coach, recruitment, sharp Payet and full Vélodrome … This Olympique de Marseille has it all


In the Old Port, the mistral is not the only one to blow a breeze of freshness this summer. For several weeks, the Olympique de Marseille has resumed its role of metronome which dictates the moods of the Marseille city. And at the time of starting the new Ligue 1 season, all is well around OM, which has opened its windows wide since the end of last season to definitively turn the page on a grueling 2020-2021 exercise. The only legacy of last season: a welcome qualification in the Europa League. For the rest, the Olympian club, led by its hyperactive president on the transfer window, has changed everything or almost.

It is first on the transfer market that OM has rolled the machinery, regaining an appetite and a strike force more seen for a long time. The president (and ex-sporting director) of the club, Pablo Longoria, went all out after reducing the payroll by shedding large salaries (Thauvin, Germain, Strootman, Sakai, Lopez …). Former recruiting manager for Juventus, the president of OM is above all a « geek » of the transfer market, capable of every blow and of imagining complex financial arrangements to achieve his ends.

Hyperactive, Longoria has made some nice shots this summer, attracting hopes in search of a rebound such as the wingers Konrad De La Fuente and Cengiz Ünder, the Spanish goalkeeper Pau Lopez, or the French William Saliba and Mattéo Guendouzi, both loaned by Arsenal. Thanks to the money reinjected by the owner Frank McCourt, OM also allowed themselves a madness: the arrival of Brazilian midfielder Gerson, landed from Flamengo against 25 million euros to the delight of coach Jorge Sampaoli, who also repatriated a Auriverde defender, Luan Peres, whom he had already trained in Santos. A few recruits are still expected at the Commanderie, especially at the right-back position, but the Olympian transfer window is already raising high hopes.

We know that in Marseille, the public tends to ignite sometimes too quickly. But without falling into exaggerated optimism, OM has enough to approach this new season with confidence and ambition. Because apart from the promising transfer window, the preparation matches have also offered their share of promises. In seven games, the Marseillais remained undefeated, signing five wins and two draws against opponents who have drawn a gradual rise in power.

After the first victories against Martigues (N2), Sète (N1) and Servette Genève, OM raised the level against the Portuguese of Braga (1-1), and especially Benfica (1-1). Two encouraging matches after a very intense preparation, before the final bouquet. First a convincing and successful victory against AS Saint-Étienne (2-1), then another, even more striking, against the winner of the last Europa League: Villarreal (2-1), in front of 30,000 people in a Velodrome stadium which has finally found its faithful.

Beyond the successes – always to put into perspective in the context of a summer preparation -, the Marseillais especially deployed an increasingly flamboyant game. In a hybrid and ambitious 3-4-2-1 system concocted by Jorge Sampaoli, assumed heir to Marcelo Bielsa, OM deploys resolutely offensive football, with a pronounced taste for possession, permutations, and offensive projection, quickly creating overcrowding around the opposing surface. All orchestrated by one man: Dimitri Payet.

Because even if Pablo Longoria has multiplied the signings this summer, the best Marseille player remains Dimitri Payet. At 34, the Reunionese is entering his eighth season at OM but, sharp as rarely in recent times, he is not looking his age. The proof: he has already found the net four times this summer, and often quite spectacularly. Scorer, Payet flourishes in the system concocted by Sampaoli. Promising, while the Polish goleador, Milik, barely resumes the competition. Enough to make OM a serious candidate for the podium.


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