Ahead of the start of their Champions League campaign, Paris Saint-Germain's outstanding performance in Bordeaux came at just the right time, and suggested that Laurent Blanc has found the perfect system to bring out the best in his side.
Six weeks after needing a dramatic late turnaround to beat Bordeaux 2-1 in the season-opening Champions Trophy, PSG were utterly dominant throughout against the same side, enjoying two-thirds of the possession, and could have won by a greater margin.
In the end a first-half Blaise Matuidi effort and Lucas Moura's long-awaited first goal for the club secured a 2-0 win, PSG's third on the bounce, which leaves them two points behind leaders Monaco, who they face next weekend.
Blanc later described it as "certainly our best match this season," while Zlatan Ibrahimovic added that it was "on the same level as our performance away to Barcelona in the Champions League last season."
While returning to his old home was a special occasion for Blanc, this always looked likely to be an awkward game for PSG. Playing on a Friday night immediately after an international break gave the coach next to no time to prepare with his squad, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was rested completely while Maxwell and Edinson Cavani started on the bench.
"Football is terrible," Blanc later joked. "You prepare for matches, try to put a strategy in place, and then here, we haven't been able to prepare. I was worried because we didn't prepare at all, but look at the result."
Blanc handed a debut to summer signing Lucas Digne at left-back and a start to young forward Hervin Ongenda. But, more than the personnel, the striking aspect to the team's performance in Bordeaux was the success of the system put in place.
For the third game running, Blanc sent his team out in a 4-3-3 formation. That system had worked in spells in the 2-1 win at Nantes last month but PSG were laborious and lucky in beating Guingamp 2-0 in their last game before the international break. This time, however, it clicked.
Carlo Ancelotti had favoured a 4-4-2 in last season's title run-in, and Blanc kept faith in that system at the start of this campaign. "If the team retains the title without changing its way of playing, that will not be a problem for me," he said. But after seeing his side draw their opening two Ligue 1 games, Blanc took observers by surprise with his switch to three in the middle at Nantes.
As a system, it offers more versatility than Ancelotti's 4-4-2, in which the 'wingers' provided little width and the team continually appeared to be divided in two. It does not prevent Ibrahimovic and Cavani from playing together, and the signs are that the Swede relishes being able to drop deep, away from his marker, and create chances for others, witness his assist for Matuidi in Bordeaux.
Starting on the right wing, Lucas gave his best performance yet in a PSG shirt and capped it with his first goal for the club after 21 games. He must fight off competition from Lavezzi to keep his place, while Cavani can slot in on the other side.
Even more significantly, however, was the balance given by the midfield as Blanc played Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and Matuidi together in the same team. Motta was exemplary at holding the ball and controlling the rhythm, and his statistics were mightily impressive: 102 passes with a 95 percent completion rate.
The talented Verratti created the second goal for Lucas, while the tireless Matuidi showed that being part of a midfield three allows him to flourish in an attacking sense rather than carrying out mostly defensive duties.
Blanc will not always be able to play that trio together, but he must do so as often as possible, and that could be very bad news indeed for Javier Pastore.
He was missing in Bordeaux due to injury but, despite being stoutly defended initially by Blanc, his recent performances hardly suggest that he merits a recall anyway. Sports daily L'Equipe described his display in midfield against Guingamp as "insipid" and commented that the Argentine "has shown his limitations in a role for which he lacks the strength and the bite."
PSG's best moments in prior games had come once the wasteful Pastore had left the field. This time he was out altogether, and he may remain on the sidelines as his team prepare for major tests against Monaco, Benfica and Marseille over the next three weeks.