Marseille 2-2 PSG: Gignac and Ibrahimovic

October 8, 2012

The starting line-ups

Andre-Pierre Gignac and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both scored twice in Le Classique.

There were no surprises in Elie Baup’s line-up – this is his first-choice XI since the departures of Cesar Azpilicueta and Stephane Mbia.

Carlo Ancelotti brought Javier Pastore into the side, and there were also returns at the back for Christophe Jallet and Alex.

This was an entertaining game and all four goals were very fine finishes, but the tactical battle wasn’t particularly interesting.

Midfield battle

By using three central midfielders, a playmaker and a second striker dropping deep, PSG were always likely to dominate the centre of the pitch. They did this against Porto on Wednesday night but their passing was too slow to open up the opposition, as Porto had time to organise themselves in a solid shape.

Marseille started off by pressing PSG but gradually became more passive without the ball. The main feature of their defensive play was how they remained compact and denied PSG space between the lines of midfield and defence, although often one of their central midfielders would stay in position while the other moved forward to close down higher up the pitch.

PSG attacks

Compared to the Porto match, two things were better about PSG. The passing was quicker and more players moved forward into attacking positions – the full-backs provided width, the ’shuttlers’ made runs and offered different passing options. The two features are related – rather than Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti and Clement Chantome moving the ball laterally across the pitch, they were actually getting it forward.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made runs into deep positions to pick up the ball and encourage others forward – the Marseille centre-backs generally let him drift away from them, concerned that they needed to track forward runs from both Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore. Another approach was PSG bypassing the midfield zone and trying to hit Ibrahimovic directly – it was usually Thiago Silva that played the long passes, but they rarely resulted in promising attacking situations.

Marseille attacks

In this fixture last season, Marseille won the game because of good play down the flanks – particularly the right, where Azpilicueta linked up with Morgan Amalfitano.

They tried to play down the flanks again here, although the full-backs were more cautious and failed to create two-versus-one situations frequently enough. In fact, Marseille’s wingers were quiet, and the threat in wide positions came from the two central attackers.

Mathieu Valbuena played his usual central winger role, starting in the centre of the pitch but always drifting towards the touchlines to help create overloads in order to cross the ball. Gignac was similarly mobile, rarely positioning himself between the centre-backs, instead working the channels. His first goal came from a ball played into such a position.

This game wasn’t dissimilar from the Clasico – no overall tactical theme, and instead about two players on fire in front of goal. Ibrahimovic’s double was extraordinary – a trademark backheeled volley from a corner, then a thumping free-kick from 30 yards. Gignac’s goals – a finish from a tight angle into the far corner and a header from a set-piece – were less spectacular but also well-taken. In reality, though, only Gignac’s header was anything like a clear-cut chance, and there was little creativity in the first half.

Second half

Ancelotti removed Pastore at half-time and brought on Kevin Gameiro to play upfront alongside Ibrahimovic. Menez became the sole attacking midfielder, and he nearly created a third PSG goal with a good through ball – but Gameiro missed the target.

The second half was played at a much slower tempo, as if both coaches were prepared to accept a draw. Marseille became more defensive with their overall positioning – Valbuena and Gignac started to drop goalside of the PSG midfielders – while Ancelotti made a defensive change 15 minutes from time, bringing on Gregory van der Wiel for Menez, asking the Dutchman to protect Jallet on the right. That summed up his intentions, and the second half was a non-event.


The most interesting feature of the game was how Marseille moved their two central attackers from side to side, presumably trying to take advantage of PSG’s weakness on the flanks, which had been their downfall against Porto. They probably needed more quality from the natural wide players to fully capitalise in wide areas.

PSG’s passing was crisper and their midfielders were more adventurous, although like Inter and Milan before them, they’re falling into the trap of depending too much upon Ibrahimovic.

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