Paris Saint-Germain were unbeaten in all competitions this season coming into Wednesday’s final UEFA Champions League Group F fixture against Barcelona. By the end of the week, the French champions had lost consecutive games for the first time since April after going down 1-0 to Ligue 1 rivals EA Guingamp in Brittany.
Jeremy Pied’s 11th minute header was enough to secure the Breton side all three points at Stade du Roudourou, and PSG can have few complaints about the score.
Laurent Blanc’s men were poor almost from the start of the game in Guingamp. Aside from Edinson Cavani’s early lobbed effort that hit the crossbar, Les Parisiens were woeful and barely threatened Jonas Lossl’s goal.
When they did, the Dane was in superb form to deny a late volleyed effort from the off-colour Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
However, aside from the future of PSG coach Blanc, the main talking point at the end of the game and a dark week for the capital club will be the deterioration of Thiago Silva and David Luiz’s central defensive partnership.
The Brazilian pair had a week to forget as they saw Barcelona’s fearsome front three score three times against them at Camp Nou and Guingamp take that tally to four with their goal at Stade du Roudourou.
Luiz was lambasted for his performance against Barca, while Silva also came in for scrutiny because of a below-par display. However, the majority of the questions post-Guingamp will be directed towards the latter.
While Luiz was poor against Jocelyn Gourvennec’s heroic Guingamp side, his errors were not as costly as Silva’s.
The PSG captain was muscled out of the way in the build-up to Pied's goal, and although Blaise Matuidi should also shoulder some responsibility for not doing more to clear the ball, the bulk of the criticism will rightly focus on the Brazilian.
Prior to the Barcelona game, it seemed as if the Silva-Luiz defensive partnership was a source of strength for PSG. The pair had kept five clean sheets from the seven games in all competitions they had played together since Silva’s return from a lengthy injury lay-off.
However, the two games that have put Blanc’s men under the most pressure since the Brazilian’s return have seen them crack.
There are other areas of the team that need looking at after some weak performances, notably Thiago Motta’s defensive midfield position and the attacking unit after some wasteful recent displays from Edinson Cavani and Lucas Moura in particular.
The defence is now the most worrying position, though.
Following the 1-0 loss to Guingamp, PSG no longer have the joint best defensive record in Ligue 1. AS Saint-Etienne have only shipped 12 goals, while the capital outfit have now leaked 13. Blanc’s men have now conceded in each of their last three games in Le Championnat.
Gregory van der Wiel and Maxwell should not be exempt from blame; the two full-backs have also contributed towards this new-found fragility at the back that the champions are experiencing. That does not mean it is any less Silva and Luiz’s concern, though.
Both central defenders should now fear for their starting roles, considering the excellent early season form displayed by young Brazilian international Marquinhos. Silva has looked a shadow of the strong, influential character he has been in the past, while Luiz looks lost without a dominant partner.
Silva came in for severe criticism prior to the Guingamp game and will surely be savaged once again as the press seek a scapegoat for PSG’s abrupt loss of form. However, dropping the No. 2 could have a disastrous impact on his morale when you take into consideration the fact that he has also lost the Brazilian national team captaincy inside the same year.
Instead, this exposure of the team’s defensive frailty should be used to address a few other weaknesses.
Motta’s continual poor performances just in front of the defence is still a greater cause for concern, and the Italian could make way for Luiz to move forward and Marquinhos to come in alongside Silva.
That way, Blanc gives Marquinhos another chance to strengthen his claims from earlier in the season, taking Luiz out of the defence and into the midfield, where he can arguably be more effective.
After such a disastrous week, Le President cannot afford to fail to react immediately. PSG travel to Corsica to face AC Ajaccio in a sticky Coupe de la Ligue last 16 clash on Wednesday. Should the unthinkable happen and Les Parisiens lose, Blanc could find himself out of a job before the end of the year.