After a shaky start, Layvin Kurzawa is starting to settle into life with French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
The France international scored a superb effort on the bounce in Les Parisiens’ 4-1 win over ESTAC Troyes on Saturday, making the most of the rare starting appearance handed to him by Laurent Blanc.
Goals from Edinson Cavani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and substitute Jean-Kevin Augustin secured the win that crowned the capital club Ligue 1’s autumn champions with four games to spare.
Speaking with the club's official website after the final whistle at Parc des Princes, Kurzawa expressed his delight at scoring his second goal since his summer move from AS Monaco and the importance of putting in a good performance in PSG’s emotional first home game since the Paris attacks of November 13.
"It was a very special night tonight and we wanted to provide a little joy for our fans," he said. "For my goal, the ball came back out to me and I was lucky enough to score. I celebrated like the basketball player LeBron James, whom I admire a lot."
Kurzawa’s goal added to his strike in the 4-1 home win over AS Saint-Etienne in October, meaning the 23-year-old has two goals in his seven Ligue 1 appearances so far in Paris.
The Frenchman’s finish was stunning. An Angel Di Maria cross was headed out by Jonathan Martins-Pereira, and the PSG No. 20 flicked it up and struck a magnificent left-footed volley, giving 18-year-old Troyes goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni no chance.
Kurzawa has scored two goals in his last three outings for the Ligue 1 leaders, and the attack-minded left back has started to show that Brazilian veteran Maxwell may well finally have a competitor for his starting role.
The 34-year-old is still ahead of his younger rival because of his unerringly consistent performances so far this season, notably in the UEFA Champions League. However, Kurzawa does actually look capable of pushing Maxwell more than Lucas Digne did over the past two campaigns.
While the South American remains an undisputed starter for now, that could change if Kurzawa keeps putting in similar displays to the ones seen against Troyes and Saint-Etienne.
Gone are the abundance of ill-advised tricks and flicks in an effort to catch Blanc’s eye, something we saw in the Frenchman’s earlier showings against the likes of Stade de Reims and FC Nantes. In their place, a simple and more direct approach has enabled the man from Frejus to have more of an impact in the past few games.
Kurzawa now needs to do more to push Blanc to reward him with more starting opportunities, and the coming days present the perfect time to do that.
PSG take on surprise second-placed side Angers SCO on Tuesday and fifth-placed OGC Nice on Friday. With two games in such quick succession, Blanc will almost certainly give Kurzawa a start in one of the two fixtures—probably the latter.
When he gets given his next start, Kurzawa must seize the chance with both hands to add to his already impressive two goals from his last three Ligue 1 outings.
With a dead-rubber Champions League Group A clash against Shakhtar Donetsk and a Coupe de la Ligue round-of-16 meeting with Saint-Etienne, Kurzawa should have the chance to score points in those games.
If the former Monaco man can do that, perhaps he has a chance of usurping Maxwell for the start of the new year, when PSG will be meeting strugglers SC Bastia and Toulouse in their first few league games after the winter break.
Kurzawa is under pressure to take every chance Blanc gives him in the starting XI ahead of Didier Deschamps next France squad announcement in March. If he can build up some form in early 2016, then he could find himself back with Les Bleus for the friendlies against the Netherlands and Russia.
If not, that may well be Kurzawa’s final chance to earn himself a squad role for next summer’s UEFA European Championship on home soil. There is plenty for him to play for in the coming months, so Kurzawa needs to build on his latest eye-catching goal.