Mohamed Sissoko did not have the smoothest of transitions upon his arrival to Paris Saint-Germain but the Malian international is now slowly and surely implementing himself as a key asset in Antoine Kombouare’s side.
He arrived with an injury already in tow during his time with Italian giants Juventus last season and underwent knee surgery to rectify it. After weeks of rehabilitation and regaining his fitness, he finally made his debut away to Montpellier at the back end of September – two months after signing on the dotted line.
Unfortunately, he was dealt yet another setback five days after making his bow, by getting himself sent off during a Europa League clash in Spain against Athletic Bilbao. That seemingly sparked a domino effect in which he got himself booked in his three next outings, including one for the reserves against Auxerre.
It became apparent that his lack of fitness was somewhat hindering his mobility on the pitch, thus making reckless tackles in which he had no chance of winning. His Coach undoubtedly did the correct thing by gently easing him into his setup, but even he could not be blamed for the player’s rashness. During the huge 2-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais, he got himself booked five minutes after coming on as a substitute and has already racked up eight yellow cards in just 13 appearances – many coming as a substitute.
Any PSG fan could be forgiven to think that the player was becoming a liability for his lack of discipline but he is now beginning to prove his worth. The injury suffered by Blaise Matuidi has been a real blessing in disguise for Sissoko. That allowed him to undertake that central midfield role, operating just in front of the back four. His duty is simple, break up the play and distribute in a simple manner – primarily – out wide to the likes of Nene and Jeremy Menez to generate a counter-attack. The void filled by Claude Makelele’s retirement last season now means the baton is being passed on to a Sissoko or Matuidi to fulfil that role which the veteran did superbly throughout his career.
Matuidi had a wonderful start to his PSG career since moving from Saint Etienne in the summer but a series of injury setbacks now means he will not be back until the New Year. That undoubtedly means Sissoko now carries much more of a responsibility on his shoulders and is gradually taking it in his stride. Although he still has a tendency to be a little rash, he is now a much more calm and collected figure with an eye for a pass. His presence is certainly beneficial to the team but could do with some continuity in terms of a partner in centre midfield. Kombouare has rotated the likes of Mathieu Bodmer and Clement Chantome but either of them have really pulled up any trees so far.
Although the club went on that torrid run of no win in four, including the humiliation away to Marseille, Kombouare continued to include Sissoko, underlining just how highly he is regarded by him. The problem was not down to a weakness in midfield but more due to a shaky defence and a lack of potency in attack. After all, PSG enjoy so much possession in the majority of their games but struggle to capitalise on it in the final third.
The victory away to Sochaux on Saturday was perhaps Sissoko’s best display so far in a Parisian shirt. The first-half in particular showcased his ability, being able to quell the opposition and then set the tone for the attack by getting the ball out wide quickly, or even into the feet of Javier Pastore to stretch his long legs through the heart of the defence.
His presence in the team is certainly warranted and although he hit rocky shores in his first few months, he is now becoming an integral cog in the middle of the park. Kombouare will always have one or two guaranteed names on his team sheet but Sissoko may not be too far away from earning that feat himself if he continues in the same vein.