Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Development of Verratti and Rabiot key to PSG's future prospects

Much has made of the fact that Paris Saint-Germain started with a camion-load of young players in Saturday's 4-0 win over Bastia.

A cynic might say that coach Laurent Blanc's decision to play Digne, Ongenda, Rabiot et al was born out of a need to keep our big players fresh for tomorrow's Champions League match with Anderlecht, rather than a deep-rooted commitment to youth development, but nevertheless it's always nice to see young tyros charging around the pitch tearing shit up.

PSG's youthfulness would have been even greater if Marco Verratti had been available. The 19-year-old missed the game due to suspension, though he was at the Parc des Princes on Saturday to pick up his September player-of-the-month award.

The award reflects the flying start to the season made by the Italian playmaker. I've written about the importance of an in-form Verratti to the team before, and he's been instrumental in many of our best performances so far this term.

But there are two challenges facing the Verratti, and Blanc, if he is to make the transition from promising youngster to elite player; consistency and discipline.

Verratti started last season in sparkling form too, but he struggled to maintain his level of performances, and spent the second half of the campaign in and out of the team. Carlo Ancelotti usually opted for a midfield pair of Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta in his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation, and when Verratti did play, we didn't often see the best of him. Now he has a year of top-flight experience under his belt, and needs to show his best form on a more regular basis. Blanc's 4-3-3 system should help in that respect; we have more possession now which means there's less emphasis on Verratti to press and make tackles, and he should have more time to get on the ball and display his passing ability.

Discipline is the other problem. Verratti's yellow card habit stems back to his time at Pescara, and with one suspension already under his belt this season, you can be certain he'll be sidelined again before 2013/14 is out. We don't have another player like Verratti in the squad, so his regular absences are bad news for the team, especially if they coincide with bigger games where his creativity can be the difference.

"Verratti and Motta are in the habit of picking up yellow cards. I hope they lose that habit," said Blanc in his press conference on Friday. Larry was being flippant I'm sure, but I think it's down to Le President to try and help his players show a bit more discipline. Certainly Verratti is still young enough to change his ways if he puts his mind to it, though it may be too late to the teach the old Motta dog new tricks.

At least when Verratti and Motta are out, Blanc can call on the prodigiously talented Adrien Rabiot, 18, who seems to be happy with his lot at PSG after making noises about wanting to leave at the end of last season.

"In terms of playing time, a first step has been taken. I play more regularly. I am no longer the little kid who starts," he told Le Parisien.

"My loan at Toulouse did me a lot of good. I played 13 Ligue 1 matches. This experience gave me personal landmarks and I showed others what I can do, including my team-mates at PSG.

"In early August, Laurent Blanc took me aside to tell me that he was counting on me and that he was opposed to the idea of me leaving on loan."

We've yet to see Verratti and Rabiot play together regularly, but the pair can be the future of PSG's midfield, a potentially exciting combination of French elegance and Italian passion. Blanc's task is to help both continue their development so that we see them gracing the pitch at the Parc des Princes for years to come.


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