The Get French Football News Talking Points column, written by Eric Devin.
With all of the rest of the top six failing to win for just the second time this year, Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 victory over Nice was remarkable not only for its standing out from their fellow contenders but for its raw efficiency.
Now in the driver’s seat for the title, level on points with Lyon with a game against Metz in hand, PSG weathered the suspensions of Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the injuries of Thiagos Motta and Silva with aplomb. With Lucas Moura once again fit, Laurent Blanc even managed to give Blaise Matuidi a bit of rest, something he had been missing during this current run of fixtures, Javier Pastore playing in the midfield three alongside Yohan Cabaye and Adrien Rabiot.
It was Pastore’s energetic performance that proved the difference against a spiky Nice side desperate for just a few more points to confirm their Ligue 1 status for next season. With the match level at half-time and Salvatore Sirigu having already had to make a tremendous save from Carlos Eduardo, it was Pastore’s sublime bit of skill on 63 minutes that proved the difference, keeping the ball up in the area before being denied by Simon Pouplin, only to fire home the rebound and give PSG the lead. Having cruelly gone behind, much of the fight went out of Nice, and had Edinson Cavani not been felled in the box with twenty-odd minutes remaining, Pastore could’ve perhaps added an assist to his totals on the afternoon.
With the Argentine leading the way, the result was never in doubt, despite a couple of gilt-edged chances for the home side, despite a none-too-large disparity between shots on target and possession and several fine saves from Pouplin on the evening. With the incisiveness of Pastore and the fit again Lucas Moura, PSG’s efficiency in attack has become truly menacing, having scored at least 3 goals in 7 of the last 8 matches in which the Argentine has featured, boding well for the side’s title chances. Relatively successful in Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 as a winger, Pastore had struggled last season to make much of an impact under Blanc, leading some to question his value given his transfer fee and wages.
Having this season proved he can play deeper as part of a midfield three, adding to his versatility by being willing to put in a shift defensively, Pastore has arguably been PSG’s best player, especially in providing needed creative impetus during Lucas’ long injury layoff. With the squad returning to full fitness and only now seeming shifting into gear, the Argentine has every chance to be the catalyst in leading PSG to a domestic treble.