Ranking PSG’s Top 5 Players for 2015
The French champions have enjoyed an excellent year after a strong finish to the 2014-15 season and Laurent Blanc’s men head into 2016 as runaway Ligue 1 leaders after a fast start to their 2015-16 campaign opened up a 19-point lead at the summit with a record midway total of 51 points.
PSG swept all before them in 2015, winning the Ligue 1 title, the Coupe de la Ligue, the Coupe de France and the Trophee des Champions, as well as making a third consecutive appearance in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Judging by their excellent first half to the 2015-16 term, Les Parisiens appear keen to replicate last term’s domestic dominance and go at least one step further in Europe and reach the semi-finals or better.
Here is a ranking of PSG’s top five players in 2015.
Had they both played substantially more than half a season each for PSG in 2015, both Javier Pastore and Angel Di Maria would arguably have featured in this top five list for 2015.
The Argentina internationals both contributed significantly to the French champions’ success over the past 12 months. However, Di Maria has only been in Paris since the summer, while Pastore has been injured for the best part of the first half of the 2015-16 campaign so far.
El Flaco managed six goals and 11 assists from 39 appearances across all competitions in 2015, but has only featured 11 times so far this term. As for Di Maria, El Fideo has nine goals and 11 assists from 20 outings in all competitions.
Had the latter been a PSG player since the start start of the year and even shown a fraction of the form he is in now, there is little doubt he would feature in this top-five ranking piece.
5. Edinson Cavani
It might feel like a long time ago now, but towards the end of the 2014-15 season, Edinson Cavani was PSG’s most in-form player. The Uruguay international was—by the end of the campaign—on a run of 13 goals and one assist from just nine domestic outings.
During that time, El Matador scored his first hat-trick for the French capital outfit in the 6-0 mauling of EA Guingamp in Ligue 1. His superb header against AJ Auxerre also won the Coupe de France for Laurent Blanc’s men at the Stade de France.
Cavani also kept up his impressive Coupe de la Ligue scoring record, netting twice in the 4-0 win over SC Bastia for the second time in as many finals.
The 28-year-old finishes 2015 with 31 goals from 34 appearances across all competitions, after adding 13 more goals since the start of the 2015-16 term and just two of those strikes have been penalties.
However, with just two Champions League goals to his name in 2015—a competition the South American is usually prolific in—Cavani’s continental contribution was on the low side.
Overall though, the PSG No. 9 is doing what is expected of him in front of goal. His overall performances do leave a bit to be desired, though.
4. Blaise Matuidi
It was unsurprising that PSG’s Blaise Matuidi was voted France Football’s French Footballer of the Year recently, as reported by the Ligue 1 leaders’ official website.
One of Les Bleus’ star men, 2015 has been a exceptional year for the 28-year-old for club and country and few France internationals have played as many matches as Les Parisiens’ irrepressible No. 14.
Matuidi made 53 competitive appearances for PSG over the course of 2015, not taking into account his international obligations as well. During those 53 outings, the all-round midfielder chipped in with seven goals and six assists across all competitions.
The France international is developing a useful habit of producing the occasional goal as his attacking prowess improves, while he is also proving to be a leader at club and international level.
Matuidi’s only weakness is perhaps exhaustion. With such a demanding schedule for PSG and France, it is easy for the player to become fatigued.
With the 2016 UEFA European Championship coming up in the summer, it is likely that the former Saint-Etienne player will be a busy man in 2016. Because of that, it will likely prove difficult for Matuidi to repeat the success of 2015.
3. Thiago Silva
PSG’s rock-solid defence has been a key factor behind their immaculate start to the current Ligue 1 season. A significant influence on the meanness of the French champions’ back line has been the superb form of captain Thiago Silva.
The Brazilian has contributed towards 27 clean sheets from 51 appearances across all competitions, while 17 of those have come in domestic games this campaign.
On top of Silva’s impressive clean-sheet haul, the 31-year-old skipper contributed three goals. One of those was a crucial header to help PSG to knock Chelsea out of the Champions League on away goals at Stamford Bridge.
Dunga’s baffling omission of O Monstro at international level has only served to bring better performances and greater consistency out of the former AC Milan man at club level as he goes about proving the Selecao Brasileira tactician wrong.
If Silva maintains his superb current form, then PSG may well repeat last year’s domestic dominance and go one step better in the Champions League as well.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
While Edinson Cavani was excellent over the second half of the 2014-15 season—notably the latter stage—Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been brilliant over the first part of the current 2015-16 campaign.
The super Swede has amassed 35 goals and 15 assists from just 43 appearances across all competitions in 2015.
That is despite spending the first half of the year recovering from a significant injury lay-off in late 2014 and missing the first month of the new term with a knee problem picked up in the 1-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais in the Trophee des Champions.
During that rich spell of form in front of goal, Ibrahimovic broke a number of records and is now PSG’s leading scorer of all time.
Like Cavani, there are not enough Champions League goals in there—just the two—but there are at least three continental assists.
What Ibrahimovic must do now is maintain his current stellar form and translate his domestic dominance to the European stage now that the group phase is over.
If the 34-year-old can do this successfully, PSG will have no option but to do everything they can to keep the talismanic striker at Parc des Princes for at least another season.
1. Marco Verratti
PSG’s star man in 2015 has arguably been Marco Verratti. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva both have strong cases to suggest they deserve the accolade, the Italy international has come to the fore and is now one of the main influences on Laurent Blanc’s team.
The 23-year-old plays with unerring consistency, and whenever he has been unavailable—through injury or suspension—his absence has been felt. Adrien Rabiot admirably stepped up while he was out injured recently, but the Azzurri star’s impact on the side was clear to see as soon as he returned to action.
Verratti managed two goals and seven assists from 45 games across all competitions in 2015, with those two strikes being his first for PSG in Ligue 1 in his third season in the French capital.
However, the goals provided by Les Parisiens’ No. 6 are not really that important. The former Pescara man’s contribution for Le Championnat’s leaders is deeper than that and along with Thiago Motta, he dictates the rhythm of the game.
Verratti regularly raises his game for the big occasions in the Champions League and domestically, and his consistency over 2015 has been a key factor in naming him PSG’s top player for the year.
Despite his immensely positive influence on the team, the Italian still has something he can work on to improve even more.
Verratti has curbed his yellow-card habit so far this season, accumulating just four bookings across all competitions in 2015-16 compared with 15 over the business end of the 2014-15 campaign. He now needs to keep this impressive streak of maturity going and stamp out unnecessary cautions for good—no matter how much amusement it provides many fans.
If Verratti can maintain his current form and continue to act in a disciplined way on the pitch, 2016 looks promising for him. With the Euros in France fast approaching, the Italy No. 10 could play a starring role on familiar territory.