Assessing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Contribution for PSG Against Montpellier

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2013

REIMS, FRANCE - MARCH 02:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the Ligue 1 match between Stade de Reims Champagne v Paris Saint-Germain FC at Stade Auguste Delaune on March 2, 2013 in Reims, France.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

PSG tightened their grip on this season's Ligue 1 crown with a hard-fought 1-0 win over reigning champions, Montpellier, at the Parc des Princes.

Kevin Gameiro emerged from the bench to slot home the game's decisive strike on 80 minutes, securing the Parisians a first home win over Montpellier since their 2010 promotion.

While Gameiro's finish and a brief David Beckham cameo may absorb large chunks of the post-match assessments, once again it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who proved the difference.

Here's a look at his significant input in PSG's latest win.

Carlo Ancelotti sent his side out in a fluid 4-2-2-2 system, that morphed into 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 for various phases of play. 

Ibrahimovic was predominantly his side's most forward player, paired alongside Jeremy Menez, although he wasn't afraid to run the channels or drop back deeper in search of the ball.

Overall he made 65 touches—a tally only bettered by Javier Pastore, Thiago Silva and Blaise Matuidi—while passing with 78 percent accuracy, two unusually high statistical returns for a striker, illustrating his considerable influence on his side's approach.

Ibrahimovic was indeed the focal point of every attack. When he clung to the shoulder, Marco Verratti would look for him long, and when he dropped back deep, Menez and Pastore would aim to involve him in some quick, incisive interplay, before looking for a layoff.

His hold-up play was a typical blend of arrogant elegance, as he almost dared defenders to dispossess him, while his movement was savvy and created generous freedom for those around him.

Excluding a couple of free-kicks, almost every PSG chance ran through him.

It cannot be denied that Ibrahimovic and PSG endured long periods of frustration in this contest. Montpellier proved an industrious, resilient unit, quick to react to their opponent's slick build-up play and break forward themselves.

Ibrahimovic was guilty of wasting a trio of chances in the first half. He didn't connect with an accurate long ball, cannoned a venomous long-range effort wide and fluffed an inviting opening after some neat play from Menez and Pastore.

In fact, a fourth effort blazed over the bar, not long into the second half, made it clear Ibrahimovic's shooting radar was unusually out of sync.

In previous weeks this would have been a worry for PSG. Without their talisman's input the Parisians have struggled for goals, as behind his mammoth haul of 25 goals, the next best return is Gameiro's five. However, Ibrahimovic quickly began proving his worth in other departments.

Seemingly conscious of his own misfiring, he began reeling off several chances for others. He provided four in total, all in the second half, including an unselfish pass for Gameiro's winning goal.

By the final whistle, no player had provided more chances for his team and his latest assist took his overall Ligue 1 contribution 25 goals and seven assists, direct involvement in a colossal 57 percent of PSG's 54 league goals.

Even without his shooting boots, Ibrahimovic once again proved himself indispensable to PSG and the clear difference between these sides.

He's undoubtedly PSG's most vital factor and this latest contribution emphasised just how crucial his reduced ban may prove in the Champions League.