Michel incorporated a 4-2-3-1 against Saint-Étienne, with several key changes to personnel and placement. Let us explore what we learned from this game and what could help turn the season around.
In defense, the suspension of Mendy pushed Michel to line up Manquillo on the left, with Dja djédjé, returning from injury, lining up on the right. This proved to be an effective decision, as both players, particularly Dja djédjé, were able to move up the field and support the attack. Dja djédjé was the source of the first goal, with an impressive petit pont and cross to Nkoudou. The offensive contributions of Dja djédjé were crucial, as Ocampos failed to really provide much offensively.
In central defense, it was Rekik who scored major points. Rekik showed strength and poise in every geste, providing good service out of the back and covering for Manquillo when needed. With Nkoulou finding his old form, the two formed a mostly impenetrable wall. Despite a couple of opportunities for Saint-Étienne, the duo held together. They were also aided by the spectacular play of Steve Mandanda, who is yet again proving to be one of the best goalies in the world when in form.
Midfield saw a new starter and solid performances. Mauricio Isla, the polyvalent midfielder, was positioned at defensive mid with Lassana Diarra. While not too extravagant, he provided strong tackles, good marking, and simple, possession-oriented passing out of the back. This was crucial as in previous weeks, OM was being dominated in the midfield.
Alongside Isla, Lassana Diarra put in another world-class performance, proving yet again that he is the best player in Ligue 1. After a tragic couple weeks (Diarra’s cousin was killed during the November 13th attacks in Paris), Diarra has shown incredible resolve and continued to play admirably. While displaying his usual tenacity, tackling abilities, and passing, he also blasted a 22-yard shot that rebounded off the crossbar, only to rebound off of Ruffier’s head and out for a corner.
Remy Cabella is proving to be a key cog in this team. Finally positioned in his natural no. 10 position, Cabella proved that he still has the talent and ability he showed at Montpellier. He displayed incredible technique, piercing runs behind the midfielders, and an overall determination that is needed in this team.
Lineup and approximate positioning by OM against ASSE.
Nkoudou is becoming the discovery of the season. With piercing runs and a strong relationship with Batshuayi, his attacking runs allowed Batshuayi to have more space. His contributions allowed Batshuayi to move closer to goal, where he is lethal. Ocampos struggled to contribute offensively, showing his lack of pace and poor decision-making. He will tend to dribble into trouble, losing possession often. However, he did make a couple of key tackles, and worked hard on defense. Batshuyai is scoring more, and is showing his potential. With more contributions from the wings, he was able to hit a few shots on goal before finally scoring. With Batshuayi in confidence, OM can look to him to provide importang goals in the coming weeks, specifically against Monaco on November 29th.
Batshuayi goal – assisted by Nkoudou.