There were many things we learnt last night. Ezequiel Lavezzi is loved in Naples. Edinson Cavani is not so much. Laurent Blanc made an error of judgment over Thiago Silva. And Javier Pastore is continuing his sterling form which was topped off with a wonderful solo goal to give Paris Saint-Germain a 2-1 victory over Napoli.
‘El Flaco’ came on mid-way through the second-half during an influx of Parisien changes. There were actually doubts that he would even make the trip to Italy – where he made his name with Palermo – due to a slight back injury he picked up against Stade de Reims. If there was an issue with it, he certainly showed no lasting effects.
His pre-season was very good. With Jean-Christophe Bahebeck grabbing the headlines, and rightfully so, the Argentine had been going about his business quietly. He looks as sharp as he has done for a long, long time. The confidence is oozing from his pours and perhaps having a full pre-season to fully focus on his game after missing out on the World Cup has done him the world of good. There was a speculation once again over his future at the club after another hit and miss campaign. But, his agent incessantly reiterated the player’s desire to remain at the Parc des Princes.
Blanc has utilised him on the left-hand side of the midfield trio. During the games he will push further out wide if need be, especially if the formation is altered to a 4-2-3-1 which Blanc has started to incorporate. This seems a ploy to try and get the best out of Edinson Cavani as the central striker, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic dropping deeper. We will learn more over the coming weeks if this is to work but it is benefiting Pastore who is revelling in it.
He is no stranger at playing in these positions. But, I think the main difference is this understanding he has conjured up with Lucas Digne. The Frenchman returned early to pre-season training despite being involved in the World Cup. Credit to the young man, he has performed admirably, showing why he was so highly thought of at Lille. He will eventually be the successor to Maxwell of course at left-back but it will be a bold statement if he is able to overhaul him this season. Nevertheless, the signs are good. Pastore’s interplay with him has been excellent and been one of the main positives for me over the last couple of weeks.
We have seen this with Flaco that he can show a good run of form for a couple of weeks and end up being dropped which just puts him back to square one. He is a player that relies on confidence. The thing with him though is that he is scrutinised whenever he has a poor game. But, if Blanc can continue to get the best out of him on the left-hand side of the pitch, whether centrally or more out wide, there is no reason why he cannot have a productive season. The early indications are good but Blanc is important here and needs to ensure Pastore’s spirits remain high – even when he is not in the team due to rotation. At the moment he is in a good place, was man of the match against Reims, and scored a beauty last night. Long may it continue!