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FEATURE | The pro-Ben Arfa camp

Questions are being asked of PSG’s attackers. A quick browse through the usual PSG papers (L’Equipe, Le Parisien) since the start of the season show that the best players are positioned elsewhere on the pitch.

The big question is whether PSG’s front 3 is good enough for a side competing for the Champions’ League. As Tuesday’s 2-1 win in Basel showed, the front 3 were ineffective and when given the chance they simply didn’t deliver (as usual eh Cavani). Looking past the Uruguayan’s abysmal chance/goal ratio, the 2 players playing either side of him – Angel di Maria and Lucas Moura – are not exactly helping.

The Argentine has become very predictable and his few moments of technical brilliance are becoming more and more useless. He is fast becoming the player he was at Manchester United: he should be playing better but his heart just does not seem to be in it.

Lucas Moura is of a lesser technical quality than di Maria but he compensates this flaw by his pressing, passing and sometimes finishing. Or at least he used to.

Since almost signing for Manchester United (notice how both wingers had close connections with this club), Lucas has been an ever-present figure for PSG under the Qatari regime. His goal return isn’t great for a winger but he did enable Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score an insane amount of goals. The problem is that Zlatan has left (to join, you guessed it, Manchester United) and Cavani is as ineffective as all the experts predicted him to be.

Lucas hence needs to take charge and come up with the goods himself. A new status, a new challenge and he is just not doing that right now against the big sides (mind you, neither is di Maria but he’s got more of this undroppable tag hovering over his head).

The 0-0 bore draw in Le Classique was typically the occasion for Lucas to take the bull by the horns and create something but, just like against Basel, he stuck on the wing playing backpasses to the full-back. PSG already have a player to do that job; his name is Thiago Motta.

The alternative on the bench is Hatem Ben Arfa. Since his superb season with Nice, he has come back from his summer holidays overweight and has been told by Emery to buck up and work harder on the training ground.

In fairness, his season has simply not really started to get going yet. Ben Arfa is eager to get some playing time but to date he is simply not being given the opportunities (2 starts and 6 sub appearances in Ligue 1, 9 miserable minutes against Basel in the Champions’ League).

Now Lucas does alternate from wing to wing from time to time in any given game but his play is very one-dimensional and a lot of his success in creating an opening on the wing depends on the quality (or lack of) of the player playing behind him: the full-back. Thankfully, PSG have 2 of the best full-backs in Europe in Serge Aurier on the right and Layvin Kurzawa on the left.

Not only Lucas, but PSG play and attack much better whenever those two are on the pitch.

Of course it is hard to prove definitively that Ben Arfa would excel in this PSG squad given his limited minutes on the pitch this season but chances are he would do a better job than Lucas currently is.

He can play in more formations than the Brazilian without being stuck on the wing (thinking 4-2-3-1 especially) and is capable of playing between the lines, able to create openings. It is this column’s opinion that Ben Arfa also has a better shot and is a better finisher than Lucas (he’s not as quick as him, I’ll give you that).

So please, Unai, we all know he has been an annoying little brat in the past but give little Hatem a chance.

Philip Bargiel

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