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Paris Saint-Germain: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering Ligue 1 Season

Andrew GibneyFeatured Columnist IIAugust 31, 2016

Paris Saint-Germain: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering Ligue 1 Season

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    Victor Fraile/Getty Images

    Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic dominance with a 2-0 win over EA Guingamp in French football's traditional curtain-raiser, the Trophee des Champions, in Beijing on Saturday.

    Even without their full complement of star players, PSG had more than enough quality to see off the Coupe de France winners.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals to start his campaign positively. The big Swedish forward will be raring to go after missing the World Cup, and he will expect the same from his teammates.

    PSG will be looking to win unprecedented four trophies this season, perhaps even a quintet, if they can find success in the Champions League.

    They kick off the season at the Stade Auguste Delaune against Stade de Reims on Friday, but do they have a squad equipped to achieve success on the four remaining fronts?

    On grading the PSG squad, we have taken into account how effective each player was during the previous campaign, their ability to influence games positively and how they will fare this season.

    Here is the full report card for the PSG squad entering the Ligue 1 season.

Goalkeepers

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    Salvatore Sirigu

    It may have been a controversial decision by the UNFP (in French) but Salvatore Sirigu was voted the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1 last season. Lille's Vincent Enyeama was the people's choice, but the Italian 'keeper wasn't far off being just as impressive.

    Many will cite the fact that he has an easier job than most, and that is partly true, but it is when PSG slip up and Sirigu is asked to perform that he shows his worth.

    He so often saves the Parisians during their poor spells, is always dependable and answers the call whenever the defence need him most.

    According to statistics website Squawka, Sirigu recorded 19 clean sheets last season and averaged 1.62 saves per game. That is a goalkeeper you can depend on.

    Grade: A

     

    Nicolas Douchez

    The former Rennes goalkeeper made just one appearance in the league last season. It came during their 4-0 end of season destruction of Montpellier, a game during which Douchez had very little to do.

    At 34 years old, Douchez is there to provide experience as a dependable back-up, and that's exactly what he does.

    Used mostly in cup matches, he is up to the job and would have enjoyed being in goal as PSG won the Coupe de la Ligue in the Stade de France.

    Barring an injury to Sirigu, you won't see much of Douchez this season.

    Grade: C-

     

    Mike Maignan

    As PSG's third-choice 'keeper and a young prodigy, Maignan won't be expecting much playing time this season.

    He will continue to play for PSG II in France's fourth division (CFA) and will be hoping that he receives more opportunities in France's youth sides; he has previously made the under-19 squad.

    Grade: D

Right-Backs

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    Gregory van der Wiel

    There were question marks over Van der Wiel as last season began, the belief being he wasn't quite good enough for PSG at the highest level.

    His performances in both the league and Champions League helped convince those doubters otherwise.

    Contributing eight assists—four apiece in the league and Champions League—was impressive. He showed he was able to combine his attacking duties and the defensive side of his game without compromising either, and by the end of the campaign he had silenced most critics.

    Only a persistent knee injury stopped the full-back from appearing for his country at the World Cup.

    He will face more competition this season, one which could make or break his PSG career.

    Grade: C+

     

    Serge Aurier

    The name Serge Aurier has been one known to Ligue 1 observers for a few seasons now, but his performances last season sparked interest from around Europe.

    Scoring six goals and adding six assists for a defender that has played as a full-back for most of his career made people sit up and take notice.

    There was plenty of interest in the Ivorian full-back, but PSG managed to convince Toulouse to agree a loan deal with an option to buy.

    He will give Van der Wiel direct competition at right-back, and the 21-year-old is expected to mature and blossom further, replacing the Dutchman in the first team sooner rather than later.

    His goal record leads people to believe that he is better going forward than he is defensively, but once you watch a couple of his games, you can see this is far from the truth.

    Aurier is one of the best all-round defenders in France, who will soon be unleashed on the European stage.

    Grade: B

Left-Backs

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    Maxwell

    Consistent and dependable last season, Brazilian Maxwell was one of PSG's best players.

