Javier Pastore has become one of French football’s biggest mysteries. After joining for €42 million from Italian side Palermo back in 2011, his influence over the way Paris Saint-Germain play has dropped over the past few seasons.
However, this summer there have been signs of life from the midfielder. After impressing in both of PSG’s opening league games and a wonderful solo goal against Napoli in a friendly, there are some areas where Pastore could improve to help him once again become a significant member of Laurent Blanc’s squad.
For the past 18 months, in almost every transfer window the Argentina playmaker has been constantly linked with a move away from the French capital. His average performances kept any side from making an acceptable bid.
Pastore is still a PSG player mostly out of a lack of options rather than the club actually valuing him as a member of the squad.
The 25-year-old was the first marquee signing in Paris, and with that comes a certain stigma: The expectation was that he would become a superstar in Ligue 1 and spark PSG towards becoming one of Europe’s elite.
In reality PSG’s project didn’t kick-start until the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi joined the following season. During his first year in Paris, Pastore did well to settle in, scoring 13 goals and contributing six assists.
As more and more stars joined the French club, Pastore’s influence has dwindled away. In his second season he only scored four, but added seven assists, then last season he only managed a single strike and three assists.
It is understandable that as more and more stars joined the team, Pastore’s influence reduced, but when you compare the stats available via WhoScored.com, the season-by-season drop is quite interesting.
|Starts||Goals||Assists||Shots PG||Pass %||Key Pass||Dribbles||Avg. Passes||Turnovers|
All Stats by WhoScored.com
Over the past two seasons, his numbers for shots per game, key passes made and successful dribbles have all dropped. For a player who was known for being able to glide past defenders with ease, only managing one successful dribble attempt every two games just isn’t good enough to play at the top level.
It is the same situation with key passes. Pastore came to Paris as a playmaker, but his numbers have dropped to a level where he is only making one key pass per game. When you look at the quality of players he has in front of him, he should have found it easier to create chances.
However, what seems to have happened is that as his star dulled, Pastore went further into his shell. He failed to take responsibility on the ball and passed the buck on to his team-mates.
Each season, his pass-completion percentage has actually risen; from 80.4 in season one to 84.7 last season. He is also making more passes per average every game, up to 52 per game last season. It’s not like he is seeing less of the ball when he plays; it’s more that he isn’t willing to take risks when he's in possession.
With no risk comes no reward.
Another statistic that has dropped is his number of turnovers per game. Now, that may seem like a good thing—he’s not giving the ball away as much as he was when he arrived. However, it points towards Pastore not taking as many chances as he previously had.
When you take chances in football, you will get rewarded and good things can happen.
When he played for Palermo and in his first season for PSG, Pastore made at least two turnovers per game, as that has dropped down to one, his assists, dribbles, goals and key passes have all dropped, leading to the midfielder receiving criticism and the PSG fans losing faith.
We may only be two games into the new season, but Pastore’s numbers are encouraging. He already has two assists to his name and looks more of a threat in the final third with three key passes on average per game.
To have a really successful season, he still needs to take more responsibility. He is averaging 1.5 key passes, one successful dribble and one turnover per game. He is seeing a lot of the ball with an average of 115.5 passes per game.
It is still very early in the new season, and as PSG’s star players return to the first team it will be very interesting to see how much influence he has over the side.
To become a star in this Parisian side, he needs to take more chances when he has the ball and either become a little greedier to create chances for himself, or look for his team-mates and not the easy option.
This could be Pastore’s last chance at success in Paris. If he can fully realise his potential, he could become the star that everyone expected. Without taking a few risks higher up the pitch, his ability will go forever wasted. There is no doubt he has the talent; he just has to believe in himself.