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Smart Transfers: Olympique Marseille

As the winter transfer window has drawn to a close, we will use Smarterscout’s advanced metrics and league benchmarking to assess the transfer business of selected teams that caught our eye.


Ligue 1 has seen a very active January window – outspending even the English Premier League – as many of its struggling giants have invested in players in a bid to improve their overall performances. Lyon were the biggest headline-makers in this respect, but Marseille made some moves too as they found themselves fallen out of the European spots.

They were also forced into action by the departure of left-back Renan Lodi to Al Hilal, which left their squad thin in that position but single-handedly financed all their transfer deals. They could also afford to ad a striker to support Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well as an anchor in defensive midfield.

Quentin Merlin (from Nantes)

In less than half of the transfer fee Marseille received for Lodi, they went and brought in a left-back who is already arguably better than him.

We have been fans of Quentin Merlin for a while and highlighted his impressive work at Nantes earlier on in the season, so this move to a European club is overdue for him if anything.

The young Frenchman perhaps did not get the credit he deserved at Nantes as his incredibly polished on-ball work did not stand out so clearly in a less possession-based system, so he should only excel even more at the Vélodrome.

Ulisses Garcia (from Young Boys)

Ulisses Garcia was the first left-back Marseille signed after losing Lodi, and although he might be displaced by Merlin in the first-choice XI, he remains a good addition to the squad who offers a different sort of threat on the left.

While Merlin’s progressive passing and on-ball technical ability is superior, Garcia can provide a more direct threat down the wing as he loves to bomb forward and produces great attacking output through creating and shooting. In more end-to-end matches with greater open space on the flanks, the Swiss defender might just prove to be a better pick.

Faris Moumbagna (from Bodø/Glimt)

Up front, Marseille really needed a striker to support Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as the 34-year-old Gabonese international has already played over 1,500 league minutes and is the only player in the squad with more than five goal involvements.

OM decided to bring in Faris Moumbagna from Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt precisely one year after he joined them. Clearly, they were sufficiently impressed by his return of 15 non-penalty league goals thanks to his excellent box presence and shooting quality.

Marseille currently have the second-best attack in the league in terms of xG but are fifth when it comes to goals scored, so they will hope that a clinical finisher like Moumbagna can improve their chance conversion.

Jean Onana (on loan from Beşiktaş)

In the middle of the park, Marseille have brought in Jean Onana on loan with an option to buy from Beşiktaş.

The Cameroonian midfielder had an impressive track record of offering great defensive coverage along with pretty good quality in the last few seasons at various clubs including French sides Bordeaux and Lens, but he was starved of playing time since moving to Türkiye.

Marseille did have a couple of defensive-minded midfielders in their squad but none of them seemed to have Gennaro Gattuso’s total trust, so Onana will hope to capitalize on this opportunity.

Verdict

Marseille seem to have conducted some pretty smart business this January, managing to address a couple of shortcomings in their squad as well as more than making up for a significant departure. The fact that the transfer fees were effectively a free ride for them makes it all the better, so they should be fairly pleased about their window at least.

 

By Neel Shelat

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