Gennaro Gattuso leaves Marseille in perilous position

Gennaro Gattuso’s time in charge of Olympique de Marseille has officially come to its end, as the club parted ways with their third manager of the season. 

The Italian coach had come into a club in crisis. Marcelino who had started the season as the Marseille manager had left abruptly after threats from supporters, frustrated at a playing style that was considered too reactive by the fans. 

The supporters clamoured for “mouillez le maillot.” An ideal that the Marseille players are to wet the kit – to leave the field soaking from their efforts. Jacques Abardonado came in during the interim as the club searched for a more permanent manager, eventually turning to Gattuso. 

To Gattuso’s credit, he managed to steady the ship and calm the brewing tensions. A difficult opening patch where the club lost to AS Monaco and OGC Nice soon gave way to a promising end to the year, as Gattuso went on to guide the side to six wins, two losses, and three draws before the league paused ahead of the winter break. 

And for a brief period, it looked as if the supporters might have a manager who understood “mouillez le maillot.” 

The downturn for Gennaro Gattuso

Since the winter break, Marseille have gone on a disastrous run that led the club hierarchy to lose faith in Gattuso. Since the 17th of December, the manager has only managed to secure one victory in nine games. And that solitary victory was a narrow 1-0 win against fifth-tier side, US Thionville Lusitanos. 

Gattuso leaves the club with a 31% win record, eight points adrift of the European places, and desperately needing a victory against Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday after being held to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League tie (a team who due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine had not played a competitive match for two months). 

Some might point to the fact that this drop in form coincided with a January that saw the club missing 7 players due to international commitments at the Africa Cup of Nations, as well as the significant injury to club captain Valentin Rongier (29). However, even with the return of those players from international duty, performances have not improved under Gattuso and appeared in recent weeks to be declining further. 

Gattuso’s tactical setup left a lot to be desired, and there was only ever in the dying days a vague concept behind how the club hoped to secure victories. An approach that appeared to be fully committed to the concept of keeping possession, but without many structures or movements to turn ball-retention into threatening plays. 

Frustration and disappointment 

It was obvious time was coming to an end for Gattuso as he cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the sidelines. In a crisis meeting following a 1-0 defeat to Olympique Lyonnais, he demanded answers from his side, “If I’m the problem, tell me.” 

While, his last game in charge against Stade Brestois signalled a manager who had lost hope in his ability to change the fortunes of a side that for a brief moment he appeared to fully understand. “When you hit rock bottom, you have to take responsibility. It’s my responsibility. There is nothing else to say. The table? The truth is that we’re going to have to start looking behind us. We can no longer speak about Europe. We just need to take the necessary points to be calm in the standings.” 

It was perhaps an accurate assessment of where his side now was, but it was a statement that necessitated change, and on Tuesday Gattuso was gone and Marseille were onto their fourth manager of the season: Jean-Louis Gasset. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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