Marseille vs Monaco – A Tactical Analysis
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on January 16, 2017
Two southern rivals locked horns on the banks of L’Huveaune on Sunday night in the picturesque coastal city of Marseille at the equally stunning Stade Vélodrome. Marseille’s impressive unbeaten home record was to be tested against a free-firing Monaco spearheaded by the revived Radamel Falcao, who at the time of writing sits just behind Lacazette in the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts with twelve goals in fourteen games.
A win would see Monaco rise to first place on goal difference alongside the overachieving Nice, whereas a Marseille win would see them close the gap between themselves and Lyon – or more importantly, a Europa League Place – to just one point.
The match couldn’t have come at a better time for Marseille, who after suffering a devastating 4-0 defeat in Monaco in late November, went on to win five of their next seven games in all competitions. Les Olympiens’ unbeaten home record spanned all the way back to March 2016 and since the start of this season, they had only conceded one goal at the Stade Vélodrome.
Swansea loanee Bafétimbi Gomis started upfront for Marseille despite the tragic death of his father during the week. With his brute strength and ability to bring others into play, Gomis remained stationary in the centre of the pitch while Thauvin and Cabella were given license to roam in the space behind the striker or ahead of him. Lopez and Anguissa linked the play with clever forward runs from midfield, while Vainqueur sat in front of the defensive line. Both Sakai and Rekik were extremely mobile down the wings, offering width when Cabella and Thauvin opted to cut inside and supplying Gomis with excellent crosses into key areas within Monaco’s 18-yard box. FB-cum-CB Rod Fanni and Rolando were often left outnumbered in the centre of defence due to the attacking nature of Sakai and Rekik, choosing to sit deep and invite pressure in the hop that their team could break down Monaco’s counter attacks in the midfield.
Radamel Falcao started up top for Monaco alongside the dynamic Valére Germain in a pairing which has caused problems for defences across Ligue 1 this season. Bernardo Silva and Lemar took up advanced positions on the wings, almost acting as third and fourth strikers when Monaco were in possession. Fabinho and Bakayoko took it in turns to attack and both sat deep in the centre of midfield, keeping the ball in front of them and forcing Marseille to attack down the wing. Sidibe and Touré pushed forward relentlessly, similarly to the opposite numbers, with the former finding himself within the opponent’s 18-yard box with a clear shot on goal on more than one occasion. Jemerson and Glik were excellent at the back, finding themselves in the perfect positions to deal with crosses from wide and to deal with Gomis’ strength on the ball.
Marseille went into the game wanting to make a statement, and rightly so; their slow start to the season and 4-0 defeat at the hands of Monaco hit them hard and they set out on the offensive from the first kick of the game. With the inclusion of Vainqueur in the centre of the field, Marseille allowed themselves the license to push men forward in wide areas. Knowing that the centre would be covered by Vainqueur, Fanni and Rolando pushed wide in possession to give themselves more favourable passing lanes toward the midfield and fullbacks. This split allowed Sakai and Rekik to abandon their defensive duties and push forward alongside Thauvin and Cabella, who drifted inside and offered a one-two for the onrushing fullbacks. This strategy caused a four-on-two matchup on the wing, with Lopez/Anguissa completing the quartet by remaining in a central area to put an end to Monaco’s counter attacks. When Monaco stopped the ball from progressing out wide, Marseille simply started again from the back. Instead of short, sharp passes down the wing, Gomis offered himself as a target man and Lopez would be in an ideal position to receive the knock-down from the striker.
Marseille focused their attacks in such a way down the right wing in order to pin Monaco’s dangerman Lemar within his own half. Not only that, Rudi Garcia and his team noticed that Sidibe, despite his attacking prowess, is somewhat of a liability in defence. This allowed Sakai to exploit the space behind Sidibe, which had been caused by his poor positioning and lack of awareness and communication with his own defensive line. Sakai often found himself on Monaco’s byline with space to deliver a dangerous cross into the area, which, luckily for Sidibe, Glik and Jemerson continued read and deal with effectively.
Speed of transition
As Marseille pounded away at Monaco’s left-hand side, they left themselves open across the rest of the field. Leonardo Jardim recognised that his team’s strengths lay in their ability to transition from defence to attack within a matter of seconds, and that any one player could lead an attack – meaning Marseille never quite new where the attack would come from. Due to the split in Marseille’s defence, both Falcao and Germain found themselves in acres of space in the centre of the field. Marauding runs from both Fabinho and Bakayoko meant that the two strikers had time to run into the channels as Marseille rushed back to defend. With the absence of both fullbacks, Monaco simply outnumbered Rolando, Vainqueur and Fanni. The speed of the attack, along with already being on the back foot left holes for Lemar and Silva to exploit in wide areas. When the wide areas were covered, Falcao and Germain ran riot in the centre.
It was the movement of Falcao and Germain which unlocked Marseille’s stout defence. With the ball in a central position, both would drift towards the wing to stretch the central defenders and get in behind the two fullbacks. Subsequently, Lemar and Silva cut inside and offered themselves for through balls into the half-space. Alternatively, during the second half, both strikers opted also to drop short to receive the ball, again drawing Fanni and Rolando out of position.
Monaco’s ability to transition from attack to defence against such an attacking side was a joy to watch, reminiscent of Leicester in their 2015-16 Premier League winning season. They allowed Marseille to dictate the flow of the game, and attacked when their weaknesses became apparent. Their energetic style of play has seen them score sixty goals in just twenty games over the course of the season so far, and it shows no sign of letting up.
Marseille started well, but failed to react to Monaco’s aggressive style. They were too naïve in defence and were almost too aggressive themselves, seeming to lose their patience throughout the match. Sunday night’s game called for a controlled and composed performance; Marseille gave neither.