You are reading the Get French Football News Talking Points column written by Eric Devin.
A month ago, Romain Alessandrini must’ve wondered what he had got himself into in moving to Marseille. Having arrived at the south coast club after a few excellent seasons at Rennes, the winger continually saw his path to the first team blocked by a succession of underwhelming alternatives. We know about the woes of Florian Thauvin this season, but Marcelo Bielsa also preferred Abdelaziz Barrada and Lucas Ocampos over the diminutive winger at various times.
With no seeming way to catch the manager’s eye, the Marseille-born Alessandrini must’ve been at his wits’ end, especially as his per-minute statistics for goals and assists trumped those of Thauvin and the others.
In the last four months, however, Alessandrini has played an increasingly important role in the side, starting each of the last four matches. His first inclusion in this stretch was in the 1-0 defeat at Bordeaux, a match in which Andre Ayew was suspended. Hitting the bar and consistently testing Cedric Carasso, Alessandrini was the only player who looked to get forward in attack, even the usually lively Dimitri was quiet on the evening. While Marseille were unlucky in missing out on two strong penalty shouts, the way in which the wind went out of their sails was disappointing, despite Alessandrini’s best efforts.
In the next match, Marseille were undone by a defensive error against Nantes, 1-0, a match in which Dimitri Payet was absent due to his outburst after the 0-0 with Lyon. Alessandrini was ineffective in this match, but without Payet, there was little cohesion in Marseille’s attack and no one player should assume too much blame.
Then came the ignominious loss against Lorient and an indifferent victory against Metz, neither the club in general or Alessandrini having evinced much in the way of positivity, as the win over Les Grenats was more the product of a superb performance on the part of Andre-Pierre Gignac than anything else. That said, if Marseille fail to play as a cogent unit, than it will be down to individual players to make the efforts necessary to produce results.
Thus, with their very season on the line, Alessandrini became the latest player to do just that on Sunday against Monaco, demonstrating the same determination and drive that he had a month earlier against Bordeaux. This time, though, the result was more positive, as Alessandrini set up Andre Ayew’s equalizer and ten minutes later turned in the match winner. What is remarkable, though, is not the nature of the goals, (although the assist for Ayew was lovely) but the character that the player showed, especially as, in a must-win match against a team that hadn’t conceded two goals in the league since Matchday 15, he had just minutes earlier missed a rare one-on-one opportunity with the ‘keeper.
Keeping his side’s slim Champions’ League hopes alive, Alessandrini showed remarkable mental fortitude when it would’ve been only too easy to crumble in the face of such adversity. If Marseille had enjoyed more effort of the level demonstrated by the former Rennes man over the last two months, things wouldn’t be nearly so dire as they are, results-wise; credit Marcelo Bielsa for having finally learned to trust and reward effort.