Paris Saint-Germain bring 2016 to a close against FC Lorient in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, and regardless of the result, it will not be a happy end to the year for manager Unai Emery and his players. For the first time in a long while, the French champions are without a win in three matches in Le Championnat. Extended to all competitions, PSG have won just one of their past five games, and that win came in the Coupe de la Ligue, arguably the least important of the three pieces of potential silverware.The capital club need a win over Lorient in midweek, and they could use a convincing performance, too. Anything less and the pressure on Emery could become too much and force the Ligue 1 giants to take action during the winter break.One of many different factors influencing PSG’s current malaise is Angel Di Maria’s poor individual form right now. The Argentine has been kept in the starting XI lately at the expense of other, more effective players — notably Lucas Moura — and Emery’s perseverance with the out-of-sorts winger has cost him more than once.
Di Maria was woeful once again in the surprise 2-1 defeat away at EA Guingamp, and supporters are rapidly losing any remaining patience with the man from Rosario.It was a surprise that 28-year-old was not named as part of the PSG squad to face Lorient, with the club simply explaining his absence by listing him as receiving “treatment”. However, his absence against Les Merlus at Parc des Princes could actually be a boost.Without Di Maria on the pitch to complicate things, Lucas will be able to occupy his preferred role on the right of the attack and Edinson Cavani will be in the middle. Wide on the left, though, Nanitamo Jonathan Ikone could be given another league start against the bottom club, or Layvin Kurzawa could be pushed forward into a more attacking role. Whoever plays there, whether it is part of a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, they will not be as ineffective as Di Maria has been of late and for the first time in a while, it will actually feel like PSG have 11 players on the pitch from that start of a match. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid man is not the source of all of the issues currently afflicting Emery’s men, but he is one of the more major concerns and his unavailability — whatever the treatment he is allegedly receiving is — it makes the Spaniard’s job a little easier.
After that, the Basque tactician has a choice to make in goal between Alphonse Areola and Kevin Trapp after the Frenchman was beaten twice in Guingamp over the weekend.However, it would be harsh to lay the blame at Areola’s feet when the defence in front of him has shown next to no structure or solidity. Resting a jaded Marquinhos might be a better idea, allowing the mature Presnel Kimpembe another chance to impress alongside captain Thiago Silva.The midfield will also likely see some changes too, with Thiago Motta struggling with a back problem. It could be that Grzegorz Krychowiak occupies the Italian veteran’s usual defensive midfield position, with Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi ahead of him. Christopher Nkunku’s impressive recent performance could mean that he gets another start, though, and Verratti or Matuidi sit deep instead.There are plenty of personnel issues for Emery to consider ahead of Lorient, but Di Maria’s absence is certainly not a blow to the squad. If anything, the South American being out should give the manager the flexibility he needs to align a starting XI that will dominate Bernard Casoni’s strugglers.
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