Having celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday, Kylian Mbappé finished 2018 with yet another goal during PSG’s 1-0 home win over Nantes this evening.
In a battle between Ligue 1’s top goalscorers, Mbappé came out successful against Nantes’ Emiliano Sala – whose goals had only propelled the visitors just narrowly above the relegation places.
He’s now got 13 goals and six assists in 12 appearances across France’s top tier this term, which is a ridiculous tally when you begin to break it down in detail. Across all competitions? 19 appearances – 16 goals, ten assists.
Coming off the dizzying heights of France’s World Cup success, where he played a pivotal role in Russia, you could understand him – as well as other French teammates – enduring a dip in club form to start the 2018/19 campaign. Instead though, he’s only used his remarkable achievements as motivation for additional success.
PSG’s reliance on Mbappe becoming ever clearer
Having watched this game, it was somewhat a drab affair – the pair’s final game of 2018 and one where neither side wanted to lose.
PSG, for all their quality, don’t have many attacking options to choose from on their substitutes’ bench. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they rely upon Mbappé and Neymar (groin) to spearhead them in the final third. That’s to be expected, but Kylian’s influence continues to be magnified by the level of attention placed on him by opposition defenders.
Neymar was granted permission to travel back to his native Brazil this week, for further recuperation on his groin injury – so in his absence, Thomas Tuchel opted for a 3-4-3 formation with Edinson Cavani and Ángel di Maria either side of Mbappé in the hosts’ frontline.
Both Cavani and di Maria have shown tendencies to frustrate – despite possessing quality in abundance, they are either inconsistent or crucially lack the composure needed to finish off promising chances when presented. That much was evident again on this occasion, as both squandered goalscoring opportunities.
Julian Draxler had a well-taken finish disallowed midway through the second-half after Marco Verratti’s attempts to keep the ball in play were actually futile – VAR playing its part, though the quality of service into Kylian’s path was regularly disappointing.
His high standards don’t allow for anything less than the best, both from himself and teammates – so when di Maria’s inswinging corner delivery was flicked towards his path at the far post, you instinctively knew he’d make no mistake.
Marquinhos’ headed touch played the ball towards him at speed and with his marker caught ball-watching, he latched onto the ball and slid across as it cannoned in off the crossbar.
Ligue 1 title race already over? Most definitely
By no means the prettiest goal he’ll ever score, it was nonetheless an important one for a PSG side who are now 13 points clear of closest rivals Lille – with two games in hand.
Lille themselves relinquished their slender lead to lose 2-1 at home against Toulouse in one of the evening’s other games – former Premier League winger Max Gradel netted two second-half penalties in their surprise win.
Lyon, who’ve played one less than Lille, find themselves two points adrift – while Montpellier (played 17), are another two behind them in fourth place.
This year has undoubtedly been Kylian’s best, but even still, there’s plenty more to come from him in future years. He’s just getting started and in 2019, a proper UEFA Champions League title charge is on the cards.