Marseille in Crisis: What L'OM Need to Do to Turn Things Around

Owen MorganContributor IMarch 24, 2014

Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena looks on during their League One soccer match against Rennes, at the Velodrome Stadium, in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Claude Paris/Associated Press

Olympique Marseille are a club in turmoil. Jose Anigo's men have picked up just one point from their last four Ligue 1 games, a desperate run which has seen their chances of Champions League qualification disappear.

After another home defeat this weekend, this time against lowly Rennes, OM now lie sixth in the Ligue 1 table. They are 10 points behind Lille, the side currently occupying the third Champions League place assigned to Ligue 1 clubs.

Claude Paris/Associated Press

A few weeks ago, Marseille were considered an outside bet to finish in the top three, now they look set to miss out on European qualification altogether. As the sides above them continue to pick up points, OM look shaky at the back and out of ideas going forward. 

The reasons why Marseille find themselves in such an abject position are easy to identify. Firstly, on the pitch, they lack creativity going forward. This was particularly evident in their defeat this weekend as, despite dominating possession, they failed to break down a stubborn Rennes back line.

Andre-Pierre Gignac has been in good goal-scoring form for OM this season, but he is not the most mobile striker, and far too many times against Rennes he did not get the service required to threaten in front of goal. Jose Anigo's men lack other goalscorers when Gignac is not on song, a point proven this weekend.

Mathieu Valbuena, the diminutive playmaker at the heart of Marseille's midfield, is their best talent, but he has been injured for much of the campaign. OM have scored 39 goals in Ligue 1 this season, but have found the net just twice in their last five games. In addition, they have also conceded 32 goals so far this campaign, many more than third-placed Lille who have only let in 19.

Marseille's problems on the field have been exacerbated by the chaos in the dugout. Since Elie Baup was sacked, they have won just four of their 13 Ligue 1 matches. To make matters worse, the club have failed to secure first-choice replacement Andre Villas-Boas; the former Chelsea and Tottenham boss having signed a two-year deal with Zenit St. Petersburg last week.

Marseille are a club in the midst of a crisis, but turning their fortunes around will not be an easy process. The failure to appoint Villas-Boas leaves OM still searching for a full-time manager to lead them into next season, but it is crucial that the club do not rush into a rash decision. 

Furthermore, the club need a productive summer in the transfer market. Marseille owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus has quashed rumours she is planning to sell the club, but it is unlikely there will be enormous funds to spend on new players in the close season. The club will have to spend wisely and may well have to part with some of their bigger names if they are to build a squad with enough structure and depth.

Finally, the Marseille fans must play a crucial role if the club is to return to form. OM's home form has been poor, but the anger raining down from the stands at the Stade Velodrome means that the players are playing under great pressure and often look afraid to make mistakes. 

Claude Paris/Associated Press

Above all, Marseille need to recapture their early-season form. Wins will bring confidence, and if any club in Ligue 1 is in need of confidence it is Les Phoceens. Qualification for the Champions League may well be beyond their grasp this season, but in Gignac, Valbuena, Cheyrou and others, they have sufficient talent at their disposal to finish higher than their current position.

These top players need to find their form in the closing weeks of the campaign, and the club must take that momentum into the summer and next season. Marseille's next fixture is away to lowly Sochaux, a perfect chance to halt their downward spiral.