It is safe to say that little Marco Verratti is indispensable to PSG’s three man midfield. The stocky Italian has been outstanding since the turn of the year and despite some flaws in his game, the 22-year-old has become fundamental to this Parisian side.
Since he arrived in the summer of 2012 from Serie B club Pescara, he has been a first-team regular. That meteoric rise from playing in Italy’s second division to the Champions League in the space of four months is somewhat overlooked. He integrated into top-flight football with ease. It was as if he had been playing in it his entire career! This season though, particularly in the last two months, he has been instrumental in our current good run of form. This was evident during the 2-0 win over Monaco last Wednesday night as he controlled the game as he has done with many this season. His defence splitting pass for Edinson Cavani to make it 2-0 was crucial in booking our place in the last-four of the Coupe de France.
The performance that really struck me and proved just how indispensable he is to this side was the 1-1 draw against Chelsea just under three weeks ago. There were plenty of eye catching performances on the night. I thought David Luiz ran the game in that anchorman position but the player who controlled the flow of the game and kept things ticking over was Verratti. His composure on the ball, the tenacity to win it back; it just set a precedent for the rest of the team – and the supporters who chanted his name throughout the 90 revelled in it!
He does play on the edge. His discipline is atrocious in terms of racking up yellow cards and coach Laurent Blanc criticised him publicly after the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final win over Lille at the beginning of February where he picked up his ninth yellow of the season. He had got embroiled in a petty spat with Florent Balmont. Blanc said; “It’s always tricky with Marco but it’s no laughing matter for me. He punishes himself. Despite that, every time, we tell him. Apparently, he doesn’t understand. I adore him, he’s got bags of talent but he’s going to have problems if he continues like that. I have been taking preventative measures for the last two years. Carlo did it, too. That’s why I took him off. I should have taken him off at half-time”.
The coach did not disparage him by any means and his concerns are right. He does fall into this trap of conceding needless fouls which have hampered his disciplinary record. It is a part of his game that will hopefully improve as he matures but so far Carlo Ancelotti and Monsieur Blanc have been unable to tame him. But, if you curb that part of his game too much it may have a detrimental effect on his play. It is a catch-22 but the player needs to find the right balance.
As I alluded to his general play in midfield is pivotal to this PSG side and this statistic proves it. He has made the most amount of successful passes in Ligue 1 with 1,778. That is 235 more than second-placed Thiago Motta (1,543) and 352 more than third-placed Javier Pastore (1,426). Those figures tell the story for Verratti but also PSG as a whole. Three Parisian players sit within the top three by a distance! Fourth placed Giannelli Imbula of Marseille is in fourth place with 1,297 passes, yet has played more minutes than Marco, Motta and El Flaco.
He has even bagged his first goals for the club this season. He netted a header – despite being the smallest player on the pitch – against Barcelona last September and his first Ligue 1 goal against Evian back in January. That goal came in a 4-2 victory a week after the capitulation in Corsica as we let slip of a two goal lead to lose to Bastia. That result against Evian was the turning point for the imperious form we have shown since mid-January.
Verratti has been key to that upturn and he will blossom into one of Europe’s best central midfielders over the coming years. There is still plenty of room for improvement but my word he is on the right track!