Hey James, fair points you bring up. However, I do still think some progress has been made. I can see why you don't rate Chelsea that highly, I am not a huge fan myself (even though you seem to think that I am) and they have been underwhelming in the second half of the season. The progress here, in my opinion, was that PSG managed to knock out a Mourinho side and also did it with 10 men.
As for Barca. Yes, the exit was sudden and disappointing. Agreed that Blanc could have done things differently with starting XI (at least I certainly thought so at the time). However, looking at how Lucas is still struggling to return to match fitness now, I would say that there was never any chance he would feature from start vs. Barca.
Had he been fit enough to flank Cavani along with Lavezzi, things could have been different in leg 1. He was not and PSG had no pace to hit Barca with. That is their weakness and even JCB might have offered more of a threat. But at the end of the day, the team still had chances and failed to take them.
Motta was a big miss in terms of experience (Silva, Zlatan & Motta deprives PSG of its 3 leaders), while Verratti was a huge loss. Seeing Silva go off early in the first leg was another big blow. Blanc could have lined up differently for it, but I still think PSG would have been soundly beaten by Barca. But I do agree that it felt as if they thought they had already lost the game before it started.
The defence is a concern. RB is a weak position, although it is my belief that Aurier is in the process of solving that. LB is becoming more of an issue too after Maxwell started to show his age recently. VdW and Digne are both candidates for moves this summer. Marquinhos absolutely has to start, while Luiz can only play alongside Silva, otherwise he is lost. You know my thoughts on this though, Luiz has to go to CDM and I would prefer to see a Silva-Marquinhos CB partnership.
I am not for one minute blaming Sirigu for all the goals conceded this season, but there have been a number of times where I have found myself saying that the Italian should have done better with goals conceded. I agree with those who feel SS must be upgraded in order to progress. However, simply changing Gk will not change the defensive issues.
That said, I think the one thing that has harmed PSG this season more than Blanc's tactics/decisions and performances is general fitness problems. More so than anything else in fact.
Ok, PSG's defence probably would not have been perfect without the injuries to Silva, Luiz and Marquinhos at various points of the season. Without Silva's early season injury, perhaps Marquinhos would not have developed as well as he has done this term. However, the fact remains that PSG have suffered an abnormal number of injuries this season and that must be looked into.
With an extra CB next season, a full summer of rest and better conditioning, I think there will be fewer depth issues there and we will see the defence thrive once more.
You bring up good points about how other teams are able to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves. But in response to the Arsenal-Bayern game that you mentioned, I must bring up the Arsenal-Bayern games from the year before. Arsenal got throttled by Bayern in the first leg, without question. But in the second leg, Arsenal only got eliminated on the away goals rule and actually nearly knocked them out if Gervinho hadn't missed from point blank range. Probably why he got sold.... I digress.... Arsenal went on a great run of form after that game and I would go as far as arguing that was the "launching pad" game for their great form the past 2-3 seasons.
Thank you for your message and I apologise for my delayed reply. I also appreciate you regularly reading my pieces and commenting on them/joining in with debate. I enjoy reading your opinions on the pieces.
I am a big fan of Cavani. However, I am also a big fan of Zlatan too. Before Edi arrived at PSG, I thought that they could be the perfect match in Paris and I was pleased that Leonardo managed to get him. I think they can be perfect still, but my gut feeling is that Zlatan does not want their relationship to work. It would be the same with any other striker.
Is Cavani worth €64m? Perhaps not, but how many players are genuinely worth the money that teams pay for them these days? I try not to get too bogged down with price tags. In all honesty, the price means little at PSG aside from FFP.
My opinion after reading this is that you were perhaps led to believe that Cavani was a different type of player to the one that arrived at PSG. Perhaps a flair player given that he is South American.
El Matador is a predator and his currency is goals. He is capable of scoring with great finishes, but yes, he also scores with a lot of tap-ins. The point is that PSG paid big money for those goals (tap-ins or screamers) and a guarantee of 20+ goals per season. Players like Gameiro, Lavezzi, Lucas and Pastore were not finishing chances with enough consistency, so it made sense to spend this sort of money on a source of guaranteed goals.
Is Cavani on his own worth his transfer fee? Probably not. But did PSG need him when they bought him? Yes they did and they still do.
Nearly every player at PSG is grossly over-paid, with the exception of a few (Zlatan, Sirigu, Maxwell, Verratti) who I feel are genuinely worth every penny that the club put up for them.
However, Cavani had the price tag and gets the salary he earns for a reason. That reason is because he scores goals. Yes he has not hit the same heights as Zlatan, but those heights are going to be impossible for anybody else to scale anytime soon I feel. Cavani has as good a chance as anyone at hitting that mark numerically and remember that he still has roughly 1 goal in every 2 games at present.
El Matador was brought in to not only replace Zlatan, but also to play alongside him at present. The pair are capable of this, however, I get the feeling that Zlatan does want this partnership to work because it would undermine his top dog status.
