At the end of the OM-Toulouse match, there was an air of finality as the final whistle was blown. The flaws that have plagued the team this entire season, deemed correctible, revealed themselves yet again in the 1-1 draw. Week after week, the team has said it will correct these issues, without success. Let us look at where the club is at, including the team and the fans.
Source – om.net
Let us look at the problems within each sector of the team.
The defense has failed to achieve clean sheets this season, achieving only 6. In a team that struggles to score, this defense has made costly errors resulting in goals. While Rolando and Rekik have begun to play better, there is a lack of solidity that is a concern. A strong defense does not crack and weathers mistakes. This defense has benefited from having Isla and Diarra in front of them, and Mandanda in goal, and yet continues to take water. Allowing particularly weak Ligue 1 teams to score every game is unacceptable.
The midfield has been a solid pillar in this team. After failed experiments such as the woefully poor Lucas Silva, the unit of Diarra and Isla has emerged as one of the most talented duos in Ligue 1. They both are tenacious defenders and strong passers. With their commanding performances, this duo have nearly single-handedly allowed OM to control possession in most games this season. Their ability to connect the offense and defense is a pleasure to watch.
And now to the infuriating sector: the offense. Watching them play has revealed a worrying factor in their style: selfishness. Every offensive player this season has dribbled and dribbled… and dribbled. Cabella and Nkoudou, together, have amassed just four assists together, this entire season in Ligue 1. The two players who have the ball the most offensively, have achieved only four passes that resulted directly in goals. Batshauyi, every game, seems to take several touches each time he gets the ball, instead of passing. He continues to receive the ball, and hesitate to pass. With his recent struggles to put away chances, the pressure is mounting on Michy to play better. The addition of Fletcher, a passing front man, has helped facilitate more team play up front. Yet Fletcher’s inability to put away chances is another big concern.
The assist leader in the team is Barrada, with a solid 9 passes. The player who has been cited as one of the worst players this season, is the assist leader. Despite his lack of play and many flaws in his play, he has created 9 goals this season. His instinct to pass, his team-first attitude, are his biggest positives. Yet, Michel and many fans do not ever want to see him on the field. Opting for an offense with pure dribblers, Michel has created an offense where each player chooses to play for himself.
Mentally, this offensive unit seems weak. The players do not play as a team and their failure to put away chances can be linked to a lack of confidence or lack of training (or both). The panel on LePhocéen’s Talk Show pointed out that at one point during Toulouse, Nkoudou dribbled past a defender and crossed to Michy, who missed the chance. Despite the failure of the play, Nkoudou was shown smiling, pleased with his dribble.
LePhocéen’s Talk Show reviews the team and makes several good points about the team.
The LePhocéen Talk Show points out that most of the players in the team are on loan or will most likely be sold this summer, so there is a lack of personal investment in the team next year. An interesting reflection, that paints an image of this team as a castle built on sand. Without a foundation of players here for the long run, this season is seen as a transition year before better things for several players.
Who is at fault for these problems? First and foremost, the direction of the club has created a shell of a team. With 6 players, including a few starters, on loan, there is an entire element of the team (besides players who sign), that will not be back. After that, given the exodus of strong players in the past (Ayew, Gignac, Payet), players like Diarra, Nkoudou, and Michy can expect to be sold to bigger clubs. The “low-cost” ideology of Marguerita and Labrune has turned l’OM from a French powerhouse to a revolving door. With the poor results yielding low profits, the owner will look to sell anyone of value. The problem is that after Nkoudou, Michy, Diarra, and possibly Mandanda leave, who in OM will be of value next season? The team will be a shadow of its former self.
This season hurts, and the fans are making it loud and clear that they are unhappy. The half-empty stands, the relentless whistling, and the continued banners of Bielsa are clear signs that the passion is gone from the stands. I remember in the 2005-2010 seasons, where the team was battling for the top-6 places. Despite the lack of dominance, the fans were passionate. There was a feeling that the team was organized, the club had vision, and the players battled for each game. Now, the fans are fed up.
“5 months, 21 days, 15 hours without a win at the Vel, enough is enough! Today, we must win!” The message of the Virage Sud. Photo courtesy of om.net
People sometimes feel that OM fans are unfair and arrogant, frequently opting to jeer their team rather than support them when times are tough. An easy case is the abuse Thauvin and Barrada have received over the past two years. Two players that, despite their sometimes poor play, work extremely hard. While OM supporters do often rush to criticize, I feel at this moment that the fans are in the right. It is evident that, since Labrune – MLD has taken over, nothing good endures at l’OM. Players like Azpilicueta, Gignac, Payet, and Ayew have left for either underrated fees or for free. One of the most talented coaches in the world, Marcelo Bielsa, was pushed out by shady negotiation tactics from the club’s administration. Now, the team has little talent left, little money in the budget, and an average coach who refuses to take responsibility. Michel’s continued rhetoric about the “anxiety of his players, caused by the demanding fans”, shows that he does not understand that at l’OM, you must give 100% and achieve results. No wins at home since September says it all. The fans have a right to be angry, and voice their displeasure. At the end of the day, OM fans are demanding. But any fanbase would be disappointed by this chaotic mess that is l’OM.
OM fans demand determination and a love for the club, and above all, results. I believe that now, given the mismanagement and neglect from the front office, OM fans believe that until Labrune and Marguerita leave, nothing will change. While the players are on the receiving end of these jeers, the frustration is aimed more at the club’s administration. While I would argue that one must always support their club, this is a case where the club itself is, as the fans know it, dying. And that must be resisted.
At the end of the day, poor results produce change. I do not expect much from the end of the season, but perhaps that could be a good thing. This may be the season where Labrune and MLD (if a buyer is found) pack their bags. Michel will most likely leave if the team fails to win the Coupe de France. Many players will leave, leaving opportunities for young players such as Boutobba and Porsan-Clemente. After years of downsizing, the club needs a clean slate. Whatever may happen, Allez l’OM !!!