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OGC Nice vs Olympique de Marseille

By: Michael Musaba (@Captain_Maicon7)

Michael er en svært dyktig ung trener/analyst med fortid som ungdomstrener i Zimbabve. Han kommer til å bidra med flere verk i fremtiden, hovedsaklig analyser av kamper, lag og trenere. Serie A, La Liga og Ligue 1 er de ligaene Michael følger tettest, samtidig kommer det sannsynligvis en sak om Afrika mesterskapet i januar. Artiklene blir naturligvis på engelsk, for å gjøre det enklere for våre lesere har vi forsøkt å inkludere så mye bilder/illustrasjoner som mulig.

Det er knyttet stor spenning til den franske Ligue 1 for tiden. Når dette skrives er Nice (29 poeng) øverst, foran både PSG og Monaco (26 poeng). Til tross for at ligaen kanskje ikke holder nivået til tyske Bundesliga, spanske La Liga eller engelske Premier League bør den ikke undervurderes.



Coming into this match Nice were undefeated and had only conceded 1 goal in 3 matches which was in a 1-1 draw at Home with Lille. Marseille on the other hand had won 1 drawn 1 and lost 1. Nice were without key talisman Cabella in Midfield and was replaced with Leya Iseka. Balotelli was getting his 1st start for the Nice up front alongside Plea.


1st Half

OGC Nice

In Possession


OGC Nice had initially began with the intention of using Plea (Striker) to stretch the Marseille defence in the wider right area and so would have balls being played over the Marseille defence towards the wing area with Pereira (Right Wing Back) to support either on the inside or outer channel depending on Plea’s (Striker) movement in possession. Koziella (Centre Mid) and Seri (Centre Mid) mainly oriented themselves in the half-spaces to provide connections in order to switch play or play vertical passes towards Balotelli (Striker) who would drop in order to join build-up and help circulate possession to either wing.


Strong Connections in Wide Areas

In the wider areas Nice usually created triangles in order to provide the ball carrier with different possible options to play to in order to progress play and maintain circulation in possession.


4v2 in Build-Up to Evade Pressure

Marseille had implemented a High Press to stop the short pass build-up and so Cyprien (Defensive Mid) would begin to drop on the opposite side of the Centre Back in possession to provide a diagonal passing option while Dante (Centre Back) would either drop a bit deeper into the box or maintain a horizontal position. The 2 other CMs in Seri and Koziella would also drop deeper into their own half to maintain superiority to be to progress the ball into the opponents half.


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Midfield Shifting Movements to Allow Diagonal Option in Between the Marseille Block

An interesting feature implemented by Nice midfield circulatory shifting movements to be able to still circulate the ball against the High Press. As can be seen in the 1st diagram Seri (Centre Back) drops in between Gomis (Striker) and Iseka (Attacking Mid) vertically as Cyprien (Defensive Mid) is in possession. Then in the 2nd diagram we see that from a blind side position Koziella (Centre Mid), then laterally moves into the central area from the right half-space towards Cyprien (Defensive Mid) and offers himself as a forward diagonal passing option further forward. In behind the 1st and 2nd line of the mid-block.

Out of Possession


5-3-2 Mid-Block with a Situational 4-4-2

The main intention of this system in defence is to block the central area with the mid 3 and front 2 and force play wide. Balotelli (Striker) and Plea (Striker) upfront were oriented to situationally mark Vainqueur (Centre Mid) and Anguissa (Centre Mid) in the central area forcing the Marseille Centre Backs to play wide as those were the only open options to play to. The fullbacks then push up and the press the wide Marseille fullbacks the moment the centre back positions his body towards the fullback which acts a trigger for the fullback to press the wide fullback and create a situational 4 in midfield while the ball near Nice centre back move closer to cover the space left behind.

Central Block to force Play Backward

In the diagrams we see that Nice maintain horizontal and Vertical compactness to block the central area from penetration. With a situational man-orientation on the vertical option forward, this would force Marseille to play backward to draw out Nice backward. Even when Marseille did pass to the forward vertical option because of the man-orientation the player would have to play the pass backward as the central options were blocked and the wider options were blocked by the ball-near fullback pushing up to potentially press as shown in the 2nd diagram.



Compact Front 5 in Mid-Block

In the diagram the front 5 here are still maintaining compactness to block of the central area.


Olympique de Marseille

In Possession


Left Wing-Oriented Attack

Marseille utilised the left hand-side in attack aiming to create isolations for Sarr (Left-Winger) most likely due to the player profile of Sarr (Left Winger) with the ability and pace to beat defenders in a 1 on 1. Sarr (Left Winger) mainly occupied the outer channel while Rekik (Left Back) moved into the inner channel but just sat a bit deeper. Leya Iseka (Attacking Mid) would orient himself towards Baysse (Right Centre Back) to try and drag him away from moving out wide to try and cover Pereira (Right Wing Back) out wide. Or would move inward and position himself in the half-space as a diagonal option inside. The intent was to feed Gomis (Striker) with crosses when possible and Thauvin (Right Winger) would also make late runs behind or in front of Gomis (Striker) inside the box.


