With 13 matches played in the Ligue and 4 in the Champions League (CdlL excluded because that was very much a 'kids and reserves' situation) I have had a look at the selections so far to test my theory that lack of consistency here is posing a problem.
There is no actual benchmark for this on the current season, and I've lost the spreadsheets used for the PSG / MHSC selection pieces last season when my old computer blew up, but some context:
- The PSG team pre-Christmas last season used 21 players, 18 of whom got at least 1 start.
- 7 of those players played in more than one position, mostly across the defence (4 CBs also deployed at FB at some point, one FB on both sides, one occasionally as a winger).
- 2 keepers, Jourdren and Pionnier (who covered for Jourdren when injured at the beginning)
- 3 CBs, Mapou, Hilton and Stambouli
- 2 RBs, Bocaly and Jeunechamp
- 1 LB, Bedimo
- 4 DMs, Saihi, Estrada, Marveaux, Stambouli
- 2 CAMs, Belhanda and Cabella
- 3 RWs, Camara, Dernis and Cabella
- 2 LWs, Utaka and Ait-Fana
- 1 CF, Giroud
Now. So far, 22 players have got a start, 11 of whom have started 9 times or more (so, over half the games in question). Positionally there have been (and these are starters, we will come to the mid-match tinkering later, italics show options only take once so far):
- 2 keepers (this time due to arguments)
- 4 CBs - Mapou, Hilton, Congre and El-Kaoutari
- 3 LBs - Bedimo, Jeunechamp, Stambouli
- 5 RBs - Bocaly, Jeunechamp, Stambouli, Congre, Mapou
- 5 DMs - Saihi, Estrada, Marveaux, Stambouli, Pitau
- 2 CAMs - Belhanda and Cabella
- 4 LWs - Ait-Fana, Cabella, Utaka, Mounier
- 4 RWs - Ait-Fana, Cabella, Camara, Mounier
- 4 CFs - Camara, Charbonnier, Herrera, Utaka
From this, admittedly small and lacking benchmark, sample, we can see some issues. These will also likely continue, with Ait-Fana possibly out for the season with anterior-cruciate-ligament-knack, Stambouli still recovering from glandular fever, Saihi having been sent off again, and Jeunechamp inevitably going to cop quite a ban if he really did hit a journalist in the face last night.
Cabella and Stambouli have both started in three positions, and while for Cabella that has been a general deployment across the 3 of Montpellier's 4-2-3-1, for Stambouli this has not involved his usual back-up position of CB, per last season, but playing in both fullback positions as well (where he has done a good job). Wing-switches look common, and Girard still hasn't settled on his preferred CF, although Charbonnier may have played himself into that on recent form. Overall, ten players have been deployed in more than one position.
So far, of the 17 Ligue/LdC matches, 10 have involved a mid-match positional shift - my theory is that given the initial squad selection issues of injuries/suspensions/arguments, the starting eleven normally involves at least one player playing out of the position, and this is only exacerbated by making substitutions.
- First half (usually for injuries / covering sendings off) - 4
- 45-60 mins - 11
- 60-70 - 11
- 70-80 - 14
- 80-90 - 8
Put that next to the timings of the (27) goals conceded -
- First half - 11
- 45-60 mins - 2
- 60-70 - 2
- 70-80 - 4
- 80-90 - 8
Substitutions, often involving a positional switch, look to be unsettling an already unsettled selection, rendering the last 20 minutes of games rather shaky and frankly terrifying to watch. Recent performances against PSG, equalising and then holding onto the draw, and VAFC, again holding onto a draw when down to ten men, have been more positive, but the selection does not look likely to get any more consistent given the points above. This seems to have delayed the development of last season's automatisme and leads to losses of concentration late on, which is largely to blame for the slow start to the season. Things do look to be picking up (in-fighting and, well, actual fighting, notwithstanding), so hopefully they can get their heads down and continue to improve.
Arsenal on Wednesday. Ah.