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Eccentric Bielsa finding his feet at Marseille

Published: Monday 22 September 2014, 12.15CET
'El Loco', Marcelo Bielsa has been a characteristically colourful character since taking over at Olympique de Marseille – his methods, though, are paying off for the Ligue 1 leaders.
by Christian Châtelet
from Paris
Eccentric Bielsa finding his feet at Marseille
Marcelo Bielsa watches on during Marseille's victory against Rennes on Saturday ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Monday 22 September 2014, 12.15CET

Eccentric Bielsa finding his feet at Marseille

'El Loco', Marcelo Bielsa has been a characteristically colourful character since taking over at Olympique de Marseille – his methods, though, are paying off for the Ligue 1 leaders.

Marcelo Bielsa's brief Olympique de Marseille tenure has not been all plain sailing, but the Mediterranean outfit are now top of Ligue 1 and looking good.

Our duty is to try and give Paris a hard time
Romain Alessandrini

OM recorded their fourth straight win on Saturday – 3-0 at home to Stade Rennais FC – and finished the weekend ahead of previous leaders LOSC Lille and FC Girondins de Bordeaux. The recent narrative around the club is one that even local 20th century author Marcel Pagnol would have enjoyed putting into words.

The story begins when former Argentina and Chile coach Bielsa was appointed this summer, replacing José Anigo following a disappointing 2013/14 campaign for Marseille. 'El Loco' (The Crazy One) was soon living up to his moniker, taking a local supermarket manager as his translator and even daring to question some of OM's transfer policies. Now, though, things seems much rosier.

"We deserved to win, but the scoreline is generous because there were the same number of chances for both sides," the 59-year-old said after the Rennes victory. "I thank the fans [for chanting my name] and hope that as time goes by I'll merit their support – but this depends on success."

Bielsa, who oversaw a draw and a defeat in his first two games in charge, continues to cut an isolated figure as he sits on a coolbox on the touch line during matches. However, it appears the somewhat unconventional methods of the ex-Athletic Club boss are reaping reward. "Believe me, we work very hard during the week," said Ligue 1 top marksman André-Pierre Gignac. "That means we can really party on the pitch at the weekend."

The last time OM were not involved in the UEFA Champions League, in 2012/13, they finished second in the French top flight. Hopes are high once more. "Our duty is to try and give Paris a hard time,” said Romain Alessandrini, scorer of his side's third on Saturday. Bielsa, though, is not a man to get carried away. "The current standings are provisional," he added. "Every win makes me happy."

Not that Bielsa's joy is particularly evident. His team face Stade de Reims on Tuesday before hosting AS Saint-Étienne – level on 13 points with OM and Bordeaux – next weekend. Victory in both of those and who knows – Bielsa might even smile for the first time. That is, after all, how Pagnol's novels sometimes end.

Last updated: 22/09/14 17.16CET

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