Anderlecht vs. Paris Saint-Germain: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain’s thumping 5-0 win over Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht made it three wins from three matches in Champions League Group C for Laurent Blanc’s side.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic weighed in with four goals for PSG, one a contender for a European goal of the season, with Edinson Cavani bagging the other.
Finally, the French champions’ two main men have found the net in the same match while on the pitch together, but there is no doubting that Ibrahimovic was once again the main man.
The Swede had netted a hat-trick, his first ever in the Champions League, in just over half an hour.
PSG top group C with nine points, already five clear of both Olympiakos FC and SL Benfica, with the last 16 tantalisingly close.
Here are six things we learned from this Ibrahimovic-inspired romp.
Ibra Is King
If any doubt remained after Saturday’s 45-minute showing against SC Bastia in Ligue 1, in which he netted two goals, Zlatan Ibrahimovic emphatically reasserted his dominance over this PSG side here.
This is his team, and with Ibra, PSG stand their best chance of continental success.
Thirty-six minutes into the match at the Constant Vanden Stock, the Swede had single-handedly put Anderlecht to the sword. He also netted this outrageous strike to complete his first ever Champions League treble.
After starting the continental campaign slowly against Olympiakos, Ibra picked up where he left off from a much-improved showing against Benfica in Brussels. Now he has reached an almost unstoppable momentum.
It is clear from the past two matches against the Portuguese side, and now Anderlecht, that the 32-year-old is hungrier than ever for Champions League success.
He is insatiable in front of goal right now and thoroughly dominant, pulling all the strings for Blanc's side.
PSG may have strengthened considerably over the summer, but if it was possible, it appears that they are benefiting from an upgraded Ibrahimovic too.
If nothing else, the signing of Edinson Cavani ensured that the Swede will not get complacent and has given Ibra an incentive to raise his game further.
Anderlecht: Talented but Immature
It was a desperately tough evening for an Anderlecht side who were ripe for the taking pre-match.
The Belgian champions have already lost four times in the Jupiler Pro League this season, as well as twice in the Champions League, and put up little resistance to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG.
All is not lost for The Mauves after the defeat, though.
Despite the chasm in class between the two sides on the night, there is so much young talent in this Anderlecht side at present.
The big difference is that this talent is just potential at present and has not had time to mature. The lack of big-match experience was painfully obvious, but that is something that will be remedied in time.
Sixteen-year-old Youri Tielemans started, Serbian wunderkind Aleksandar Mitrovic and gifted youth academy talent Dennis Praet are 19 and goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski is 21.
The in-form Massimo Bruno, who is just 20, was not even playing.
It should also be remembered that these players have been asked to step up and replace the likes of the vastly experienced Dieumerci Mbokani, Lucas Biglia and Milan Jovanovic this year. That is not an easy feat.
While it may have been a heavy defeat, the Anderlecht kids will be better for it in the long run.
PSG Are Genuine Champions League-Winning Material
It might sound like an overreaction having just thumped a vulnerable Anderlecht side mercilessly, but PSG are genuine title contenders based on their early Champions League form.
While Laurent Blanc's side could have been handed a more challenging group, all that can be asked of them is to beat each team put in front of them.
To their credit, they are doing just that—and in impressive fashion too. Not only are PSG winning every match, but they are also dominating their opponents.
Complacency has not been an issue once for the French champions, and they have gone out to underline their superiority in every match.
Nothing more could be asked of the side.
Admittedly, there is a risk of over-confidence once the side from the French capital come up against an opponent of higher calibre.
But that can be tempered by the fact that PSG are infinitely better than any other side in Group C.
Is Belgian Talent Stagnating in the Jupiler Pro League?
Everton's on-loan Chelsea striker and Belgian international, Romelu Lukaku, posted a tweet shortly after the final whistle questioning whether Anderlecht’s current generation can develop adequately in Belgium.
The tweet has since been removed, but it was a reasonable enough question.
Witness any of Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, Cheikhou Kouyate and Massimo Bruno in action in the Jupiler Pro League, and you can recognise the enormous potential immediately.
The problem with remaining in Belgium, though, is that they are rarely tested against high-standard opponents.
Belgian football is going through something of a golden period at present, and the likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel and Thibault Courtois have all demonstrated the importance of developing abroad.
In order for the likes of Praet, Tielemans, Kouyate and Bruno to truly recognise their potential, a move to bigger teams with a greater overall standard of quality will help them develop faster.
Ibrahimovic-Cavani Conundrum: No Closer to an Answer
Despite all of the positives and another sensational performance from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swede’s partnership with Edinson Cavani is still no closer to materialising.
Both players featured on the same scoresheet having been on the pitch together for the first time this season. But it has taken 14 matches for that to even happen.
Cavani once again struggled to impose himself on the game and was left to admire Ibrahimovic dominating the opposition once again.
Stranded wide on the right for large parts of the match, it is obvious that it is too much of an unnatural position for Cavani to thrive in.
With the current formation working so well, Laurent Blanc will be loath to change too much. However, to get the best out of both stars together, he will need to tinker with his system a little more.
Is It All over for John Van Den Brom and Anderlecht?
While it was a heavy defeat for an inexperienced Anderlecht side against an irresistible Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG, question marks hang over John van den Brom domestically and in Europe.
The 32-time Belgian champions have lost four games already this season in the Jupiler Pro League and three more in the Champions League.
Although the heart of last season’s side was ripped out this summer with the departures of Dieumerci Mbokani and Lucas Biglia, among others, van den Brom is partly responsible for this campaign's poor form.
Too many mistakes are being made, and despite Anderlecht's title win last season, cracks had begun to appear during the second half of the season.
Many of those issues were not addressed, and The Mauves barely made it over the finish line last term.
This year, with a weakened and largely inexperienced side, it is no surprise that the team are struggling so badly.
It will not be long before Anderlecht consider moving on from van den Brom in order to bring in a coach to concentrate on exploiting the immense potential in the younger members of the side.