They are very much the perennial powerhouse of French football. Backed by vast swathes of cash and host to some of the continent’s best footballers, Paris Saint Germain are truly a force to be reckoned with throughout Europe. However, with manager Laurent Blanc leaving, to be replaced by former Sevilla manager Unai Emery, changes will undoubtedly take place at the Parc des Princes.

The sales of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United and Lucas Digne to Barcelona can be forgotten about in light of Emery’s new acquisitions, with the likes of Krychowiak, the rejuvenated Hatem Ben Arfa, and Belgium’s star right-back Thomas Meunier, as well as the purchase of promising attacking midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso. Naturally, this will lead to a change in approach at the Parisian club.

Emery is lucky to have a squad with so many different options and solutions. In-depth strength is one of PSG’s greatest assets – the choice of so many different, excellent footballers to supplement the team.

In defence, for example, the prospect of an imminent David Luiz departure is unlikely to cause excessive fear, with the knowledge that Thiago Silva and Marquinhos are a formidable pair in the centre. Furthermore, rumours of Matuidi leaving are not going to be met with terror from the PSG camp, with new boy Krychowiak as well as Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti, a capable and powerful midfielder.

Emery favours midfield domination, so the aforementioned operators should have a major part to play ahead of the oncoming campaign. A high-energy, pressing-play approach is likely, explaining why hard-working individuals like Ben Arfa and Krychowiak will be so vital. Favouring the 4-2-3-1 formation, Emery expects his side to be fluid and quick, especially in the middle, which could lead to Javier Pastore dropping deep to enhance his creative role.

With Lucas Moura and Angel di Maria on the wings, the usual brand of trickery and pace on the flanks will be upheld. Presumably flanking Edinson Cavani as a central striker, the duo will provide the perfect solution to getting the most out of their Uruguayan forward.

Despite the departure of one of their most foremost stars in Ibrahimovic, and the seemingly imminent sale of Matuidi, and perhaps that of David Luiz, Lucas Moura and Edinson Cavani, PSG look, as always, capable of running riot in Ligue 1 and the Champions League this year.

Emery likes his players to be aerially-proficient, which goes to highlight Cavani’s importance in this team. While the presence of Ben Arfa, Lucas and Di Maria will assure goals, Cavani’s involvement is key. A recognised goalscorer, the talismanic striker mustered 19 Ligue 1 goals last season, despite playing, arguably, second fiddle to the preferred Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Should they keep their Uruguayan attacker, there’s little doubt that PSG’s three-pronged attack will be every bit as threatening as last season.

They ought to replicate last season’s success. Winning the Coupe de France, the Coupe de la Ligue and Ligue 1, as well as reaching the quarter-final stage of the Champions League is no mean feat, but the fact remains that they are a supreme footballing force in France; better than any other side in the same division. The club’s owners will be expecting another trophy haul to reward their investments, and Emery will surely be seeking – with some confidence – to do this.

About the author- Tomos Knox

Tomos is a football writer whose work mainly focuses on the Premier League, International and European football in general. He is an avid football fan and first turned to football blogging in 2014, and has since been published by the likes of The Guardian and FourFourTwo. He was shortlisted for ‘Young Blogger of the year’ in 2014 at the football blogging awards. You can follow Tomos here: tomosknox.wordpress.com

twitter: @TomosKnox


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The man with all the flair, composure and skill to be tipped as the next Ronaldinho. One of few who could stand around and do nothing for 89 minutes, and then pull out an exquisite piece of magic in the last to win his team the game. The man who let himself go – in more ways than one – when he had it all to conquer. The man who’s now kept quiet and formed his remarkable resurgence.

Gérard Houllier once described Ben Arfa as “a genius”, Didier Deschamps says that “He has the ability to make the difference with one move,” and David Ginola was also quick to add praise, “Hatem is an amazingly talented player from France… He is a player that can produce magic when nobody expects it.”

It’s been some turn of events for the player who started his professional career with Lyon. Just last season, Ben Arfa was barred from playing professionally by Fifa after representing both Newcastle United and Hull. The French international had to take an enforced six months out of the game – a perfect timescale to regain his thoughts and composure.

Ben Arfa is emblematic of a player who can produce the desired and extraordinary magic when nobody expects it. From absolutely anywhere on the pitch, too. That’s the utter brilliance that you just can’t teach.

Ben Arfa’s career have reached highs, playing for France in Euro 2012 and being on an established list of winners for winning Trophées UNFP du football. And lows, being banned by Fifa and gaining a vast amount of weight. However, we can only focus on the present and not the past or the future, and the form he is in right now is truly too good to ignore.

With his time off, Ben Arfa went back to his roots – in Tunis, Tunisia. “I went back to the Tunis neighbourhood where I grew up,” he revealed in a recent interview. “It was important to go back. I found old childhood friends. In Tunis, I forgot I was a footballer. I lived a different life. I went to cafes. I found the images and sensations of my childhood.”

“I stayed in the fog a long time, a little lost, a little disorientated. Last winter I was going through an inner conflict. In my head a little devil was telling me to ‘let it [football] go’ and an angel [was] saying ‘don’t let it go’. It was a real fight. I was a prisoner. I had the feeling of being locked in a dark place without a door. I saw hell.”

It was obviously important for Ben Arfa to remind himself of where his origins lay and how far he’s come. To recover his football ability, he’d first need to regain control of his own mindset. And he did just that.

It’s like the Ben Arfa of old has come back out to play. Magical, magisterial runs from half-way, dizzying six defenders, giving the keeper the eyes and slotting it past him with supposedly his weaker foot – and yes, that did happen, in a Ligue Un match vs St Étienne back in September.

Scoring seven goals in 13 appearances, at a rate of a goal every 154 minutes, is truly spectacular from an attacking midfielder who sits behind two strikers. Ben Arfa tucks in-behind the two strikers – Alassane Pléa and Valère Germain – in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation deployed by Claude Puel.

Why Ben Arfa excels in such a tactical formation is the pure freedom he gets in-behind the two focal points of the team. When attacking, Pléa and Germain can peel off into wider areas, with Ben Arfa rising through the middle and taking on defenders one-by-one, something he’s perfectly suited for.

Ben Arfa’s always had a good footballing brain, he just hasn’t always applied it, because he loses concentration and becomes incredibly lazy. Although we are only three months into the new season, the Nice playmaker seems committed to his new team and approaching games with a more matured stance. With this type of demeanour, it has earned him a call-up to the France squad for the first time in three years.

He played well vs Germany at the Stade de France, finding pockets of space in-between the German midfield and defence, but like against England at Wembley on Tuesday night, there were greater matters that dwarfed those of football.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s now 28-years-old, he’s only got one more real chance of showing the world that he can perform consistency at the level that we all know he’s capable of. It would be such a shame if he derailed again and wasted such a special gift.

About the author – Liam Canning

Liam is a free-lance journalist who has featured on The Mirror, Telegraph, London Evening Standard, Independent, Squawka and FoutFourTwo.

twitter: @OffsideLiam


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