Analysing Angel Di Maria's Early-Season Form for PSG

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2015

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 7: Angel Di Maria of PSG celebrates scoring the first goal of PSG during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Toulouse FC (TFC) at Parc des Princes stadium on November 7, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

After signing for Paris Saint-Germain from Manchester United for £44.3 million back in August, according to BBC Sport, Angel Di Maria has made a positive start to life with the French champions in his first three months or so in France.

The Argentina international’s debut had to wait until the fourth round of Ligue 1 fixtures, as he arrived at Parc des Princes with a hamstring problem from this summer’s Copa America in Chile, which prevented him from taking part in any pre-season training or preparatory matches.

Di Maria was finally able to feature in the PSG squad in the fourth round of Ligue 1 fixtures, away at AS Monaco, where he ultimately made his debut. Once the 27-year-old took to the Stade Louis II pitch, it quickly became obvious that he would be worth the wait for PSG supporters.

El Fideo, as he is known, wasted little time in making an impression. Introduced after 66 minutes in place of Lucas Moura, he immediately provided Edinson Cavani with an inch-perfect cross that the Uruguay international spurned—unsurprisingly.

MONACO - AUGUST 30: Ezequiel Lavezzi of PSG celebrates his goal with Angel Di Maria of PSG during the French Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade Louis II on August 30, 2015 in Monaco. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

However, it would get better for Di Maria and his new fans before the end of the 3-0 victory over Les Monegasques.

The South American collected the ball deep inside his own half before lifting a sublime lofted pass over the top of the principality outfit’s defence and into the path of onrushing compatriot Ezequiel Lavezzi, who finished with aplomb.

It was a superb start to life with Les Parisiens for Di Maria and a taste of what was to follow for the capital club’s supporters and Laurent Blanc.

Now fit and a regular member of Le President’s starting XI, the former Manchester United man is starting to show why PSG pursued for such a long time and why they were prepared to pay such big money to land him.

Four goals and three assists from just nine Ligue 1 appearances—five goals and four assists from 13 appearances if you include the UEFA Champions League—and the French giants are already starting to get some return on their sizeable investment.

After his fast start to life in Paris with that assist away at Monaco, Di Maria’s first experience of a match at Parc des Princes came after the September international break in a 2-2 home draw against Girondins de Bordeaux.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 11:  Angel Di Maria of PSG kicks the ball during the Ligue 1 game between Paris Saint Germain and Girondins de Bordeaux at Parc des Princes on September 11, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

The PSG No. 11 played the full 90 minutes, and although he did not find the back of the net or provide a goal, he proved—even at that early stage—that he could already make his new team more dangerous with him in the starting XI.

Just four days after the Bordeaux game, the Ligue 1 leaders’ first Champions League Group A opponents, Swedish outfit Malmo FF, visited the French capital.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain scores the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League between Paris Saint-Germain and Malmo FF at Parc Des Princes on September 15, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Xavier Laine/Gett
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Di Maria needed less than four minutes on the pitch to introduce himself to his new set of supporters. The Argentinian scored with a fantastic angled finished before wheeling away in celebration to the delight of the Parc des Princes crowd.

After 85 minutes of the 2-0 victory, fellow Albiceleste star and close friend Lavezzi came on as his replacement, and El Fideo was given rapturous applause by the home support.

Started on the substitutes’ bench for the disappointing 1-1 draw away at Stade de Reims in Ligue 1 the match after that, Di Maria was given a 25-minute run-out in place of El Pocho, with the score still tied at 0-0.

The game passed him by, though, and it was fellow Argentinian Javier Pastore who set up Edinson Cavani's equaliser after Reims had taken a shock lead.

Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Di Maria was restored to the starting XI for the visit of EA Guingamp, and back in Paris once again, he picked up where he had left off in the Champions League win over Malmo with a well-taken goal and an assist for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a routine 3-0 win over the Breton side.

Four days later, Di Maria was in Blanc’s team from the start away at FC Nantes. However, the South American—like all of his PSG team-mates—endured a wretched first 45 minutes and had plenty to prove in the second half.

Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Angel Di Maria (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Nantes (FCN) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on September 26, 2015 at the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes, western France. A
JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/Getty Images

The Ligue 1 titleholders responded, with Di Maria creating Cavani’s headed finish for 2-1 by whipping in a brilliant cross from a free-kick after 73 minutes. The former SL Benfica man then went from maker to taker just seven minutes later, scoring with a sublime lob from a Pastore pass to make it 3-1 en route to an improbable 4-1 win.

After those back-to-back goals and assists against Guingamp and Nantes, it would be fair to say that Di Maria dropped off the radar for a while.

The Argentinian was ineffectual in the 3-0 win away at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, as well as in the 2-1 victory over bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille in Le Classique and the 0-0 draw at home to former club Real Madrid in Europe shortly after the international break.

Di Maria had been used for the full 90 minutes in both of Argentina’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in October and as a result, was rested for the 2-0 win away at SC Bastia because of the fatigue caused by the gruelling combination of travel and matches.

The visit of AS Saint-Etienne provided Di Maria with the chance to atone for his disappointing display against an under strength Real side along with the rest of his teammates.

Although he did not score or assist any of the four goals in the 4-1 win over Les Verts, he was better over the 90 minutes than he was against Los Blancos, and it was his pass that set Cavani away in the build-up to Ibrahimovic’s goal to make it 3-0.

RENNES, FRANCE - OCTOBER 30: Angel Di Maria of PSG celebrates scoring the winning goal of PSG with teammate Lucas Moura (left) during the French Ligue 1 match between Stade Rennais (Rennes) and Paris Saint-Germain at Roazhon Park stadium on October 30, 20
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Five days later, Di Maria was expected to step up in the absence of both El Matador and the Swede, as the Uruguayan was rested and Zlatan was benched with a cold and fever in the trip to face Stade Rennais.

El Fideo illuminated an otherwise dull match with a superb volleyed winner from an excellent Lucas Moura run and pass to seal a 1-0 victory at Roazhon Park. Although he was largely ineffectual for the rest of his 78-minute outing in Brittany, he made the difference when it mattered for Blanc’s men.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 3: Angel Di Maria of PSG in action during the UEFA Champions League match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on November 3, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

After that, Di Maria returned to Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League. Although PSG were unlucky to lose 1-0, the Argentinian can have no regrets over his performance against his ex-employers.

The former Merengues star did everything he could to create chances for his current side to score what would have been a deserved goal, and he even hit the crossbar himself with a late free-kick.

However, Les Parisiens could not even find an equaliser, and Real escaped with a flattering 1-0 victory. Di Maria, though, had been PSG’s most dangerous attacking threat by the end of the match and was the team’s outstanding performer in the Spanish capital along with Adrien Rabiot.

Blanc’s men bounced back last weekend with a thumping 5-0 win over a hapless Toulouse side in Ligue 1 just before the current international break and Di Maria was the man who set the league leaders on their way.

Thibault Camus/Associated Press

After just six minutes, the South American whipped in a left-footed free-kick that deceived the leaky TFC back line and drifted all the way into Ali Ahamada’s net without a single touch from another player.

Substituted after 63 minutes, Di Maria had added little else after his goal, but he was still a thorn in the side of the visiting defence with his dribbling and crossing.

Now he is with the Argentina national team again for their World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Colombia, it is likely that PSG will have to handle the Albiceleste star with extreme care when he returns from duty—as they did by leaving him out for the trip to Corsica to face Bastia.

Argentina's forward Angel Di Maria gestures during a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires on November 9, 2015. Argentina will face Brazil in FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 South American qualifier match on November 12. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA        (P
JUAN MABROMATA/Getty Images

Therefore, it is likely that Di Maria will miss the trip to Brittany to face FC Lorient when Le Championnat resumes in one week’s time.

It has not been a perfect start to life in Paris, as he has gone missing in some games—notably the 0-0 draw at home to Real when PSG should have capitalised numerous absences—but the current Di Maria already looks reinvigorated after an underwhelming stint with Manchester United.

His display in the 1-0 defeat away at Real was impressive, and he has already chipped in with a good number of goals and assists in Ligue 1, despite playing in a predominantly wide right position instead of his favoured left-sided berth.

Cavani’s loss of form and the resurgence of Lucas could see Di Maria deployed on the left at some point in the near future, but that is not likely to happen anytime before Malmo away in the Champions League because of the probability that he will not feature against Lorient after another gruelling international break.