PSG has not chased away all its anxieties!


By: Manu Tournoux

Acquired with forceps, the qualification of Paris Saint-Germain for the round of 16 of the Champions League will not be able to erase all the difficulties – once again – encountered by the capital club on the lawn of Signal Iduna Park. Held in check (1-1) on Wednesday evening by Borussia Dortmund, the Parisians in fact came close to the worst. Trailing by the score, Kylian Mbappé’s teammates, frustrated at the end of the meeting, finally took advantage of the return to grace of Warren Zaire-Emery – combined with the success of AC Milan at St’ James Park – to avoid, little, the Europa League evenings on Thursday evenings. Close to yet another snub on the European scene, the Parisian team thus proved that the new project, led by Nasser al-Khelaïfi and illustrated by the upheaval undertaken, remained to be perfected. And for good reason. From his staff, symbolized by the arrival of Luis Enrique as coach, to his group, adjusted in the direction of departures (Neymar, Messi, Verratti…) as well as arrivals (Dembélé, Ramos, Ugarte, Kolo Muani… ) through its training center, now based in Poissy, Paris Saint-Germain has made numerous changes in recent months.

A much less convincing European face!

Significant modifications requiring, today, a time of adaptation to (finally) find this much desired alchemy. In the meantime, PSG is looking for itself, discovering itself, improving or trying to do so but the work remains grandiose. A challenge which hardly scares the successor of a certain Christophe Galtier, today installed on the bench of Al-Duhail in Qatar. “I am very happy because throughout these six matches we have shown a clear idea. The idea of ​​winning every match. We have always been offensive, we have always created more situations than our opponents. This summer, there were eleven signings, a new staff, a new campus, everything is new. If we are going to be better in the coming months? My experience tells me so. I coached twelve seasons, my teams always improved. I repeat, there are eleven transfers, the idea of ​​the game is different from what players are used to seeing in France. I have confidence in the club, in this group”recalled the Spanish technician of the Rouge et Bleu, present at a press conference a few minutes after the draw on German soil.

Yes, but there it is, if a wind of freshness is currently blowing over the French capital, this renewed, optimistic and legitimate discourse does not chase away certain demons, more than ever attached to the Ile-de-France atmosphere. It will not escape anyone’s notice that the reigning French champions ultimately only took 8 points during this group stage, the lowest group total in the competition under QSI. These are just numbers dear friend. Right, so let’s move on to the rest. What can we say, for example, about the offensive copy made by the current leader of Ligue 1? Best attack in the championship with 38 goals in 15 days, PSG has, in fact, once again distinguished itself by harvesting at all costs on the European scene. From Bradley Barcola to Kang-In Lee, author of a poor performance, via Randal Kolo Muani or even Kylian Mbappé, none of the offensive players started by Luis Enrique was able to deceive Gregor’s vigilance Kobel. To illustrate this, with all due respect to those who hate statistics, at half-time of the clash against BvB, none of the last 52 Parisian attempts had found the net in the Champions League, except Kylian’s penalty. Mbappé against Newcastle (1-1) on the previous day.

Worrying offensive realism, alarming defense, a tense draw!

An unequivocal observation testifying, here too, to a certain lack of automatisms and a persistent difficulty, mainly on European evenings, in being surgical around the opposing goals. Questioned on this subject, Luis Enrique again preferred to bet on the future. “I wasn’t worried. We have a team that creates a lot of chances, we always attack, even away from home. We have four, five chances to score. Has my team progressed over the past three months? Without a doubt, we are a team under construction, at the very beginning of construction. I like the attitude of the players, their ability to fight. I have no doubt that we will improve and that in February we will be much stronger”. However, and despite this optimistic and justified speech on many aspects, PSG’s collective performance against Borussia Dortmund has, once again, brought to the surface, sometimes forcefully, certain past anxieties. An observation unfortunately already made during Parisian trips to St’ James Park (1-4) or even San Siro (1-2). Like Marquinhos who is always so brittle in major events and credited with a 3.5 by the FM editorial staff, the capital club has thus been guilty of great defensive fragility.

Seeming to be overtaken by the warm atmosphere outside (81,365 spectators were present in the BvB den) and giving in to panic on certain sequences, PSG finally faltered, without damaging – for the moment – its European dream. In line with the Brazilian captain, guilty of numerous questionable interventions and a lack of leadership, Achraf Hakimi has also delivered one of his most indigestible performances in recent months. For his part, Milan Skriniar, often outpaced by Karim Adeyemi then Donyell Malen, confirmed all his limits on the defensive level. Alarming signals, especially at a time when the Rouge et Bleu risk crossing paths with a major European player in the weeks to come. Indeed, beyond the individual and collective flaws seen in Germany, PSG hardly made their task easier by finishing second in group F. With this place, the residents of the Parc des Princes have a copious program in store for themselves, next Monday , during the draw where they could fall on either Atlético de Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Sociedad, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or even FC Barcelona…

Present at the microphone of RMC Sportthe hero of the evening, Warren Zaire-Emery, nevertheless refused to be alarmed. “A team to avoid in the draw? No. We are not afraid of anyone, we will watch quietly. No matter the opponent, we will be ready”, assured the young French midfielder, awarded the man of the match trophy by UEFA. Raised on the subject, Luis Enrique even went further by asserting that his protégés constituted a real threat to the competition. “I am a positive person (smile). And neither team will want to draw PSG in the draw. Ask them”, launched the Parisian coach at a press conference. If the balance sheet currently proves him right and the optimism displayed by the 53-year-old Spaniard testifies to a certain assurance, the performances delivered by his protégés on the continental scene do not, however, inspire the greatest confidence for the following of the events. There is no doubt then that the coming weeks will prove decisive in allowing Paris Saint-Germain to definitively pass this milestone and thus avoid a new melodrama between winter and spring 2024…

Categories PSG

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