Ligue 1

Arsenal Striker Could be Catalyst for New Marseille Revival

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Losing 5-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in front of a packed Stade Velodrome was not the ideal result for Frank McCourt’s project at Olympique de Marseille, but it is far from panic stations.

Following the defeat there were stories coming from everywhere. The American was set to spend €200million in one summer to get them back on track, maybe even targeting Arsène Wenger as manager — all completely blown out of proportions.

When the former LA Dodgers owner took over, one of his first steps was to persuade former Lille OSC and AS Roma boss, Rudi Garcia, to take charge. OM could have easily stuck with Franck Passi until the summer — the club wasn’t going anywhere fast.

Garcia is his man, and the Frenchman will have all of next season to bring the first stage of McCourt’s plan to fruition.

What they do need is new players. A lot of new players.

The Marseille Revolution

Marseille’s project requires them to challenge for a place in the Champions League. To do that, they must challenge Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco and OGC Nice.

In the current team, at its strongest, Marseille have a couple of good building blocks to complement and help grow the team.

Dimitri Payet, after forcing his way out of West Ham, is the face of the club — the big money move from January. Regardless of his ability to lead this team into the future — he is 30 years old at the end of the month — he will be part of the attack.

Florian Thauvin, who also returned on loan following a disastrous spell at Newcastle United, is loved by the fans and, although he may not have blossomed as was hoped when he helped France win the Under-19 World Cup in 2013, he still has the ability to change a game.

In the midfield Morgan Sanson, another January signing from Montpellier, is a superb midfield option and will hopefully grow in the same way that Yohan Cabaye did under Garcia.

Then there is the crown jewel, Maxime Lopez. A little midfield dynamo who has burst into the starting line-up this term, he is the one player in this team that could still reach the heights of a world-class player.

Sadly, the stark truth is, apart from Lopez and Sanson pushing for a Lucas Tousart’s spot at Olympique Lyonnais, no one currently in the Marseille team would find a starting spot in any of the four teams mentioned above.

Quality doesn’t match their opponents

Read More: Qu’est-ce que c’est Marseille?

Payet and Thauvin are good enough to play for Nice, but in Lucien Favre’s 3-5-2, they don’t fit the style the Swiss coach has implemented.

That’s a problem for McCourt and Garcia. To compete with those four teams and push for a Champions League place you need to find an exception level of team performance if the individual parts can’t match up to the opposition.

No one will deny that Marseille need a complete overhaul this summer, but you must be realistic in terms of what they can attract and how much they will spend.

After Lille won the title in 2011 Paris Saint-Germain, under new ownership, spent around £90million on transfers. Javier Pastore, Kévin Gameiro, Jérémy Menez, Salvatore Sirigu and Blaise Matuidi arrived in the summer with Thiago Motta and Maxwell coming in that winter.

Monaco are the other example, when in 2013 they spent £136million bringing in some eye-catching superstars. Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho were the big names, supplemented by Geoffrey Kondogbia, Anthony Martial, Jérémy Toulalan and Fabinho.

ASM doubled their money on James within 12 months, they made a profit on Kondogbia, Manchester United went huge on Martial and profit is still to be made on Fabinho.

The landscape was different then, Monaco knew, with big investment and the right number of players, they could bridge the gap and go from newly-promoted to Champions League qualifiers within a year.

Marseille need to find a balance of growing naturally, competing with the top clubs and pushing up into a position to at least challenge the top three.

PSG and Monaco will still be as strong next summer, regardless of who comes and goes. Lyon won’t let their talent be completely wiped out. Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso may move on, but they will still be ahead of this current OM team.

Nice is an interesting project. They have some talented players, but prospects like Wylan Cyprien and Vincent Koziello could be sold, plus, right-back Ricardo is only on loan.

Smart Intelligent Investment

The Mario Balotelli gamble hasn’t paid off. He won’t be around much longer unless he changes his whole attitude, so McCourt will be using them as a barometer.

“We’re really very interested in the idea of bringing in a great talent, a star,” the American businessman told press. “But I don’t want to bring in a star just for the name. That strategy doesn’t work in sport.”

“What we want to do is to bring in big players for where we need to improve immediately.”

One area they need improvement —apart from a completely new back-line — is a centre-forward. Bafetimbi Gomis is a competent goal-scorer in Ligue 1, but that’s the limits of his powers.

A player that has been mentioned is Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud. The French international, who won the league with Montpellier in 2012, was a guest on Christophe Dugarry’s RMC radio show and was asked about the project at the Stade Velodrome.

“Marseille? One day, why not? You must never say no, but my short-term and mid-term future, I see it in England. That’s why I renewed with Arsenal until 2019”.

An open and shut case there, but that’s how the Payet transfer started, with an innocent question about the project.

Speaking to Yahoo Sport in France, McCourt was asked if he was willing to spend €50/60m on one player, if they believed that it was the right player.

“Yes! But again, that doesn’t mean that’s our goal, that’s our objective. If we determine objectively, that it’s the best use of the funds, if that’s going to be the best strategy to achieve our goal, then the answer is yes.”

Making Marseille Competitive

Rumours from the media on Friday linked the club with moves for FC Porto duo Andre Silva and Yacine Brahimi – also a summer target for Everton – and they would certainly fit the type of move that would benefit the club and enhance the starting XI, plus costing around €60million for both.

They will look in Ligue 1 too,  with both Issa Diop and Alban Lafont from Toulouse representing excellent potential signings. OM could also test Lille’s new project and bid over €10million for right-back Sebastien Corchia. All three would upgrade the defence.

Back in Portugal, a signing of the calibre of Sporting’s William Carvalho would add much needed quality to the spine. He’s on the move in the summer and Marseille could do a lot worse than challenge for his signature.

Adding those pieces would put them in contention for a spot in the top four. It then it comes down to the infrastructure, plus the coaching of Rudi Garcia, to guide them up the table.

Success is all relative, and although they may not reach the Champions League at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, we will definitely know if they are going in the right direction.

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