Gignac underachieving at Marseille

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The Independent Football

Andre-Pierre Gignac has scored just one league goal in nearly five months with Marseille and is turning into the local fans' scapegoat following an expensive transfer this summer.

Gignac will end the year without a goal at the Stade Velodrome as Didier Deschamps' team travels to Brest on Wednesday for its final game before the winter break.

Marseille won their ninth French title last season after an 18-year drought, but trails league leader Lille by three points after failing to win their last four games.

Despite a hat trick in a 7-0 rout of Zilina in the Champions League in November, Gignac has failed to live up to the high expectations he raised when he signed from Toulouse during the offseason for €16.5 million.

Fans expected much better from Gignac after losing top scorer Mamadou Niang to Fenerbahce at the start of the season, when he was sold against Deschamps's wishes.

Gignac thought he had scored in the 21st minute of Sunday's 1-1 draw against Lyon but his goal was disallowed for offside on winger Loic Remy.

The France striker then intercepted a header from defender Pape Diakhate but fluffed a lob from close range in the 77th minute that would have put Marseille ahead. Although that shot was from a tight angle, and he showed great anticipation to nip ahead of Diakhate, Gignac was substituted by Brandao in the next minute and was booed off the field.

"He is in better shape physically and I'm sure he will give us an extra something," Deschamps said.

The top striker in the French league in the 2008-09 season with 24 goals, Gignac has often been compared to former Marseille great Jean-Pierre Papin. But he struggled to settle at Marseille after being hampered by a groin injury as he scored only eight goals last season and none at the World Cup.

Midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, who scored Marseille's equalizer against Lyon, said Gignac will eventually be rewarded for his hard work.

"He is fighting for every ball," Valbuena said. "I believe in these kind of players. But he must not crack up and needs to continue his efforts. All he needs is a goal to get his confidence back."

Lille, which hosts Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, tops the standings on goal difference, level on 31 points with Paris Saint-Germain and Rennes. Lyon dropped to fourth place with 30 points. The league is very tight this season and only five points separate the top 10 teams.

Lyon extended its unbeaten streak to 11 matches in Marseille, a record in the league this season.

After a tumultuous start to its campaign, Lyon recently built on Lisandro Lopez's return to top form to fight back in the race for the title. Lopez, who opened Lyon's account on Sunday night, scored in his last four games with the seven-time champions.

"Now we just have to give one last try against Auxerre to finish the year on a high," Lyon coach Claude Puel said. "We posted a patch of good results and it's almost a shame that the winter break is coming. But we can still improve and that makes us optimistic and ambitious."