It appears that Paris Saint-Germain and Laurent Blanc are finally losing patience with Javier Pastore, as the Argentine international continues to struggle to live up to his €40 million transfer fee. The 24-year-old produced another underwhelming performance in Valenciennes on Wednesday, and his effectiveness has once again been called into question.
Nothing came of those links. But now Liverpool FC are the latest club to have shown an interest in the disgruntled Argentine midfielder according to Metro.
However, PSG’s reported interest in Newcastle United’s Yohan Cabaye (h/t ESPN FC) and Blanc’s admission to RMC Radio that the French champions failed in a deadline-day bid for Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil (h/t ESPN FC) suggest that Pastore’s days are numbered. In the same RMC Radio interview, Blanc also hinted that PSG had failed in a bid for Chelsea’s Juan Mata.
El Flaco, it seems, is living on borrowed time.
PSG are crying out for a creative midfielder in the middle of the park to do something constructive with all of the possession that Laurent Blanc’s side are enjoying. This is something that they never really experienced under previous coach Carlo Ancelotti, but Pastore has not revelled in the extra time he has had on the ball under Blanc, either.
In fact, since an initial spell of good form after joining the club, the 13-times-capped Argentine has struggled to truly settle at PSG. After scoring 13 goals and providing five assists in 30 starts in his first Ligue 1 season, he followed that up with four and eight from the same number of starts last year.
This term, he is yet to contribute a single goal or assist in five games played (stats via Ligue1.com), indicating a player badly out of form and confidence.
Prior to the Valenciennes match on Wednesday, Pastore was ranked bottom out of 183 players in L’Equipe’s list of Ligue 1 players based on average ratings this season (h/t Canal-Suporters.fr which I have translated from French as a bilingual).
He had a score of 3.50 (each match is scored out of 10) from four appearances. Another insipid performance at the Stade du Hainaut will not have done much to improve that rating.
Part of the reason for those morale-busting displays has been the team’s continued inability to accommodate a playmaker of the genuine No. 10 variety.
Playing behind the front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani is just not possible. Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura also make it difficult for him in a competitive midfield.
Competition, as Ancelotti told L’Equipe recently (h/t Canal-Supporters.fr in French), is not something that Pastore handles well.
“Pastore?” the now Real Madrid coach answered when questioned about PSG’s enigmatic Argentine. “He is a very good boy, humble.”
“But he is not a strong enough character to react to a bad run of form.”
The Argentine makes it difficult for himself.
His poor performance against Valenciennes where he did little of note was actually an improvement on any of his other showings this season. Last year, he rarely impressed despite scoring a handful of important goals (notably against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Champions League quarter-final).
When he played, PSG lost their sense of shape and the same thing is happening this season.
Pastore has little positional discipline. Despite normally being deployed out wide by Ancelotti and now regularly by Blanc, a position for which he does not have the natural attributes, the former Palermo man goes missing.
This diagram illustrating PSG’s average positions from the match against Valenciennes shows a player very much basing himself in the middle of the park. That, of course, is his natural domain, but with the likes of Verratti and Matuidi occupying the central midfield berths, the Argentine has an obligation to take the ball wide at times.
It is often ignored.
On Wednesday, this resulted in the defending champions having next to no presence on the right side of the pitch. Despite boasting 53% possession in northern France (stats via Ligue1.com), it was actually their lowest match average in Ligue 1 this season.
PSG lose control of the ball more with Pastore in the side, where misplaced passes and conceding possession has become a feature of his game.
One question this raises is whether he is even capable of playing in the Premier league.
He certainly is not if we are speaking from a physical point of view, with El Flaco (or the skinny one) regularly muscled out of games due to his slight frame and scrawny physique.
On the face of it, swapping Pastore for Juan Mata would have been a masterstroke for PSG.
Trading one ineffectual, difficult-to-accommodate midfielder for a versatile, creative and highly motivated attacking midfielder who is itching to reestablish his international claims? It is a no-brainer.
Pastore, too, has dropped off the radar at international level. But unlike the Chelsea man, he is unlikely to get himself back onto it in time for the trip to Brazil next year.
For some time now, there has been a feeling that the Argentine was too protected by the PSG fans and the club because of his status as their first major signing under new ownership. Former PSG player and BT Sport analyst David Ginola certainly thinks so, according to his interview with the Express.
That over-coddling has done the playmaker no good in his time in the French capital.
He certainly will not be considered a success if his form continues in this manner. But perhaps a move could reinvigorate him.
It is unlikely, though, that such a move would be to the English Premier League. Remember, this is a player who has stated his confidence that, after winning a trophy with PSG, he would become an AC Milan player (h/t ESPN FC).
Instead, those English sides interested in him would be better advised to steer clear and let him return to Italy where the slower pace of the game suits his style better.
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