They can work together, they did so very well during the first half of Cavani's debut season at PSG. The problem was, since the start of 2014, Cavani has been suffering from a number of personal issues off the pitch (mostly an extremely expensive divorce that has been tough on his children). It is understandable in some ways that his head was not on football for a large part of last year, until the separation was confirmed. Perhaps these distractions have contributed towards him painting a bad image in your mind.
Cavani is capable of stepping in for Zlatan. However, both players have wildly different styles of play, so should not be compared. I understand why some fans might be underwhelmed a bit by Cavani, I definitely think that he could have done better than he already has. However, he is certainly no failure either.
Cavani is not a special player like Zlatan, he is not unique and all about skill/technical ability. He is all about putting the ball in the net (with his feet or head) and winning his team games.
If given the chance, he will do that on a regular basis.
I understand your point made in your message, but I feel that you have perhaps forgotten what Cavani is like at his best because it has been over a year since we really saw him terrorising defences.
Attached are some videos of the kind of goals that I think are the type that you were perhaps expecting him to score every week once he arrived at PSG. Hopefully they serve as a reminder of what he can do for the team and we will see him doing this in the second half of the season and in the foreseeable future.
One thing I will say, Zlatan limits the impact of Lucas and Pastore. Cavani, on the other hand, helps them to thrive and they all contribute towards the team more.
Hey James, agreed. However, I think that people are still far too quick to harshly criticise PSG and Blanc. Le President is yet to have a fully fit squad to choose from (still!). Not once have we seen him pick his first choice XI so far this season. Also, some of the players under the most pressure/getting the most criticism (Matuidi for example) have been run into the ground. Not only did Blaise play almost every match last season, he featured heavily at the WC and has played a lot since the start of this season. When he was suppose to be rested (after his operation) a few weeks ago, he had not choice but to play because of the problems in CM. A lot of the criticism of certain individuals is unfair. Yes, Blanc could work more on accommodating Cavani & Ibrahimovic better, but injuries and unavailability have impacted on every single squad selection Blanc has made this campaign. I am not sure if we will see that situation change before the end of 2014. Once it does, though, I think we will see Blanc experiment a bit more and look to accommodate Zlatan & Cavani better. Winter tour is a a bad idea this year, as a lot of the players need some rest.
Hi James, sorry for my delayed reply. Thanks for your question though! I don't always see these messages when they first arrive, hence the belated response.
I'd say that the chances of Blanc switching from his preferred 4-3-3 are small unless one of Ibra & Cavani gets injured. However, a lot will also depend on the wide players. At end of the day, PSG lost out to Barca last year because they did not take their best chances (particularly at home). Lavezzi was guilty on a number of occasions & because of that, Cavani will start alongside Ibra when fit.
Whether or not Lavezzi, Lucas or Pastore start is another question.
Whatever happens, Blanc will not abandon his 3-man midfield unit. I think seeing someone like Cabaye or Pastore drop into number 10 role behind Cavani & Ibra is more likely. However, that leaves PSG with very little width.
Bottom line is, this team is very close to being finished article, but it needs 2 things.
1- it needs better options out wide. Or at least one better option. I would say Griezmann in with Menez & Lavezzi out.
2- PSG need greater strength in depth. Bring in Mangala & shift out Camara with Alex becoming the backup. Bring in Pogba & have 6 midfielders capable of rotation like Bayern have. Possibly need 1-2 more experienced players too, certainly a backup striker.
IMO it would be a mistake to sell Lucas & Pastore is unsellable in his current state. Cash in on Lavezzi, let Menez go for nothing, force Camara into retirement or sell him. Also need new substitute RB. Once signed, sell Jallet.
I hope that answers your question adequately! Once again, sorry for the delayed reply!
I agree entirely. The big issue Blanc has is:
Lavezzi - inconsistent
Pastore - very inconsistent
Cavani - out of position
Lucas - frequently makes bad choices
It's pick your poison out of 4 options that are good/great, but not world-class. There's a drawback with each one, and that must be seriously annoying!
Lucas is the best fit of all on the right systematically but often shows bad decision-making. The way to improve this is to give him a run of games/extended run in the side, but Blanc can't do that because of the presence of Cavani.
Can't win! Who'd manage, huh?
I watch a bit of PSG, fairly well updated.
Cavani has done very well from the right, but I honestly put it down to individual quality of his rather than a victory of any system. I think he's shoe-horned in on the right and there are formations, as you say, that could be better suited.
It's difficult to criticise them at this point as they're dominating Ligue 1 and are into the QFs, but I thought it was a blessing in disguise for Blanc that Cavani was injured this week. It meant he play Lucas—a player more suited to the system imo—without annoying Edinson.
I've come to respect your analysis on all things Brazilian, so I was wondering if you wouldn't mind taking some time to talk a bit about Willian? I've only rarely seen him play and I have yet to find any really great write-ups about him.
I'm interested in knowing what you think of him. Is he a strong finisher? Is he selfish at all? Does he work defensively? Just how good is he? So on and so forth.
Honestly what is it with your holier then thou commentary ? Douche !