PSG’s 3-0 win over Monaco in the Coupe de la Ligue final, played last night in Bordeaux, was to be expected, even as the southern side were no longer struggling with injuries, save Keita Baldé. The holders looked ropy at times, but ultimately delivered a strong performance, even though, much like last season, it will be too little, too late to save the PSG career of Unai Emery. While the Spaniard may be on his way out, with Thomas Tuchel currently tipped to replace him, there is more to this match to take away than an inevitable march toward another treble.
1 | Mbappé carries form
Kylian Mbappé was brilliant and incisive for France in the last week, displaying none of the selfishness that has dogged him at times with his club. Playing a freer role for his country, he notched a double in a win over Russia, and while he hadn’t been quite as influential in the loss to Colombia, he looks to be well and truly warming to a role as one of the key men for Didier Deschamps. Whether he could translate that form into success for his club side remained a question, even as he has stepped his play up in the weeks since the defeat to Real Madrid, albeit against poorer opposition than he faced at the Matmut Atlantique.
Here, with Neymar missing and a first trophy on the line against in-form Monaco, the teenager continued to show that same combination of determination and selflessness that made him so effective for France, recording two assists and winning the penalty for Cavani’s opener. Better finishing could have even seen that tally boosted but suffice to say that we are seeing a player transformed, something which bodes very well not only for his own development but for France in the months ahead.
2 | Jardim’s personnel decisions leave much to be desired
Monaco were deployed in their customary 4-2-3-1, with Leonardo Jardim playing his strongest side with Keita Baldé injured and Rony Lopes in form. Or, one could argue, almost his strongest side, as the marauding left back Jorge was left on the bench. Granted, one could see how Jardim might be wary of the attacking nous of Dani Alves, but the former Barcelona man has looked his worst this season when confronted with a player who is committed to taking him on directly, pinning him back and limiting his effectiveness. Max-Alain Gradel tormented him for Toulouse, and the combination of Houssem Aouar and Ferland Mendy were similarly successful for Lyon.
Why, then, was Jorge left on the bench for the more prosaic Andrea Raggi, especially with Rony Lopes and Thomas Lemar playing on the “wrong” flanks? There can even be a question fairly asked of the decision to start Falcao over Stevan Jovetic, despite the Colombian’s record this season. Jardim will surely have his own answers to these questions, but on the evidence on show on Saturday evening, the Portuguese’s normally sound decisions came off poorly, limiting his side’s effectiveness in what was a fairly open match for much of the early going.
3 | Lemar as good as gone?
Second place would seem relatively assured for Monaco, but Marseille have kept the pressure on with a late win against Dijon earlier in the day. The holders still have tricky matches ahead against Nantes, Rennes and PSG, as well; slipping to third is a very real possibility. It may seem cruel to ring him up given his struggles with injury throughout the campaign, but much of that is down to the form of Thomas Lemar, who was largely indifferent, even after swapping flanks with Lopes.
That a mooted winter move to Liverpool didn’t come off may be the source of his frustration, but even if his head has been turned, Lemar, given is potential as an attacking catalyst, simply needs to display higher levels of professionalism and determination, regardless of a likely summer move.
4 | A month on, PSG find their defensive focus
After a fairly open first half which saw some dubious decisions from the officials, Paris Saint-Germain came back out in the second half to deliver a stifling performance. It was the type of play that would have suited them well after being so close to a draw in Madrid, and even if Monaco aren’t to the level of the Spanish champions, it should serve as a reminder of what PSG can achieve when they put their minds to something collectively. Adrien Rabiot and the substitute Javier Pastore were particularly instrumental here, but Thiago Silva also offered a vintage performance. Not that fans of the club will enjoy being reminded of it, but if the Parisians could have offered this sort of performance in Spain, the mood around the cub might be very different at present.
5 | Draxler recoups form
It would only be right to conclude with a word for Julian Draxler, who sparkled throughout, although particularly after moving to the left flank after the introduction of Pastore. Used more sparingly in 2018 with the emergence of Giovani Lo Celso and the improvement of Angel Di Maria, the German international had become, if not the forgotten man, certainly not the force he had been in last season’s run-in. On the night, though, he was superb, offering a display that was at once supremely creative and motivated, a reminder that even if there is little to play for with his club, his good form can be of much consolation to his country this summer.