Despite its tactical variations, Olympique Marseille are a team who don’t lose sight of what’s important. Imbued with the essence and tactical prowess of manager Jorge Sampaoli, this is a team which likes to attack, offering a lot of interchanging positions and movement up front.
In this guest article, Tomás Alfonso, analyst at Colón de Santa Fe, offers up an analysis in which he explains the tactics of one of the top teams in France’s Ligue 1.
So, let’s hand over to Tomás...
“You need to adapt the tactics according to the players and the opponent. But I will not compromise my ideas and style when trying to play a superior game.” Jorge Sampaoli, manager of Olympique Marseille.
Sampaoli’s usual strategy for building from the back is to use the defense line to pull the opposition forward with short passes. The midfielders, meanwhile, occupy the spaces between the line, looking for space and opportunities to receive a forward pass.
Additionally, they use the entire width of the pitch to try to break through this first line of pressure after a short ball.
After pulling their opponent forward with a series of short passes, if there is no obvious way forward, the defenders will attempt to drive the ball forwards themselves, leaving the opposition forward line to chase the game. The objective here is to gain a numerical advantage in midfield. The midfielders play an important role here, offering passing options and continuing to open space between enemy lines.
One of Sampaoli’s classic tactics is to find the man sitting between the opponent’s lines who is then supported by a third man who appears and attacks the space. When this happens, much progress is made and the opposition goal is attacked vertically.
These cutting passes and the generation of a third man mean that as many as 5 opposition players are left chasing the ball from behind, meaning that the forwards can dictate the time and space of the attack.
This is a great tactic for creating numerical advantages in attack and is definitely a major part of the Sampaoli philosophy in all his teams.
The build up usually ends with a player appearing from the wing and attacking the opponent’s box. A typical characteristic of Sampaoli’s tactics is the number of players crowding the box. This is a team that is comfortable attacking on the inside, as well as the outside. Players not inside the box set themselves up for defensive duties.
A common formation in Marseille’s offensive phase is 3-1-4-1-1, usually maintaining the 3-1 from the build-up phase.
Another characteristic of this team is to set up triangulations, generate passing lines and breaks. Often in attack, Olympique go all in, with players offering passing option on the inside and out on the wing.
In the defensive phase, Marseille likes to press and position itself in the high-medium block. They attempt to close down the inside passing lanes and force their opponent wide in order to make pairings and prevent them from progressing by creating superiority out wide.
The team always looks to be close when positioned in the medium-low block and when pressing after a loss. The defense advances quickly to close space.
Off the ball, their tactics vary depending on the opponent’s style of play. Sampaoli always tries to keep his team together, leaving little space between defense and midfield. The structure is usually 4-1 or 4-2 and varies little from this formation.
Without a doubt, this is a team which leaves little room for their opponent’s to maneuver, constantly pushing forward to bring the game to the opposition, regain the ball and start the attacking phase over again.
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