How to Fix Paris Saint-Germain’s Attack

In what has become somewhat of a rare appearance over the last two seasons, Javier Pastore is back at the Ooredoo Training Center. Paris Saint-Germain’s No. 10 appears to have shaken off his latest injury and will most certainly be a welcome addition to the PSG attack for Unai Emery. The front three for PSG has lacked imagination far too often this season and the return of the Argentina international, who is one of the best playmakers in the world, should help correct that.

Pastore has already made himself a prominent feature in Emery’s plans at the start of the season. He was put in his preferred role attacking midfielder role as PSG shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation and played a major role in the fast-paced attacking style the Basque manager was trying to implement before losing his place due to injury just three games into the season.

However, a lot has changed since then. The humbling loss at the hands of AS Monaco immediately after, in addition to a few poor performances, forced the manager to make some changes to his tactics.

The reigning French champions have now settled into their more familiar 4-3-3 possession-based formation with Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, and Marco Verratti in midfield (with Adrien Rabiot regularly in the mix as well). Up front, Lucas Moura, Edinson Cavani, and Angel Di Maria have featured regularly in attack but no matter the starting lineup, the 4-3-3 hasn’t churned out mouthwatering performances on a consistent basis despite getting the results they need (currently on an eight-game unbeaten run). There have been signs the attack seems to be turning the corner, though. The master class showing against Stade Rennes is arguably the best the team has looks so far this season.

Thiago Silva speaking to PSG TV after the Rennes game said:

…It’s normal that it takes a little time to adjust to a new playing style, but I think we are there now and we can feel it on the pitch. Our intensity was great, we were very aggressive. The championship is still very open and we are right there…All the players are giving 100%, and everyone is motivated.

O Monstro‘s comments about the team finally feeling a lot more comfortable in the current playing style, as well as every player now giving 100 percent, certainly suggest it would be unwise for Emery to immediately switch back the the 4-2-3-1 in favor of Pastore and risk hurting the team’s dynamic. However, handing El Flaco a spot instead of Lucas alongside Cavani and Di Maria in attack could just be the best way to fit the 27-year-old into the starting lineup without making many alterations to his tactics.

The attack has been the major source of frustration this season for supporters. Between the over-reliance on Cavani for goals, poor performances from Di Maria, and Lucas’ inconsistency (despite his improvement on a personal level), it’s difficult to know which team will show up on any given night.

Di Maria has greatly improved in recent games though thanks to Emery’s decision to swap flanks with Lucas, moving the 28-year-old to the right of the attack. This has come at the detriment of Lucas, who is limited to an extent on the left. The clear increase in the team’s performance with Di Maria in a role he’s more familiar with means getting the best out of the former Manchester United man is more of a priority. This makes Lucas a liability and the logical choice to make way for Pastore, who is much more comfortable while featuring from the left side of the attack.

In Lucas’ defense, his ability to provide the occasional goal threat and high work-rate, which is crucial to Emery’s philosophy, makes him important to the side to an extent. Pastore is no slouch himself though, and while he may not be categorized as more prolific judging by recent seasons, the huge creative boost and overall unpredictability he brings to the side cannot be overstated. Perhaps in the near future, Pastore’s availability could yet mean a return to the 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate Lucas. It would be wise however to not tamper with the current dynamic of the team just yet.

All this comes down to Pastore’s level of fitness though. It will not be the first time Flaco has returned from injury and failed to feature before going missing again for an extended period of time. If fit, he could ignite the attack and give PSG the creativity it’s lacked for most of the season.

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Photograph by PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images

Tags Adrien Rabiot Angel Di Maria Blaise Matuidi Edinson Cavani Javier Pastore Lucas Moura Thiago Motta Thiago Silva Unai Emery


  1. I think if Lucas is to be replaced on the left it should be with Jesé. He has a great repoire with Fideo going back to their Real Madrid days. I personally think we need a more direct attacking threat on the opposite flank from Di Maria in order to balance the front line. For me having Di Maria and Flacco in the attack is like having too many cooks in the kitchen. Best to have a creative and a more goal oriented stacker on each flank respectively.

    Pastore will have a place in Emery’s set-up, but he will need to be patient.

    1. You’re right about Jese, on paper he looks like he can be the ideal secondary goal scoring threat we need but he just hasn’t shown enough to warrant a start just yet. Having Pastore upfront instead just serves as a more immediate fix, plus having him around increases the potential of the likes of Matuidi and Kurzawa who also like getting in the box to get more goals.

      On the issue about too many cooks, we’re a too dependent on Di Maria this season especially for creativity in the final third which has made us a bit predictable. I think both could work, Pastore could take more of the creative burden now and ADM has shown he’s not so uncomfortable acting as a secondary forward at times, making some interesting runs while playing just off the last defender so I think it’d be interesting to see how it goes. Cavani could also do with the extra chances.

      1. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one Daniel. My philosophy is that if you have one creative winger than the opposite winger should be able to contribute goals at 75%-80% of the striker. I believe Jesé is capable of that, not so much with Pastore. Also it puts more of the scoring onus on Cavani as Flaco and Fideo won’t contribute much in that category.

        1. I actually totally agree with about the creative winger and goalscoring winger thing, and a peak Jese should be the ideal choice upfront. All I’m saying is Jese hasn’t been playing well enough to even be handed a start even over Lucas. Pastore will not directly bring a lot of goals for sure but he is the only one on the bench who can actually improve this team right now.

  2. Perhaps Emery could try a 4-2-3-1 with Di Maria on the right, Ben Arfa on the left, Pastore in the middle and Cavani up top. The team actually plays better in a 4-2-3-1

    1. It’s definitely something Emery will try in future but like I said it will be unwise to shift immediately shift away from the 4-3-3 to avoid destroying the team’s dynamic at the moment. Plus Ben Arfa hasn’t shown enough to merit a start.

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