Blaise Matuidi they say is the ‘lungs’ of the Paris St Germain team to which he is an essential element. The athleticism and tireless running of the 26 year old midfielder with fifteen French caps to his name is an exhausting trial of observation, let alone personal endeavour. The ubiquitous evidence of his efforts is such that it is almost impossible but to commend it regularly throughout a match. Truly he never seems to stop.
On day five of the French Ligue 1 calendar, Matuidi and the French Champions PSG descended to France’s south westerly coast with the intention of seeing off Bordeaux. More globally renowned for their wine, the current disposition of Bordeaux’s team mirrors the poor harvest their grapes have apparently suffered in the summer just gone. As of Friday night Bordeaux continue to sit marooned in the bottom quarter of the Ligue 1 table. PSG however delivered a performance that annulled the doubts of Laurent Blanc’s slow start as manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s 2012/13 title-winning vintage.
Sustained by their ‘lungs’, PSG are a side indicative of numerous bodily functions; each often performing with esteemed brilliance. The marauding runs of Matuidi demand a stable defensive covering and expertise: ‘ribs’ perhaps? Protecting PSG’s ‘lungs’ is a role deftly played by their centre back, Thiago Silva. It is often the merit hidden within a Joey, Joseph, Joe Barton insult that indicates true greatness at work. An ‘overweight ladyboy’ Thiago Silva is not, but ‘immense’ he certainly is. True enough he cost the Qatari funded PSG project somewhere in the region of €40 million, however, his value to PSG borders on priceless. Glimpses of his performances in last season’s Champions League suitably enhanced his reputation.
However, to view his contribution in a slightly less challenging domestic league truly reveals the talent of the individual who holds together such a hastily assembled side. What John Terry and Vincent Kompany were to Chelsea and Man City as they embarked on being ‘new money’ resembles what Thiago Silva is now to PSG; a rock. The fur coats and fast cars of get-rich-quick clubs garner their pleasuring effect from the solid investment one makes in a player such as Silva.
As for those fur coats and fast cars, PSG possess quite a few. Edinson Cavani, Lucas Moura, Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi are not quite household names in this part of the world although to many the names appear familiar. Costing a combined one hundred and eighty million euro, this assortment of a Uruguayan (Cavani), a Brazilian (Moura) and a pair of Argentines (Pastore and Lavezzi) are PSG’s necessary flair players. In the 2-0 demolition – the score does little to reveal the overwhelming control PSG wielded over Bordeaux – of Friday night the reality of these stereotypical purchases became clear; rarely does each perform at the level to which they were expected.
The injured but indifferent figure of Pastore wasn’t suitably fit to travel, but perhaps more notably, Lavezzi – without any physician’s order – didn’t feature at all. Of the sixty-four million euro man Cavani, his emergence as a sub came when little more had to be done but see out the remaining time. It was the Brazilian Moura who offered a dangerously obvious view of what big money can occasionally purchase. Believed to have been divided between PSG and Manchester United before his ultimate arrival in Paris, Moura is a figure of devastating pace, precision and power. His contribution to Friday night’s affair in Bordeaux culminated in a superbly taken goal from a similarly perfect pass by Marco Verratti. Moura’s conversion of the chance relied on a supreme feint to the left – somewhat akin but perhaps not as impressive as Eoin Mulligan’s goal for Tyrone against Dublin in 2005 All-Ireland Quarter Final – before slotting the ball into a goal left gaping by the hapless Carrasso of Bordeaux. Of all four flashy figures it will be fascinating to view their performances in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. This will be the stage on which many of South America’s numerous imported stars of European football decide their own fate on the global stage.
While the minutiae of the human form cannot find equal adulation in being attributed to a single player and their role for PSG, it is a direct link from Silva to Matuidi to Zlatan Ibrahimovic that perhaps provides the most fascinating facet of this Parisian outfit. If Matuidi is the lungs, and Silva their protective ribs then Ibrahimovic is the resultant voice. His manner and performance tend to go hand in hand; both are swaggering. Indeed he will often lose the ball as much as he would do something dangerous with it. Yet, with thirty league goals in thirty four appearances last season he has every reason to do what he pleases. The egocentric element of his personal and professional life are well covered, yet, his performance rarely dips below superb with the exception of an odd game that will pass by without any impact by him.
On Friday night Bordeaux felt the full force of simply allowing him to look up when on the ball. In a manner that represented the professional unity of this side Matuidi won the ball in his own box. A Silva orchestrated back line looked to reissue the ball forward as Matuidi tore up the left hand side of the pitch. Receiving the ball in an advanced position, Matuidi fed it back to Zlatan who at this stage was some thirty yards from goal, slightly to Carrasso’s left. A brief glance allowed Zlatan to pick out a pass so devastatingly accurate that neither the Bordeaux defence nor Carrasso in the Bordeaux goal could react quickly enough before Matuidi tore inside and got his shot off. Perhaps indicative of his commitment, Matuidi’s shot failed to beat Carrasso initially and it was only because he continued running that he could get to the broken ball before Carrasso and slot the ball home. It was truly a wonderful goal built on a strong foundation, a determined athleticism and a guile enabled by the efficiency of both.
While the re-emergence of Champions League football will bring PSG back into the continental spotlight, it is with sincere recommendation that I suggest one tune into their domestic dealings. In week six of the Ligue 1 season – next weekend – PSG will play their only legitimate domestic rivals of the current season; Monaco. With the likes of Ibrahimovic, Moura, Silva, Cavani and Matuidi on one side, and Falcao, James Rodriquez, Joao Moutinho, Ricardo Carvalho and Lucas Ocampos on the other, it’s difficult to see why you would dare miss it.