Olympique Marseille – Toulouse: OM Thrash Toulouse To Start The Second Half Of The Season (6-1)
Ligue 1 returned from the World Cup break with a full round of midweek matches. Among those was a trip to fourth-placed Marseille for newly-promoted Toulouse on Thursday night. The return journey must have felt much longer for them, as they let in six goals in a comprehensive defeat.
Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.
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After a difficult summer for the club, Igor Tudor’s time at Marseille got off to a very good start as they won six of their first seven Ligue 1 fixtures. They have tailed off since, though, picking up just one point in October and also crashing out of Europe in dramatic fashion against Tottenham Hotspur. Their fans will hope that the World Cup break helped them reset and go again.
The break also came at a good time for Toulouse, who lost three league matches on the bounce prior to it. Before that, though, they were going well. The Ligue 2 holders amassed 16 points in their first 12 games, closing in on the top half of the table and building a sizeable gap to the relegation zone. That has boiled down to just three points now, so it is time for them to start getting results again.
Marseille lined up in their usual 3-4-2-1 formation, with Pau López in goal behind Chancel Mbemba, Samuel Gigot and Leonardo Balerdi. Jonathan Clauss and Sead Kolašinac patrolled the flanks whilst Valentin Rongier joined Pape Gueye in midfield. Cengiz Ünder and Dimitri Payet operated behind Alexis Sánchez up front.
Toulouse did not spring any surprises either in their favoured 4-3-3 formation. Maxime Dupé started in goal with 17-year-old debutante Christian Mawissa, Anthony Rouault, Rasmus Nicolaisen and Issiaga Sylla in the back line. Stijn Spierings had Brecht Dejaeghere and Branco van den Boomen for company in midfield as ever. Rafael Ratao and Fares Chaibi flanked Thijs Dallinga, who started again in the absence of Rhys Healey.
Toulouse pin themselves in with their defensive setup
Toulouse are a side that have looked to control matches as far as possible this season, but their defensive setup proved detrimental to their own cause in this game.
As usual, the Ligue 2 holders initially sought to set up in a 4-5-1 medium block, but quickly found themselves having to sink deeper into a low block. The reason behind that was that their wingers were asked to track the opposition wing-backs, which meant they were sucked back quite a bit. So, Dallinga was left alone up top, meaning Marseille’s wide center-backs could make a fair bit of headway.
17th minute: With Toulouse’s wingers sucked deep by the advanced wing-backs, Marseille’s enter the opposition half through Mbemba, who has gotten forward out wide.
It should be said that Toulouse’s settled defense was pretty good in the first half as they were able to restrict Marseille in the final third. The opening goal they conceded was in transition due to Gigot storming forward and setting up Rongier with a cut-back from the byline, but apart from that, they only allowed one other shot on target in the period.
Marseille’s aggressive press does not allow Toulouse to settle
In fairness, Toulouse would have gotten away with their defensive setup if they were allowed to control the game in possession as they like to. Although the share of the ball was split almost evenly in this match, how the two sides were allowed to keep it differed vastly.
As we saw above, Toulouse sunk deep in their defensive block out of possession and allowed their opponents to dictate proceedings. Marseille, on the other hand, adopted a very aggressive press which did not allow the visitors to settle or slow down at any point.
They did so by adopting a player-marking strategy all over the pitch. Sánchez was joined by Payet up front to oppose the two center-backs whilst Ünder dropped into midfield. The wing-backs pushed up high against the fullbacks, leaving the three center-backs against Toulouse’s front three.
26th minute: Marseille defendwith player-marking all over the pitch as Rongier initiates the press by chasing the back pass to the goalkeeper.
Of course, this was a risky defensive approach, so Toulouse did break forward and get into promising positions, especially early on in the match. However, they mostly failed to convert those into meaningful chances and did not impact the scoresheet, something that they would go on to regret.
Toulouse crumble in the second half
After a decent first half performance where they were certainly in the match on the balance of play, Toulouse completely crumbled in the second period, making the scoreline much uglier than it needed to be.
To be fair, their collapse began towards the end of the first half when Nicolaisen scored a comical own goal. He attempted to head a chipped ball away but realised it was short, so he chased the ball down again and applied more power this time, so much so that he looped it over the goalkeeper and into his own net. A one-goal deficit at the half-time break would have been surmountable, but going in 2-0 down made matters much tougher for them.
Either way, some of Toulouse’s defending in the second half was simply abject. Just seven minutes in, they allowed Marseille to break forward down their left, after which Kolašinac accidentally received a pass and ran in a straight line into the box, slotting his finish past the keeper.
Ten minutes later, some lax awareness after a throw-in allowed Clauss to find Payet free on the edge of the box, after which there was only one result. Van den Boomen did pull one back from the penalty spot, but Ünder responded in kind late on, after which Nuno Tavares made it six by cheating down a cross in the box and firing his volley home.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a thorough and convincing win for Marseille, but it is hard to tell how much of that was down to them and how much down to Toulouse’s terrible second half performance. In the first half, Igor Tudor’s side were allowed to have sustained possession but could not make much headway in the final third, whilst their defensive approach was risky but successful. They will undoubtedly face tougher tests going forward.
The visitors will be keen to forget this game as quickly as possible. From the get-go, this did not seem to be their day as Marseille’s use of advanced wing-backs and a back three seemed the best counter to their defensive setup. What is more concerning, though, is how they fell apart in the second period. Toulouse only have a three-point buffer to the relegation zone now, so they will have to pull their socks up and start putting up better fights going forward.
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