Friday, 14 September 2012

Questions to be answered as PSG host Toulouse

Ligue 1 is back with a bang tonight, as Paris Saint-Germain host Toulouse. Alain Casanova’s side have made an unbeaten start to the season, with two wins and two draws from their first four matches, and will not be keen to relinquish that record at the Parc-des-Princes.
All appears rosy in the PSG garden at present, with the 2-1 win at Lille last time out having put a much more positive spin on our own unbeaten start. But while the result and performance against LOSC were without doubt impressive, it was a match that left me with more questions than answers:

A one-legend team?
As we mentioned yesterday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been inducted into Malmo’s sporting walk of fame. If he continues his current scoring ratio he’ll soon be in the French equivalent too, having bagged four goals in his first three Ligue 1 matches. Against Lille the Swede was involved in literally everything that was good about PSG’s attacking play, and the accusation that we are something of a one-man team remains a valid one. How we will cope if the great man has an off day, gets injured, or a defence gets the better of him? So far, no one else has bulged le sac d’oignon this season, and it’s about time the other attacking players stepped up to the plate. This leads us on to...

Pro-active or re-active?
PSG were excellent against Lille, but the match at the Grand Stade was the first time this season they haven’t gone into a game as over-whelming favourites. LOSC were happy to take charge and set the tempo, meaning PSG were able to react by exploiting space on the counter-attack. Can PSG succeed when the shoe is on the other foot, when teams come to stifle their attacking play? The evidence of the season so far isn’t particularly positive on that front.

Small-game bottlers?
With all due respect etc. etc, fixtures against the Ajaccio’s and Lorient’s of the world aren’t exactly the kind of games that get the pulse racing, particularly for players who are used to playing regularly in the Champions League. Beating Lille is all well and good, but we saw even last season that PSG’s record against the bigger teams in Ligue 1 was very good. However they often struggled to perform in the run-of-the-mill fixtures, seemingly approaching games with a lack of professionalism and an arrogance that they could just turn up and win. This is a habit they need to kick if they are going to end this season with a trophy or two.

The new-player effect
Thiago Silva and Gregory van der Wiel will both be available for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev, for which Ezequiel Lavezzi will also be available after his suspension and lengthy bout of international duty. It will be interesting to see whether the trio’s looming presence has a galvanising or destabilising effect on the team. On the evidence of the Lille match it could be both: Mamadou Sakho, who now has Silva breathing down his neck, was magnificent, and after a couple of solid displays for France hopefully this marks a return of the Sakho of old. Christophe Jallet, on the other hand, was all over the place, and unless he ups his game considerably Van der Wiel won’t have to wait long for his debut.

Hopefully we will get answers to at least one or two of these tonight. Allez Paris!


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