Paris Saint Germain – So Far So Good

Paris Saint Germain – So Far So Good

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With PSG being taken over in May by their rich Qatari owners, a lot is expected from the club this season both domestically and in Europe. This is further highlighted due to several near misses last season which included narrowly missing out on playing in the Champions League with their fourth place finish and a last-gasp final defeat to Lille in the French Cup. PSG were linked with most high-profile players in the summer and though predictably they did not get most of their supposed ‘top-targets’, they were still able to spend a Ligue 1 record of over 80 million euros on new players conveniently before the new Fifa Financial Regulations will commence next season.

Their summer signings included a Ligue 1 transfer record of €42 million for the purchase of Javier Pastore from Palermo. With such lavish spending from Qatari Group, it is no surprise that the PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi has demanded a good start to the season in order to be in a position to win trophies come the business end to the season. Fortunately for the current coach Antoine Kombouare, he has been able to deliver so far with the club sitting comfortably at the top of the table and in a qualifying position in the Europa League. However, he continues to look over his shoulder, especially in the context that Guus Hiddink is now available.

The first stage of the long-term project for was the summer recruitment of new players which raised eyebrows in Europe and France especially. They were by far the busiest team in the summer and made nine signings worth a combined €86 million in every main position. To put in perspective their enormous financial muscle in the French League, this was not only the most spent by any French club; more crucially, PSG also signed four of the five most expensive players during the summer which also included two transfers directly from clubs in Ligue 1. Led by the sporting director Leonardo, who was appointed in July, he was in charge of these transfer dealings during the summer.

As well as the signing of Javier Pastore, their main summer signings also included French Internationals Kevin Gameiro from Lorient (€11 million), Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi from AS Roma and St Etienne (for €8 million respectively) then the Malian Momo Sissoko from Juventus (€7 million). Other arrivals included goalkeepers Salvatore Sirigu, Nicolas Douchez as well as defenders Diego Lugano and Bisevac.

With sudden mass changes in personnel during the summer and with Kombourare’s team needing time to gel, PSG were always likely to start slowly out of the blocks within the first few games of the season. The season started before PSG completed all of their summer signings and when Leonardo only recently joined at the helm. Though they had a slow start which included opening league defeat at home to Lorient, PSG quickly turned things around and with roughly a third of the season gone, they lie 3 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and sit second in their Europe League Group, in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages.

One of the main reasons why PSG have had a good start to the season is that first and foremost PSG are a hard team to beat. They play a solid 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders to shield the back-four and they also have speed and creativity in attacking areas. Their summer recruitment has also enabled PSG to rotate their squad across many competitions in order to minimise fatigue. Though they are out of one competition when they suffered an upset in the French League Cup to Dijon, things have definitely gone well so far.

PSG have been able to integrate a lot of their summer signings into the first team already which is an advantage. With star player Javier Pastore being in sparkling form with 6 goals and 2 assists in only 10 league matches and Kevin Gameiro scoring 8 goals in 10 appearances, PSG have not been short of goals, averaging two goals per game. Most of their signings have settled except perhaps for the signings of Sissoko and Matuidi who have had their season so far disrupted by injury. They also have conceded the fewest number of goals in their 13 league games (10 goals) so it seems that the team has been able to strike a good balance starting from the back with the goalkeeper Sirigu and then talented defenders such as Mamadou Sakho and Diego Lugano.

Despite the on-pitch success and massive influx of summer signings, PSG continue to be linked with several players in the run-up to the January transfer window. David Beckham has been strongly linked with the club and having played previously under Leonardo at AC Milan and the owners publically confirming that talks have already taken place, it is clear that a deal is in the pipeline. Other players linked with the club include Eden Hazard, Hamsik and Diego Milito from Lille, Napoli and Inter Milan respectively who have all underachieved to different extents so far this season.

PSG were also linked with Coach Carlo Ancelotti who reportedly turned down the job in favour of a potential stint in England. This came as a surprise, especially due to the strong start of the present coach Kombouare so far and the public praise he and his players have received from the owner this season. This recent news seems to suggest that the present coach’s days are numbered. The owners have further reason to be satisfied in the first stage of their long-term project; both in terms of results and the massive increase in revenue (50% increase in stadium attendance and 180% increase in replica shirts sales this season).

The massive increase in revenue in shirt sales was mainly due to purchases of Javier Pastore’s number 27 shirt and with the anticipated arrival of David Beckham, shirt sales are certain to rocket even further. In using Manchester City as an example for PSG a few years ago, there were plenty of changes in personnel at the beginning of their long-term project before things started to stabilise which included the sacking of Mark Hughes. For PSG at this moment, plenty of changes is a certainty, it is just a case of who will leave and who will arrive in the coming months and seasons.