Paris-Saint Germain Season Review
Despite a domestic treble of sorts, a nagging feeling of failure surrounds the Parc des Princes
The season started with a version of the managerial merry-go-round with Laurent Blanc, at the club for three years, sacked after winning the domestic treble including a league record 31 point gap between the Parisians and Lyon in second. His sides’ failure to get past the quarter final in the Champions League for his time at the club being deemed not acceptable, and Blanc receiving his marching orders. He was replaced with Seville coach Unai Emery, a man that whilst never pulling up trees in the league, managed to win the Europa League for three consecutive seasons (A feat that had never before been achieved). Given the owners’ desire for European success, he was naturally chosen as the man to replace Blanc; the league being treated as a foregone conclusion, it was all about continental success.
— Unai Emery (@UnaiEmery_) December 2, 2016
The replacement after such success mean that this season there was always going to be immense pressure upon Emery and his charges. Having won the league by 31 points the previous season, as well as every domestic trophy available and narrowly being knocked out of Europe by Manchester City.
The club started the season by signing Jesé (Real Madrid), Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice), Thomas Meunier (Brugge), Giovanni Lo Celso (Rosario Central), and Grzegorz Krychowiak following Emery from Sevilla.
The club also had Zlatan Ibrahimović, Benjamin Stambouli, Gregory Van der Wiel, and David Luiz leave the club.
— ? ? ? (@PSGIsLife) May 28, 2017
The season started off however on a positive note, crushing Lyon 4-1 in the Trophée des Champions. The club looking as though they were intent on carrying on from where they left off last season.
The feeling of total hegemony didn’t last long though, by the end of September Monaco and Toulouse had inflicted upon PSG as many defeats as they accrued in the entirety of last season. By this point PSG were fourth, four points from the leaders and already playing catch-up. Whilst they started to get back onto a large undefeated streak, two losses and a draw in December meant that not only had they lost twice as many games as the previous season before the calendar year had ended, but that they were again off the pace once more. Despite starting 2017 with a 15 match unbeaten streak in the league, it was not enough to claw back the necessary points, the defeat away to OGC Nice the final nail in the coffin for PSG’s title hopes. Ultimately they finished second, 8 points behind winners Monaco, a 31 point lead turning into an eight point deficit doesn’t make for pretty reading.
PSG’s European campaign started off reasonably well, with the side comfortably qualifying, finishing second in a group that contained FC Basel, Ludogorets, and Arsenal.
Being drawn with Barcelona in the knockout round was always going to be a tough ask, but PSG were confident; they had a cup manager, and Barcelona were looking decidedly vulnerable this season. As it panned out, the two legs of the tie could not have been more of a contrast.
At home, the PSG looked as though they were playing with 12 men. They outran Barcelona completely, they had more tackles, shots, shots on target; they beat Barcelona in almost every category. They left the Parc des Princes elated, Barcelona, the former superpower had been totally dismantled.
As jubilant as the club was after the first leg, they were equally distraught after the second. A total capitulation in the Catalan capital saw a rampaging Barcelona put 6 past a totally inept PSG side that resulted in many questioning Emery’s position. Whilst PSG fans will feel, with some justice, hard done by the referees the fact that PSG successfully completed four passes in the final 11 minutes demonstrated that they were just not good enough on the day.
In domestic cup competitions, PSG this season have looked like the team of old, routinely swatting aside all those who are in their way. PSG had to face Monaco twice in the cup competitions, beating them 4-1 in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue. In the Coupe de France semi-final a full strength PSG totally dismantled what was essentially an academy side plus Valére Germain 5-0, before running out 1-0 winners against Angers in the final. These two, along with the Trophée des Champions completed what is a considerably less self-congratulatory domestic treble than one involving the league, however it is still 2 out of three serious domestic trophies that any other club would be overjoyed to win.
— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) May 27, 2017
Ultimately though, we are conditioned to view this PSG season through the lens not just of last season’s total domestic domination, but also that that was not seen as enough for the board. The PSG hierarchy though, have presumably decided that sacking two managers in two seasons whilst winning five trophies may be a bit too much of a stretch. They have already given their public support to Unai Emery to let him carry on for another season to return the league title to Paris, and make a run in Europe similar to the three Europa League wins in a row that provided the job interview for PSG in the first place. An interesting summer lies ahead in Paris, will they reinvest in a pseudo-galacticos policy that has only partially worked so far? Or will they turn their eye towards a youth orientated policy that has served Monaco so well both domestically and in Europe?