PARIS (AP) - Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa is feeling “a lot of shame” after four straight defeats plunged the club into freefall.
The 5-3 loss to Lorient at Stade Velodrome on Friday night was the first time since 1980 that Marseille has conceded so many goals at home.
Still in the title race only three weeks ago, Marseille is now in serious danger of missing out on the Champions League and even under pressure to secure a Europa League spot, with Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux and Montpellier pushing hard.
Marseille won eight straight games near the start of the season to put early pressure on defending champion Paris Saint-Germain. But defeats away to Lyon in late October and PSG in early November were the first significant setbacks for Bielsa’s side.
“Ridiculise” (Ridiculed) was Saturday’s headline in local newspaper La Provence, while sports daily L’Equipe called the result “Hallucinant” (Unbelievable).
Failure to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive season would put the club under considerable financial strain. With several key players nearing the end of their contracts, there is little prospective cash to come in from transfers.
“I feel a lot of shame about our run of defeats, more than anything,” Bielsa said. “Is (Marseille) in crisis? Yes, of course.”
Marseille, which twice threw away the lead in a 3-2 home defeat to PSG on April 5, has conceded 13 goals in the past five home games.
“It’s a very difficult time for the team, we can’t hide from these mistakes and we must face them,” said Bielsa, whose own future at the club is uncertain. He has yet to commit to another year after joining this season.
“I have to find the answers and I always think I can,” he said. “But given the last matches I have little defense.”
Hailed as a master tactician for much of the season by the notoriously hard-to-please Marseille fans, the Argentine coach is now coming under criticism for his constant tinkering with formations.
Ghana winger Andre Ayew, who scored Friday night, hinted at frustration afterward when he said “we have to think about how we’re positioned on the field.”
Ayew has one year left on his contract, as does France No. 2 goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, and the club may have to sell them this summer to stop them leaving for free. Ayew has reportedly agreed a deal with Italian side Roma.
But top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac, highly-rated center half Nicolas N’Koulou, right back Rod Fanni and center half Jeremy Morel are all out of contract at the end of the season and are expected to leave Marseille, which remains the only French side to win the Champions League, in 1993.
For now, with doubts surrounding the future of Bielsa and half of the team, along with the prospect of missing out on a much-needed Champions League cash injection, Marseille’s future looks increasingly bleak.
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