Paris Saint-Germain vs. Nice: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 win over OGC Nice at the Parc des Princes moves the defending champions five points clear at the top of Ligue 1, at least for the time being. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was once again in inspirational form, leading PSG past Claude Puel’s side with a hat-trick.
Nemanja Pejcinovic pulled one back for Les Aiglons, but it was not enough to stop Laurent Blanc’s side from claiming three more points to take their total to 31 from 13 games and completing a best-ever start to a season.
Only eight matches stand between PSG and FC Nantes’s 32-game unbeaten run from the 1994-1995 season, the best in Le Championnat’s history. After the triumph, the side from the capital will feel more than capable of at least equalling that record.
Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 3-1 win over Nice.
Ibrahimovic-Cavani Showing Signs of Life
The Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Edinson Cavani partnership is slowly, but surely, making progress, with the Swede finding the net twice against Nice. However, aside from a few passes in the first half, there was little to suggest that the pair are any closer to making a major breakthrough in their relationship.
But in the second half, Ibrahimovic set up the second by playing a ball over the top for Cavani who was then brought down by Nice’s stand-in goalkeeper Lucas Veronese. Ibrahimovic stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick.
Then, minutes later, he played a similar ball to the back post where the Uruguayan was lurking. El Matador unfortunately miscued the shot.
If anything, Ibrahimovic is still benefiting as much from Cavani’s good understanding on the right flank with Gregory van der Wiel as he is from Cavani’s presence himself.
He and the Dutchman have now combined twice for the talismanic striker to score in Ligue 1 this season. This has been made possible by the excellent rapport built up between van der Wiel and El Matador.
Now, it's time for Ibrahimovic and Cavani to take these signs of progress into the clash with Stade de Reims after the international break.
Bruls a Key Figure for Nice
There may not have been much to cheer about for OGC Nice given the final result on the day, but Christian Bruls once again underlined his importance to Claude Puel’s side with a good display. The Belgian was central to everything for Les Aiglons at the Parc des Princes, providing Nemanja Pejcinovic’s consolation goal and starting the match particularly well.
Only on loan from KAA Gent in the Belgian Pro League, there is a chance that some of Bruls’ creative displays this season have already attracted attention from bigger clubs. However, while at Nice, the midfield talents of Bruls, Didier Digard, Valentin Eysseric and Nampalys Mendy make Puel’s side an attractive one to watch.
If Bruls can keep up his good recent form, he could be an outside bet for a place in Marc Wilmots’ Belgian World Cup plans.
Gregory Van Der Wiel a Key Provider for PSG
Aside from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of PSG’s most creative players this season has been right-back Gregory van der Wiel. The Dutchman has contributed toward a number of the capital side’s recent goals, most notably in the Champions League with one against SL Benfica and two against RSC Anderlecht.
The most regular recipient of Van der Wiel’s excellent crosses has been Ibrahimovic. The Swede scored all three of the Champions League goals mentioned, as well as opening the scoring against Nice from the 25-year-old’s deep cross.
It is his third league assist of the season, after laying on Ibrahimovic’s strike against En Avant de Guingamp earlier this year as well as Maxwell’s header against Olympique de Marseille.
Unlucky to find himself ruled out of the Netherlands’ final World Cup qualification squad, van der Wiel has enjoyed a remarkably improved season to his last campaign.
His status as first choice right-back is now beyond question after a string of impressive performances.
Cvitanich an Underrated Danger in Ligue 1
Although he was kept relatively quiet on the day, Nice’s star man Dario Cvitanich kept the returning Thiago Silva on his toes.
Replacing Marquinhos, who has been impressive since his summer arrival from AS Roma, the Brazilian captain had his hands full in keeping out the man who has scored seven times so far this season.
Cvitanich has become talismanic for Claude Puel’s side, and no matter how hard Les Aiglons tried, they could not get the Argentine into the match.
Despite a recent difficult run of form, the striker will thrive on service from Christian Bruls, Valentin Eysseric and Didier Digard as the season progresses.
Pastore Still a Part of Blanc’s Plans
Javier Pastore was handed a surprise start in attack alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. Since returning from injury, the Argentine has shown relatively little improvement from his less than desirable early season form to justify it.
The 24-year-old was given the chance ahead of the in-form Lucas Moura, regular starter Ezequiel Lavezzi and the recovering Jeremy Menez. However, he offers less of a direct threat as well as making PSG’s build-up play more elaborate.
Moura, Menez and Lavezzi are all more dynamic players than the enigmatic playmaker and, arguably, would have suited the game and conditions better. But Laurent Blanc obviously has faith in Pastore, and given the results so far, few will argue against his judgment.
It was actually one of Pastore’s better showings this season, but that does not say much for the €42 million man. The fact that Moura did more in one minute after coming on as a substitute than the Argentine did in 74, before being replaced by the Brazilian, will perhaps force Blanc to reconsider dropping the Samba star next time.
PSG Old Boys Show Quality, Too
A number of former PSG players were in the Nice squad at the Parc des Princes, and one in particular looked impressive despite his side’s defeat.
Didier Digard put in a good performance, illustrating to the capital club’s fans just how much he has improved since he left the capital.
Mathieu Bodmer’s Parc des Princes homecoming was less happy and, sadly, short-lived; he was substituted through injury with little over 20 minutes gone.
Bodmer’s abilities are well-known by PSG, though, and Digard’s performance will have demonstrated the potential talent that the French champions threw away before their lavish investment.