Marseille 3-0 PSG: Marseille prosper down the right

November 29, 2011

The starting line-ups

PSG lost the joint lead of Ligue 1 after a heavy defeat in Le Classique.

Didier Deschamps went with a 4-2-3-1 – there was no Mathieu Valbuena, but Lucho Gonzalez got started as the central attacker behind Loic Remy.

Antoine Kombouare played Momo Sissoko deep in midfield, and Christoph Jallet rather than Ceara at right-back, also selecting a 4-2-3-1.

How to analyse a game where Marseille were simply better all over the pitch? They went ahead early, were in control for the majority of the game, and threatened to turn it into a rout late on.

Midfield battle

In a physical match, both sides featured strong, solid bases to their midfield. Stephanie Mbia and Alou Diarra stayed close together and closed the door quickly and sometimes aggressively on Javier Pastore, who had a poor game. For PSG, Momo Sissoko sat deeper than Blaise Matuidi, and similarly denied Lucho Gonzalez time on the ball. The midfield balance was 4 : 2 in favour of the destroyers, and the creators had little joy.

Pastore, in particular, was disappointing. His pass completion rate was a stunningly disappointing 48% – he often tried to play the killer ball to one of the other three attackers, but frequently got the pass completely wrong. Gonzalez wasn’t much better, but did sometimes find space when one of PSG’s holders moved forward slightly. His pass completion rate was up slightly at 68%. The nature of the scoreline meant he was able to play a simple pass and keep possession to slow the game down, whereas Pastore always looked directly forward – although that is rather the nature of the two players’ style anyway.

Wide areas

With nothing coming from the centre, the creativity and eventually goals came from wide positions. The two sets of wide players played different roles. PSG’s drifted into the centre and tried to play quick passes with Pastore through the middle, although Jeremy Menez came very deep to the flank to pick up the ball away from Jeremy Morel, and was more involved than Nene.

Marseille’s wingers played more traditional wide roles, but the key to the movement of the wingers was not their characteristics when attacking, but their discipline when defending. Marseille’s wide players were much more attentive and energetic without the ball, whilst Menez and Nene switched off, or found themselves inside and in no position to track the full-backs. That proved crucial when Cesar Azpilicueta scampered forward to swing in the cross for Remy, and Marseille were ahead.

Marseille right

The movement and attacking thrust down Marseille’s right was the key feature of the game. Azpilicueta again got forward in the second half to set up a good chance for Gonzalez, whilst ahead of him Morgan Amalfitano started quietly but became a key force in the match, scoring the second after great pressing in midfield (another thing they did better than PSG), and later set up the final goal with a cross for Andre Ayew.

PSG didn’t have natural width nor movement towards the flanks – Pastore was simply overpowered by his opponents and didn’t show enough lateral movement to get the ball in wider positions. He can be guilty of moving too vertically.

Kombouare tried to change things with Pastore and Kevin Gameiro removed for Mathieu Bodmer and Mevlut Erding, but PSG’s gameplan didn’t change. They had plenty of possession in the second half but couldn’t find a way to create goalscoring chances – their final tally of zero shots on target sums up how little they contributed.


Marseille were particularly dominant down the right and got their full-backs past PSG’s wingers to provide overlaps and stretch the play. The alliterative duo of Azpilicueta and Amalfitano combined excellently, and they were able to compensate for the lack of creativity from the centre of the pitch by spreading the play, whereas PSG added to the congestion.

PSG looked terrible – a broken side with no link between the back six and the front four, which meant they both attacked and defended with too few players. It’s rare to see a successful 4-2-3-1 with a number ten in a free role and two wingers doing little tracking back – PSG might win the league through sheer ability of individuals, but it will come despite the system, rather than because of it.

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