An in-depth look at Paris Saint-Germain’s season – Expectations met?

As an avid admirer of hard work and craft, I find myself somewhat disappointed by the season that just ended which saw my club romp to a 3rd title in its (short) history. Indeed, on the pitch has been satisfactory (not really but more on that later on) but a few incidents just showed how Paris Saint-Germain haven’t had the perfect season. During the next few lines, I will attempt to highlight these discrepancies.

The results

How can I complain? Carlo Ancelotti achieved 4 more points than last season, ended the season 12 points clear of 2nd placed Marseille and held his own against Barcelona only losing to the big boys of the decade on away goals. Surely nothing to whine about? Well, I myself was quite disappointed to bow out to Saint-Etienne in the League Cup quarter-finals on penalties (I’m very glad they won the competition as they actually take the Europa League seriously) and was quite ashamed to see us lose to Evian Thonon-Gaillard at the same stage in the French Cup (also on penalties). The loss of identity starts here. I know that modern football is all about money (ie the league and Champions’ League) but we used to be a Cup side. 8 French Cups (only beaten by Marseille’s 10) and 3 League Cups prove that.

The football/tactics

In a word: Italian. We knew what we would get with a transalpine manager and he certainly delivered but the performances have been terrible to watch and we seldom got wins without deserving anything from the game. It’s not that all players decided to join forces to get an equaliser or a winning goal but more down to genius of unbelievably talented players.

Carlo ditched the 4312 after a 2-2 draw at Marseille in October in order to accommodate Pastore who was none existent in the hole behind the two strikers. Playing him deeper was an eye-opener for Carlo and he switched to 442 to accommodate him to the detriment of the whole squad. Stop me if I’m wrong but if we pay 42M€ for the services of a player then the least he can do is perform in his natural position (which is in the hole). In a 4312 you had Marco Verratti (I confirm that he will be the next Pirlo) performing excellently as a regista with Chantôme and Matuidi playing either side of him. Ibrahimovic was doing the business upfront (the formation didn’t change much to his efficiency in front of goal) and he had either Ménez or Lavezzi alongside him. Why didn’t Ancelotti play Ménez in the hole behind Lavezzi and Ibra? His reluctance to drop Pastore cost us quite a few points. Not the end of the world by any means but defeats to Sochaux and Reims were solely down to tactics and tactics alone. Verratti was no longer a regista but a plain central midfielder plying his trade alongside Matuidi and Lavezzi was more often than not paired with Ibra upfront. Knowing those two’s refusal to defend this left us with only 2 central midfielders in a league where playing 3 in the centre of the park is almost a rule. However good those 2 players are, they are still human and are going to get overrun if one of the strikers doesn’t drop deep à la Rooney…

Saying that I do confess that Ancelotti got his tactics spot on at the Nou Camp with Pastore keeping himself very close to Matuidi and Thiago Motta while Ibra (not Lavezzi) did his part of defending. It almost worked.

The players

Salvatore Sirigu (8/10) – Deservedly named best goalkeeper of the league now that Hugo Lloris has joined Spurs. Mandanda is too inconsistent even though he has his moments of utter brilliance.

Christophe Jallet (7/10) – Consistent throughout and unfazed by the competition of Van der Wiel. Filled in quite a few times the role of right winger with aplomb.

Grégory Van der Wiel (2/10) – Not worth the hype, certainly not one warranting a player coming out of the Ajax youth ranks. Offers next to nothing going forward and his defending is erratic at best. Must do better.

Thiago Silva (9/10) – Best centre-half in the world lived up to its name.

Alex Costa (5/10) – Caught asleep far too many times for his price tag and experience.

Mamadou Sakho (8/10) – Still the heart and soul of this club’s academy. PSG through and through.

Zoumana Camara (6/10) – Hardly put a foot wrong when called upon.

Maxwell (6/10) – A wealth of experience earns him a spot of starting left-back in the side. Don’t see what he does better than Armand quite frankly.

