After a disappointing 2018-2019 campaign, France international playmaker Dimitri Payet intends to set the record straight with Olympique de Marseille in the impending Ligue 1 Conforama season - perhaps as a striker!
Dimitri Payet hit the comeback trail - and the scoresheets - in the preseason, helping Olympique de Marseille to build some crucial momentum for the impending campaign after the disappointment of last season.
'Dim', the OM squad's number one joker, has been all smiles and practical jokes over the summer, which is a great sign for the southern giants, as his good humour has been accompanied by excellent performances and three wonderful goals. Indeed, were there such an honour, he would have received the MVP award for his part in helping OM to lift the inaugural EA Ligue 1 Games trophy in the USA.
"It was beautiful, this goal from Dimitri," said fellow midfielder Maxime Lopez said after the final of the EA Ligue 1 Games against AS Saint-Étienne (2-1). "He's in good shape. He has an appetite for redemption. Last season, he didn't have the season he wanted to have. But Dim has what it takes; he's a competitor and a winner and he always wants to do better."
"I'm looking for redemption, certainly, but overall I just want to have a good season," admitted the France star. "The last one, both individually and collectively, was difficult, and we don't want to get off to another poor start. But I can feel the that whole team is committed and engaged, so that's great."
Last year, Payet got off to a strong start but then faded in the final eight months of the season.
"I am aware that I can do much, much better on the pitch," acknowledged the silky-skilled attacker, who was benched by former coach Rudi Garcia in February and March following a minor injury despite being the club captain. He added only two assists to his stats after Week 9, with the rest of his four goals and five assists coming at the beginning of the season.
In fact, in August 2018, the native Réunion was already looking to re-establish himself. He had just missed France's victorious World Cup campaign through an injury that forced him off in tears after laying just half an hour of OM's UEFA Europa League final against Atlético Madrid. Under contract at OM until 2021, the first big recruit of the McCourt era repeated time and again last season that he wanted to stay.
The Orange Vélodrome is eagerly awaiting Payet's return to form, having been critical of him and several other key figures who disappointed in the last campaign. Although new coach André Villas-Boas has entrusted 'keeper Steve Mandanda with the captain's armband for the season ahead, the Portuguese boss has had fulsome praise for Payet and his "intelligence and use of space".
'AVB' has most often preferred a 4-3-3, with Payet on the left, but has also tested him as a central striker and as a number ten, the position that the ex-Lille man prefers - where there are fewer defensive duties - but Payet is not unhappy on the left flank.
'Find our bearings'
"It's a position I played in at the beginning of my career. I was moved into the centre in the right place, but I always said that if I had to do it, I would," explained Payet. "I talked to the coach about the expectations for this position. In preparation matches, it worked pretty well, but I need to improve things. We're working in a 4-3-3, and we're starting to find our bearings."
On Sunday against Napoli, during OM's final pre-season outing, Payet played in the centre of the 4-3-3 - as centre-forward! Despite the 1-0 defeat, OM showed great impetus and desire under Payet's guidance and fans can expect his thirst for redemption to bring good things Marseille's way.
OM kick off the 2019-20 campaign at home to Reims at 17:00 CET on Saturday, 10 August.