Jordan Ayew 21 MidfielderMarseille
Well what a difference a turbulent pre-season makes eh?
It may not be the warm-up of choice for most but a summer spent speaking with Reading after they had a €4m bid accepted, as well as agreeing in principle to a transfer to Nice at one point, seems to have done Jordan Ayew’s Marseille career the world of good. Finishing last season with no place in the side, distinctly out of love with L’OM and with nothing really concrete to back up his much-discussed potential, the writing was on the wall.
However, his new manager Élie Baup and coaching staff at the club were receptive to a move if he felt that really was his only course of action, but all wanted him to stay and preached a message of patience. True an element of this desire may have resided in keeping older brother and team-mate André happy, but they definitely saw something in him that previous manager Didier Deschamps didn’t.
And that faith has been repaid somewhat. Last season under the water-carrier L’OM stuttered and argued their way through the campaign to a disappointing tenth place finish. This year Baup has lifted morale and revitalized the squad, Jordan Ayew a particular beneficiary. Finding himself in and around the team again from the opening day of the season and scoring his first goal in 1-0 away win in Nancy in September, his good form and changed attitude impressed those at the club and in the stands.
Last year in all competitions he scored just 3 times in 44 appearances (including 4 games for Ghana at the 2012 Cup of Nations) and cut an at times pretty disinterested figure. He also collected his first red card in a Champions League game against Dortmund, quite impressive when you consider it was for two yellow cards earned in the 19 minutes he played having come on as a substitute for Loic Remy in the second half.
This year has seen a smiling Ayew already notch up 4 goals and a broken foot for Andre-Pierre Gignac has gifted him a run in the starting line-up. Gignac has started the season in equally good form and longer term will regain his place once fully fit, but Ayew has forced a decision and is pushing him all the way. This is a man who feels like at 21 he already has a second chance and currently, he’s taking it with both hands.
His team-mate’s form around him has been a huge factor in getting him to raise his game and at the time of writing L’OM are right up there in what is developing into one of the most interesting title races in Europe. Speaking in an interview with L’Equipe recently he talked of his happiness at having stayed at the club and how the experience of a difficult season had taught him to try to ‘channel his passion’. His reward for a renewed spirit should be a place in Ghana’s squad for the upcoming Cup of Nations and while competition for the attacking roles is tough, he will probably find himself starting up front alongside Asamoah Gyan.
One of Ayew’s primary assets is his movement and Marseille are playing the sort of quick passing football that he feels most at home with. We can’t see him developing into a striker capable of leading the line in the manner of a Drogba for instance, but a role as part of a quick and interchangeable front three seems to suit. He’s not an imposing physical presence but defenders will hate the pace, quick feet and desire to take them on. Sometimes the ambition outweighs the talent when lining up a defender one-on-one, but time and maturity will bring better decision-making and he has that on his side for quite a while yet before anyone can truly criticize.
He will get plenty of football this season and if he continues as he has been should get somewhere approaching double figures or more goal-wise. Not a bad return for the team from a player who spent the summer manufacturing a move away from the club.
Longer term we can’t see him becoming a truly exceptional talent but that’s not to say we’re predicting doom and gloom. At one stage it looked like he may be bound for loan deals and eventually European football’s second tiers, but that thought has since been banished. His finishing needs work, his overall game needs the polish only maturity can bring, but the signs are positive. If his attitude has been adjusted and lessons learned, it was worth the poor season last year.
At the right club and playing in a system that suits his natural instincts, he could become a valuable player for a long time to come. At Marseille he may get this chance if he’s willing to play the (very) long game, but it could be a good season this year brings a move and starring role elsewhere. He might not become a top-line Champions League striker at a huge club but sometimes we fall into the trap of forgetting how shallow that pool is. Success for Ayew may prove to be playing above himself for a Europa League level club somewhere. For the moment the grade curve is going up and after last season, that’s enough.
“Made important contributions outside of the league last season. Playing bigger role this year. Looks like he could be as good as, if not better, than older brother Andre.”– Jonathan Johnson (French Football Weekly)
C- Has to have a minus attached after a poor season but it was a low ‘D’ until huge progress made this time – keep at it