Villas-Boas sounds resigned to his fate as Marseille's coach

·3 min read

PARIS — Speaking with an air of resignation, Andre Villas-Boas accepted his time as Marseille coach might soon be up following another home defeat.

The 1-0 loss to Lens in the French league on Wednesday, where he was tactically outwitted by a novice coach, came after an abject team performance last weekend in a 2-1 home reverse to Nimes.

Villas-Boas did not even try to defend himself.

“If I’m the one who is responsible, which I am, then I am at the disposal of the directors,” he said calmly. “I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not here to become an obstacle.”

Marseille is in sixth place, but the position could soon get worse with tough games ahead.

On Saturday, Marseille travels to face fourth-place Monaco, which is in fine form having won four of its last five matches. Marseille then takes on fifth-place Rennes, before going to Lens and hosting league leader Paris Saint-Germain in the same week.

Fans have already turned on the players, venting their anger before the Lens game.

Villas-Boas is the latest coach feeling the intense scrutiny at Marseille, the only French side to win the Champions League — in 1993 — yet also the most volatile.

Firing Villas-Boas would involve paying a considerable amount of compensation, however, and Marseille can ill afford to shell out money firing and re-hiring since it is heavily cash-strapped.

After he guided Marseille to second place last season and an automatic Champions League place, fans hailed Villas-Boas for doing so with limited resources while praising the fighting spirit he instilled in the side.

But tight-knit camaraderie was nowhere to be found against Nimes or Lens, prompting a furious reaction from veteran goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. The France No. 2 has been an ever-present since 2007, aside from one season in England, and is nearing 600 games for Marseille.

He described a chaotic scene at halftime against Lens.

“We screamed an awful lot," he said. “There are many things to change within the club, notably the team spirit. When you play for Marseille, you must have character.”

The long-serving captain wants changes to be made.

“We're just not getting there, there's a problem in the squad. We don't have the collective strength which helped us do well last season," Mandanda said. "We have to do a lot of soul-searching, individually and collectively. We must accept everything that's going to happen.”

Mandanda has said similar things before, and it remains doubtful whether this tirade changes anything.

Dimitri Payet, whose three goals helped France to reach the 2016 European Championship final, has been off form and more like the erratic player who frustrated fans at his previous clubs.

Payet has scored six goals in 21 games this season, compared to 12 in 27 last term.

Winger Florian Thauvin is short of his best after spending almost the entire last season injured. His scoring return of six in 25 this season — at a ratio of .24 goals per game — is way below the 59 in 134 from 2016-19 at a ratio of .44.

But Thauvin remains a highly rated player, having netted 70 goals and provided 45 assists in 187 games for Marseille. At 27 years old he's in his prime, yet he could leave for free in the summer when his contract ends.

However, unlike some other players, Thauvin's work rate remains high.

So, for now at least, hard-to-please Marseille fans have spared him from reproach.


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Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press