Zlatan will want further adulation in 2013
2012 has been a fantastic year for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris Saint-Germain, even if the giant Swede has only been at the club for six months.
Leading the league on goal difference, Ibrahimovic’s goals have fired PSG into title contention when at times they have not been in convincing form. Now though, the team are looking more formidable.
With the arrival of Lucas Moura marking the start of the year, 2013 promises to be one of ambition for the capital club.
Here are 10 optimistic predictions for Ibra and PSG in 2013.
Ancelotti has been frustrated at his side's lack of dominance in Ligue 1
This season there is no excuse for not winning the title. The team has far more depth than any other team in the league, and for the money spent, this side should win Ligue 1 at a canter.
The addition of Lucas Moura has further enhanced an already stellar squad, and the difference in quality should be telling by the end of the season.
PSG have the quality to dominate le Championnat, but only recently have they been showing the sort of consistency needed to justify those claims. Expect that to continue in 2013 as the team grows.
Ibra and teammates celebrate yet another goal
Chasing a 44-goal domestic record set by Marseille’s Josip Skoblar in 1971, if Ibrahimovic continues his current trajectory he will no doubt eclipse that number.
The Swede has dominated Ligue 1 so far in terms of goals scored and individual performances, so expect his one-man mission to continue as he seeks an early record to go with his first honors in French football.
When focused on something, Ibrahimovic is a formidable force to try to stop. If PSG build up enough winning momentum in the early part of 2013, the Swede could finish the season like a freight train.
All smiles as PSG find the back of the net in Europe
It has taken the best part of half a season for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to get it right. But now it finally seems like they are ready to embrace their status as France’s most important club.
With that status comes pressure, but that can’t be unexpected given the vast sums of money spent on the side. Towards the end of 2012, PSG finally looked comfortable in their role as overriding favorites in every game.
Expect PSG to turn that pressure into points. Whether it is grinding out a 1-0 win or romping to a 4-0 victory, Ancelotti’s men look like their blip in form is a thing of the past. Their European form too is a sign of what to expect when things do finally click.
Ibrahimovic has worked hard on both aspects of his game
Given his superb early-season form at the top of the scoring charts, not to mention some brilliantly unselfish showings in the Champions League, the thought has surely crossed Ibra’s mind that he could top the assist leaderboard too.
There is no doubt that the Swede can handle the pressure of being both scorer and provider. He currently trails Lille’s Dimitri Payet in the standings by four assists.
Given that he assisted that number of goals in a single game against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, don’t bet against him trying that in the league.
PSG have impressed in the Champions League
The club’s progress in Europe’s top competition has been impressive so far. They topped Group A having dropped just three points and qualified ahead of Porto with one of this season’s best records.
Defensively, PSG have looked sound. Three goals conceded is a good return, particularly when you bear in mind their impressive scoring record of 14 goals. Those figures illustrate how Ancelotti’s men dominated their group, and that was exactly what was expected of them when it was drawn.
Now faced with Valencia, many feel that the draw for the knockout stages has been kind to the capital club. Defeat to the Spaniards would be seen as a disappointment, and PSG will expect to progress until at least the next round.
Zlatan no longer a one-man band?
The arrival of Lucas Moura gives PSG added quality going forward. More than that, he appears to be the ideal foil for Ibrahimovic given his incredible speed. The Swede is no slouch but he can’t be phenomenal at everything and speed is one of his main downfalls. Moura will offset that.
Although the Brazilian likely won’t start immediately in Ancelotti’s side, it is expected that he will have secured his place in the first team by the end of the current campaign. If he and Ibra have built up a rapport by that time, PSG next season is a frightening prospect for sides without taking into account summer spending.
Carlo Ancelotti was under pressure following PSG's Coupe de la Ligue exit
During their poor run of form in November, PSG fell foul to Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de la Ligue and will be keen to recover from the loss. Although the CdL was not the most important piece of silverware on the menu this year, the defeat was a disappointment to the club.
Expect les Parisiens to make up for it in the Coupe de France. There is more than enough depth in the current squad to launch an assault on the trophy. Ancelotti needs to stay on top of his squad rotation to ensure that PSG remain competitive on all fronts.
Given the CdF’s tradition of smaller teams doing well, PSG’s big squad should have no problem in disposing of some of French football’s minnows.
Ibrahimovic is used to receiving awards but the Ballon d'Or would top the list
If he can maintain his current form, Ibra will be on course to challenge for next season’s Ballon d’Or, especially if PSG can win something of note. The Champions League looks the most likely setting for that success so the Swede will be hoping that the capital club are drawn against one of Europe’s top sides if they can get past Valencia.
The PSG project may not yet be primed for European success, but Ibrahimovic is. He is on top of his game and could easily carry the club to the latter stages and further. If he can get PSG anywhere close to the final, that will be considered a massive achievement.
Only leading PSG single-handedly to Champions League glory would likely guarantee such an award, but the fact it is already being talked about as a possibility is testament to his superb form so far in France.
Ancelotti's side are not having it all their own way in Ligue 1
This winter’s lead at the summit of Ligue 1 on goal difference is hardly convincing, but given the club’s difficulties earlier in the season, it has been a remarkable turnaround.
Devoid of all confidence just over a month ago, the team have blasted back to the top of the league as the talent in the squad has shone through. Now at the halfway stage and in impressive form, Ancelotti’s side will be expected to steamroll opponents until May en route to the club’s first title in 19 years.
If they continue in this form, expect them to grow in confidence and stature over the summer, making PSG's following season a frightening prospect. A big lead at the midway point of next season would be progress for the capital club.
Ibrahimovic will once again look to better himself in 2013
Ibrahimovic’s 2012 record of 46 goals in 48 games is impressive, but as a player famed for his commitment to self-improvement, his next goal will be to break that record in 2013.
If he continues his superlative form from his first six months into the second half of the season, then his chances of realizing his aim will be almost tangible by the summer. They key for Ibra now is to stay focused and to build up a rapport with Lucas Moura as soon as the Brazilian breaks into the starting lineup.