    He may be approaching the twilight of his career, but his ability to push up and down the left for PSG led to a recall to the Brazilian World Cup squad.

    He may not have featured for the Selecao during the tournament, but making the squad was reward enough.

    His partnership with Blaise Matuidi down the left and friendship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave PSG an attacking edge that was a joy to watch last term.

    Grade: B+

     

    Lucas Digne

    Lucas Digne started the season as PSG's €15 million capture from Lille and finished it as France's back-up left-back for the 2014 World Cup.

    It was an excellent year for the 21-year-old, who is only going to get better.

    He was unlucky to become a substitute after impressing for Lille before his move to the capital, but after finishing the season with 15 appearances, this is just the start for Digne.

    Expectations are for the young Frenchman to push Maxwell out of the first team this season, with both players sharing the position.

    Eventually the starting spot will be his, and it should coincide with Digne becoming France's starting left-back.

    Grade: B-

Centre-Backs

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    Thiago Silva

    Still regarded as one of, if not the best centre-back in world football. Thiago Silva's reputation has taken a little bit of a hit in the last six months, but he is still the best defender in Ligue 1.

    The pressure of being Brazil's captain going into the World Cup took its toll on his end of season performances. Laurent Blanc was happy to rest the 29-year-old once the title was all but secured.

    However, after the battering Brazil took against Germany in the semi-finals—although Silva missed the game through suspension—the hope is that it won't have a lingering effect on PSG's captain.

    It many take a few weeks to shake off the cobwebs, but his class will shine through once he is back dominating with his teammates.

    Grade: B-

     

    David Luiz

    Brought in to partner his international teammate, there is going to be a lot of focus on the performances of David Luiz this season.

    First of all, he has to shake off the €50 million price tag that PSG paid Chelsea for his services.

    It is deemed that the Parisians paid well over the odds for the former Benfica man. When Germany ran rampant through a David Luiz-led Brazil defence, those questions increased to a deafening level.

    Luckily for Luiz, the tests provided by the other Ligue 1 teams won't be anywhere near that of the Germans. His real test is going to be in the Champions League, which is the main reason that PSG have spent a huge fee on the Brazilian.

    Grade: C

     

    Marquinhos

    Interest from Barcelona nearly tempted the young Brazilian away from the Parc des Princes this summer, but regardless of who PSG bring in, keeping Marquinhos at the club will be the best bit of business they do.

    At 20 years old, he is the future of the PSG defence. When Blanc has called on the young player, he has looked assured and dependable.

    Like any young player, he has made mistakes, but he is constantly learning, and you can see the Brazilian going on to emulate his captain in a few years.

    Expect Marquinhos to gain more minutes this season, and it would be a surprise if he didn't go on to enhance his reputation.

    Grade: C

     

    Zoumana Camara

    Camara is the elder statesman of the PSG squad. He may not be good enough to start anymore—his pre-season performances back this view up—but he is a great character to have in the squad.

    Two starts in the league last season were more than enough, but you cannot easily replace the experience of someone with 336 Ligue 1 appearances under their belt.

    As a senior member of the squad, his guidance to the likes of Marquinhos, Digne and Aurier is invaluable.

    Grade: D

Central Midfielders

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Thiago Motta

    With a history of injury problems, it wasn't expected that Thiago Motta would start over 30 games last season.

    This added bonus added to PSG's excellent midfield performances. More often than not, when Motta played, PSG were victorious.

    He is the glue that binds the whole team together; he does the dirty jobs, puts himself in the areas his team needs him and carries out his duties much better than most.

    It will be interesting to see if the 31-year-old can make as many starts this season.

    Grade: A

     

    Blaise Matuidi

    In a team like PSG, the plaudits are always going to be aimed at players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. However, slowly but surely, Matuidi is gaining the same level of respect.

    Now aged 27, he is at the peak of his powers, and it shows.

    Pushing his team forward at every opportunity, he is the engine in the PSG midfield. Blazing a trail down the left, bursting into the box and providing the Parisians with a spark and an edge that they sorely miss when he is not in the team.

