Marseille’s five key men

Matteo Guendouzi


Good in 2021/22 while on loan from Arsenal, the former Lorient midfielder has stepped up another gear since making his switch to OM permanent last summer. It was no surprise to see him included in France’s 2022 World Cup squad as he has been outstanding all season. His non-stop, high tempo style was mimicked by his teammates as they suffocated PSG in the Coupe de France while his sense of timing to make late runs into the opposition penalty area have helped bring four competitive goals already, just one shy of the career-best return he tallied last season. 



And all this despite a reported pre-season bust-up with Tudor. “Guendouzi is a fantastic player. He wants to play it simple. He’s not happy when he doesn’t play, and I like that,” explained the OM boss. “He is always positive, and that has an effect on the squad. It’s a pleasure to have him in the squad.”


Alexis Sanchez 


Given he was aged 33 when he joined last summer after an underwhelming season with Inter Milan, OM fans could have been forgiven for thinking the Chile international had come to their club to merely add another line to his impressive CV that also features Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United. His performances have made them think again. His penalty against PSG in the Coupe de France win means he now has 11 competitive goals this season, which is his best individual haul since 2017/18 and already two more than he netted in the whole of the 2021/22 campaign. 



While his nose for goal remains honed, the shift he puts in for the team when pressing and his ability to hold off even the most determined of defenders in order to hold the ball up and move his side up the pitch are just as precious. “He always wants to help the team, he takes his responsibilities. He makes a decisive contribution. I like him as a player and as a person,” said Tudor following Sanchez’s goal and outstanding individual display against Monaco in Round 20. “You know his history and he again showed that this evening.”


Valentin Rongier 


Dimitri Payet is the club captain, but with the OM icon only on the fringes of Tudor’s plans, it is Rongier who has led the team out most this season. Little known outside of France and not overly hyped inside it, the former Nantes man has shown the footballing ability and versatility Les Canaris’ vaunted youth academy specialises in. Sometimes used as a right-back by Tudor’s predecessor, Jorge Sampaoli, Rongier is usually employed in front of the back three by the Croat. 


*People of Marseille this win is for you


However, he produced an outstanding performance as a makeshift centre-back in the Coupe de France win over Paris Saint-Germain, displaying the determination and discipline to fulfil his man-marking role on Vitinha while also exhibiting the calm and creativity on the ball that make him the key cog in Tudor’s OM machine. “At the end of the game, I joked with him that he should become a defender,” said Tudor, himself a former international centre-back, after becoming the first Marseille coach to beat PSG since 2011. “He’s a great guy with a good head on his shoulders, he was able to adapt. With the ball, he’s able to get us going forward from the back, and play on the right or left.”


Cengiz Ünder 


The Turkey international had been expected to leave the club last summer and he was limited to a bit-part role in the first half of the campaign. He has since convinced Tudor he can contribute to the team, starting every league game post-World Cup. Cutting in from the right onto his stronger left foot, he has opened his goals account and tallied two assists since the season restarted, but it is his new and improved workrate which has won over his boss.



“I had to adapt. Physically, I suffered a bit,” said the former Leicester City and Roma player, whose defensive work is crucial with right-wing-back Jonathan Clauss more often on the front foot than the back. “I know what the coach wants from me. Our relationship is good. I think he’s satisfied with my performances. I think I’m a new Cengiz.”


Chancel Mbemba 


Picked up on a free transfer in summer 2022, the DR Congo international defender is certainly one of the best bits of business OM have done in some time. A three-year spell at Newcastle United was followed by four seasons at Porto where the six-foot centre-back picked up top-level European experience, as well as two Portuguese doubles. 


WATCH: Mbemba finds the net against Nantes



Solid on the right side of the back three, his strength in the air — he leads OM for aerial duels — has also helped bring him four goals, including two in just five UEFA Champions League outings. His surprisingly silky ability on the ball means his forward bursts into the opposing penalty area give Tudor’s side an additional threat, and led to his coach nicknaming him ‘Cafu’ after the former attack-minded FIFA World Cup-winning Brazilian right-back. 


>> COUPE DE FRANCE: Malinovskyi ‘An incredible match’ 


Source link