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Veni, vidi, vici. I came, saw and won. That’s how Javier Pastore could talk about his first matches for Paris Saint-Germain. He immediately assisted twice in his first match for Les Parisiens against the Luxembourgish amateurs from Differdange. 3 days later he played 33 minutes against Valenciennes without having much of an impact. On the following match day though, Javier Pastore played 90 minutes in Toulouse and assisted another 2 goals. He scored some more goals but his performances didn’t stay on the same level. So far, he has scored 12 goals and given 5 assists in 35 matches. Doesn’t sound very great for someone who came for 42 million Euro from Palermo, does it? Why?
Actually, Javier Pastore isn’ the same anymore. It seems like he was erring on the pitch, not knowing what to do. Some even say he wasn’t interested anymore, desperate and would only play when he has the ball. He is blamed to be too nonchalant and to be thinking a bit selfish. It is said he should play less individually and more for the team.
But there were also better times for the 22-year-old midfielder. As already said, Pastore was one of the best players of the Ligue 1 in the beginning of the season. His stats were simply amazing and blew everyone’s mind. 21.4% of his shots meant a goal, 4.7 dribbles a match were successful, he created 2.7 opportunities per game and was one of the most important players for PSG with 57 touches per 90 minutes. Furthermore he scored every 139 minutes. This has changed drastically though. Why?
The turning point was the league game in Bordeaux on the 6th of November. It was the beginning of the worst phase in the era Kombouaré. It was Pastore’s first truly bad game for Paris Saint-Germain, he was invisible for 90 minutes and got booked for the first time. Pastore wasn’t the only one playing bad, the whole team was performing way below their best. After this game, Paris lost 2 league games in a row, including the classico against Marseille. Unlike his team mates who regained strength and didn’t lose any match until the 21st of March (2-3 in the French cup against Lyon), Javier could never really prove his brilliancy again.
After Bordeaux, “El Flaco” (The Skinny) has only scored every 365 minutes (every 139 minutes before), had 0.9 shots on target a game (1.4), only 8.1% of his shots were successful (21.4%) and 1.3 dribbles a game could be completed (1.7). There are actually many reasons for this. The most probable explanation is that he has run out of power. Between the 16th of October and the 11th of November, Pastore had to play one game every 3 days due to the Europa League, the Ligue 1 and the national team in which he never played less than 85 minutes, except for the second game against Bratislava (71 minutes). It’s understandable that such a young player as Javier Pastore can’t bear this burden forever.
The high amount of games surely isn’t the only reason for the Argentinian’s rather bad performances though. He was also injured for almost one month between January and February due to an injury in the left thigh. During that time he couldn’t train with the rest of his team under the new manager Carlo Ancelotti and missed another important part of the preparations after he had already missed the pre-season under Antoine Kombouaré due to the late deal between Leonardo and Palermo. Thus he could never fully fit into the different tactical systems and fell short of expectations.
The third and last reason in my opinion, after the too high amount of consecutive games and the missing of both preparations, are the tactics. First Pastore was playing for the whole first leg of the season as offensive midfielder in Kombouaré’s favorite formation, the 4-2-3-1. In those 23 matches he netted in 8 times and assisted 4 times. Then the Frenchman was sacked and Carlo Ancelotti, a manager of international standing took over and everybody believed the whole team and especially Pastore would perform way better. After all “Carletto” didn’t win the Champions League and many Scudettos with Milan or the double with Chelsea for nothing. He and his beloved “christmas-tree-formation” aka 4-3-2-1 would surely bring PSG and of course “El Flaco” back on the beautifully winning track again. But as you can surely imagine, that didn’t happen, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.
After the 1.87m tall Argentinian had joined the team again in February, Ancelotti changed from his favorite 4-3-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1 because he thought that would help his superstar. But it actually didn’t. PSG lost its defensive stability, tied 3 matches, only won 2 of its following 5 matches in the Ligue 1 and was kicked out in the Coupe de France at home against Lyon. It was the first defeat of the era Ancelotti despite an amazing second half. The starting formation was organized 5 times in a 4-2-3-1, in those matches Les Parisiens won twice, tied the same amount of matches and lost once. They conceded 8 goals and only scored 7 times. Their Italian manager used it twice during matches. Consequently they scored 3 goals but also conceded twice.
Once Ancelotti even played with a 4-4-2 from the start with the 22-year-old from Cordoba as right winger and he even scored once in their 2-2 tie against Caen. That formation was only used due to injuries though. However, the same 4-4-2 was used 4 times during matches such as in the thrilling 4-4 against Lyon. Pastore was substituted after 61 minutes though, Gameiro came in for him and only this made it possible for Ancelotti to change from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2. Altogether, in the 5 matches in which the 4-4-2 was used, PSG only conceded 2 goals and scores 6 times.
As you can see, the 4-3-2-1 is still the most successful formation for the currently second placed in the Ligue 1 with 6 victories and 2 ties in 8 matches (used from the start), 13 netted in shots and only 4 conceded goals. This formation is the best for the defense as well as for the offense. The 3 midfielders can very well cover the whole midfield (including the wings) unlike in a 4-2-3-1 since there are only 2 defensive midfielders. Furthermore Nene and Menez don’t like to work defensively for their team so the wings are exposed in a 4-2-3-1. A 4-2-3-1 doesn’t really suit Javier Pastore anyway, because Nene and Menez don’t really like to pass Pastore, consequently Pastore doesn’t know what to do without the ball, he’s erring on the pitch what disturbs the organization of the whole team.
Everything points to Ancelotti using his beloved 4-2-3-1 formation for the 8 remaining games in the Ligue 1. He already used that one in Nancy yesterday (1-2 loss). Pastore was playing next to Menez behind Hoarau. He couldn’t deliver anything to the team. So it does look like Pastore wouldn’t fit in the team, does it? He obviously can’t perform well as all-rounder behind a striker and not even in a 4-2-3-1 with two wingers helping him more or less. Quo vadis, Javier?
“Pastore would be a very great player if he played more deeply.” (Johan Cruyff)
The solution is more than obvious though. Include Pastore into the midfield with 3 men and he’ll perform well. Why? The greatest experts and Pastore himself have already declared this! In an interview with the football magazine “So Foot”, the right footer said he felt isolated from the team because he was too close to the opponent’s box and not really involved in the build-up play. Johan Cruyff has said the same in the beginning of January: “Pastore would be a very great player if he played more deeply.”
So what is Carlo Ancelotti waiting for? He should play him deeper and the old Javier will come back immediately. He already played on that position once: in the 1-2 win in Dijon when he had to replace Mohamed Sissoko in the midfield due to a red card. “El Flaco” played pretty well…