Last week, PSG won the French League Cup against Lille. The Parisians will also feature in the French Cup final, and will face rivals Marseille in an exciting season finale. This could top a historical back-to-back domestic quadruple.
Of course, there will be one piece of silverware missing come the end of the campaign. Despite a domestic clean sweep, this year will go down as failure following the Champions League quarter final elimination to a very beatable Man City side. PSG have now lost 4 times in a row at the same stage in the competition.
This year, circumstances went their way as they avoided tricky ties against Europe’s greatest, yet there has been little progress. PSG are stuck in limbo, hanging out in Ligue 1’s purgatory, unworthy of reaching the heavens of continental success. So how does the club move forward?
Au revoir Zlat
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the best footballer who’s ever graced Parc des Princes, so it’s tricky to argue he should go. But at now 34, the Swedish striker has had plenty of chances to work his magic in Europe, and has not delivered in Paris or elsewhere.
I’m a big fan of Ibra – how can one not be? – but I’ve also always believed PSG would play better as a team without the controversial frontman’s mood swings, poor tactical discipline and let’s be honest, remarkable selfishness.
City marks the end of the Zlatan era, and his huge pay package (link) could be used more effectively to attract fresh ideas and tomorrow’s next superstar – ideally Neymar, please! Merci pour tout Zlatan, but au revoir.
While PSG have a strong squad and one European defeat should not trigger an unnecessary overhaul, there is a feeling some players just aren’t good enough.
Van der Wiel has rarely looked the part and will be sold and replaced this summer, while Stambouli was always a strange signing who predictably failed to make an impact.
The fact that Blanc favoured a complete tactical revolution rather than start him in Manchester to cover for Matuidi, Motta, Verratti and Pastore says it all. Someone more reliable should come in to cover suspensions and injuries.
More generally there is a feeling that the team, which plays a high number of matches across all competitions every year, simply needs more strength in numbers. PSG have some promising French talents out on loan in Digne (Roma) and Areola (Villareal), and perhaps they should be given a fair chance, too.
Then comes the inevitably tricky managerial situation. Blanc took a tactical gamble against City. It painfully backfired, and may well cost him the job.
The criticisms are justified really, for Blanc simply cannot be judged on domestic results given the gulf which separates PSG from the rest of French football. Blanc knows he (hopefully) gets 4 real matches a year: the 3 double knock-out ties and the Champions League final. Once again, he failed at the second hurdle.
Then again, who could replace him? Should the club sell its soul to the devil and hire Mourinho’s immediate but self destructive success? I am skeptical. Given the lack of availability of other attractive options (Klopp, Pep, Pochettino), Blanc could stay on by default rather than choice.
In any case one thing’s for certain: PSG have missed the strong hand and decisiveness of a competent director of football like Leonardo. Should the club go forward with Blanc, the internal structure should be strengthen by such a character.
Build the academy
My final point concerns the academy. The Parisian region is well known for its rich talent pool, with players such as Henry, Anelka and Evra all notorious regional graduates.
The only academy player who currently makes the first team is Rabiot which isn’t good enough. Given PSG’S new financial might, there is no longer any excuse to let wonder kids slip through the net, particularly when they develop right under the club’s nose in the local goldmine.
Like Barcelona, PSG must build the team around a core of local boys who genuinely care for the club, and have the talent and will to move it forward.
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