mardi 1 mars 2011

5 Observations about PSG

Makelele is a liability
The man who defined the role of the modern holding midfielder, Claude Makelele, retains his uncanny knack of defusing attacks. Nonetheless, his distribution - once so reliable - has become a cause for anxiety. This is perhaps indirect testament to the quality of Makelele's former Real, Chelsea and France teammates: a true holding midfielder functions best in conjunction with other more technically adept and creative players. At Chelsea, Makelele would win the ball and typically pass it short to Lampard or Essien. At PSG, both the positional sense and athleticism of his teammates are inferior. Thus, Makelele is called upon to execute passes of greater ambition or to advance with the ball at his feet. Too often, he loses possession.

As successive England managers have found, instructing a conventional central midfielder to play "like Makelele" risks turning that player into a dead weight or, worse, a liability. It seems that the opposite is also true.

But Giuly's still got it
When Ludovic Giuly captained Monaco to the Champions League final in 2004, he was rightly touted as one of the most exciting players in Europe. A transfer to Barcelona promptly followed. Now 34, Giuly is back in Ligue 1 and a firm favourite among the faithful of the Parc des Princes. Although his influence has wained, he's still quick, tricky and combative. Whereas at Monaco he operated as the right-hand prong of a front three (scoring 47 goals in 187 matches), he's now a touchline-hugging winger (in either a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1). The Guardian's Daniel Taylor recently wrote of Ryan Giggs: 'the boy who played football like a man, has become the man who plays football like a boy.' In the Autumn of his career, Giuly exhibits an equally infectious joie de vivre each time he takes to the pitch.

PSG need a new striker
Last season, Mevlüt Erding scored 15 goals in 31 matches for PSG. The season before last, Guillaume Hoarau scored 17 in 33. Both have proved themselves capable of making an impression against even the most resolute of Ligue 1's defences. Yet, this season they have netted a combined total of just 13 times in 47 matches. PSG coach Antoine Kombouaré is entitled to demand more from his first-choice strikers, who must be thankful that Nenê's purple patch has so far yielded another 13 goals. If PSG are to become perennial championship contenders, they will require significantly more firepower.

Christope Jallet is vastly underrated

Jallet: shipshape.

Much has been made of the partnership forged by centre backs Sylvain Armand and Mamadou Sakho. The former has excelled throughout his seventh season with PSG, achieving the highest average performance rating (awarded by L'Equipe) of any defender in France. The latter, still only 21, has drawn admiring glances from many of the continent's biggest clubs. It would be easy to overlook the slight figure who lines up to the right of Armand and Sakho, were it not for his tenacity and quality on the ball. Those who champion Christophe Jallet compare him to Ashley Cole (although the Chelsea man plays on the opposite flank). Like Cole, he provides his team with a formidable attacking outlet: he may not be quite as athletic but Jallet is undoubtedly a more accomplished crosser than Cole.

PSG must work had to hold on to Armand, Sakho and Jallet.

PSG are only marginally better than Sunderland
On a good day, when every key player is available, PSG are an attractive, well-balanced team. The back four are highly competent, Clément Chantôme endows the midfield with stability while Nenê and Giuly add skill and intelligence. On a good day, PSG would beat Sunderland.

Stéphane Sessegnon left PSG for Sunderland in part because of a tiff with Kombouaré but also, he has stated, in search of a better standard of football. The transfer was greeted by a certain amount of derision in France, given that PSG are currently fourth and have progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League. Sunderland are eighth in the Premiership and, of course, are not involved in Europe. That said, I believe that the Back Cats would give PSG a sreious run for their money. It is not unrealistic to suggest that the fourth best team in France is comparable to the eighth best in England and - by the same token - that the best team in France (Lille) is comparable to the fifth best in England (Chelsea). Indeed, such a formula might be a little generous towards Ligue 1.

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