The opening game of the 2014-15 Ligue 1 season not only showed us PSG’s array of stars, but also the gaping holes in their side. Tom Mackinnon analyses the Ligue 1 champions’ weaknesses.
After the dismal draw at Reims, the Cavani-Ibrahimovic debate rages on. Cavani’s somewhat quiet performance adds further evidence to the debate, can PSG really fit two of World football’s heavyweights into their team? With Blanc’s 4-3-3 formation one of the superstars has had to budge out to the wing. The real question is whether Edison Cavani can produce his best form on the wing rather than through the centre. His performances seem to show this, likewise his goal tallies too- 16 goals last season on the wing for PSG; compared to a staggering 38 in his last season in Naples.
If PSG are to get the best out of Cavani and Ibrahimovic, then a change in formation is needed. Reverting back to Ancelotti’s 4-2-2-2 is an option, also 4-2-3-1 could be deployed with Zlatan playing behind the more traditional number nine role of Cavani. However, Blanc looks unwilling to change his formation to suit his players and may even look to the Uruguayan forward to raise funds for another attacking option that fits his style of play at the Parisians.
The reason Edison Cavani has been shifted out to the right is so that Zlatan Ibrahimovic can work his magic in the middle, and he does. PSG’s over-reliance on the talismanic Swede is evident in their style of play, rarely an attack comes to fruition without Zlatan. Is this such a bad thing? Ibrahimovic has 16 braces in 68 games in Ligue 1, to put that into perspective Djibril Cisse has 15 doubles in over 170 games more (he’s third in the list). So why is it a weakness that PSG rely on the Swede? What happens when he gets injured, like he has playing against Bastia at the weekend? Ibrahimovic looks like he could be out for a considerable period of time, leaving ‘just’ Edison Cavani to fill his boots. This doesn’t seem like a problem until you realise who will fill in on the wing.
Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore, along with a few youngsters, are the candidates who could deputise out wide. These two are two of the most sporadic performers in world football, with some delightful touches ever so often which persuades Blanc that they are capable to play for a Champions League club. Take Javier Pastore’s goal against Chelsea at the Parc De Princes in the Champion’s League quarter final for instance. The Argentinian lit up Paris with an excellent solo effort that secured the game for PSG. However, moments like that have been few and far between, similarly Lucas shares the sporadic genius trait. Both players possess great flair but seem to never really do it regularly enough to merit their extortionate transfer fees.
Another playmaker option for PSG is Marco Verratti, the diminutive Italian who seems the perfect fit to play behind Ibrahimovic. Yet, Laurent Blanc prefers to use Verratti in a deep lying midfield role alongside Thiago Motta. This position nullifies his attacking talent and allows him little freedom to push forward and support the front three.
Another weakness of the Parisians is their shaky defence. Thiago Silva and Maxwell are two of the best players in their position in the world, however it’s the other half of the defence that’s a cause for concern. The arrival of £50 million pound rated David Luiz has done little to ease Parisian concerns. David Luiz’s World Cup performances summed him up perfectly: all show with lack of substance. His talent is obvious, however, he seems to get bored with the thought of defending and wanders into any position that suits him. This could be a problem for the Paris outfit as they generally have the ball and dictate most of their games, fuelling Luiz’s attacking addiction.
The other quarter of defence that is a cause for concern is the right back, Gregory Van Der Wiel. The Dutchman’s lax attitude to tracking back is evident, particularly when he’s up against a decent winger. In order to solve their defensive woes Laurent Blanc needs David Luiz and Thiago Silva to form one of Europe’s best partnerships, which is entirely possible if they are given the chance. Van Der Wiel too needs to learn to give as much defensively as he does in attack, if he does this he can be one of the best wing backs in Europe. Until this happens, PSG will continue to be vulnerable at the back.
For PSG’s season opener, they had two goalkeepers on their bench. This shows how desperately thin their squad is, however they did have five players not ready from the World Cup. Even with a fully fit squad, options do look sparse- with no third striker, Ibrahimovic’s injury could stretch the small squad. Likewise an injury or suspension to Italian ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu would throw up questions of backup goalie Nicolas Douchez. If PSG are to really become a European and World football heavyweight then they must add depth to their small, yet talented, squad. A backup goalkeeper is one player who would add to the strength of their squad, especially if links to Petr Cech are to be believed. However the main priority, if PSG want to become a footballing superpower, is another attacking option. One who can play out wide and in the middle, sounds a bit like a particular Argentinian Real Madrid star doesn’t it?
PSG’s short comings can be solved with a bit of a clever coaching and an open cheque book. However with Blanc at the helm and Financial Fair Play restrictions neither seem likely.
Written by Tom Mackinnon.
- PSG’s weakness: Ligue 1 champions have a thin squad & lack of options - August 20, 2014