PSG vs. Bordeaux: 5 Things We Learned from French Super Cup
Paris Saint-Germain beat Bordeaux 2-1 in Gabon to lift the Trophee des Champions (French Super Cup) for the first time since 1998.
Laurent Blanc’s side did it the hard way against the Coupe de France winners, coming from 1-0 down to defeat his former club thanks to a couple of inspired late substitutions.
Henri Saivet had given an understrength Girondins side the lead minutes before half-time, but strikes from teenage sensation Hervin Ongenda and Brazilian defender Alex secured a dramatic win.
Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic even had a goal disallowed in an entertaining final 15 minutes that did not reflect the spectacle as a whole.
Despite a positive victory and a first piece of silverware under Blanc, Le President still has plenty of work ahead of him if he is to enjoy some serious success in the French capital.
Here are five things we learned from the clash in Libreville.
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It could just be that Blanc wanted to safeguard himself against a damaging opening defeat and so opted for a side that he felt had a strong sense of continuity.
But the Frenchman’s starting lineup has raised some important questions ahead of next week’s Ligue 1 opener at Montpellier.
Firstly, it should be remembered that both Edinson Cavani and Marquinhos, two of PSG’s three summer signings, were not included in the trip to Gabon.
But the selections of Alex over French international Mamadou Sakho and Thiago Motta over Marco Verratti convey a number of messages.
For Alex, it does not convince him that he needs to seek a move away anytime soon, but for Sakho, it puts his first-team hopes—and consequently, his international aspirations—in major jeopardy.
With Marquinhos still to come into focus, the 23-year-old could take this as an indication that he will be the fourth-choice defender going into the season, almost certainly speeding up a potential move away.
As for Motta, it suggests that Blanc will be pairing the Italian with Blaise Matuidi when fit, or that he is considering Marco Verratti to gradually usurp the Frenchman or to partner his compatriot.
The latter is not likely, but it is surprising to think that Blanc would offer Verratti a bumper new contract without plans to use him regularly.
Problems Going Forward
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Another player who could find himself quickly out of favour is Javier Pastore.
The Argentine delivered an insipid display similar to many he produced last season and offered little to the PSG attack.
Unfortunately for Blanc in the absence of Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi was once again unable to find the necessary clinical edge in front of goal that would make him an automatic choice alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It took until the Frenchman made an extremely bold decision for the French champions to find any penetration.
Cavani will be available for the clash with Montpellier, so there is no concern there heading into the Ligue 1 season. But the worry will be what happens when Blanc wants to rest one of them or is forced to through injury.
Lavezzi is no natural striker, and his industry is better utilised out wide. That, of course, makes Pastore a passenger. But on the evidence of the Bordeaux clash, he’s barely even that.
Ibrahimovic the Provider
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Many have looked at PSG’s signing of Cavani and immediately claimed that El Matador and Ibrahimovic cannot play together.
That is not true, as the Swede’s performance against Bordeaux showed. Ibrahimovic was dropping deep—almost too deep at times—to pick up the ball and instigate the attacks.
To do that successfully, the talismanic Swede needs a prolific partner next to him. In Cavani he will get that, but with Lavezzi, as we saw last season and against Bordeaux, he doesn’t get that.
What is most interesting is that as well as Cavani, PSG also have a prolific young talent in Hervin Ongenda coming through.
As soon as Ibrahimovic had the 18-year-old next to him, he found space to score a goal that was wrongly disallowed and then provided the teenager with a sumptuous pass that was snapped up with aplomb.
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Hervin Ongenda has been a revelation this preseason for PSG.
His strike against Bordeaux was his third this summer, and he only made the step up to the senior side officially this summer after a few tastes of the substitutes bench last year.
With Kevin Gameiro now gone, PSG surely don’t need to invest in a new striker to replace the now-Sevilla marksman and instead have his natural replacement already within their ranks.
Joining him and looking mightily impressive as well was 17-year-old Kingsley Coman, who looked lively after coming on alongside Ongenda.
He was a driving force in the latter stages of the game and found himself in some good positions going forward—something that Pastore failed to do from the same left-sided berth—but was let down by his decision-making occasionally.
Coman has experience from last season when he became PSG’s youngest ever player, but their heavy involvement in the preseason suggests that Blanc has plans for both players.
On the evidence of this performance, they are two youngsters to keep a close eye on under the guidance of Le President.
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Perhaps the most bothersome problem encountered during the match by Blanc was the defence’s struggles.
For a team so familiar with one another—particularly the back line, which was rock-solid last term—it looked surprisingly out of shape.
The two main culprits were Alex and Christophe Jallet, who were both at fault for Saivet’s opener.
French international Jallet in particular had a poor game and will be lucky not to be usurped by Gregory van der Wiel for next week’s trip to Montpellier.
Time after time he was left exposed on the right, and the goal came from his area of the pitch.
Alex, despite scoring the winning goal, was looking less than solid and was also guilty of not tracking his man as the goal was scored.
Between them they struggled to cope with the Bordeaux onslaught, and Blanc will rightly be concerned at how easy it was for Les Girondins to create clear chances against his side.