Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bastia: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 demolition of SC Bastia at the Parc des Princes on Saturday moved the defending champions three points clear of Ligue 1 title rivals AS Monaco.
Claudio Ranieri’s side face FC Sochaux-Montbeliard on Sunday and need a big win if they are to regain top spot at the end of the weekend.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani’s doubles mean that Laurent Blanc’s side have overtaken Les Monegasques on goal difference, now leading by two.
Two of those goals in question were particularly special.
Ibrahimovic’s opener on 10 minutes was an incredible back-heeled volley into the top corner that demonstrated excellent agility.
Cavani’s first, 17 minutes after replacing the Swede at half-time, was a sensational solo effort that was capped with an expert finish from a tight angle.
Blanc’s men produced another dominant performance, bossing the Corsicans from first minute to last and continue to impress under Le President.
Here are six things we learned from the Bastia victory from a PSG point of view.
Ibrahimovic Still PSG's Key Man
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Questions were asked at the start of the season whether PSG still needed Ibrahimovic after the arrival of Cavani.
Saturday’s showing from the Swede, along with some of his other recent performances, demonstrated that the side from the capital simply cannot do without him.
Like in the Champions League against SL Benfica recently, Ibrahimovic netted a double inside of the first half an hour and was instrumental in putting the hosts firmly in control against Bastia.
His first goal was a thing of pure beauty, breathtaking to behold. To show such adroitness in front of goal is what makes Ibra unique.
The second was a good header from a perfect Lucas Moura delivery.
Ibrahimovic was central to everything PSG did for the 45 minutes that he was on the pitch, and it is further evidence that the talismanic striker is still the team’s key man.
Anything Ibrahimovic Can Do, Cavani Can Too
Cavani was not to be outdone by Ibrahimovic, though. El Matador was given the second 45 to make an impression, and he did just that.
Ibra’s first was special, but so was Cavani’s. A magical solo effort that saw him take on his man, then take the ball around the goalkeeper before scoring from a tight angle.
It was the type of goal that we don’t see from Cavani too often, underlining exactly why PSG were prepared to pay such a premium price for the Uruguayan.
On the day, Blanc was able to substitute Ibrahimovic for Cavani seamlessly. Against better opposition, although PSG were understrength in this match, that might not happen given Ibra’s greater creativity.
PSG Have Plenty of Talented Young Guns
Aside from the two spectacular goals, though, the biggest positive for Blanc’s side will be how impressive the younger members of the squad were.
Featuring from the start, five players in the home side were 21 or younger.
Adrien Rabiot and Hervin Ongenda are both 18 and products of the capital club’s youth academy. Brazilian defender Marquinhos is 19, while Lucas Digne is 20 and Lucas Moura is 21.
Moura was particularly impressive, despite not scoring, providing the second goal and playing an important role in the build-up to Ibrahimovic's spectacular opener.
After a disappointing run of form, it was an encouraging performance from the Brazilian international.
With so much emphasis put on PSG and their signing of established star quality, the use of so many talented young players is a refreshing reminder of how much talent there is in this side.
Rabiot Ready to Start
One of those young talents, Rabiot, was excellent in midfield.
With Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta suspended, the 18-year-old Frenchman was handed a rare start. He did not disappoint.
Rabiot’s first-half performance was of the highest quality. He looked calm, composed and played with maturity that belies his young age.
The teenager’s performance dipped somewhat in the second half, but the first 45 were enough to tell that PSG do not have just any ordinary talent on their hands.
Given the promise that he has shown in recent weeks, there is not much separating him from a starting position in Blanc’s side.
PSG’s French Core in a Rare Display
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Six of the players in PSG’s starting XI against Bastia on Saturday were French.
That is the first time this season that so many domestic talents have started a game for the defending champions.
Plenty is made of the capital club’s cosmopolitan makeup, but Blanc demonstrated that he is able to call on the French members of his squad without losing any quality.
The return of Jeremy Menez is a boost going forward, and it allowed Blanc to give Ezequiel Lavezzi some much-needed rest on the day.
Ongenda and Rabiot’s ability to contribute now, despite their young age, is another plus.
Digne received more valuable game time, while Christophe Jallet was given a rare opportunity to impress.
Three-Man Midfield Not Vital
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Surprisingly, PSG managed to dominate possession without Blanc’s preferred three-man midfield with an overall total of 60 percent of the ball (stats via ligue1.com).
Pre-match, it appeared that the absence of Verratti, Motta and Javier Pastore would cause the hosts a problem.
But playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, PSG bossed the game as well as they have done with three in the middle.
Having been able to convince so thoroughly without it, Blanc now has some valuable tactical flexibility with which to play with.
That flexibility could be the key to solving the Ibrahimovic-Cavani conundrum.
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Ibrahimovic and Cavani have yet to do it together on pitch, despite having demonstrating that individually they can lead the team to victory.
Blanc is enjoying success with one or the other up top, but now he needs to get them playing well together in order to tap further into his side’s massive potential.
Much is made of the supposed rivalry between the two players. Some competition between the two is healthy, but not to the extent that is being made of it at present.
Blanc managed his changes very well, making the best use of his two prolific attackers while also allowing them some valuable rest time.
Bastia, on the other hand, were disappointing and should have done better against an understrength PSG.
However, they will be consoled by the fact that not every opponent in Ligue 1 boasts such strength in depth.