Ligue 1 may have kicked off on the Friday night with Champions Montpellier in action but the eyes of the nation were focused on the capital as the spotlight fell on Qatari owned Paris Saint-Germain, who opened the season against FC Lorient. After spending €100 million last season it was Lorient that shocked the Parisians on the opening night in 2011/12. With another €150 million spent this summer could Christian Gourcuff’s men spring another shock at the Parc des Princes?
Now with an embarrassment of riches at his disposal all the talk had been about the formation Carlo Ancelotti would go with and what players he’d play in the opening game. Just like most of last season he opted to stay with the 4-3-2-1, which could have been as easily as interpreted as a 4-3-3 but miles away from Antoine Kombouaré’s 4-2-3-1 that seems like a lifetime ago.
In contrast it was no secret that Gourcuff would start in his usual 4-4-2 giving a Lorient debut to new record signing from Auxerre Alain Traore. There were, however, more surprises in the XI Ancelotti named. With Javier Pastore suspended and Nene and Blaise Matuidi named on the bench it was a much different side to what was used last season. A midfield trio of Clement Chantome, Marco Veratti and Mathieu Bodmer played behind a front three of Jeremy Menez, Ezequiel Lavezzi and, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The game was a perfect example of individualism in contrast to collective organisation. On the face of it PSG easily dominated the game. 20 shots on goal with nine on target - 65% possession and 87% of their passes completed. Something that PSG are going to have to learn quickly though is that there are no easy games in this league, if they don’t play to their potential there are plenty of teams able to cause them a few upsets, with Lorient the prime example.
After only four minutes Lorient went 1-0 up when Kevin Monnet-Paquet exploited the space left in behind marauding full-back and captain Christophe Jallet. Monnet-Paquet broke down the wing, cut inside and although his cross didn’t find a teammate it was a dangerous ball in and Maxwell, under pressure, turned it into his own net. The perfect start for Lorient and the nightmare start for the Parisians.
Gourcuff had certainly done his homework, focusing in on PSG’s weak link - Christophe Jallet. He is always an exciting player breaking forward but all too often he leaves space behind him. This was the focus of Lorient’s game plan, with 46% of their attacks coming down the left. If Ancelotti is going to allow his captain a free role to bomb forward at will then he is going to need more support from his teammates.
Clement Chantome didn’t do enough to cover the space Jallet left when pushing forward, and at no point did Ancelotti’s midfield trio look like helping out with their defensive duties, so it was no surprise when Lorient’s second goal came from the same side. Jeremie Aliardière drifted to the left, picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and beat three PSG defenders before slipping the ball past Nicolas Douchez.
In one move Aliardière highlighted the lack of defensive awareness from Jallet, the lack of cover from midfield and the vulnerability of Brazilian defender Alex when he is pulled out of his centre-back role. A wonderful run from the former Arsenal forward and a well-deserved lead doubled for the away side.
At half-time PSG were given a glimmer of hope from their impressive opponents. Lorient centre-back Bruno Ecuele-Manga had to come off at half time after jarring his knee in a superb challenge against Ibrahimovic late in the first half. Mathieu Coutadeur replaced the Gabon defender and Alexis Romao came into the defence. Both Ecuele-Manga and Gregory Bourillon were imperious in the first half and as PSG began to push forward with regularity, the absence of Ecuele-Manga began to tell. Jallet, although a questionable defender, was actually one of PSG’s better attacking options, constantly pushing over the halfway line. In fact, only Clement Chantome touched the ball more - quite a contrast when compared to the uninspiring Jeremy Menez.
The former Roma player’s position in the side will be questionable after his less than striking performance, with only one shot on target, some huge chances missed and only one successful dribble. It is interesting that out of the 14 PSG players that took the pitch on Saturday, Menez ranked 9th with a WhoScored rating of 6.76. A player of Menez quality should have had a much more prolific game.
In the end one man made all the difference for PSG this weekend - Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After a quiet and frustrating first half he came to life in the second with eight shots on goal, three of which were on target, and an impressive eight aerial duels won against tough opposition.
His distribution could have been better, with only 63% of his passes finding his target. That was all forgotten though as he stepped up and near enough single handily won his new team a point. An exceptional leap and control on the chest for his first goal and then dispatching a late penalty on his debut was enough to get the home fans drooling.
Overall it is obvious that Ancelotti has a lot of work to do with this side in order to dominate Ligue 1 in the way that everyone expects them to. Every game they are going to find a team looking to take the biggest of scalps, and this will continue on Sunday away at Corsican side AC Ajaccio. Their goal in the 1-0 win over Nice came from a Sigimary Diarra cross from the left. Now will Jallet get protection or can Alex Dupont’s men exploit this to their advantage?