    He scored five goals last season, the next stage of Matuidi becoming one of the best midfielders in the world is to either add to this tally or become more creative.

    No one doubts his ability to add these traits to his game.

    Grade: A+

     

    Marco Verratti

    Last season was Verratti's best in a PSG shirt. Still only 21, the Italian midfielder made up part of one of Europe's best midfields but there is definite room for improvement.

    For all the class he can show on the ball, his tenacious appetite in midfield and the fearless approach he has to the game, he has his flaws.

    With the passing range he possesses he should provide more of an attacking threat; four assists is not good enough for the amount of time he is given on the ball.

    He is caught in possession far too often, usually in dangerous positions. It has cost PSG a few points here and there.

    Then there is his disciplinary record. Verratti received 10 yellow cards in the league last season. He needs to work on improving these aspects of his game. If he does, he could become one of the best in Europe.

    Grade: B

     

    Yohan Cabaye

    The move to PSG made sense from the club's point of view, but it wasn't clear why Cabaye left Newcastle to join a team where he wouldn't be first choice.

    At Lille and Newcastle, Cabaye was given more responsibility in the midfield. So far in Paris, he has just become another squad player.

    He only started nine games after making his move to the capital in January. Even then his performances were not that of a commanding midfield general.

    This will be a huge season for Cabaye. If he can push his way into the PSG midfield trio and impress Blanc, he will have a future at the club.

    If not, he could be looking for a new club in 12 months.

    Grade: B-

     

    Clement Chantome

    The Parisian born Chantome returns to PSG after an impressive loan spell at Toulouse.

    He showed for Alain Casanova that he can be a player who is able to control games in Ligue 1 and capable of being a top midfielder.

    He may not be at the level that PSG require to reach the next level, but given the chance he can play a part at the club.

    Chantome is not any worse than the likes of Adrien Rabiot or Javier Pastore. He may not be as flashy, but give him the ball and he will create chances and be a very dependable substitute.

    However, that shouldn't be enough for Chantome; he should be looking for a move to a club that would really appreciate his talents.

    Grade: C

     

    Adrien Rabiot

    Similar to Chantome, Rabiot previously had a successful loan spell at Toulouse. He was only 17 years old when he moved on loan, but he showed that he was very capable of playing with maturity in the centre of midfield.

    The 19-year-old now feels that he is up there with the best of PSG's midfield. He made 12 starts last season and wants more.

    With his mother at the fore of the negotiations, his demands don't match what PSG think he is worth. According to Sky Sports, a move to Serie A could be on the cards.

    In most teams this wouldn't be a problem, but with PSG looking to dominate Europe, they have midfielders that are better than Rabiot.

    The young star needs to learn his place, and if he wants to play for the biggest sides, then he needs to realise he has a role to play and respect the team he is playing for.

    Grade: D

Wingers

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    Ezequiel Lavezzi

    The first half of Lavezzi's season wasn't ideal, but seven league goals in 2014 gave hope to the PSG staff that the Argentine winger could just be the spark to bring the attack together.

    What is worrying is that he failed to register a single assist. For a winger playing beside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, this just isn't good enough.

    Lavezzi tries with all his heart, gives the team a great outlet and has boundless energy and desire, but he just isn't at the level PSG want from their third attacker.

    With a change of formation on the cards, his time on the pitch could be limited. Although it could mean he plays a more central role, which could provide him with an opportunity to impress.

    Grade: B-

     

    Lucas Moura

    Last season, Lucas Moura was used just as often as a substitute as he was as a starter. This makes his record of 11 assists and five goals even more impressive than at first glance.

    The Brazilian winger is still only 21 years old, but he is showing great signs of progression.

    He was unlucky not to make Brazil's World Cup squad, but that exclusion will mean he is fresh and rested for the new season.

    PSG's change in formation should mean they play with an attacking midfielder behind the strikers, which could be perfect for Lucas and the ideal position for him to blossom.

