Changes afoot in Paris
Twelve months is a very short and yet very long time for things to change in a handball club. Since the beginning of July, many things have changed in Paris, especially in the use of the many players that make up the roster.
Last season, the question “When will William Accambray step on the court tonight?” had almost become a joke among people following the Parisian side week in, week out.
Even in games where there would be a big difference on the scoreboard and just minutes left to play, the left back remained seated on the bench.
When Accambray and his new club Veszprém visit the French capital for Match of the Week on Sunday 12 November, he will notice a change in approach when it comes to the use of PSG's squad.
Has coach Serdarusic listened to the critics? Or has he realised that rotating the bench and saving energy is the best strategy to stay fresh in a long VELUX EHF Champions League season?
Either way, PSG’s leading lights Nikola Karabatic and Mikkel Hansen are given plenty of time on the bench this season.
”We have the ability to maintain a high-quality handball played at high intensity for 60 minutes, more than we ever did before. It's a good thing for us, since we can be more effective in the crucial stages of games,” explains Nikola Karabatic who, for example, only played in defence for the entire opening group phase match against THW Kiel.
Young wings taking their chances
With some of the stars resting more than they did in the past, who is taking advantage of it and has the opportunity to show more than they did in the past? The youngsters, mainly.
Dylan Nahi is still number two behind goal-machine Uwe Gensheimer on the left wing, but he is enjoying every opportunity he gets to show what he can do. And that, apparently, was enough for him to be drafted in the French national team for the first time three weeks ago, even though he has not yet turned 18.
“It is always a pleasure for me to see that the coach puts his trust in me. I do not forget that I still have a lot of things to learn, so I am not frustrated at all by my situation.
“If I have to sit on the bench for 60 minutes because the coach thinks it is the way for the team to win the game, so be it,” he says. Two goals in five games may not be a stunning record, but the statistics do not tell the whole tale and Dylan is enjoying much more court time than last season.
The change is even more visible for right wing Benoit Kounkoud, who has taken over his position lately due to Luc Abalo's injury, but has had the opportunity to step on the court in every match since the beginning of the season.
With 15 goals, Kounkoud has already beaten his career record in the competition, which he set two seasons ago, and the only way is up from here.
“It is encouraging for me that I have the opportunity to play more this season. The trust the coach and our teammates put in us is getting bigger. We still have to concentrate so the team performance remains the same when the usual starters are on the bench,” Kounkoud says.
While the squad rotation has been more prevalent this season, the spread of goals has yet to follow. The top four PSG scorers this season (Sagosen, Gensheimer, Rémili, Hansen) have scored two-thirds of the team's goals this season.
More changes on the way
There have been clear changes since the end of last season, but the arrival of Raul Gonzales as coach next summer will bring even more to the table.
The all-offensive strategy Noka Serdarusic has set up over the last three years may be replaced by a more physical approach.
Henrik Mollgaard will move back to Denmark, one or two other players could also move away from the French capital and the style might change a bit.
“Raul is very precise on tactical matters, he likes playing a lot with line players and physical players. I am sure everybody in Paris will love working with him,” said Talant Dujshebaev, Kielce's coach.
PSG have chosen the man who masterminded a victory over them in the final last season, proving that although the style may change, the goal of lifting the trophy in Cologne will remain the same.Author: Kevin Domas / cor