Reims vs. Paris Saint-Germain: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain have looked invincible in Ligue 1 of late. They underlined their improved strength from last season with Saturday’s 3-0 (via ESPN FC) win over Stade de Reims, the last side that beat them in a competitive match.
Lucas Moura, Jeremy Menez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic formed PSG’s front three at the Stade Auguste Delaune as Laurent Blanc rotated his side following the international break. All three found the net, but the match was not as one-sided as the score line suggests.
Salvatore Sirigu was a contender for man of the match along with Moura and Christophe Jallet; the Italian pulled off some excellent saves to keep the hosts at bay. Grzegorz Krychowiak also missed a 68th minute penalty after Marco Verratti had conceded the spot-kick for a foul on Floyd Ayite.
"There are periods when you sense that the players have mastered everything individually and are a collective force that can overcome any test." Blanc told the press after the match (h/t ESPN FC).
"It is a period that must be appreciated as a coach because there are others when it doesn't work and you can't win."
The win moves the defending champions a provisional seven points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and, more importantly, moves PSG to within seven league matches of FC Nantes' 32-game unbeaten record.
Blanc’s men are now 34 games unbeaten in all competitions. While Zlatan Ibrahimovic joins teammate Edinson Cavani and AS Monaco’s Radamel Falcao on nine goals at the top of the scoring charts.
Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 3-0 win at Reims.
Lucas Moura Growing in Confidence
Since Paris Saint-Germain beat SC Bastia at the Parc des Princes back in October, Lucas Moura has been in steadily improving form. Following his strike against FC Lorient at the start of the month and his effort against Stade de Reims on Saturday, the Brazilian star has started to underline his immense potential.
His recent performances are similar to those that impressed when he first arrived in France back in January. The snub from national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari appears to have had the desired effect, too; Moura has scored twice since being dropped from the most recent Selecao squad.
His excellent link-up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Stade Auguste Delaune will help his case for a regular starting role alongside the Swede and Edinson Cavani.
Reims Lacks a Prolific Goalscorer
Despite the 3-0 score line suggesting a heavily rotated PSG side cruised past Reims, the match was not that one-sided.
The hosts had chances, not least Grzegorz Krychowiak’s second-half penalty, to level the score.
Salvatore Sirigu was in top form to keep out a host of efforts, but Hubert Fournier’s side were also wasteful in front of goal at times.
The lack of a prolific goalscorer is evident. Last season, Gaetan Courtet netted nine times; this year, he is yet to find the net. Prince Oniangue, a midfielder, is the side’s top scorer so far, and a more predatory player could turn Reims into a real force to be reckoned with.
What a Difference Eight Months Can Make
The biggest difference between Saturday’s performance and the one exhibited by PSG in their 1-0 defeat at the Stade Auguste Delaune back in March is the team’s superior maturity now.
Eight months ago, Carlo Ancelotti’s side were undone by a scrappy but deserved goal. Although, PSG missed a handful of good chances that day.
This time, the visitors had a similar number of opportunities but scored the crucial goal in the first half that enabled them to take control of a game that Reims had bossed until that point.
After that, PSG were more clinical and took more of their chances while also dominating possession.
Back in March, the French champions were still growing as a team.
Now, the players are more familiar with one another and grind out important wins like this that are now vital given the increased competition from AS Monaco to push them in the title race.
Reims a Team to Fear on the Road
The match may have finished 3-0, but PSG did not have it all their own way.
Reims put up stiff resistance, as expected, but were ultimately undone by their visitors’ clinical ability and mistakes of their own.
That does not change the fact that the current top five in Le Championnat have struggled to come away from the Stade Auguste Delaune with a result.
Hubert Fournier’s side have impressed with their ability to upset the bigger sides and, although PSG take the points, Reims can feel happy with their showing.
What they really lack is a finisher. It could mean the difference between a good finish in league and European qualification.
Salvatore Sirigu: PSG’s Unsung Hero
On so many occasions over the past two years, Salvatore Sirigu has come up big for PSG.
On Saturday against Reims, as he has done on a regular basis, he made a string of impressive saves that proved vital for PSG in being able to take home the points.
While the value of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva are often emphatically underlined, Sirigu is perennially understated.
Christophe Jallet, Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez all put forward strong cases for the man of the match award, but the Italian edged them all.
While the team has been assembled at high cost, Sirigu arrived for a more modest fee, yet he has consistently proved himself to be one of PSG’s best investments in the Qatar Sports Investments era.
Reims' Hubert Fournier One of France’s Best Upcoming Coaches
Last season’s consolidation of Reims’ Ligue 1 status and this campaign’s push for a top-half finish have further emphasised Hubert Fournier’s credentials as one of France’s burgeoning coaching talents.
His team may have been beaten by PSG on the day, but it was not because his tactics were at fault.
The gulf in class between the two sides simply told at the Stade Auguste Delaune.
Fournier is making an art out of Reims punching above their weight, and the defeat to PSG cannot take away from Reims’ impressive progress otherwise this term.
Should a managerial vacancy open up at one of the bigger Ligue 1 clubs this season, perhaps an Olympique de Marseille, a Girondins de Bordeaux or an Olympique Lyonnais, then those sorts of clubs would do well to give Fournier some deserved consideration.