Paris Saint-Germain v Evian Thonon Gaillard: 6 Things We Learned

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

Paris Saint-Germain v Evian Thonon Gaillard: 6 Things We Learned

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    Paris Saint-Germain left it late, but their 1-0 victory over Evian Thonon Gaillard on Wednesday night moves them within touching distance of their third Ligue 1 championship crown.

    Evian started the brighter of the two sides, and PSG looked to be struggling from a hangover after winning the Coupe de la Ligue at the weekend. They struggled to implement their quick and accurate passing style against the side placed 15th in the Ligue 1.

    There were few chances in a first-half, which seemed to suggest that the Parisian players were already thinking about being crowned the 2013/14 champions. Their job was far from done, though.

    For Laurent Blanc’s side the task was made that little bit tougher when Evian were reduced to 10 men after Kassim Abdallah received his second yellow card for a rash challenge on PSG left-back Lucas Digne. With the away side a man down for the better part of half an hour, any space that PSG had enjoyed was gone and Evian set about defending Jesper Hansen’s goal.

    Just when it looked like the away side were going to hold on, substitute Blaise Matuidi provided the vital touch when it mattered most. After an excellent through ball from fellow substitute Lucas Moura, the French international jabbed the ball between Hansen’s legs and across the line.

    The three points mean PSG are now 10 points clear of AS Monaco with four games to go, and victory against FC Sochaux on Sunday will secure the Ligue 1 title with three games to go. Then— and only then—can the players officially relax. However, with Sochaux in the middle of a relegation battle, it won’t be plain sailing for Blanc's side.

    Read on for a few more things we learned from Wednesday’s narrow victory.

PSG Suffer Post-Coupe Hangover

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    You could feel it in the air: the early evening kick-off, the Easter holidays and the almost secured league title. There was absolutely no urgency in any of Paris Saint-Germain’s first-half play. Their slow build up helped Evian get back and defend in numbers, and it then created the space for Evian to try and hit on the counter-attack.

    Laurent Blanc made six changes from the side that lifted the Coupe de la Ligue on Sunday night, but none of the players looked interested in showing the PSG coach that they deserved a more regular place in the starting line-up.

    With just five games to go in the Ligue 1 season before the visit of Evian, you could see that some of the international players perhaps had one eye on this summer’s World Cup.

    Edinson Cavani was electric on Saturday night, where he played a huge part in the cup victory. But he was all but invisible on Wednesday night. The Uruguayan had only 17 touches during the first half according to—perhaps his thoughts have already drifted to leading the line for his country come June.

    The same can be said for PSG’s captain Thiago Silva. Laurent Blanc commented this week that the Brazilian has looked tentative, and that the player was worried about missing the World Cup in his homeland—and it has definitely shown in his recent performances.

    PSG were only minutes away from giving Monaco a sliver of hope in the title race, the late goal from Blaise Matuidi saved their blushes and they are now only one win away from lifting the Ligue 1 trophy. Lessons have to be learned from performances like this though. The squad is only going to grow each season and the substitutes must be willing to jump at every given opportunity.

    Without serious competition for places, it is easy for PSG to under-perform in the league. This malaise can continue into the Champions League, and that is the one competition that the Parisians have still yet to conquer.

Javier Pastore Fails to Impress When Given the Chance

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    In the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there has been a chance for both Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore to show Laurent Blanc exactly what they can offer the capital club. The Brazilian, Lucas, has had to sit and watch from the bench as Pastore has started the last three games.

    Played as one of the three forwards, Pastore seemed to think that he had been given a license to roam the pitch, often appearing in the centre rather than in the wide roles. That in itself is not the problem. 

    Pastore’s problem is that if he wants to play in a free role, he has to influence the game much more than he currently does.

    With the team that Blanc selected, the space was there for someone to bridge that gap between the three central midfielders and Edinson Cavani up front, but Pastore only succeeded in taking up the space. He failed to create absolutely anything of note during the 80 minutes he was on the field.

    During his three years in Paris, the Argentine midfielder has failed to live up to the €42 million price tag, and now, with his contract due to expire in 2016, the former Palermo playmaker is seriously running out of time to convince the PSG staff that he is worthy of a place on the squad.

    Blanc needs options off the bench that can make a difference and change the game. Lucas has shown recently that he is very capable of this, making an impression in Saturday’s cup final and setting up Blaise Matuidi’s goal tonight. Pastore hasn’t had the same impact, and if PSG were to receive a decent offer this summer, then there is nothing to stop the Parisian club from accepting a deal and ending his unsuccessful spell in Ligue 1.