    It's scary to think how much he could contribute if he was given more time on the pitch. He is a future star of this side if Blanc puts his trust in him and he gives it 100 per cent at every opportunity.

    Grade: B

     

    Hervin Ongenda

    So far, Hervin Ongenda's has mostly played a cameo role at PSG. However, he has done enough to show he has a bright future.

    Two starts and two assists last season gave enough belief to Blanc that the 19-year-old is ready to play a bigger part this season.

    Ongenda has played a starting role during pre-season, and the winger will be looking to play around 10 games this season, even if the appearances are limited to coming off the bench.

    Opportunities may come easier in the two domestic cups, but there should be chances for the powerful and quick youngster to make an impact.

    Grade: C-

     

    Jean-Christophe Bahebeck

    After unsuccessful loan spells at both Troyes and Valenciennes over the past two seasons, Bahebeck returned to Paris with little chance of being a PSG player this season.

    During his two loan spells, the France under-20 striker has scored five goals in 36 games.

    This pre-season, Bahebeck has exceeded all expectations, scoring six goals.

    His performances could lead to Blanc giving him the chance to prove himself in a PSG shirt. They will also lead to a few teams giving him another look.

    Either way, this will be a big season for a player that has so far failed to live up to the early reputation he gained in PSG's youth sides.

    Grade: C

No. 10

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    Javier Pastore

    Three years on, the €42 million signing of Javier Pastore from Palermo looks like it wasn't the smartest of moves by PSG.

    Last season, he started 18 games, made 11 appearances off the bench and contributed just one goal and three assists.

    His first season was no doubt his best, during which he scored 13 goals. He only has five strikes to his name since then, and it's safe to say he has been a huge disappointment.

    At 25 years old, he is now past the point of being described as a "potential" star. He needs to produce, and he needs to do it now.

    Grand: C

Centre-Forwards

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    Edinson Cavani

    Starting your Ligue 1 career with 16 goals and two assists would be considered a great success for most, but for Edinson Cavani it wasn't enough.

    Unhappy is not quite the right word, but he needed to have words with the PSG staff this season about his positioning on the pitch.

    Although he was able to come inside at will with Ibrahimovic often dropping deep, the Uruguayan striker wanted to play a more central role. It looks like he will get that chance this season.

    The pressure is now on him to perform. Over 20 goals must be the target to justify Blanc changing his style to suit Cavani.

    Now it’s time for the former Napoli man to show everyone what he is capable of.

    Grade: A

     

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    What can you say about the talismanic Swedish striker that hasn't been said before?

    He started last season rather slowly from his own perspective, but to finish the season with 26 league goals and 11 assists, plus 10 goals as PSG reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, was an amazing return.

    This season, the Swede has his eyes set on two targets: He will want PSG to go further in the Champions League, maybe even win the whole thing, but personally he will hope to hit 30 league goals this season, beating the modern-day record held by Marseille's Jean-Pierre Papin.

    He equalled it during his first season but came up short last season. After missing the World Cup, Zlatan will be eager and willing to do everything in his power to achieve both those targets.

    Grade: A+

Coaching

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    Laurent Blanc

    After it seemed like the former France captain and World Cup winner was about the last person on PSG's wanted list to replace Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc actually did a fantastic job in the French capital.

    He played a more attractive style than the Italian boss and got the best out of players like Lavezzi and Motta while playing both Cavani and Ibrahimovic in a style that suited the team ethic.

    In his second season, Blanc has to continue to dominate in Ligue 1—that shouldn't be a problem—but he also has to learn from his Champions League experience.

    It's hard to say that they have to go further in the competition, given only four teams can reach the semi-finals. However, it is more in the manner in which they were eliminated that will hurt.

    They were 3-1 up after the home leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea. Blanc's negative tactics put PSG on the back foot in the second leg, and together a classic performance by Chelsea, saw PSG eliminated.

    PSG's progression would also come down to the draw and the sides they face. This team and Blanc are good enough for the semi-finals. The coach now has more experience behind him to make it happen.

    Grade: B+

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