Now that we have settled into the 2015 season, it is a good time to check on the status of the team. Here is where the team stands:
- OM sits in 13th place, with 15 points from 13 games
- OM has lost 6 of 13 games this season
- OM is currently averaging 1.15 points/game
- OM has scored 18 goals in 13 games
- OM has let in 14 goals in 13 games
Compared to last season, these stats are signs of a disaster. What are the issues facing the team? Lets look at each sector of the team.
The team has failed to build a foundation in defense, despite consistent play from Mandanda. Manquilo and Mendy have had solid seasons, despite not altogether shining. They have been able to support the attack well, though have both shown struggles in defense.
In central defense is where OM has struggled the most. After last season, where there was no natural center back besides Nkoulou, Labrune had the mission of shoring up this area. Despite numerous recruits including Karim Rekik and Rolando, the sector remains weak. Karim Rekik has shown that despite his promise he must still improve, while Nkoulou has struggled to find his typical form. Rolando has been the worst of the three, receiving intense criticism from the fans. Sparagna, the minot of the group, is still finding his footing but is showing promise.
Michel must do two things: bring Nkoulou back to his past form and develop Rekik or Sparagna into a solid starter. Nkoulou, quickly approaching the end of his contract, seems tired and simply not as motivated. If Michel can find a way to bring back the old Nkoulou, OM would immediately improve. Rekik and Sparagna are two espoirs, and must be coached properly and given opportunities to play. Bielsa took his chance on Sparagna, and it worked. These two must play in order to improve.
The midfield has both strengths and weaknesses. Lassana Diarra has arguably been the signing of the year. A free transfer, Diarra has emerged as the top midfielder in France, and earned a well-deserved place in l’Équipe de France. Around him, though, no one has shined. Lucas Silva has been abysmal. Often caught in possession and out of possession, l’éspagnol must do more. Barrada, returning from injury, has shown promise. An excellent passer, he has at times been able to play beautiful through balls and piercing crosses to Michy. However, he seems too slow at times to react to play, and often seems unable to create space for himself. Cabella, a true number 10, struggled upon arriving to the team. Placed on the wing, he never really made an impact through his first few games. Now, placed in his n. 10 position, he has been playing better. With time, he will improve.
Goal by Lassana Diarra against Troyes.
What OM had in attack last year, was lost with the departures of key players this summer. With Andre-Pierre Gignac, Andre Ayew, and Dimitri Payet having left, the team looked mostly inward for replacements, as well as adding young, promising players to the mix. The results have, unfortunately, been poor.
Batshauyi often looks too isolated in attack, receiving the ball 30 meters from goal and being forced to dribble too often. Alessandrini has failed to fill the large shoes left by Ayew, where he often makes poor decisions and refuses to pass to supporting players. The same goes for Ocampos, who often attempts to dance through several defenders, wasting possession after possession. Barrada and Cabella have so far struggled in the 10 role, but have shown improvement.
The key addition has become George-Kevin Nkoudou. A young 21-year old from Nantes, he is a young player with a ton of potential. Speedy, technical, and creative, he can play all attacking positions with left wing being his preference. If he can continue to improve throughout the season, OM may find what it has been lacking in attack: someone to break through defenses that can allow Michy to move closer to goal. Il faut croiser les doigts.
With Michy Batshuayi at 8 goals already this season, and Barrada with 4 assists, the potential and goal-scoring ability is there. With Nkoudou rising to the occasion, the season may yet be saved.
Goal by Batshauyi against Toulouse. You see how effective he is when he can receive the ball close to goal. His combination of strength and awareness in the box makes him deadly within 18 meters.
With key players leaving over the summer, and Bielsa leaving after the first game, this season was going to be tough for OM. The team is younger and less experienced, and Michel has had to pick up the pieces. With time, the players will learn Michel’s philosophy, and play should improve. With the Ligue 1 table currently a mix of teams fighting for the top 3 spots, OM must stop bleeding points now before the window of opportunity closes. Having missed Champions League by two points last year, supporters understand this too well. Levez-vous, les gars. Allez l’OM !