An emerging trend in Paris Saint-Germain’s performances this season is that before a Champions League game, the side have often under-performed in their League clash.
Defeats to Saint-Etienne, Rennes and Nice were all followed by continental competition, and Carlo Ancelotti’s side were scalped once again ahead of the big showdown with Valencia next week. This time by lowly Reims.
No. One of the capital club’s biggest problems this season is that they have a tendency to take their eye off the ball ahead of big European games, overlooking the nitty gritty in Ligue 1 that, come season end, will have won them the title.
It is part and parcel of not having played in Europe’s top-tier competition for so long and partly down to a starkly contrasting mix of those with Champions League experience and those completely new to it.
Familiarity will come with time, but for now the team have to learn to balance the two together and if not, prioritise the league.
PSG have not won le Championnat for 19 years. Whilst a deep run in this year’s edition of the Champions League would be a highly impressive feat, it is hardly a pressing concern right now.
Ancelotti’s side are trying to do too much too soon. They want to dominate both at home and in Europe by demonstrating an immensely talented squad with depth to match that allows them to compete on all fronts. The foundations are there, but what needs to happen is that les Rouges et Bleus learn how to behave like a massive club.
The Manchester United’s, the Barcelona’s, the Real Madrid’s and the Bayern Munich’s all know how to do this, but PSG are not there yet. That is not to say that they are in the same bracket either, there is a long way to go.
But the capital club are a top side in the making and need to develop into a club that can handle the pressure of so many responsibilities and high expectations.
The Reims result just underlines how inexperienced the collective squad is. Whilst the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva all boast considerable individual experience, the team is still bonding as a unit.
The over-exertions against Marseille in the double header just days before didn’t help, but PSG need to escape this mentality of using excuses to deflect criticism, constructive or otherwise, after every defeat.
Ancelotti needs his players to see this a little bit and to take some of it on board.
PSG need something in the middle, a compromise between the two so that the importance of these games that the players fail to take seriously finally sinks in. Some of this under-performing is a product of the continuation to paint Ancelotti’s side as a perfect unit when they win a match, but to then destroy them when they lose one.
It is a patient process and one that, frustratingly, these results are a part of. PSG should not be losing to a team like Reims, but equally they should not be thinking that hey are capable of challenging for a Champions League title when they are not.
The capital club have made a habit of getting ahead of themselves this season and thinking that a game is won before they step onto the pitch. This is not the case, as the team are finding out now; it was a similar story last year, too.
The only difference this year is that bigger star names have arrived and with that comes a higher level of quality, capable of winning games with minimal effort.
PSG need to become accustomed to the Champions League. That is what this season is for, to get a taste of European action, but to succeed domestically overall.
That is a gradual process and Ancelotti’s side need to stop ignoring their bread and butter and view Europe as a bonus this season, concentrating instead on what is under their nose.