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Angel Di Maria Struggling from Second-Season Syndrome at PSG Under Unai Emery

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 22 Sep 2016

Angel Di Maria was a revelation when he escaped Manchester United for a brand-new start at Paris Saint-Germain. He showed the world he was still a class player and obviously enjoyed his move across the Channel.This season, he has started a little slower. After six games he has just two assists to his nameboth coming against Metzin the home opener.That was his best performance of the season. Drifting across the pitch, he was everywhere and a constant threat to the newly promoted side.Under Unai Emery, width has been key in their opening fixtures, with Serge Aurier bursting down the right and Layvin Kurzawa following suit on the opposite flank. That allows the wide players featured further forward to cut inside and cause problems to the defence.During Laurent Blancs time in charge, Auriers runs saw Di Maria cut onto his left foot and weave some magic. This term, playing on the opposite side, despite receiving similar support from his full-back, hes not made the same contribution when coming inside.In the opening game of the season, playing against Bastia, Emerys side lined up in a more distinct 4-2-3-1, with Di Maria on the left. His passes and touches were kept a lot closer to the sidelines, with fewer in the centre.In their two most recent victories, Di Maria didn't play badly, but he wasn't as influential as both he and Emery would have hoped. In the 6-0 win over Caen, the Argentinian didn't play a part in any of the goals, in terms of stats, but he was involved in the build-up.Only two players in the starting XIsaw less of the ball,includingEdinsonCavani with17 touches.He was more involved against Dijon, but overall it was a quiet night. He made more touches and more passes than any of the other forwards, but he was not influential in the centre of the pitch. He had two shots from distance, and only five of his 75 touches came within 20 yards of the Dijon goal.On Tuesday night, PSG won 3-0, but overall, they were disappointing and there was an element of fortune and poor defending in the first two goals. That sealed the win, and the pressure was off.A more worrying aspect of Di Maria's season has come in the games when PSG need him the most.In the league against AS Monaco and the opening Champions League fixture against Arsenal, both teams were able to limit the areas he was able to get on the ballkeeping him around the middle of the park and stopping him from getting wide.Against Monaco, he again was playing on the left, leading to the argument that perhaps it is playing out of position that is causing the problem. However, against Arsenal, with Emery playing Blaise Matuidi on the left, Di Maria moved to the area of the pitch where he found great success last season.It didn't work, and perhaps this was his worst display of the new campaign. Especially when you take into consideration the importance of the fixture.Media pundit andformer Chelsea centre-back Franck Leboeuftook to radio station RMC to convey his disappointment after the Arsenal game (via MaxiFoot,h/t SportWitness).I cant believe Di Maria. A back heel, a corner and thats it. What I hate the most in football is when I see a wimp. The guy avoids every challenge. Its amazing. Theres too much sporadicalness with him.Since he joined PSG, hes not doing what he did at Real Madrid. Since Manchester, hes just gone downhill.Interestingly, when dissecting the first six weeks of action, Di Maria is the only PSG player to feature in French newspaper L'Equipe's ranking list.They take the scores they give each player each week and keep an average. The problem with L'Equipe is that there is no science behind their rankings and you have one journalist judging 22 players.Against Dijon, without a goal or an assist, the aforementioned lack of touches in the final third, L'Equipe gave him seven out of 10 and selected him in their Team of theWeek.Javier Pastore, who was much more influential on the result of the game, despite playing deeper in the 4-3-3 formation, received just a six.Even in the loss to Monaco, Di Maria was handed one of the best scores in the team. It was just a five, but it all adds up to the newspaper ranking the Argentinian as the second-best performer in Ligue 1 this term.Once Zlatan Ibrahimovic left this summer, the reins were firmly placed in the hands of Cavani. However, Di Maria would have been expected to shoulder the pressure, too. So far, he hasn't stepped up.Emery has the players and the formation right; it is interesting that he has played Di Maria on the left of the attack, rather than on the right, where he was so successful last term. It seems that its the new style of the Spanish coach that is having an effect.So much of Di Marias success came from cutting inside and picking passes and shots with his left foot. He also had more options. Matuidi hasnt played as much so far this season, taking away a willing runner from deep.Ibrahimovics absence is a huge hole to fill, and so far Cavani hasn't matched it. In theory, the movement of the Uruguayan striker should be good enough to cause more problems and see Di Marias industry and creativity rewarded with more assists.Take away the four goals against Caen and its been a sluggish and disappointing start for the former Napoli man. Perhaps if he had finished more of his chances, Di Marias numbers would look much stronger.Analysing his statistics from WhoScored.com, there is actually little difference between his two seasons, apart from the only numbers that matter.In his debut campaign with the Parisians, he scored 10 times in the league and added 18 assists. His shots per game are almost identical this term, sitting at 2.5. Looking at pass accuracy, successful dribbles, key passes and the average number of passes he makes in gamethere is little variation on what he was achieving under Blanc.His overall productivity does not offer any reasons to worry. The change in position has obviously had an effect on his success in scoring goals. Emery has pretty much taken away the Argentinians option of breaking inside off the right flank and looking to test the goalkeeper.Too many of his 2.5 shots per game have been from distance. The numbers may be the same in that area, but the level of threat has dropped.Where the biggest concern for Emery and PSG fans should be is Di Marias contribution in the biggest games. There has already been issues with the performances of Lucas Moura and Pastore in the key games over the past few years, they could do without another player to shy away when they need them most.Its far too early to panic, but there was an expectation that the former Real Madrid man could at least continue his form from last term, if not expand on it. That hasnt happened quite yet.Making his debut in Monaco last season, he started with a bang, setting up Ezequiel Lavezzi after coming off the bench. That level of danger has been missing from his game so far; it is now up to Emery and Di Maria to find a way to get the best out of his obvious talent.
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