16 points out of 18 possible in Ligue 1, a series of four victories in the league: everything is fine for OM, thanks for him. The start of the season of the Marseille club has swept away most of the doubts about the management of Tudor, who had quickly raised the internal temperature after his arrival. But – and it is normal – not all questions have been answered. And one of them concerns the feasibility of OM’s gaming system at the highest level.
This famous 3-4-3 system and its animation, which radically contrasts with what is proposed by Jorge Sampaoli’s OM, have not yet been really questioned. Without insulting Reims, Brest, Nantes, Nice (in total reconstruction) Clermont and Auxerre, Marseille have not yet faced an opponent of their size in the league, even though they have been hooked by the Breton club. Tudor (and his system), has European experience only 8 games of the Europa League group, excluding the play-offs.
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For this renewed OM, his coach and his 3-4-3, Wednesday’s trip to Tottenham will therefore be the first real test of the season. And what a proof The Olympic club will not only face a Premier League big fish in London, with the intensity that that implies. He will be opposed to a team accustomed to regularly using the three-man defense since 2016, first with Mauricio Pochettino, then sparingly José Mourinho. And to a coach, Antonio Conte, who has evolved tactically to make this organization his specialty, not without some variations.
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The stakes will therefore be multiple in this 3-4-3, starting with entertainment. Where Conte deploys two defensive midfielders and a real line of three forwards made up of Heung-min Son, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski, Tudor’s OM never plays with more than one “real” striker. At the start was Arkadiusz Milik. Now it’s up to Alexis Sanchez, with Luis Suarez to shoot, which should happen on Wednesday as the Chilean will be disqualified while Bamba Dieng and Cédric Bakambu have not been selected.
How to defend yourself?
Tudor’s 3-4-3 is therefore more precisely a 3-4-2-1, with two players supporting the attacker. Between these two supports there is always at least one “pure” midfielder – Gerson or Matteo Guendouzi, when they are not both – accompanied by an attacking midfielder or from outside profile, such as Dimitri Payet or Cengiz Ünder. The OM can therefore find itself in numerical superiority in midfield, with Guendouzi or Gerson who can go down to flank Valentin Rongier, Jordan Veretout or Pape Gueye in the defensive phase.
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No luxury in the face of two problems that Spurs could pose in this part of the green rectangle: the physical challenge imposed, first of all, with in particular the large volume of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. But also and above all Harry Kane’s stalls, sometimes to play as a fan, often to turn around and throw his teammates like a number 10. This implies giving more space to the three central opponents in revival. But those at Tottenham, unless Clément Lenglet were to start, are not necessarily known to be practicing specialists.
On the contrary, the three forwards could go to press the three central opponents. A riskier option was the one chosen against Clermont, the only team to have modeled their system on OM’s until now. Guendouzi and Payet accompanied Sanchez to the dry cleaners, Gueye followed Johan Gastien, the opposing sentry, when the latter replied. And inevitably, this whole little world has left spaces behind him. The kind of spaces Kane loves. The first challenge is therefore there: to adapt one’s system to a superior opponent.
An advantage in the corridors?
Another obviously important point in this diagram: the animation of the corridors. Labor specialist Jonathan Clauss and a fit Nuno Tavares will be in command. Both are part of the major forces of the OM at the start of the season. And they have a good chance of facing their tougher counterpart this start to the season.
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The former Lensois will be opposed to Ryan Sessegnon, in profile as a striker, or Ivan Perisic, vice world champion in the title and also used to this role of piston, who had held very well at Inter with that same Count during the title. season. The Portuguese should have Emerson Royal ahead of him. The young Brazilian, overtaken by Betis and Barça, is the undisputed holder of the right lane in London. Capable of the best and the worst, he still has a great ability to repeat matches, like the player on loan from Arsenal. He will be the last to tire.
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A large part of the offensive animation of the two teams will depend on these corridors, which also have several points in common when they have the ball. Starting from their tendency to stare at the opponent on one side to reverse on the other. But also the fact that they operate as much as possible in the rapid forward transitions, with direct play.
It remains to be seen who will fare better in front of his mirror which, ultimately, is only from afar. But individually, Tottenham start with a big advantage with a Kane-Son duo, who know each other perfectly, and a Kulusevski who is very well engaged. Not to mention the contribution of Richarlison during the match.
On paper, the OMs are far less armed on offense, especially without Sanchez. Above all, he will come to hinder his opponent, who is also external. And it is also in this that this meeting serves as proof. Contrary for the first time to a team that is supposed to be superior to it, it is on its strength, on its collective consistency, that the Marseille club is expected first. And so on his system.
Nuno Tavares and Igor Tudor during the friendly match between Marseille and Milan, 31 July 2022 in a friendly
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