Paris Saint-Germain’s uninspiring 0-0 draw at Evian Thonon Gaillard’s Parc des Sports on Friday once again underlined the need for a number of changes. The first, is that coach Laurent Blanc must develop an alternative style of play to the 4-3-3 that the French champions currently favour.
The tactic worked for the majority of last season but began to look stale towards the end of the campaign. Three games into the new term and the same can already be said of Blanc’s preferred method, having struggled to get a result against both Stade de Reims and now Evian.
Some of that can be attributed to the fact that the squad is not back to absolute full strength—with some players still short of full fitness after their late returns from post-FIFA World Cup holidays—as well as Blanc’s tactical inflexibility.
One other reason, though, is the continued lack of a real creative presence in the side.
Javier Pastore has looked like a player reborn in his early-season performances, and he is capable of being a prolific provider when in the mood. Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi are also capable of creating openings, while Yohan Cabaye and Marco Verratti can also build moves from further back.
However, none of those players can match the unwavering creative skills of star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede is still expected to score the majority of PSG’s goals, so another player specialising in laying goals on for others is needed in order to get the best out of the likes of Edinson Cavani and ease the strain on Zlatan. The ideal player for this role is Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria.
PSG have been linked with the Argentinian for some time now, but the latest is that "El Fideo" (the noodle) will now leave the Spanish giants after being left out of Carlo Ancelotti’s squad for Friday’s Spanish Super Cup defeat to bitter rivals Atletico, per Cadena COPE (h/t Here Is The City’s Mathew Nash).
According to The Press Association (h/t The Daily Mail), Blanc’s recent comments when quizzed about Di Maria confirm that Les Parisiens are no longer in the race to sign the talented South American.
PSG cannot afford to let a talent like the 26-year-old slip by if they can help it.
Admittedly, UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions have tied the French champions’ hands with regards to their ability to spend vast amounts of money on such a player. However, the sticking point in a potential deal to take Di Maria to the Parc des Princes is believed to be the ultimate fee and not the immediate loan deal that has been agreed already, said L'Equipe (h/t the Mirror's Ben Burrows) on Tuesday.
Basically, PSG need to sell one player to free up enough space on their wage bill to bring the Argentinian on board, and the potential transfer fee received by the capital club is of less importance than the size of the player's salary. This could make the departure of Lavezzi—one of PSG’s highest earners and a player who is yet to truly impress in France—a priority.
The danger is that Les Parisiens bring in Di Maria and then struggle to immediately balance their books in the eyes of UEFA. However, they are running out of time to prevent the World Cup star from opting to join another European side.
As the Evian match showed, when Ibrahimovic is not playing, PSG struggle to create chances.
With Di Maria and the Swede in the side, both the PSG No. 10 and Cavani would receive more than enough ammunition to score regularly. Also, when Zlatan is unavailable, the Uruguayan would be able to profit from his fellow South American’s creativity and thrive as a lone central striker.
Against Evian, it was clear that PSG still lack that dependable creative outlet. Too many of the current squad are not consistent enough to be considered adequate enough for Di Maria to be an unnecessary purchase.
If PSG can still bring in Di Maria, perhaps to the detriment of the likes of Lavezzi, Adrien Rabiot and even Clement Chantome—who all have big question marks over their futures right now—it would be a move worth making.
If PSG are to dominate Ligue 1 once more and, more importantly, make a bigger impact in the UEFA Champions League, the signing of a player of Di Maria’s creative ability is a must. Either that, or Blanc needs to start developing a variety of tactics that he can use to get the best out of all of his star talents. The latter option looks unlikely to happen anytime soon.