Coming off a Champions League victory over Malmö FF midweek, Paris Saint-Germain returned to Ligue 1 play Saturday to face a surging Stade de Reims side.
The French champions were frustrated throughout the match and were on the brink of their first defeat of the season when Theoson Siebatcheu scored for Reims in the 83rd minute. Substitute Edinson Cavani salvaged a point for Les Parisiens a minute later when he sprinted onto a sublime pass from Javier Pastore and hit it first time into the bottom corner of the goal (nice tackle Zlatan).
The goal secured a 1-1 draw and PSG’s unbeaten record for the season but with two consecutive draws in the league, questions about the squad and manager Laurent Blanc’s lineup decisions are starting to come into question.
Blanc rotated the squad and started six players who were not in the starting XI against Malmö. Layvin Kurzawa and Benjamin Stambouli both made their competitive debuts for the club and played well enough but Maxwell and Thiago Motta shouldn’t be worried about losing their place in the team. The defensive unit without Serge Aurier, David Luiz, and Maxwell lacked teeth and the midfield seemed lost with the absence of Blaise Matuidi and Motta. Overall, you have to question Blanc’s decision to rest so many starters on the road against Ligue 1’s third place team.
— PSG English (@PSG_English) September 19, 2015
The most glaring absence in the starting XI has to be the goalscorer. Cavani has a habit of floating in-and-out of games but this season he’s been responsible for 50% of PSG’s goals in Ligue 1. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggling to regain his form and needing an injection to get through Tuesday’s match against Malmö, El Matador seemed like the obvious choice to lead the attack.
Tactical decisions aside, Paris Saint-Germain should have won this match. Three goals were called offside in the first half and Ibrahimovic missed a close-range header into an open net after Reims’ goalkeeper Johny Placide parried a shot from Marco Verratti that landed in the path of the big Swede.
Squad depth was a huge concern coming into the offseason and the club made quality signings in the summer to address the issues that ultimately doomed PSG in the Champions League last year. Blanc wants to rotate his squad for league and cup matches and rightfully so but performances like this from the “B squad” will force his hand to play more starters in games where they should be resting.
Despite two straight draws in the league, Paris Saint-Germain remain top of the table and will get a chance to extend their lead this week as they return home to face EA Guingamp on Tuesday and then travel to FC Nantes on Saturday. PSG will want to regain their winning form with a trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk looming on September 30.