Which PSG will we see against Bruges on Wednesday 6 October, for the 4the match of the group phase of the UEFA Champions League? The one who swept Angers, Nice, Marseille and the same Bruges during the month of October, scoring 17 goals in four games, or the one who missed by Dijon, Friday 1st November, thus conceding (already) his third defeat of the season?
One of the keys to this answer may well lie in the performance of Angel Di Maria. Against Dijon, the Argentine player has delivered a new decisive pass to Kylian Mbappé, but he also made his worst game of the season, multiplying errors. As if the number 11 Paris had returned to Earth after a controlled start of the season.
Against Real Madrid (3-0) in the Champions League, for example, a little over a month ago, while Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani were absent, it was he who had marked the meeting of his footprint with two goals. A few weeks later, in the league against Nice (4-1), the Argentinean shone again, registering two goals again.
If this regularity surprised certain observers, Di Maria assured, him, after the victory against Nice, to see there the effect of "The confidence of the coach", Thomas Tuchel. An element " important for me, he commented after this match, October 18. I did not play a lot. From now on, I play a lot more and I take confidence. "
"He felt the total confidence of the coach"
In the eyes of Alain Roche, former PSG player turned consultant for Canal +, the arrival of Thomas Tuchel that has indeed marked a turning point in the benefits of the Argentine PSG: "Tuchel did not just highlight Mbappé or Neymar. He always said he liked Di Maria, that he always dreamed of coaching a player like him. Di Maria felt the total confidence of the coach, which had not previously been the case with Unai Emery. "
Since the arrival of the German coach on the Paris bench in the summer of 2018, Angel Di Maria is the second most used player of the club behind the Brazilian Marquinhos. This season, he is the only one to have participated in the first sixteen games of the Parisians. "When I arrived, he was a professional, he was extraordinary, he was always ready to work for others, Thomas Tuchel recalled in a press conference on Tuesday. He was super reliable. It's easy to give responsibilities and confidence to this type of player. And it's easier for him to maybe do even more, and for me to push again and again. "
The Argentine makes this confidence on the ground. He is already seven goals and nine assists this season. His performances are all the more visible as with the repeated absences of Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani, Di Maria took the Parisian game to his account.
It is not the first time. The Argentinian had a similar situation last season. At the time, he had already taken advantage of the wounds of Neymar and Cavani to get under the spotlight.
The Neymar case
There is, therefore, enough to wonder if Angel Di Maria does not do better when we leave him the keys of the team rather than placing it alongside Neymar, in particular. The question may arise from the numbers. Since Neymar's arrival in the summer of 2017, Angel Di Maria has played almost as many games with the Brazilian (54) as without (52).
In the first case, he is directly involved in 31 goals (17 goals, 14 assists). In the second, this number rises to 53 (30 goals, 23 assists). Only this season, of the five games played with Neymar, Angel Di Maria gave a decisive pass. Without him, this record goes to seven goals and eight assists in eleven games.
According to Alain Roche, this less decisive side could easily be explained: "When both play, all partners will look for Neymar first. He loves balloons. He often comes to midfield. When Neymar is not there, we give all the balloons to Di Maria, who puts himself between the lines to organize the game and deliver good balloons. "
For the former Parisian player, the debate should not arise in Neymar vs Di Maria: "I do not think Di Maria is below his performance when Neymar is here. He may have less statistics, but his influence is also important. It is an additional danger for the opposing team and it is the most important. "
What future after the injury returns?
The profile of Di Maria appears all the more valuable in the locker room in Paris that beyond his status as technical leader (when Neymar is absent), he agrees to make defensive efforts. A point on which neither Neymar nor Mbappé are really recognized for their contribution.
Thomas Tuchel's #VisMaVie: Our consultants have set up their typical PSG teams: which one has the most chan … https://t.co/I8BcazT3Gq
Now remains to know what role the Argentine will occupy when the Paris infirmary will empty. Between wounds, convalescences and restless players, Thomas Tuchel still has a little time – until the winter break – to look into this issue and find a way to continue to shine his Argentinian nugget in the middle of all his other stars.
If, for Alain Roche, it goes through an attack encompassing Neymar, Mbappé and Di Maria, Bruges can be comforted by saying that the first will still be absent tonight. This relief should not last too long. By taking a look at the statistics, the Belgians will see that when the Argentine striker Mauro Icardi replaces Neymar in this trident, Paris scores a goal every 20 minutes.