After shaky start, Gerson finally delivers for Marseille
MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Gerson finally quieted his critics with a decisive goal. Marseille now hopes the Brazilian has silenced them for good as the nine-time French champions mount a credible challenge for a Champions League spot.
Brought from Flamengo to southern France this summer, Gerson had been on the receiving end of sharp criticism along the Canebiere — the famed downtown Marseille avenue running from the old port — as the 24-year-old midfielder struggled to live up to expectations.
His brilliant goal in the 1-0 win over Nantes midweek, however, lifted Marseille to second place behind runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain ahead of Saturday’s game against Brest at the Velodrome Stadium.
PSG, which dropped points at home for the first time this season against Nice, has a 12-point lead at the top of the standings but Marseille has one match in hand. PSG is at fifth-place Lens on Saturday.
Gerson’s arrival for a reported fee of 20 million euros ($22.6 million) in July was Marseille’s biggest expenditure of the transfer window. Four games into the season, he had a goal and an assist but then he quickly faded.
In his second spell in Europe following Serie A stints with Roma and Fiorentina, Gerson failed to adapt to Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli’s management. The Argentine coach often asks players to change roles and moved Gerson from his favorite slot in central midfield to the left and right flanks and also tried him in a playmaker position.
The constant changes did not help the technically skilled Gerson to settle and his recent matches against Galatasaray in the Europa League and Troyes in Ligue 1 had left critics questioning his true value.
Against Nantes, however, Gerson played his best match this season in an unusual center-forward position after Sampaoli left Arkadiusz Milik on the bench. In addition to his goal, Gerson played with intensity and combined well with Dimitri Payet throughout.
“This is exactly the version of Gerson that we want to see,” said Sampaoli, who had made the recruitment of the Brazilian a priority. “He was attacking-minded, managed to get into our opponent’s box. He also recovered balls and was very active. That’s why we bet on him.”
It remains to be seen whether Sampaoli will continue to use Gerson in this attacking role, but it proved to be a good option for the 1993 European champions, who will be looking for a fifth consecutive clean sheet and third consecutive win when they host Brest.