PSG – Ligue 1 Winners
Not really, but they might as well be.
As of January 31 with a 2-0 win over St Etienne, PSG are 24 points ahead of the Ligue 1 table, and second place Monaco are closer to relegation than they are to overcoming PSG. PSG have gone 32 games unbeaten in the French first division.
Laurent Blanc could play his youth or “B” team for the rest of the season and still win the league. Their goal difference of 48 is 39, yes, 39 better than the second best goal difference jointly held by OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille. The only way for PSG to lose would be if the entire first, and second, team somehow got injured, and their third team didn’t try to win a game.
PSG are also in the Coupe de la Ligue final after beating Toulouse 2-0 in the midweek fixture, and Laurent Blanc’s side is in through the group stage in the Champions League and faces its intense rivals from last year, Chelsea FC. Right now, PSG are looking completely unbeatable.
Yet many analysts don’t think that PSG will make it far against Europe’s best in the Champions League, saying they can’t compete against squads like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and even the remaining Premeir League clubs in the competition.
While some of these teams may be at another level entirely in terms of squad depth and historical success in the Champions League (especially Bayern in terms of depth), none of these teams have such a massive lead in their domestic league. When the Champions League starts to rev up and teams face difficult domestic and regional fixtures on a weekly basis, most teams will have to rest their players to find a way to achieve success in all competitions, or in extreme cases, be forced to abandon one competition for the sake of succeeding in another.
PSG will have no such problem. 24 points ahead in Ligue 1, they can significantly rest their main players when their schedule gets busy and they need their best players for Champions League fixtures. They will have no issues of playing tired players, and the likelihood that their important players get injured is also decreased with a calmer schedule involving more rest.
Let’s pretend that PSG didn’t have a 24 point lead in Ligue 1, or that they didn’t have the opportunity to frequently rest their best players to prepare for the Champions League, or that their domestic cup isn’t already into the final so they can get some early season rest – PSG are still a really, really, really good team, and aren’t being talked about enough outside of France. So I’m going to list some, just some, of their players to prove it.
I’ll start in defense. Keeper Kevin Trapp has been great between the sticks and as a reserved sweeper keeper for PSG this season, and doesn’t look to be threatened by intense competition. Their Brazilian center back pairing of David Luis and Thiago Silva is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, solid in defense and capable going forward, especially aerially in the box. Maxwell also fits this role. But you might say that they are both getting old, maybe too old to be of use in the Champions League (ha, good one).
Fine, you’re wrong, but fine. PSG still have some amazing, young, high potential defenders, including the likes of Marquinhos at center back and Aurier and Kurzawa at the fullback positions. They have been given more opportunities this season with PSG’s immense lead in Ligue 1, and have impressed in attack, contributing significantly to the team’s dominant play, as well as in defense, not making as many rookie errors as you might expect from young players.
Then comes their midfield. The highly capable Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta are attacking oriented players but are also highly capable of coming back in defense and helping their back line against more difficult competition (like what they might face in the Champions League). All three are world class players that haven’t yet begun the natural decline in technical ability that comes with old age.
Somewhere between the midfield and the attack, PSG have a plethora of players who are able to transition from defense to offense quickly and facilitate play in the final third of the pitch, both on the wings and through the center. These players include the young winger Lucas Moura, the versatile Angel Di Maria, the pacey and technical winger Javier Pastore, and attacking midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The younger players have seen more action due to the large lead of PSG in Ligue 1, benefiting from the experience of playing alongside greats like Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And although they are a young group, they are energetic and relentless in their pursuits to win the game and make an impression on their manager Laurent Blanc. Their versatility and youthful energy will be hard for even established teams to deal with, especially on the notorious PSG counterattack.
Angel Di Maria deserves a special mention. Since his move from Manchester United over the summer, he has come in an reinvigorated the PSG attacking force. With 8 goals and 9 assists in 17 appearances (creating a goal every game), he has been able to facilitate the attack and enable quick transitions to offense with his pace and dribbling ability. He is somewhat of a luxury player for Laurent Blanc, someone who can start or come on late to influence the game and allow the attacking players to play at their best. He was an important addition to the side if they want to challenge for a Champions League title.
Finally, PSG’s attack will strike fear into the heart of any defense. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the main striker alongside Uruguayan Edison Cavani, is known for his outrageous, kung fu style goals (probably because he was trained in the martial arts) that embarrass opponents at all levels. Supported by veteran Ezequiel Lavezzi and youngsters Hervin Ongenda and Jean-Kevin Augustin, PSG’s attack is relentless and deep – no wonder they have a goal difference of 48.
Their system of young, developing players mentored by veterans is similar to Juventus’s system. PSG are not only set up for a highly successful year this year, but similar to Massimiliano Allegri, Laurent Blanc is also building a strong core of young players that can lead the team in the future.
You may argue that Ligue 1 isn’t challenging enough and is too polar, so PSG’s results don’t prove anything. Well, Ligue 1 is one of the best leagues in Europe and the world with world class players galore, and even if it didn’t prove anything, PSG will still have faced easy competition all season while other Champions League competitors will have had to fight hard for their positions in their domestic leagues.
Don’t ignore PSG anymore. Their achievement warrants more than that, their players deserve more than that – and they may just surprise you against some of the world’s best.