A deeper dive into the Marseille press

What exactly does the Marseille press do? We all can see the hectic effort they put in and the thrills they give neutrals with the helter-skelter games they produce, but what exactly is it getting done. In my last post, I showed there are some significant signs of slowdown among the Marseille side as they tire as the season goes along and tire in-game as well. What didn’t show up were the results of the press really. Sure, they forced takeaways at a high rate, but not near the top teams in the league which left some people scratching their heads. Several people on twitter seemed to think sheer takeaway numbers and where a teams takeaways occur might not reflect the true defensive effort Marseille are putting forward. So today, I added pass data to the mix and I think a much fuller picture is starting to emerge of how Marseille go about playing defense. First, an overview.

Here we see starkly why Marseille might lag in the raw number department: they face massively fewer passes than most of the rest of the league. Marseille face 309 passes per game, nearly 100 fewer than the average Ligue 1 team. The average Marseille game features, in total, nearly a quarter fewer passes than a typical PSG game. In the early going of games, teams complete barely 60% of the number of passes they do against a normal opponent.

When this is accounted for, their takeaway stats rise as they are taking the ball away per pass more often than most teams. For example, here is the takeaway per 10 passes attempted in the opposing third:

Now we see that instead of hovering around 3rd-5th in the press stats, Marseille and PSG are taking the ball away in a league apart from the other 18 teams. This is true in each third of the pitch, with PSG and Marseille’s edge slipping as you get closer to the defending teams goal:

This is pretty solid proof that those two teams are pushing their defense high and ball-seeking.

The in-game fading effect we saw yesterday is certainly still there. Marseille roar out of the gates but by the end of the game are taking the ball away at a standard rate all over the pitch.

One interesting stat that also slips back to league average by games end is the share of opposition passes being played in Marseille’s third. To start the game, Marseille allow a significantly higher share of passes in their own third, then after halftime pretty much track with the league average:

Clearly, Marseille are tiring or changing strategy in-game. That we established last time and get more proof of this time. However, with the added pass data we see that each pass against Marseille is more dangerous than any other team bar PSG. Up next, I’ll see if there is anything more we can learn about this press.


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