Last season, Paris Saint Germain clinched their fourth straight Ligue 1 title. That is indeed impressive, but it’s not why they set a whole slew of records. For starters, Les Parisiens will need to win three more in order to match the impressive seven on the trot that Lyon won between 2002 and 2008.
Still, it was by far one of the most dominant displays football fans had seen in a while. The title race was effectively over by matchday 30, and were one to remove PSG from the league table, it would have looked more like what we saw in La Liga or the Premier League. Although they were unable to make history as the first French team to finish a season sans defeat, some began to grumble that the cash-rich side was turning Ligue 1 into a one-horse race.
A summer of big changes
Then came the summer. Out went Laurent Blanc. In arrived Unai Emery, who has established himself as a Europa League specialist after winning an unprecedented three consecutive titles with Sevilla. But arguably, the biggest departure – no pun intended – was Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It took the Swedish superstar just four seasons to become PSG’s all-time top goal-scorer. And with him now at Old Trafford, the onus is now on Edinson Cavani to seize his chance at being the team’s prima punta – something he had long sought in vain whilst Ibrahimovic was with the club.
Cavani, however, has not yet made PSG supporters totally forget Ibrahimovic. Yes, he has had his moments of excellence, including scoring a poker in a 6-0 rout of Caen to vault to the top of the goal-scoring charts. But he has had quite a few moments that would make any fan throw their hands up in the air in disgust and frustration – like during the team’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Arsenal in a game they really should have put to bed in the first 45.
Still, as is the case with any transitional period, there are bound to be hiccups along the way. PSG cruised to a 4-0 win over Lyon in the French Super Cup at the start of the season. But like a student who breezes through a simple quiz without much study only to face a rude awakening once he or she sees that first real exam, PSG have found that they won’t be able to kick back and cruise along this term without making an effort.
Something’s not right in the City of Light…
A loss and a draw had many furrowing their brows. However, those concerns were temporarily put to rest when PSG strung together back-to-back wins against Dijon and Caen, whilst scoring a whopping nine goals and conceding none.
It turned out to be a false dawn of sorts. Yes, PSG rebounded from a surprise 2-0 loss to Toulouse by picking up their first win in the Champions League on Wednesday evening. However, the 3-1 result over Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets was all but expected. Had Emery’s side returned to Paris without all three points in hand, alarm bells would have been screaming all across the Parc des Princes. They, however, have not exactly been silenced, but rather turned down a couple of notches.
To put things in perspective, PSG lost just two league games during the 2015/2016 campaign. Les Parisiens have already matched that – and we are only heading into matchday eight. They presently sit in fourth spot, four points behind Nice, who, now spearheaded by the enigmatic Mario Balotelli, have definitely been a surprise revelation so far this season. Now, of course, there are plenty of rounds left to play, and as any football supporter is well aware, a team can be leading the league all the way into the Christmas break only to capitulate and fail to win the title, let alone even make it into the top three. (Just ask any Inter fan about what happened last season).
Angel Di Maria, who was simply brilliant in his first season with PSG, has looked out of sorts, and at times, like a square peg in a round hole. Last term, he chipped in with a whopping 18 assists in 29 domestic games. This time, he’s offered just two, and both were during the team’s 3-0 win over Metz on August 21st. Certainly, some will argue that getting used to a new coach’s tactics takes time. At the same time, though, Di Maria played under Blanc for the first time as well and took to Ligue 1 like a duck to water.
It’s certainly quite early to speak of an actual crisis. But there’s something that seems amiss in the City of Light. Next up on the menu for PSG will be a tie with Bordeaux before the international break – a must win fixture to silence some of the grumbles and alleviate some of that pressure on Emery’s shoulders. Having earned a vital road win in the Champions League, this positive momentum can help to back PSG at 2/9 to just edge out Bordeaux and make it two consecutive wins in all competitions ahead of the upcoming hiatus.
Still, there is one positive thing about Les Parisiens indifferent form. That is, unless if one is a PSG supporter. If this is a sign of things to come, then this season’s Ligue 1 title race will be a lot more interesting than it has been in recent times. But, in all honesty, for the kind of money the team have spent, the domestic title should be a mere formality. It is in Europe where they really want to make a splash, and fans will be hoping that this all is just a sign of growing pains and not something more troubling.