My first full season at Marseille has started fantastically, we’re second in the table with five wins and one draw from seven games. We’re the second-highest scorers in the league with 17 goals, five of which have been scored by new signing Willian Jose. With our pre-season expectations being to qualify for the Europa League, we’re certainly on the right path.
Our fine run ends with a defeat against Bordeaux, which is frustrating as both Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain also lost, but we enter the October international break full of confidence. After two weeks off we return to beat Sochaux-Montbe 2-0 and Havre Athletic 1-0, rounding off the month with a comfortable win over AC Ajaccio in the Coupe De La League.
November brings three further Ligue 1 games starting with a clash against GFC Ajaccio, which we win 2-0, and our next game is against Dijon- my 100th in management. We fight back valiantly from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and have 12 days to prepare for a huge clash with Paris Saint-Germain.
The match against the champions is huge as the fight for a top-four spot is fierce and a victory would put us just two points behind the league leaders, whereas a defeat would leave us trailing by eight points. Willian Jose gives us the lead with a spectacular bicycle kick but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalises after the break, before Anthony Martial gives PSG the lead and Morgan Sanson concedes a penalty- gifting Martial his second goal.
Martin Odegaard’s goal isn’t a fair reflection of the game and neither is Edinson Cavani’s header. We certainly don’t deserve to lose 5-1 but we enter December on the back of our third defeat of the season- and we face three league matches in quick succession, giving us the chance to rekindle our form.
A hat-trick from Willian Jose helps us see of Angers and we secure another win at home to Guingamp. Our next comes against Europa League chasing Montpellier, who sit ten points behind us in fifth, and we romp to a 6-0 victory; with Willian Jose taking his tally to 14 goals in 16 games after netting another hat-trick.
Victory over Toulouse sees us rise to second in the table and a 3-1 victory over Lyon puts us in the quarter-finals of the Coupe De La League, where we’ll face OGC Nice, but my attention is firmly on the next game with Monaco- our penultimate clash before a month off for winter.
We’re level on points with Monaco, holding a slender advantage via goal difference, and the game will provide a huge impact upon our aspirations to finish in the top-two and secure passage straight into the Champions League group stage.
Djibril Sidibe gives the hosts the lead but Dimitri Payet equalises, sending us into the break level. Willian Jose gives us the lead after the interval but Sandro Ramirez, recently signed by Everton in the real world, equalises with ten minutes remaining and ensures the points are shared. Considering we were away from home, I’m thrilled.
Our final match of the calendar year sees us travel to an Auxerre side who are chasing continental football and we rise to the challenge to secure a 2-0 victory, with goals from Lucas Ocampos and Willian Jose. It extends our unbeaten run to six games and we’ve found the net in each of our last eleven matches.
January sees me sign midfielder Ogenyi Onazi, as my options have been depleted due to a long-term injury to Morgan Sanson, and our fixtures hand as three consecutive matches against OGC Nice, first in the two domestic cup competitions before our return to Ligue 1 action in three weeks. Willian Jose also wins the Player of the Month for December, following an incredible return of 10 goals in six games.
Onazi makes his debut in the ninth round of the French Cup against Nice, which we win 1-0, and then jets off with Nigeria to the African Cup of Nations. Our next clash with Nice is 10 days later in the quarter-final of the Coupe De La League and we fight back superbly from 2-0 down to win 3-2; with each of our goals coming inside the final five minutes.
The semi-final draw hands us a tie with FC Nantes and our return to league action sees us clash with OGC Nice once again. Late goals are again on order and we win 2-0, putting us in a confident mood ahead of our next game against Lyon- although there are notable absentees, including Ronaldo Viera and Javi Manquillo.
Losing Riza Durmisi to injury after 25 minutes is therefore a big issue and I’m not surprised when Alexandre Lacazette puts Lyon ahead before half-time, with things getting worse when he adds his second. We switch to an attacking mentality after the break but the damage is done and Joel Campbell puts us three behind. Lacazette then gets his hat-trick and it’s another heavy derby defeat.
It brings our fantastic run to a frustrating end and we slip to second in the table, now seven points ahead of Lyon. There’s no time to sulk though as important matches are just around the corner, including the small matter of the cup semi-final.