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What caused Marseille to slow down in this year's Ligue 1?

The man carrying Marseille on his shoulders- Florian Thauvin.
The man carrying Marseille on his shoulders- Florian Thauvin.
ANALYST
Modified 13 Jan 2021, 19:37 IST
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Andre Villas-Boas’ Marseille were quick off the blocks when the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season kicked off in September. Two wins from the same number of games, including a narrow 1-0 win over a depleted PSG outfit, gave The Phoceans a perfect start to the season.

They embarked on a six-match winning run, following the draw to Lyon in early October. The fantastic run came to a rather abrupt halt in an away fixture at Rennes. Before that game, Marseille were second in the table, four points off then-leaders, PSG. They also had two games in hand.

The team's momentum has disappeared ever since. In the last five Ligue 1 matches, Marseille have picked up just five points. So what exactly caused this downslide for Marseille? Was it just a bad run, or perhaps, a manifestation of the problems already hurting the club?

Marseille finished second last season on the back of a resolute defense. The defensive duo of Deja Caleta-Car and Alvaro Gonzalez formed were a rock at the back for Marseille.

Despite missing the services of winger Florian Thauvin, they enjoyed the glorious form of Dimitri Payet. Both Payet and goalkeeper Steven Mandanda's career underwent a renaissance last season.

The story at the start of this season was no different. Marseille managed to close down games once they managed to take an early lead. The wins against Lorient, Monaco, and Strasburg were all won by the margin of a solitary goal. These performances papered over the cracks that were already appearing in the final third of the pitch.

While Florian Thauvin’s excellent run of form from November to early December allowed Marseille to stay in the title race, Dimitri Payet looked to be a shadow of his former self. The same could be said of Dario Benedetto. Two of their most reliable players in the attacking third from last year's campaign have let the team down this season.

Once the goals from Thauvin dried up, Marseille have struggled to convert draws to wins. To put things in perspective, Marseille has scored only 25 goals so far this season. Thauvin alone has scored six goals and assisted another seven in the current Ligue 1 campaign. This underlines how dependent the club have become on the player.

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Another worrying feature that has emerged during Marseille’s recent performances is the trend of conceding goals early in the game. Whether it was the game against Reims or Angers, Marseille have gone a goal down very quickly in their most recent outings.

While Marseille had a tendency to concede goals in every game last season, they would usually score the first goal in these clashes. For a team that is finding it hard to hit the back of the net, conceding early puts a lot of pressure on the players to salvage a win.

The recent draw against relegation-threatened Dijon has raised concerns about Marseille's goal scoring-options. They desperately need Payet and their other attacking midfielders to hit top form if they are to stay in the hunt for the title.

Published 13 Jan 2021, 19:37 IST
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