OM's youth wave rides high into Classique
OM has found regularity in its performances throughout February and early March. Confident and undefeated, Les Olympiens have emerged with points and have rediscovered themselves in the midst of a chase for the Top-3.
Keeping the sheets clean
Far too fragile through the first six months of the season, the Phocean backline simply papered over a series of absences and drooping displays of form. As Rudi Garcia has too often noted, his team was too often caught waiting to react. Now his group almost instantly become the dictators of events.
Dissecting the defensive and offensive performances on their own, we can certainly see why the results have shifted toward the positive. Through December-January, Les Olympiens allowed 1.4 goals per game (up to the 23rd match day). Since the beginning of February, that average has fallen to 0.57.
The seismic shift came against Bordeaux. Regaining their winning ways after a loss to Reims, Hiroki Sakai and Co. found success despite the absences of Adil Rami, Luiz Gustavo (injured) and Kevin Strootman (suspended). That success came from - of all places - the younger players on the team sheet.
BORDEAUX LAUNCHes OM's YOUTh movement
The wave of youngsters has been led by Boubacar Kamara and his partner in central defence, Duje Caleta-Car. Kamara, an OM academy product is just 19 years old and his Croatian counterpart is just 22 years old. Both have cemented a certain regularity in Garcia's starting XI.
They make up the youngest consistent central defensive unit in all the continent.
The youth doesn't stop in the backline. Midfileders Maxime Lopez and Morgan Sanson have played their parts with few flaws just in front of the Kamara - Caleta-Car connection.
With 16 points won out of 18, the Phoceans have fluidly combined strength, youth and a difference-making ability to buld a successful run of results. The 4-4-2 has secured four clean sheets in six games (with just five coming previously between August and January). Steve Mandanda has conceded just two goals over this period, with only Lille goalkeeper Maignan showing better in L1 (1 goal conceded).
The improvement is striking but still too small of a sample size to constitute a true trend. Although Rudi Garcia's team is no where near invincible, it is filled with confidence before a heavyweight clash in Paris this Sunday.