By Robin Bairner | French Football Editor
Sunday’s Derby de France encounter between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain finds neither side in the flush of their form.
After an improved run of results prior to the last international break, it seemed that Marseille had climbed out of crisis, but a defeat against league leaders Montpellier followed by an abhorrent performance against Olympiakos in the Champions League, which was preceded by a blazing row between coach Didier Deschamps and striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, has plunged OM back into trouble.
|FATIGUED FRONT FOUR
Despite les Parisiens’ still-strong standing in the table, head coach Antoine Kombouare’s future continues to come under speculation, at least partly because performances have not been cohesive. Rather than playing as a team, PSG are being carried by a series of individual cameos, with their star front four of Kevin Gameiro, Nene, Jeremy Menez and record signing Javier Pastore playing to their individual potential only in fits and starts, and virtually never to their collective level.
Though there would appear to be almost limitless promise in this front four – at Ligue 1 level, in any case – the performance against Nancy simply highlighted that they have often been disjointed this term. Moreover, it emphasised the dip in form that Pastore is presently suffering.
The Argentine’s influence in his opening matches for PSG was profound. Showing freshness of thought and of feet, the ex-Palermo player captivated fans for six weeks, scoring some spectacular goals and winning the club’s Player of the Month award for both August and September.
Since, though, the 22-year-old has been an almost-ghostly figure for the Parc des Princes side, drifting in and out of matches, showing only fleeting glimpses of his best.
The issue is, at least partly, caused by PSG’s lack of depth, and is one of the reasons they will be forced to invest in the January transfer window.
|PASTORE'S FIRST 11 GAMES FOR PSG
AVERAGE MINUTES PER GAME
| PASTORE'S LAST SEVEN GAMES FOR PSG
AVERAGE MINUTES PER GAME
Pastore, stretched by international commitments that have seen him travel to South America for two sets of World Cup qualifiers over the course of the last two months, has been particularly affected.
As Goal.com's Kris Voakes has previously pointed out, Pastore is not physically robust over long periods of time, and the intense start to the campaign he’s had has speeded up the depletion of his form; a fact that the player has freely hinted at.
“The truth is, at my previous clubs, I wasn't used to playing every three days,” the player recently confessed to the media.
Additionally, Pastore noted: “It hasn’t been easy spending the last two months living in a hotel room.”
Clearly, the Argentine’s introduction to French football hasn’t exactly been stress-free. On top of all this, the intensity of playing 21 matches (18 for his club, three for his country) since the latter part of August appears to have taken its toll.
Respite has simply been impossible to find, with even the Europa League providing no sanctuary due to a lack of depth and the demands on the club to succeed.
Football, now more than ever, is a squad game and, at present, PSG’s 14 or 15 high-class players are not enough to lift them to an elite level in the European game, as Pastore’s early-season burnout has only served to prove.
There is no reason, however, that ‘El Flaco’ cannot make a second coming after Christmas, though that will require PSG’s Qatari owners to dip into the transfer market once more, this time not necessarily to add world-class quality, but to supplement a starting XI that is beginning to heave under a heavy strain of games.
Let the rumours recommence.
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