After seeing Jorge Sampaoli slam the door two days after resuming training, Olympique de Marseille is going through a delicate preparation. If the truth of summer is far from being that of autumn, the start of the Phocaeans is not the most reassuring. In many ways.
Friday July 1, two days after the return of Olympique de Marseille to training. Summer has barely started when the Marseille club, used to earthquakes of all kinds, will experience a thunderclap: dissatisfied with the start of the Olympian transfer window, Jorge Sampaoli slams the door one year from the end of his contract. In the process, Pablo Longoria organizes a press conference to record the departure of the Argentinian technician. A smile is in order and the speech of the Marseille president borrows respect for the one he brought in a little less than a year and a half ago. But, behind the displayed serenity, the OM boss knows without a doubt that he is about to experience a very delicate summer.
Less than a month after the Sampaoli episode, the start of preparation for the vice-champions of France does not really encourage optimism. In four friendly matches, OM have had only one victory, against Marignane-Gignac, an N2 club, in their very first meeting (4-1). Since then, Dimitri Payet’s teammates have experienced two setbacks which are rather difficult against English D2 formations (3-0 against Norwich, 2-0 against Middlesbrough), before being joined in the last seconds this Wednesday by Betis Sevilla (1-1). Against the Andalusians, a slight improvement in the game could be observed and, in sequence, the Olympians were rather attractive. Friendly matches call for caution and it is impossible to draw definitive lessons. But the same difficulties seen since the start of the “Summer Tour” – defensive wanderings, difficulty scoring (only one goal in three games since the initial victory against Marignane-Gignac) – have once again been obvious.
A very different game philosophy to integrate and a workforce not yet final
Igor Tudor landed on the Canebière with a game philosophy very different from that of his predecessor. With the obsession for the possession of Sampaoli, the Croatian technician prefers a much more vertical game and this change of ideology requires time for the players to adapt. The learning of these new methods – and the severity of the former coach of Hellas Verona – would have even been at the origin of an altercation between Tudor and Gerson in training, according to La Provence. An episode no doubt to put into perspective, but which illustrates well the delicate period in which OM are.
If there was better against Betis, a sign that Tudor’s speech is probably taking over from its players, it will undoubtedly still be necessary to integrate new elements into the workforce before the end of the summer. After having been at a standstill for a long time, the Olympian transfer window got a big boost in mid-July with the arrivals of Chancel Mbemba, Jonathan Clauss, Luis Suarez and Ruben Blanco, to which must be added those of Samuel Gigot ( completed this winter) and Isaac Touré.
However, changes still need to be made to the squad and OM are struggling to find a midfielder and a left piston. Several avenues leading to experienced players in the midfield to compensate for the departure of Kamara (Witsel, Veretout) have been mentioned with insistence, but they have not yet come to fruition. Regarding the corridor player, Marseille thought they had the right end in the Darko Lazovic file, but the sporting director of Verona recently showered the optimism of the Olympian leaders.
Since the start of the offseason, Pablo Longoria has repeatedly said that it will take patience to sign successes on the transfer market. But, ten days before the first day of Ligue 1 against Reims (Sunday August 7 at 8:45 p.m.) and at the dawn of a start to the season which promises to be insane with the Champions League, having completed the squad at most quickly could only be beneficial.
In terms of departures, the next few weeks also promise to be decisive. Recently, La Provence reported on Frank McCourt’s annoyance at the low number of sales. Since the start of the transfer window, OM have recovered 1.5 million euros for the sale of Lucas Perrin to Strasbourg, where he was on loan with an option to buy. For their part, Steve Mandanda and Boubacar Kamara left the club free of any contract, while Nemanja Radonjic was loaned to Torino, one year from the end of the contract. Just like Luis Henrique at Botafogo, whose almost automatic purchase option could be exercised at the end of the season and offer 8 million to the Olympian club (which had spent this amount to recruit him in 2020). On the verge of completing the transfer of Luan Peres, the Marseille staff would also push Bamba Dieng towards the exit.
The fate reserved for the Senegalese striker, considered by Tudor behind Milik, Suarez, Bakambu and Payet in the hierarchy of attackers, has somewhat irritated Marseille supporters in recent hours. Obviously, victories in Ligue 1 and a successful start in the Champions League at the start of the school year (the first day will take place on September 6 and 7) would immediately make OM lovers forget this tumultuous start to preparation. But, in the event of a negative spiral in the league and a poor entry into the delicate matter in C1, which would be difficult to forgive in view of the sad face displayed in the most beautiful of club competitions during OM’s recent campaigns, the start season 2022-2023 could be the one of all dangers for Tudor.