Lorient vs. Paris Saint-Germain: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain’s hard-fought 1-0 win over FC Lorient on Friday moves the French champions 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 once again and brings a second successive title ever closer to the side from the capital.
Laurent Blanc’s men were far from at their brilliant best, but coped well with an awkward synthetic pitch at the Stade du Moustoir and took one of a small handful of chances to maximise their lead at the summit of Le Championnat.
3 - Thiago Motta has scored his 3rd goal this season in Ligue 1, his personal best in a Ligue 1 season. Essential.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 21, 2014
Thiago Motta netted the only goal of the game, his third of the season, but it was all thanks to a bit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic magic. The Swede was involved heavily in the build-up play and, although he might not receive the assists for the scrappy finish, was by all means the architect of PSG's solitary strike.
With the Parisians drawn to face Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals earlier in the day, Blanc’s men can be excused somewhat for losing their focus ahead of the game. But they showed grit and determination to see out the win in the face of spirited opposition.
4 - Paris SG have kept a clean sheet in their last four games in Ligue 1, their best run this season. Rock.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 21, 2014
Captain Thiago Silva was substituted in the first half with a head injury and Blanc will be concerned about that, but on the whole, Le President could have few complaints as his side left Brittany with three valuable points and an impressive fourth consecutive clean sheet.
"I don't think we stole the win here. It's true that we weren't as good as usual and that was down to the way Lorient played," he revealed after the game. "They were dangerous in two or three phases of the game and it was a difficult game."
"We knew it would be because clubs like Monaco have dropped points here. We can't expect to win every game three, four or five-nil. We got the win though and I need to congratulate my players, even if they weren't extraordinary here."
Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 1-0 win over Lorient.
Questionable PSG Defensive Depth
Thiago Silva’s substitution in the first half with a head injury after a nasty clash with Lorient striker Vincent Aboubakar exposed one of PSG’s major problems that is waiting to happen: They do not have enough strength in depth in central defence.
Laurent Blanc had hoped to avoid using Alex on Les Merlus’ synthetic pitch at the Stade du Moustoir, but eventually he was forced to use the Brazilian to replace his compatriot. It worked out fine for the side from the capital, winning the game and keeping a clean sheet.
However, Blanc and PSG will have to hope that Silva’s injury is not too serious with only the injury-prone veteran Zoumana Camara as back-up if Alex or Marquinhos gets injured.
Entering a key stage of the season, with a Champions League quarter-final doubleheader against English Premier League side Chelsea coming up, the French champions need their best defenders fit to stand a chance of progressing.
‘Lorientaise’ Style No Longer Enough for FCL
Lorient play attractive and entertaining football and it is something that they have been championed for in recent years in France. Thought of as something of a mini-French version of Arsenal in terms of their style, they have gradually turned themselves into a safe mid-table side despite their modest resources.
However, this no longer looks like being enough. Some substance is needed too.
In recent seasons, the team’s top talents have been sold off annually and coach Christian Gourcuff has been required to rebuild at a fraction of the cost. But last summer Les Merlus fought hard to keep last season’s star performer, Jeremie Aliadiere, at the Stade du Moustoir.
1 - Lorient have only won one of their last eight games in Ligue 1 (D3 L4). Doubt.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 21, 2014
The decision has not paid off and Lorient have lost the real talents, such as Mario Lemina (who joined Olympique de Marseille), while keeping the likes of the ageing Aliadiere for the sake of turning a quick profit.
Had the Breton side kept the likes of Lemina, now a benchwarmer at the Stade Velodrome, the potential profit in one to two seasons would have been far greater than the mediocre player plus cash deal they accepted at the start of the campaign.
PSG’s Jallet Providing Valuable Depth at Right-Back
Gregory van der Wiel’s chronic problems with his right knee have ruled him out of both of PSG’s last two league matches against AS Saint-Etienne and Lorient, as well as the Champions League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen.
However, Laurent Blanc has not been left without a right-back as Christophe Jallet has made his recover from back surgery and has been more than useful in the past few matches. The Frenchman has demonstrated that, should van der Wiel perhaps require surgery himself, then the French champions have some back-up.
Although far from first choice, there are no alternatives outside of the Dutchman and Jallet, so the latter’s recent return to fitness has been a boost to Blanc. Van der Wiel’s absence potentially being extended to the Champions League quarter-finals against Chelsea could pose a problem though.
Lorient’s Moustoir Fortress Breeding Complacency?
Prior to their defeat to PSG, Lorient were not losing many matches at their Stade du Moustoir home. In fact, they had only lost one of their last 10 games in Brittany.
1 - Lorient have only lost one of their last 10 home league games (W5 D4). Hostile.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 21, 2014
They are not winning enough either though and now sit in 12th place in Ligue 1 when a few months ago, Europe had seemed a possibility. It seems that Le Merlus’ sense of invincibility at home has made them complacent elsewhere and has led them to think that not losing is as good as the win.
Although arguably safe from any relegation worries for now, FCL could be sucked into the battle to beat the drop late on in the season if their current malaise continues.
Where Is Cavani’s Head At?
Since the start of 2014, Edinson Cavani has not been the same player for PSG that he was when he first arrived at the club. This is not necessarily down to him being unhappy at the club, dealing with some far-fetched transfer story or the fact that he does not work when played alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It is simply that the Uruguayan has lost his focus.
While his commitment to the cause cannot be questioned, putting in tremendous amounts of energy to help the team defend despite playing up front, he looks shy in front of goal and timid on the ball.
El Matador has already needed to take two trips back to Uruguay to take care of an impending divorce, and distractions in his private life could be manifesting themselves in his recent performances.
End of the Road for Gourcuff and Lorient?
Since 2003, it has been a beautiful story between Christian Gourcuff and Lorient. In his third spell as coach, they have fought back from Ligue 2 to spend going on eight seasons in the Ligue 1, when their stature dictates that they simply are not a top-tier French club.
Yet Le Championnat would be a worse place without Les Merlus’ industry and enterprise and that is perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to Gourcuff and the Breton club for years of overachievement. They have become part of the French footballing woodwork.
However, with ambitious president Loic Fery at the helm, that is no longer enough and rightly so.
Unfortunately, in order to reach the club owner’s goals, it appears time that club legend Gourcuff stepped aside for good to allow a more dynamic character to take the reins.
Lorient did not do themselves a disservice in defeat to PSG, but it is clear that the coach’s uncertainty over signing a new contract has affected the team’s ability on the pitch.
Perhaps moving upstairs to a sporting director role will enable him to retain his influence at the club off the pitch, whilst letting someone else lead them on it.