At the heart of this year’s GFFN Ligue 1 Team of the Year, two seasoned French central midfielders have more than earned their spot.
The first, is box-to-box Duracell bunny Blaise Matuidi. The PSG man, although perhaps earning his spot this year on reputation rather than raw performances during the 2015/16 campaign, has continued to play a crucial role for Laurent Blanc’s side in all competitions this season.
At the age of 29, there is no doubt that Matuidi is reaching, or has maybe even reached the height of his powers, but his performance just last weekend against Marseille in the Coupe de France proved yet again just how exceptionally talented he is at both ends of the pitch.
Scoring in the first 90 seconds of the encounter thanks to quick thinking and a composed finish, Matuidi set the tone for the fixture, also winning a penalty in the second half after totally outwitting Nicolas N’Koulou.
The reason why Matuidi has perhaps generally been less highlighted during this campaign is that he is less free to roam positionally during the absence of Marco Verratti. The Italian has missed large spells of this season through injury and as a result, Matuidi has been forced to hold position more as Adrien Rabiot learns his craft at the elite level.
With 31 league appearances to his name and 10 goals/assists this season, Blaise Matuidi’s relationship and understanding with Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been key to his offensive successes.
There is no doubt that Matuidi will miss the big Swede next season, and at the age of 29, it is perhaps no wonder than the French international might be considering his future at PSG in favour of the Premier League after EURO 2016.
Matuidi will arguably be France’s most crucial player during this summer’s championships and this status is testament to his consistency week in, week out for PSG.
The other spot in the GFFN Ligue 1 Team of the Year midfield goes to another French international midfielder, but one who has had a very surprising 2015/16.
When Lassana Diarra joined Marseille last summer on a free transfer, with the ongoing legal battle with Lokomotiv Moscow concerning a contract dispute still hanging over his head, nobody was expecting him to walk into this OM side and be so dominant, so quickly, but that is exactly what happened.
By finishing 13th, nobody can deny that, especially in comparison with the previous campaign under Marcelo Bielsa where they fought PSG for the title, Marseille have had an abysmal campaign.
But without the ball-playing wizard and consistently intercepting Lassana Diarra, OM’s central midfield would have been one of the worst in Ligue 1, with Lucas Silva struggling to make any form of impact, Alaixys Romao constantly underperforming and Mauricio Isla being used like some polyvalent plug to stop water from entering into the already tipping Marseille boat in whatever position needed.
Diarra’s leadership and star quality was also undoubtedly an assuring factor for so many Marseille players this season, especially because of the large quantity of individuals who joined the Mediterranean outfit new in the 2015/16 campaign.
Deschamps quickly fell in love with Diarra again, despite his age (31), and the OM man will fight with N’Golo Kanté for a starting spot in the French national team at EURO 2016.
With Diarra and Matuidi, this side is really taking shape, a robust, physical yet technically gifted midfield pairing with the experience and proven quality that any side in Europe would kill for.