jie and Valère Germain partnered up front. In total, Marseille featured five new players compared to the defeat at the hands of Reims.
For Eric Bedouet things were not as tragic, with only Zaydou Youssouf injured, but he also could not use new recruitees Yacine Adli and Josh Maja. The Girondins started in the expected 4-3-3 formation with Sergi Palencia regaining his spot at right back and Andreas Cornelius being brought into the team to lead the attack. The complete absence from the squad of Yann Karamoh was the biggest surprise. It has since been clarified that it was a club decision for disciplinary reasons.
Marseille had total control over the center of the pitch, as evidenced by the impressive volume of passes by their central midfielders.
Contagious (lack of) atmosphere
An empty Vélodrome is a strange and sad sight. For the home team it may have been a blessing in disguise – OM fans can be brutally hostile towards their own when things are not going well – the Girondins almost seemed to be affected into going into friendly game mode, such was the lack of intensity. In theory, the game plan was not bad, center midfielders Jaroslav Plašil and Younousse Sankharé aided Cornelius in pressing Marseille’s first stage of buildup, while Otávio provided cover and kept an eye on Morgan Sanson and wingers Samuel Kalu and Jimmy Briand took care of the full backs.
Failing to force a mistake, which was always, they’d retreat to a 4-5-1 shape which was never as compact as it should have been. One can visualize the idea being effective against this Marseille side, at least while defending. The fact it was not has to come down to the execution. Offensively, Bordeaux would try to explore the aerial prowess of Cornelius in the center or Briand on the left and hunt the second ball.
Marseille looked more comfortable in the 4-4-2 formation than expected considering they have not used it recently, something that could be down to how it placed every player in their favourite roles or due to how little resistance Bordeaux showed. It was slightly asymmetrical with Sarr being more of a traditional winger while Ocampos drifted more often from the left towards central areas. On the other hand, Amavi ventured a bit further upfield on the left than Sakai did on the right, to make up for Ocampos’ movements and provide width. That said, it was somewhat narrow, which should make it more difficult to break Bordeaux down, but made their defensive transition easier.
In buildup, the full backs would go up and it was López who dropped back to the right of the center backs in response to Bordeaux’s pressing. After beating Bordeaux’s first line of pressing, López would rejoin the midfield and be the main maestro of Marseille’s play. All of the hosts’ possession went through him and he finished with impressive 96% passing accuracy. Germain played an important role dropping between the lines and receiving line breaking passes with his back towards goal and laying over balls to teammates.
Chances start to come
The first chance did not take long to arise and it came from a poor Bordeaux giveaway. Germain intercepted a bad pass by Jules Koundé and immediately served Ocampos for a clear opportunity to open the score to which Benoit Costil responded with a good save.
Bordeaux kept accumulating turnovers and Marseille kept knocking on the door. The Girondins would sometimes attempt to play from the back but at the first sign of pressure they looked on their favourite maps app for the quickest route to Cornelius. When they did manage to play out into the opponent’s half, it would be a matter of time before possession was lost. There just seemed to be some lack of composure and too many speculative passes were attempted.
However, Costil still had only made one save, but things went from bad to worse in the 25th minute when Kalu showed the most life out of any Bordeaux player but in the worst possible way, seeing a straight red for a clumsy challenge from behind on Ocampos. Things could only end one way from here.
Marseille in possession against ten men Bordeaux.
Marseille assault, Bordeaux have no response
Adjustments were made quickly, though without substitutions. Bordeaux moved to a 4-4-1 shape with Plašil responsible to close the right wing. Marseille widened their shape in attack, fixing Sarr wide, while Sakai provided support on the inside and Amavi became more offensive, now less worried about counterattacks with Bordeaux’s fastest man gone.
Very quickly the game became a Marseille versus Costil affair with the Bordeaux keeper making quality saves to deny Sakai’s header and Germain’s shot, both from close range, before reacting quickly to save a deflected free kick towards the bottom corner. From the resulting corner, however, Marseille opened the score in the 42nd minute. Germain’s header on the near post found Kamara who only had to confirm the inevitable. It was good to see the stadium announcer did not lose the night’s gig and was there to announce the goal to absolutely nobody, except for a cheeky cat who did turn up.
There was still time for Marseille to hit the post with a Sanson shot before the half-time whistle that was a very welcome sound for the bordelais.
Bordeaux still with no response leads to uninteresting second half
Deserved as Marseille’s lead was, the goal ended up being terrible news for the neutral spectator as what followed was an incredibly boring second half. Bedouet made a half-time substitution, replacing Cornelius with the pacey and unpredictable François Kamano to play on the left while Briand was moved up front, but there was little chance for the young Guinean, or any Girondins for that matter, to shine.
Marseille dominated the second half from beginning to end and was always closer to the second goal than their opponents were to the equalizer. The most interesting moment of the half came at the very end, when Sarr scored in the most obvious offside position possible. Somehow the linesman did not see it and it took VAR to disallow the goal, which would have been pretty incredible if this had not been such a sleep inducing half. The linesman is forgiven.
It is hard to draw too many conclusions from such a match. Marseille looked decent, but that was not exactly made difficult by their opponents. Still, in a moment of crisis, a win when missing so many important players is excellent news and the climb to seventh, just three points behind St-Étienne in fourth, will provide a confidence boost. López and Kamara, particularly, look to be in very good form.
Bordeaux, has to be said, looked worryingly poor. The red card did not help, but they were already second best prior to it and even with ten men a team is supposed to show a bit more when chasing a result. The table is very congested and Bordeaux are still very much with a chance of reaching a Europa League spot if they improve their away form, but there just does not seem to be any progress on that front.
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