Paris Saint-Germain’s under-pressure coach Unai Emery hopes Angel Di Maria can contribute more in the second half of 2016-17.
PSG, Ligue 1 title-winners in each of the last four seasons, have struggled to convince early in the Spaniard’s debut campaign at the helm.
The heavyweights from the capital sit third in the table, five points behind surprise leaders Nice and three back from second-placed Monaco.
PSG return to action from the mid-season break with a Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final at home to Metz on January 11, followed by a trip to Rennes in the league.
And Emery, who left Sevilla to take over at Parc des Princes in June, hopes former Real Madrid favourite Di Maria can begin to fill the void left by the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer to Manchester United.
“When a star player like Ibrahimovic leaves, the responsibility that other top players like Di Maria take on puts them even more in the fans’ minds,” Emery told Marca.
“He is a very experienced player and a very important one, whose performance has been good, while we all think and hope he’ll get even better. I’m sure that will happen in the second half of the season.”
While Di Maria may, in his coach’s opinion, have room for improvement, Emery offered a ringing endorsement of frontman Edinson Cavani, who has moved into a central attacking role to take over from Ibrahimovic.
“Cavani has the challenge of becoming the offensive focal point of the team and he is achieving it,” he said.
“His work for the team is really good.”