Lucas Fires PSG Past Lille in Stoppage Time

It’s not often that a home match against Lille OSC in early February is dubbed as a “must win” but that was certainly the case on Tuesday night. League leaders AS Monaco gutted out a win against Montpellier HSC prior to kickoff, which left Unai Emery’s men no room for error. Anything less than three points would see PSG drift further behind the Monaco and perhaps more importantly, slow momentum heading into next week’s UEFA Champions League match against Barcelona.

That being said, Emery did experiment slightly as we predicted he might. Thomas Meunier, Marco Verratti, Javier Pastore, and Kevin Trapp were all forced to watch from the sidelines due to injury so the manager took a risk by playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, you could argue it was a change not worth making.

What Happened?

For most of the game, Paris looked to be heading towards a routine 1-0 win over Lille and take with them the much-needed three points. Play was not particularly exciting and although Les Parisiens had the vast majority of statistics in their favor, Edinson Cavani’s goal in the 70th minute came by way of a lucky deviation of the ball onto the Uruguayan’s path following a free kick.

Then, in the 86th minute, Alphonse Areola pushed his luck by trying to dribble past Éric Bautheac who successfully forced him to lose possession. Nicolas de Preville pounced on the ball and scored on an empty net. The French keeper could barely lift his head off the pitch afterwards.

Minutes remained and PSG were desperate to find a winner. They piled on pressure into stoppage time when finally, the ball fell to Angel Di Maria and Cavani, who then fumbled it through to (an offside) Lucas Moura to give Paris the controversial 2-1 win.

What Went Wrong?

The first half epitomized PSG’s shortcomings when using the 4-2-3-1 formation. The problems were obvious: The fullbacks were inconsistent (Aurier either played too defensively or didn’t cover his man enough whereas Maxwell was consistently up-field), Thiago Motta often seemed to forget his partnership with Blaise Matuidi (opting to relay the ball up-field or between himself and the two center-backs), and a somewhat disinterested striker who was either offside of off doing his own thing.

To shake things up, Emery tried to switch Di Maria and Julian Draxler to get the Argentine more involved in the action but it ultimately backfired and lasted only 10 minutes. After the introduction of Adrien Rabiot in the 60th minute, it seemed that Emery was converting back to the 4-3-3 he had fielded against Monaco but the problems persisted. Matuidi assumed the attacking midfield role for himself, meaning he received fewer balls than Hatem Ben Arfa did in the same position.

What Went Right?

It could have been a lot worse. Thiago Motta was very good, mixing flair with solidity, often dropping in as a third center-back to help out in defense. Presnel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva, despite not having much to do, did perform very well and handled everything thrown their way. Another positive to take away was Di Maria’s performance, which although it was far from being perfect, was less frivolous than in previous weeks where he put himself and the attacking unit in unnecessary positions.

Player Ratings

Areola – 4
Didn’t have much to deal with and was usually calm under pressure. But, his blunder leading to Lille’s only goal was avoidable.

Aurier – 4
Too defensive in the first 15 minutes and too overeager in the remaining 75. Crosses were as low as Julian Edelman’s catch in the Super Bowl.

Silva – 6
Did his job comfortably but didn’t pop up on corners as much as he did in January.

Kimpembe – 6
Solid at the back and linked well with Silva and Motta.

Maxwell – 7
Impressed on his 200th appearance for PSG. Played very high up and found success with both Draxler and Di Maria

Motta – 8
Only player constantly looking for the right solution. Movement was always great and managed to make even Matuidi look good.

Matuidi – 5
Ran his heart out (again) and won a few tackles. Had to be under Motta’s consistent surveillance though and nobody knows why he decided to become an attacking midfielder when Ben Arfa was subbed off.

Di Maria – 5
A good performance. Many crosses were not met and he limited his frivolous dribbles (finally).

Ben Arfa – 5.5
Not bad but not very special. Covered a lot of ground early on and was the closest to making the breakthrough in the opening minutes but often lost the ball and took unnecessary risks.

Draxler – 5.5
Surprisingly quiet evening from the German who was maybe playing a bit too deep.

Cavani – 4.5
Off doing his own thing and not in sync with the rest of the team. Did score a goal, though.


Rabiot – 6
Played 30 mins and provided chances despite Matuidi’s reluctance to play where Emery wanted him to.

Lucas – 4.5
Scored the winner but his positioning on the pitch continues to be a work in progress.

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Tags Adrien Rabiot Alphonse Areola Angel Di Maria Blaise Matuidi Edinson Cavani Hatem Ben Arfa Javier Pastore Julian Draxler Kevin Trapp Ligue 1 Marco Verratti Maxwell Presnel Kimpembe Serge Aurier Thiago Motta Thiago Silva Thomas Meunier Unai Emery


  1. I’m sorry Louis, but the 4-2-3-1 Emery fielded was extremely dynamic with HBA as the 10. One thing you didn’t mention was that Lille defended valiantly and Enyema was certainly up to the task, not to mention Lille sat deep and defended with 10 men behind the ball. Neglecting to mention this, doesn’t tell the whole story. Had PSG scored on one of HBA or Fideo’s shots, in the first half, I doubt you’d be as harsh in your assessment.

    Now I’ll agree Areola’s howler was inexcusable and the Lucas winner was offsides, but Paris deserved the win on the balance of play.

    Truth be told, I’d love to see Emery use the 4-2-3-1 vs Barça, as they won’t be anywhere near as defensive; as vulnerable as they’ve been at the back this term, we’ll surely carve them up, in that set-up. Just switch out Motta for Verratti, as the veteran Italian is suspended for the first leg of the UCL tie.

    1. I agree with you on the entirety, and although I didn’t categorically say the 4-2-3-1 was undynamic, I do agree that by focusing on the negatives more I made it seem like a bad lineup when it was ok, I was just focusing on case-by-case issues I observed in the match. I’d also go for a 4-2-3-1 against Barca, definitely with Verratti and Meunier, perhaps with Pastore if fit. I’d suggest listening to our latest PSGTalk podcast where we all went through our ideal lineups in the closing minutes

      1. I did listen to the last podcast, as I commented on that one as well. I don’t trust Meunier vs Neymar. Although he has been on form as of late, I believe Neymar is too tricky for him, and he was exposed vs Arsenal away, where he didn’t have a particularly great game vs Alexis. Seeing as how Serge pocketed Ronaldo last year in the group stages, I like that match-up better vs the Brazilian.

        I’d love to see Flaco as the 10 vs Barça, but he’ll seemingly never be fit. I think HBA can do the job vs Barça, especially since Busquets and Iniesta won’t be entirely match fit, and Macherano will be sidelined.

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