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With Marseille struggling for consistency this season, their impressive 3-0 victory over Angers at the weekend gave a glowing indication of just how good Rudi Garcia’s side can be when they get things right. While there were many positives to be drawn from the win, the way OM cleverly exploited the 10 spaces was unquestionably the most compelling aspect of their performance. Set up in what was ostensibly a 4-2-3-1 formation, the way Garcia instructed his wingers to persistently drift infield and occupy central attacking positions successfully saw them create overloads in this area of the pitch to progress upfield dangerously.
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Seeing as Angers were organised into a 4-1-4-1 defensive shape, this left their sole holding midfielder, Baptiste Santamaria, with a huge challenge to limit the effectiveness of Morgan Sanson, Marseille’s nominal trequartista, plus wingers Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin. With the Marseille attacking midfield trio regularly located centrally, this caused plenty of confusion as to who should mark them, for the Angers full backs were unwilling to follow their opposing wingers right into the centre, knowing they needed to cover Marseille’s marauding fullbacks.
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In addition, the away side’s centre backs were unsurprisingly cautious about leaving their post to mark any of Sanson, Payet and Thauvin too, as they didn’t want to jeopardise their structure. But courtesy of subtle, beautifully executed switches by the three Marseille men, their numerical superiority and their slick combination play, OM were able to manipulate Les Scoistes defensive strategy with relative ease.
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The issue was only confounded for Angers by Remy Cabella’s runs in behind from his centre forward role, which only served to stretch and widen the space between Angers’ defensive and midfield lines. The graphic below demonstrates Santamaria’s conundrum, as he’s confronted with a 3v1 situation and Cabella’s stretching run.
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On the defensive end, this central presence helped Marseille in their counterpressing efforts once they turned the ball over, with this ensuring they were usually in good positions to cohesively apply pressure as a unit to regain possession.
All in all, the intelligence and technical qualities of Sanson, Payet and Thauvin made them ideal candidates to fulfill their responsibilities successfully vs Angers and gain vital superiority in this valuable area of the pitch.
Blessed with some extremely talented players and a strong manager in Garcia, if Marseille can produce this type of performance on a basis regular, they should be able to find their consistently sooner rather than later.
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Edward Stratmann

Freelance football writer and blogger he writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on several football websites, including AS Roma’s and Everton’s Official Websites, find his work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he co-founded in 2013.

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