By Bulldog Drummond.
Last year on 13 March, Paris Saint Germain won the French Ligue 1 title for the fourth successive time.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four on that day as they beat bottom club Troyes 9-0 and became the first team to win the championship after 30 matches.
|1||Paris Saint-Germain (C)||38||30||6||2||102||19||+83||96|
|19||Gazélec Ajaccio (R)||38||8||13||17||37||58||−21||37|
Thus we might expect this season more of the same. Ibrahimovic has gone but the money is still there. And a look at the incoming suggests nothing more than a moderate let up…
|21||MF||Hatem Ben Arfa||Nice||Free||1 July 2016|
|23||MF||Grzegorz Krychowiak||Sevilla||€25,000,000||3 Jul 2016|
|22||FW||Jesé||Real Madrid||€25,000,000||8 Aug 2016|
|12||DF||Thomas Meunier||Club Brugge||€7,000,000||3 July 2016|
|—||MF||Giovani Lo Celso||Rosario Central||€15,000,000||26 July 2016|
Some players left – David Luiz to Chelsea for example, but even so, the pre-season suggested more of the same. They beat West Brom in an opening warm up 2-1, then beat Inter Milan 3-1, did the same to Real Mad and finally beat Leicester 4-0.
Another record season, the league won by Christmas, that sort of thing, is what we might expect.
On 12 August the League programme started and PSG beat Bastia 0-1 away and followed that with a 3-0 home win over Metz. But then came a 3-1 away defeat to last year’s runners’ up Monaco. This past friday (using the co-operation of the French League which is utterly unknown in England towards clubs in Europe) they played St Etienne and drew 1-1.
Here’s the league table
|4||Girondins de Bordeaux||4||3||0||1||8||7||+1||9|
|6||Stade Rennais FC||4||2||1||1||5||2||+3||7|
Compared with the Premier League
So have we seen the end of endlessly spending PSG burning the money from Qatar?
They have a new manager, Unai Emery, replacing Laurent Blanc in June, and already he has had lots of criticism of course, because the media in France works pretty much the way it works in the UK. The club has a lot of injuries and don’t necessarily have a very strong squad, it’s all going wrong, the manager’s an idiot, you know the sort of thing.
Ibrahimovic could have been offered a new contract but wasn’t – and there was a case made that he and David Luiz held back the development of new players.
But the disruption, if there was disruption, came because David Luiz left on transfer deadline day. It might have been good business (selling him back at the price paid) but PSG never did that sort of thing before, and apparently Luiz made a big contribution to the well-being of the team in the dressing room. Besides Emery has said he wanted Luiz to stay.
So is the sponsor/owner getting cold feet?
Adrien Rabiot, has also been talking about how he loved his time in England, and wouldn’t mind coming back despite having talked a lot about how much he loves PSG and being in Paris. Marco Verratti said much the same sort of thing recently.
There is also a story to the effect that PSG didn’t pay Zlatan Ibrahimovic his final bonus payment because they are waiting for a document that Ibrahimovic is obliged to provide to get the money.
Ibrahimovic has spoken in public about the affair (of course), and it all seems odd since the club is simply not short of a hundred billion euros or two unless the price of gas really has collapsed of late.
All of this has made a few local fans a little nervous – to the extent that they are not seeing PSG as the obvious favourites to win at least five of their six games and sail through at the top of the league.
But Unai Emery who won the Europa League three times running with Sevilla said, “It can’t be a season of transition. I think we’re going to try and improve as a team to achieve great results. We have lofty goals, and we thrive on that. We have to. Anyone who comes to Paris Saint-Germain knows there will be a lot of pressure, and that comes with having big targets. I am happy with that.”
Anyway it is reported that the press in Paris are giving Emery a bit of a hard time and he is losing his cool a little although he recently said, “The team look good to me. But that said, we didn’t win the last two games. But the team are well aware of how we go forward, and what we need to do to progress and win. I’ve assessed the whole squad, all the squad, and they’ve all looked me in the eye. It’s exactly the same as it was on the first day. It’s about working hard, being tenacious, being confident and optimistic. But hard work is the most important thing.
“The most important thing for me is the team. The players. To be with them, to see how they’re getting on. I’m pleased with what I’m seeing. They’re looking good. It’s trickier when you lose games, of course, but they’re looking good. How do you allay the doubts? With hard work and by improving. I have belief in the team. I think they will improve in every position, including in goal. I have confidence in them.”
But those injuries are still there. Thiago Silva (who hasn’t played yet), Layvin Kurzawa, Javier Pastore and Serge Aurier have greater or lesser degrees of problems – although Thiago Silva could now return. “He has worked hard to be available for the team, to come back very quickly. He’s an important player for an important game, so there is a chance for him to be involved. Big matches are made for big players.”
Laurent Koscielny of course is doubtful for us, following a kick in the face. “It is a little concern,” Arsène Wenger said. “It’s already very swollen.”
Wenger was, as we might expect, full of praise for Koscielny, who is captain while Per Mertesacker is recovering from a long-term injury. “He is one of the most experienced players we have now here,” the manager said.
“He is one of the longest-serving defenders and I think he is one of our best players. When I think about the squad, when you choose a captain as well, you think of one with a good chance to play in every single game and that’s not easy nowadays. He has committed to the club for a long contract and he has always improved every year. Today he is an outstanding centre-back.”
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