OM record on the line
By I. Holyman
The only club with a 100% record heading into Week 5, Olympique de Marseille put their faultless start to the campaign on the line at AS Nancy Lorraine on Sunday.
OM's perfect opening has left them two points clear of second-placed Olympique Lyonnais and a further two ahead of the rest of the chasing pack. Given they have won four times and are unbeaten in their last five visits to the Stade Marcel-Picot, there is little to suggest their remarkable run of form will not continue in Lorraine, but defender Rod Fanni has warned everyone not to get carried away.
"We're happy, but we mustn't overdo it because it's fragile. It only takes one or two defeats and you have to start again from scratch," said the ex-Stade Rennais FC man. "We have to keep calm. We're trying to get back the unity that we'd lost a little bit. We're more solid, and everyone is putting in more. The fact that we struggled so much last year must be part of that, but it's still too early to draw any conclusions."
Gignac now integral
The form of André-Pierre Gignac, who has already struck three times in Ligue 1 - twice more than in the whole of the 2011-12 season - is a good example of OM's change in fortunes since Didier Deschamps' summer departure. The former Toulouse FC and FC Lorient forward played only a bit-part role under the current France national team coach, but is now an integral part of Elie Baup's line-up, who have struck a league-high seven times so far this season. According to José Anigo, OM's sporting director, boyhood OM fan Gignac symbolises the new reality at the club.
"When Baup came in, we immediately set out what we wanted and above all what we didn't want," said Anigo. "We chose a different option, with little money, and players who really wanted to commit themselves in a tough league, but who were 100% ready to take that on. We knew which players would play a leading role, and pull everyone up with them. We absolutely had to keep them."
Those who have remained at the Stade Vélodrome have amply rewarded the club for their faith. Their warrior spirit has been in evidence away from home in particular where a maximum haul of six points has been earned without a single goal being conceded, a remarkable feat given they failed to win one of their last nine away games of last season.
Nancy stuck in 'rough patch'
Their stinginess at the back promises to be a major obstacle for Nancy, whose problems in putting the ball in the back of the net have remained despite the summer break. Their tally of four points from their opening two games - including a creditable 1-1 draw at LOSC Lille - has not been added to in the last two games, nor has their paltry total of two goals scored. Coach Jean Fernandez, who spent two brief spells in the Stade Vélodrome dug-out, is conscious of the size of the task awaiting his players.
"When a team is going through a rough patch, you hope. But everything's going well for them. They're not conceding goals, and they're scoring," said Fernandez, who may employ Vincent Muratori as a makeshift centre-back in place of the suspended André Luiz.
"Anything is possible in football, but OM must be saying that if they can win at Montpellier, they can win at the Stade Marcel Picot. We're saying to ourselves that if they can beat the champion of France, they can beat us too."
Nancy: Ndy Assembe; Sami, Puygrenier, Lotiès; Haïdara; Karaboué, Sané, Mangani, Mollo; Moukandjo, Bakar
Marseille: Mandanda; Mango, Fanni, Nkoulou, Morel; Kaboré, Cheyrou; J Ayew, Valbuena, A Ayew; Gignac