Familiar problems for Blanc and PSG
Paris Saint-Germain were held to a second draw of the season by Evian Thonon Gaillard in Annecy on Friday. The French champions failed to score and played out a 0-0 draw with a Savoyard side that had conceded nine goals in its first two Ligue 1 games this season.
It was not a classic encounter at Parc des Sports and Yohan Cabaye's second-half send off could have contributed to a worse result overall.
Five points from a possible nine in le Championnat so far is not automatically a cause for concern, especially considering the number of absentees that Laurent Blanc's squad are dealing with at present through either injury or recovery following a prolonged break after the World Cup this summer. However, it is not a good total either and PSG can feel somewhat disappointed by their start to the season overall.
The capital club have failed to hit the ground running and Blanc is putting himself in a sensitive position ahead of the start of the UEFA Champions League campaign.
Back to the Evian clash, though, and perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the victory is that the performance felt so familiar. Despite a number of changes made in reaction to a spate of recent injuries, les Parisiens were predictable and short of ideas in south-eastern France. Once it had become clear enough that Blanc's original plan for the encounter was not working, there was no sign of a reaction from le President, no back-up and no Plan B.
Since the start of the season, it is clear that PSG still rely on their 4-3-3 formation a little too much and that Blanc has no real plans of moving away from it if he can help it. The Evian game presented the Frenchman with the perfect opportunity to test a few new things out. But instead, the 48-year-old just shuffled his players within the same system that served the capital club well last season, albeit becoming extremely predictable toward the end of the last campaign.
In fact, it was the narrow 1-0 home win over Evian earlier this year that was proof that the 4-3-3 system so prized by Blanc was reaching its limitations. So while the result is not a complete disaster, the tactician's refusal to experiment and try a new style of play -- particularly with the dominant Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent -- is an opportunity gone begging.
One of the players Blanc brought into the PSG starting XI for the Evian clash was French international Cabaye. Despite perfectly slotting into Thiago Motta's position in front of the defence, the 28-year-old looked ill at ease in les Parisiens' midfield -- as has often been the case since his January arrival -- and the former Newcastle United man's red card raises questions once again about the decision to bring him to the club in late January.
The signing of Cabaye, along with that of David Luiz, are two of the most unnecessary pieces of business that PSG have done in the past year or so. Both have happened since Leonardo left the club and the true value of having someone in position as sporting director is now being illustrated on the pitch. The French capital outfit are crying out for some creativity in midfield -- a player in the Angel Di Maria mold -- or an experienced striker. But unfortunately it seems as if the moves for the likes of Cabaye, and Luiz especially, have limited PSG so much that it is difficult to now change their style in the way that Blanc wants without further investment in the face of UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP).
Making another move before the end of the transfer window now looks unlikely, meaning that Blanc needs to find a way of reinventing how this team plays in order to make them more efficient and less predictable.
It was not all doom and gloom, though. Lucas Digne looks as though he is on the verge of making the starting left-back spot his own and the central defensive partnership of David Luiz and Marquinhos has looked strong so far, having helped to keep two clean sheets already. The return of Blaise Matuidi to the midfield was also a massive plus point and the French international midfielder captained the side, while adding his usual authority to the midfield trio before Cabaye was dismissed.
Overall, it is still early in the season and Blanc should not find himself under pressure because of two drawn matches out of PSG's first three fixtures. However, his tactical naivety and lack of flexibility are already evident once again and he must have those problems remedied before the Champions League gets underway.