Out of Possession


High Press with Situational Man-Orientations

Marseille pressed Nice higher up the field with the aim and intention of forcing them wide. This was due to the wider areas being less dangerous then the central area and because of Nice‘s central superiority. Marseille utilised the high pressure with orientations on the ball-carrier’s nearby passing options.


Fullbacks Move Up to Support the Press Out Wide

The fullbacks would move forward to press the Nice wing backs when they obtained possession. This was a pressing trigger in which the moment the Nice Centre Back played a pass towards the wing back then the Marseille fullback would begin to push up and press the player and disallow the reciever from turning.


Compact Mid-Block Forcing Wide or Backward Play

In their Mid-Block Marseille would maintain a compact shape to block off inside passes towards the central area. The inside options were heavily marked to block him off from turning when in possession and this created a central trap for the player upon receiving the ball centrally.


High Compact Press with a Central Block

Marseille’s High Press focused on blocking off the central area for Nice. They also began to situationally mark the CM’s dropping to help with build-up and with Marseille’s horizontal compactness this forced Nice to play longer balls forward to the wider areas for Plea (Striker) and Balotelli (Striker).


Wide Area Pressing Weakness

In the wide areas Marseille’s press would neglect space towards the central area. So even with the superior amount of players in comparison to Nice, the ball-carrier was still able to calmly pass the ball into the central area. This then made it easier for Nice to play the ball inside and move forward and try penetrate the under loaded area of Marseille.


2nd Half Developments

OGC Nice

Midfield Positioning After the Changes

After 20 minutes Nice brought on 2 subs that changed Nice’s attack and overall play completely in Belhanda (Attacking Mid) and Eysseric (Left Wing Back). With Belhanda (Attacking Mid) coming in it meant that Nice had a better creative player in midfield and obtains a different player profile from Plea (Striker). Eysseric (Left Wing Back) is better offensively than Dalbert (Left Wing Back) out wide and so Nice now had more attacking options and better ones. Belhanda (Attacking Mid) began to move between the left half-space and central area and had a free role in attack. Eysseric (Left Wing Back) would either be in the outer channel or in the half-space depending on the positioning of Belhanda (Attacking Mid) in attack. Koziella and Seri were positioned in the central area as the 2 CM’s or pivots while Cyprien (Defensive Mid) took s higher position in the right half-space. With this change in system Nice had better superiority in midfield especially since Marseille took Vainqueur (Centre Mid) off for Njie (Centre Forward) and so there was more space in behind for Belhanda (Attacking Mid) and Cyprien (Defensive Mid) to penetrate through. Also with Belhanda (Attacking Mid) and Cyprien (Defensive Mid) in the half-space positions it provided easier connections and better and more structured connections into the half-spaces and central area for switching of play.



Machach in a Deeper Position

Machach (Attacking Mid) came on for Iseka (Attacking Mid) and immediately made a difference in Marseilles’ attacking approach as he obtained better positioning to support the attack and had a better connection in Marseille’s build-up as his deep dropping movements provided Marseille with a 3rd additional body in midfield as opposed to the 1st half where they only had 2. He had better offensive movement to avoid the defensive shadows, the block and create diagonal passing options for the ball-carrier.


Sarr and Thauvin as Forwards

Sarr (Left Winger) and Thauvin (Right Winger) began to move into the half-spaces a lot more in the 2nd half with the fullbacks maintaining wider positioning further forward.

Changed to Transition in Attack

With Njie (Centre Forward) coming in for Vainqueur (Centre Mid) it meant Machach dropped deeper as an Attacking Mid (Machach) with Anguissa as the Defensive Mid. This left space in the central area and with this new system Marseille aimed to use their pace to attack the Back 3 of Nice with quick offensive transitions from the front 4. Njie (Centre Forward) and Sarr (Left Winger) were the main enforcers in this that they would obtain the ball and push forward. The problem that occurred was that then it made it easier for Nice to isolate the wingers and Thauvin as the supporting connections would obviously be poor and so support for the ball-carrier was then limited or none existent.


Overall it was a very interesting match as both teams created a lot of chances and could have scored more. Marseille having the better of the chances and had it not been for a keeping error on the OGC Nice’s 3rd then the 1 point would have been a better reflection of the match. Nice still have a lot to work in terms of consistency in their build-up and obtaining more consistency with connections. Marseille’s wide area movements were not always clean and Cabella missing was a huge blow in their midfield as the 10 space area was vacated quite a lot and not utilised better.


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