Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top of Ligue 1 in style on Sunday evening, with a 6-2 thrashing of Toulouse. Neymar was influential on his home debut for Unai Emery’s men, who’ll be quietly hoping this is the start of something special in Paris this season.
Here are three talking points from PSG’s 6-2 win over Toulouse:
Neymar and his mission
In two Ligue 1 matches, Neymar has already begun setting the league alight and has done so with relative ease too.
25 successful take-ons, 14 chances created, three goals and a further three assists is a frightening tally at this stage of the campaign – especially with the range of talented attack-minded players alongside him, that will naturally complement him going forward. After his goal and assist last weekend against Guingamp, he excelled when needed during a potentially tricky fixture with Toulouse on his home debut.
Max Gradel, signed on a season-long loan deal from Bournemouth, broke the deadlock after 18 minutes. The way PSG’s backline was exposed from one floated ball into the area caused particular worry, though they ultimately had the last laugh and Neymar was influential in sparking their comeback.
After teeing up Adrien Rabiot inside the area, he reacted quickest once Alban Lafont parried the Frenchman’s powerful low effort to notch home an equaliser.
Just four minutes later, he played a one-two with Rabiot and this time the 22-year-old made no mistake. Driving hard and low into the bottom corner, Lafont came close to denying him once more but Neymar had earned another assist onto his name.
Following Marco Verratti’s contentious dismissal midway through the second-half, Neymar was at the forefront once more as PSG looked to kill the game off. He skipped his way past Andy Delort into the box and won a penalty albeit having fallen theatrically, which Edinson Cavani duly fired home.
It didn’t go all their way though, as PSG’s weakness in the air was exploited again from a corner with Thiago Silva inadvertently heading beyond a helpless Areola to make it 3-2.
Neymar’s shrewd movement also helped create their fourth goal, as he took a quick throw-in and received the ball back almost immediately. Standing still while scanning for options, he drew two Toulouse defenders rushing towards him and they simply ignored the overlapping run made by Angel dí Maria to his right.
They reacted slowly and Javier Pastore was in acres of space on the edge of the area. His curling effort nestled into the top corner and helped restore PSG’s two-goal advantage, though they were not finished there. It was then Neymar’s pinpoint corner delivery which created Layvin Kurzawa’s acrobatic effort from close-range.
Three minutes of stoppage time was ample time for one more memorable moment. Who else but the £200m man Neymar himself? Dancing his way beyond Toulouse defenders just inside the box, they failed to clear their lines in a tight space and allowed him to continue advancing too easily. He made them pay by striking low into the bottom corner, leaving Lafont no chance once again.
He wheeled away to celebrate and the Neymar chants grew louder as PSG supporters showed their appreciation for his excellent performance. Though it was a 6-2 thrashing at full-time, the scoreline and result could’ve been completely different if not for the Brazilian’s influence.
Regardless of whether he’ll admit it or not, his motives for joining PSG are clear. He’s the star man, their fulcrum, and his mission is to take Les Parisiens to new heights.
Draxler keen to stay, rightly so
He came on with five minutes plus stoppage-time and you could see his eagerness to impress with such a short cameo on this occasion. Making angles to stretch the visitors even further, whilst showing confidence when on the ball, it was unfortunate that Unai Emery had waited so long to introduce him into the fray – though understandable following Verratti’s sending off.
He could’ve even had a goal of his own if Kurzawa’s attempted pass into his path was more powerful.
He’s both intelligent and hard-working. Despite being deployed as a winger, he’s also more suited to a number ten role. Emery’s 4-3-3 formation doesn’t allow for one chief creator behind Cavani, though there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.
Draxler has been heavily linked with a Premier League move over the past few seasons and following Neymar’s arrival in Paris, suggestions that he could be sold to balance the books have prompted interest in England’s top flight. His agent, Roger Wittmann, has already denied those claims and said until they get concrete information from chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, then this is just paper talk.
He’s too talented a player to be satisfied with cameo appearances so it will be interesting to see how Emery fits the Germany international into the side, should he retain him beyond the current window.
Squad depth and Emery’s potential issues that lie ahead
After a spectacular collapse at the hands of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages last season, you get the feeling that this is Unai Emery’s final chance to make amends after a forgettable campaign in 2016-17.
They finished runners-up in Ligue 1 to Monaco, their first season without the trophy for seven years, whilst somehow managing to blow a 4-0 aggregate lead against an unpredictable Barca side in the last-16.
It took some time for players to warm to a new system and style under Emery, but football is a business dictated by results. PSG have previously been ruthless with managers with their quest for European success obvious, despite never having progressed past the Champions League quarter-finals.
They’ll be hoping that Neymar’s arrival fires them forward as their attacking depth continues to increase, though possible issues may lay ahead as they attempt to mirror Real Madrid’s success in terms of quality across the squad.
Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé has been heavily linked with a lucrative PSG move, in the region of £130m, and reports suggested he was excluded from training after an altercation with Andrea Raggi last week. That in itself suggests the switch will occur sooner or later, but where does he fit in?
They’ve got plenty of attackers and not enough space to play them all so unless Emery opts for a two-striker formation, Mbappé would be playing out on the opposite flank to Neymar. He burst onto the scene with 26 goals and 13 assists last term playing as Monaco’s centre-forward alongside Radamel Falcao, so playing him out wide isn’t ideal nor straightforward either.
dí Maria, Lucas and Goncalo Guedes are all right-sided wingers so it’s hard to see how Emery would keep them all happy. PSG are gradually building a star-studded squad and it will not be easy to keep everyone happy, especially those who feel they deserve more minutes than they are earning.
Emery’s current deal in Paris expires next summer so it’s imperative that he is smart with outgoings and any further acquisitions before next week’s deadline, as last season’s disappointment cannot be repeated.