OM-PSG D-3: Wheel turns for van der Wiel
Gregory van der Wiel has seen off competition from Christophe Jallet to become Laurent Blanc's preferred option at right-back for Paris Saint-Germain and hopes to start Sunday's Le Classique at OM.
When van der Wiel joined from Ajax a year ago it was widely assumed he’d walk in to the first team at the expense of French international Jallet. However, the Dutch international was forced to play second fiddle during a frustrating debut campaign. The watching brief continued at the start of this term, as PSG and Jallet drew their opening matches with Montpellier and Ajaccio.
Van der Wiel told beIN Sport: "The first two matches were very difficult. I don’t think we played our best football."
Lays on goal in first start of season
Van der Wiel impressed ex-coach Laurent Blanc in training and was given his chance to shine in Week 3 against Guingamp. The dynamic full-back did just that, defending with tenacity and laying on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal, which sealed the club’s first win.
He said: "It’s very important for me to work hard every day to earn a regular place in the starting XI at right-back. I want to show people what I’m capable of because I know I can still do better. I know with time, I will keep getting better."
The 25-year-old surely isn’t regretting the fact that his summer move to Inter Milan fell through - he’s finally being given an extended run in the PSG side, although he was rested against Toulouse last weekend, only to be restored to the starting eleven for the midweek Champions League win over Benfica. Van der Wiel has also forced his way back into the international reckoning and the timing of his renaissance couldn’t be better; after all it is a World Cup year and van der Wiel is the only PSG player to have already appeared in a World Cup final, some three years ago.
"It was one of the biggest moments of my career. To play in that final was incredible for me. But it was also very, very hard to lose. Despite that loss, it remains a great memory, because it was a fantastic competition. I loved every minute of it. But I’m not thinking about the World Cup now. Just about playing every minute with Paris St Germain."
Van der Wiel made 17 starts and five substitute appearances last term, earning a champions medal, and despite the emergence of Monaco, he’s confident of making it back-to-back titles.
He said: "I still think we’re the favourites because our team is even stronger than it was last season and we’re working hard every day to get even stronger."
To help Paris defend their crown, the club has invested in three summer recruits in Edinson Cavani, Lucas Digne and Marquinhos. So how does the Dutch international rate his new team-mates?
"They’re all very good players. Everyone knows all about Edinson Cavani, a great striker. Lucas (Digne) is a very good defender, very talented despite being so young, and the same goes for Marquinhos."
Chance to show attacking worth
The 4-3-3 employed by Blanc in recent times has given the flying Dutchman the license to fly down the right flank and showcase his attacking qualities; something he'll be keen to show to good effect at the Stade Vélodrome in Sunday evening's classique, as long as he sees off competition from Jallet for the right-back berth of course.
The only classique van der Wiel started last season was the 2-0 home win in the Coupe de France Round of 16. That came days after a 2-0 Ligue 1 win at the Parc des Princes, a match for which Jallet was preferred, while van der Wiel made a cameo appearance as a sub in the 2-2 draw at the Vélodrome in Week 8 last campaign.