Yohan Cabaye Struggling to Find His Feet Back in Ligue 1

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    In just his sixth league start for Paris Saint-Germain since joining from Newcastle United, Yohan Cabaye again showed signs that he is struggling to find his feet since making the return to Ligue 1.

    The former Lille midfielder came into the side for suspended Thiago Motta and lined up as the deepest of the three central midfielders. It is not a position that Cabaye is that used to playing recently, but with chances at a premium, it is a role that Cabaye has been forced to adapt to.

    At the end of his time at Newcastle, Cabaye was being played in the number 10 role, pushing forward and making himself one of the most creative players in Alan Pardew’s side. Now at PSG, he hasn’t been able to play in one of the attacking positions. You can see from the stats, via, that he is still seeing lots of the play—124 touches of the ball—but he only managed one key pass during the entire game.

    It’s a similar role to what Didier Deschamps will ask him to play in Brazil for France this summer. It is definitely a position that the 28-year-old can play, but it looks like it will take more than occasional starts in the PSG midfield to help him adjust to his new role.

    The move to Paris was definitely a great move for PSG, as they have acquired a vastly experienced midfielder to enhance their squad. But for Cabaye, it’s not so clear whether or not he made the right move. A lack of game time could eventually push him out of France’s starting XI, and that would be disastrous for one of the best passers of the ball France have in the squad.

PSG Youngster Survives Parc Des Princes Exam

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    For anyone interested in monitoring the excellent young players that Ligue 1 continues to produce, Wednesday night was a great opportunity to watch a group of excellent prospects in action. In addition to Lucas Digne, Adrien Rabiot and Marquinhos, another PSG youngster starting the match was full-back Youssouf Sabaly.

    On loan at Evian from the Parisian side, the 21-year-old has definitely impressed for Les Roses this season, and this was a great chance for Laurent Blanc to get a great close up look at a defender that can play at both left and right-back.

    In an uninspired performance from the home side, they failed to put Sabaly under any sort of extreme test. Even as Evian went down to 10 men, the left-back remained strong and wasn’t overawed by the constant pressure in the second-half.

    It’s hard to say if Blanc would have been impressed with Sabaly’s performance, but the Frenchman did nothing to hamper his chances of a long-term future with his parent club. Another loan deal may be the best for his future, but if Sabaly continues to show no signs of panic against the big sides, it won’t be long until he’s playing at the Parc des Princes on a more regular basis.

Daniel Wass One of Ligue 1's Unheralded Stars

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    With the spotlight constantly pointing towards the big traditional clubs in Ligue 1, it is always nice when a player from one of the smaller clubs grabs your attention and catches your eye. Tonight in Paris, it was the turn of Danish midfielder Daniel Wass to have the eyes of the world looking in his direction.

    The former Benfica player has become somewhat of a cult hero at Evian and has gained the respect of Ligue 1 aficionados. He has shown great versatility for his club, playing at left and right-back, on both attacking wings and also in the centre of the midfield. No matter the position, Wass has impressed in his duties and has always looked an attacking threat.

    On Wednesday night he instantly grabbed the PSG fans' attention by crashing a free-kick into the underside of Salvatore Sirigu’s crossbar after only four minutes of action. He was constantly looking for the ball, showing his excellent vision and touch, and he also gave glimpses of his ability on the counter-attack, with his speed and ability on the ball.

    Wass is an excellent player and will have gained some admiring looks from some of Ligue 1’s bigger sides this season. His performance in Paris will have only strengthened his chances at earning a big move, but with every similar performance, Evian will be eagerly increasing their asking amount.

Evian Impress and Frustrate in Equal Measure

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    Evian Thonon Gaillard are an extremely strange club. They do not play in Evian, Thonon or Gaillard, they actually want to play their football in Geneva, Switzerland. They are owned by the Danone group, the company behind the Evian brand water bottles, with the mountain logo making up part of their football strip.

    They are also one of the most unpredictable sides in Ligue 1, with Wednesday night serving as another example of just how unpredictable they can be.

    Pascal Dupraz’s side were only minutes away from stealing a point at the Parc des Princes, which would have meant that they had taken four from a possible six points from Paris Saint-Germain this season. Matuidi's late goal meant they will have to do with just the three points off of the champions this season.

    Add in home wins over AS Monaco, Toulouse and Lyon, plus the 2-2 draw at home to LilleLille equalised in the 93rd minute—and you have some of the most impressive performances by any club outside the top five.

    With four games to go, Evian sit 16th in the table and are only five points clear of the relegation zone. When they put in performances like they did tonight in Paris, you fail to understand why they are not higher up the table. Consistency has not been Evian’s friend.

    It’s no wonder that Pascal Dupraz doesn’t have any hair on his head. Once they find that elusive consistency, there is little doubt they have the players to challenge teams higher up the table.