by Paul Doyle
Tuesday December 11, 2007 The Guardian
Famous Belgian is not an oxymoron in Marseille. When Eric Gerets took charge of the city's football team in September, he was compared to his compatriot Raymond Goethals, the Brussels-born manager who in 1993 guided Marseille to their only Champions League title. If his nationality and fondness for smoking suggested he was similar, then his conjuring of an away victory over Liverpool in his first match confirmed the belief that the club had at last found a worthy successor to 'Raymond Le Magicien'. Despite a temporary downturn in results after that, players and fans remain enchanted and confidence is high that, for his next trick, Gerets will make Liverpool's Champions League hopes disappear.
"It won't be like the match at Anfield because Liverpool have upped their game and found their true level since then - but so have we," said Marseille's captain, Lorik Cana, following the club's 2-0 win over Monaco on Saturday, a result that extended their unbeaten league run to five matches.
The changes wrought by Gerets have been subtle and stark. The most obvious has been the omission of Djibril Cissé who, as a £6m summer signing from Liverpool and the highest paid player in the French league, had seemingly been declared undroppable by the previous manager Albert Emon. There have been other personnel changes too, such as the introduction of the midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, who has been a fixture since being plucked from the reserves to score the winner at Anfield. Most of all, Gerets has altered Marseille's attitude. Under Emon the players were nervous and careless, Gerets's success has been to impose discipline while instilling a spirit of enterprise.
The manager has adopted an adventurous 4-2-3-1 formation and even demanded more goals from the deep-lying "2", criticising Benoît Cheyrou, in particular, for being too content to be a holding midfielder. Though they have become tighter at the back since Gerets' arrival, Marseille are built to attack. A draw may suffice for them tonight but there is little chance of them setting out to settle for that.