PSG were one of the most-improved teams during the European offseason. There is simply no way to deny that.
After finishing second in the Ligue 1 to AS Monaco last season, Les Parisiens were determined to improve their roster. And that’s exactly what happened, as they spent over €200 million to pry Neymar away from FC Barcelona, and also signed Kylian Mbappe from AS Monaco. The 18-year-old youngster was acquired on a season-long deal, but will be bought on a permanent basis after the 2018 World Cup.
As if Neymar and Mbappe were not enough, PSG also secured moves for Yuri Berchiche and Dani Alves. Alves comes from Juventus and was signed as a free transfer, further enhacing just how attractive PSG has become for world-class players over the past few years.
A team as good as PSG was bound to lose some players, though. Blaise Matuidi joined Juventus, Salvatore Sirigu signed with Torino, Jose went to Stoke, and Serge Aurier departed to Tottenham. But if we analyse the moves, we can see that PSG added several attacking players, but lost depth on defence. The question, then, becomes inevitable. Can PSG win all their competitions this season? They certainly assembled a talented roster. But sometimes teams need depth as well. And that’s an area where PSG are sorely lacking.
Comparing the Best XI and a (potential) alternative squad
The starting XI for PSG this season looks like this: Alphonse Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa; Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot; Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar; Edinson Cavani. That’s an impressive team, no question about it. But if PSG needed replacements, we can see that those are not as good as the regular starters.
If we imagined an alternative PSG squad, however, it would look like this: Kevin Trapp; Thomas Meunier, Pascal Kimpembe, Thiago Motta, Yuri Berchiche; Javier Pastore, Christopher Nkunku; Lucas Moura, Julian Draxler, Giovanni Lo Celso; Hatem Ben Arfa.
Conclusion – they would not be as nearly as good. And there are several problems here if we – on an exercise – were to remove the entire starting XI.
First of all, Motta would have to play as a centre-back since PSG only have three on the first-team roster. The central midfield pairing would have be adjusted as well, with Pastore deployed on a more defensive stance, and Christopher Nkunku also as a replacement to fill what – would be – a void in the middle of the pitch. And if we remove Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar, then PSG wouldn’t have another player to slot as an attacker. So someone like Julian Draxler and/or Hatem Ben Arfa would have to play on a more attacking stance.
This is merely a hypotetical exercise. But it is the best proof to show that PSG remain a flawed squad, even if they improved massively over the course of the summer.
These depth problems could complicate PSG down the road. The season only has roughly two months old, but good teams need depth all over the pitch. There are injuries, suspensions, and rotation over the course of an entire campaign. And while PSG have an insanely good squad at Unai Emery’s disposal, they need to do a better job of increasing the team’s depth as soon as they can.
Otherwise, they will be at risk of finishing the season empty handed. At least on Europe, because they simply don’t have enough depth to make a UCL run with such a short-handed squad. Especially if we compare them against other teams such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, or any of the Premier League contending sides.
So despite their improvements, the Ligue 1 giants have their work cut out if they want to win both the Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League this season. Because sometimes, having too many star players is not enough to get the job done.
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