The 4-0 drubbing over Olympique Lyonnais was a landmark result. Not only was it the biggest win over the multiple Ligue 1 champions at the Parc des Princes but it puts us just one result away from equalling the club’s longest ever unbeaten sequence of 37 games. With a result like that there are plenty of positives to take but for me it was the re-emergence of Javier Pastore who was given a rare start and performed admirably.
The Argentine’s inclusion was a surprise. With Blaise Matuidi sitting out the first-half due to a virus, coach Laurent Blanc opted to field ‘El Flaco’ in his place instead of the ever improving Adrien Rabiot. The young Frenchman would have been the logical choice and a few eyebrows were certainly raised – no more so than mine. Blanc did not alter with the formation to cater for Pastore’s inclusion. The formation remained a 4-3-3 with the former Palermo man playing on the left-hand side of the central three with Thiago Motta sitting in the middle and Marco Verratti to his right.
The opening 30 minutes were really frustrating for the whole team. The visitors made it difficult for us. They stifled our play, pressed high when we had possession and just suffocated any space we tried to utilise. Les Gones were incredibly unlucky not to go ahead in truth after Alexandre Lacazette turned Thiago Silva with ease before skipping past Verratti and Gregory Van der Wiel but then subsequently smashed the bar. It could have been a game changer there and then. But, the magnificence of Blanc’s tactical awareness paid off again. After the half hour mark he instructed Pastore to usher further forward, leaving Motta and Verratti sitting in front of the back four as a two. It changed the game!
Not only did we begin to impose ourselves on Lyon, Pastore began to stand out. So many times he has been played out of position which has resulted in games passing him by. I have always been a staunch defender of the number 27. For me he has technical ability and elegance on the ball that is rarely matched on the continent but he is a player who runs on confidence, something he has not had really had since his first 12 weeks in Paris. There have been glimpses, but never a prolonged period. But credit to Blanc by ushering him forward. He played as a free spirit more or less in the proximity of Edinson Cavani and behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic where he was more involved.
Cavani gave Les Parisiens the lead in the 36th minute with a header from a corner. The second came from the reward of a penalty that was all Pastore’s doing. ‘Flaco’ played a defence splitting pass for Cavani who was brought down and Ibra stepped up to make it 2-0. The weight of the pass from Pastore totally eluded the Lyon back four as they were caught unawares and unfortunately for Remy Vercoutre he was left one on one with ‘El Matador’ before bringing him down.
Thiago Silva made it 3-0 in the second-half before Pastore played another diligent pass for Lucas Moura to get onto. The Brazilian then slid in Ibra in the penalty area who was brought down himself and then made it 4-0 from the spot. Again, Pastore involved.
It was by no means a master class of a performance from Pastore but it was a delight to see him excel more in a position that he is accustomed to. Blanc started him in central midfield but certainly got the better of him in a more advance central role. That is where the player wants to be, it is where he started his Parisien career. He is most comfortable in that part of the pitch and he proved to be an asset on Sunday night. Regardless of that, Blanc will not change his system to accommodate one player so the 4-3-3 formation will continue and rightfully so as it has brought us unbridled success under his tenure so far. But, Pastore has done himself a world of good with that performance and he completed 90 minutes for the first time in a long time. Blanc will have been impressed with ‘El Flaco’ so it is up to the player to build on this positivity to stay in the coach’s thoughts.
He is too good a player to be discarded. It would be a crying shame if he was to leave the club on a whimper as much of the speculation in recent weeks has suggested. So for him, building on that display against Lyon is imperative. He stands a very good chance to start against Evian tomorrow night if Matuidi is still feeling the ill effects of his virus. If he does start and excels, then the only way is up for the 24-year-old.
It is down to him now!