Sylvain Armand (6/10) – Same as Camara, was fine during the rare occurrences on the pitch. Off to Nantes. I’ll miss him.

Siaka Tiéné (5/10) – Started the last two games of the season as a goodbye present. I wish him well. He helped us out quite a bit when we were closer to Ligue 2 than Europe.

Clément Chantôme (7/10) – Not the classiest player in the side but a hard-worker. Represents with Sakho the PSG of yore.

Lucas Moura (4/10) – Why all the fuss? He sure can run but that’s about it.

Marco Verratti (8/10) – As said above, the next Pirlo. He needs to be confirmed in his natural position which is regista though.

Thiago Motta (3/10) – Wasn’t called upon that much this season due to injury. A blessing in disguise if ever there was one.

Blaise Matuidi (9/10) – From promise to fulfilment of said promise. An absolutely world-class player. I’m scared that if Madrid come calling, he’ll leave though…

David Beckham (5/10) – Marketing ploy puppet can still hit long balls across the park. Not much else. He deserves praise for his whole career though.

Javier Pastore (4/10) – Did slightly better as a left winger but still not worth his hefty price tag. He can leave.

Ezequiel Lavezzi (6/10) – A bit disappointed by him as he is actually a very limited player. He creates openings with his pace and his decision making is better than Moura’s but he can’t finish and doesn’t defend. Two major flaws to his game that he’s too old to sort out now.

Jérémy Ménez (8/10) – He’s showed impressive regularity this season. Shame that Carlo preferred Lavezzi to him when the Uruguayan was available as he’s our most creative player.

Kévin Gameiro (7/10) – Ancelotti didn’t trust him and he’s far too good to be left on the bench. He’d make many a Ligue 1 side very happy indeed (probably not his wages though).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9/10) – Can’t really beat players that good. Strong, tremendous vision and lethal in the box.

Worthy mentions go to reserve keeper Nicolas Douchez who was playing in the cups, and players we sold in January as they wanted more game time like Bodmer, Nene and Hoarau. They’ve all helped make what the club is today.

The day-to-day running of the club

Fans aren’t particularly badly treated as tickets aren’t too expensive if you go in the Boulogne and Auteuil stands and apart from a few annoyed ex-Kop of Boulogne hardcore degenerates who still think they own the place (but who complain in an orderly fashion) the stadium is ok to bring your kid on a Saturday evening.

However, power comes with responsibilities and you need experience to manage those responsibilities. Such experience evades our dear sporting director, Leonardo, who keeps complaining about the state of French referees (he’s right but he sometimes goes overboard) and most notably pushes referees in a mafia make-believe way. This isn’t Italy, Leo, France is a civilized country (well…).

The rest is pretty much what French society has to offer to Europe: offering something new is positive but you feel that we are trying too hard to be like Chelsea or Manchester City and not being the real deal. People still don’t take a great interest in Ligue 1 and it is still a weak league when compared to England, Italy or Spain despite the characteristics being more or less the same: one or two (Monaco is joining us up top next season) mega bucks side who take all the television money and who usually win every weekend.

Next season

The question of the next manager will be answered shortly as Leonardo will receive a hefty ban for his childish push on a match official. Depending on how hefty that ban is he may get the job otherwise it’ll either be Roberto Mancini or Fabio Capello. Problem being that those two would want full power on the transfers which is currently Leonardo’s turf.

As far as players go, Armand has already left for Nantes, Camara, Tiéné and Gameiro should follow him out of the club. Not sure who we need as reinforcement. A proper left winger to replace the stand-in Pastore perhaps? Wayne Rooney would certainly make us a complete unit.

Expectations will still be quite high as winning the league would be job #1 what with Monaco arriving having already enrolled Porto duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez as well as experienced centre-back Ricardo Carvalho (Falcao should be confirmed shortly). In France, like elsewhere, the football promises to be quite more exciting than this term.

Philip Bargiel