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Busy Summer Beckons for PSG After Latest Champions League Failure

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain reacts after the defeact during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester City FC and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium on April 12, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images )
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Now out of the UEFA Champions League after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss away at Manchester City completed a 3-2 aggregate quarter-final defeat, Paris Saint-Germain’s season is looking decidedly less successful than it was a few weeks ago when the last-eight draw was made.

Assuming that the French champions successfully defend their Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France titles between now and the end of the campaign, this term will only be able to equal last—in terms of progress made—at best.

There is one slight difference in that PSG have been more convincing in Ligue 1 this season, but that will be of little consolation to Les Parisiens’ ambitious Qatari owners, who were bent on breaking into the Champions League semi-finals this time.

Speaking after the final whistle at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi admitted his disappointment at the result. The 42-year-old also promised a period of reflection to identify the reasons why his team did not break into the continent’s top four this time around.

We are very disappointed with the result. But that's football and we have to accept it. It's the fourth time we reach the quarter-finals and are eliminated. Now we have to take a step back and analyse what has happened.

Because of PSG’s latest failure in Europe, serious questions will be asked of the players and staff by the French capital outfit’s hierarchy in a bid to identify those areas where improvement is most needed, and significant—not to mention numerous—changes are likely to follow that process.

The first potential change at Parc des Princes this summer could be coach Laurent Blanc.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Laurent Blanc manager of Paris Saint-Germain reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Manchester City FC and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium on April 12, 2016 in Manchester,
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Despite a successful time in charge of the French capital outfit in domestic terms, Le President is yet to lead them past the Champions League quarter-finals. There is a growing feeling in Paris that the 50-year-old French tactician is not the man to take the Ligue 1 giants into the last four either.

With the likes of Jose Mourinho, Manuel Pellegrini, Jorge Sampaoli and Rudi Garcia all available at present or soon to be free in a period when there are few good options to choose from, now is the moment for Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) to move if they want to replace Blanc.

A coach with plenty of authority is required and one with tactical flexibility would also be a plus. Once a decision has been made on Blanc’s future either way, PSG can assess their need for a new sporting director.

Since Leonardo left the role back in 2013, it has remained vacant on a full-time basis. Olivier Letang steps into it every now and then when necessary, but the French capital outfit have nobody with experience directing the project, and they could need that when rebuilding the squad this summer.

Only once it is known who will be leading the team and calling the shots next season can alterations to the squad be considered.

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16 : Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp of Paris St Germain celebrates after Edinson Cavani of Paris St Germain scores to make it 2-1 during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea at Parc des Princes on Februa
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Starting in goal, German shot-stopper Kevin Trapp should be kept on despite a rocky first season in Paris, while Italy international Salvatore Sirigu and veteran Nicolas Douchez should be allowed to leave.

In theory, Trapp would keep the starting role, but if a new coach replaces Blanc then the 25-year-old goalkeeper could find himself out of favour. Also, the return of Alphonse Areola from his loan spell with Villarreal should be taken into account.

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 22:  Alphonse Areola of Villarreal stop a penalty during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and SD Eibar at El Madrigal stadium on November 22, 2015 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

The 23-year-old has been superb for Marcelino’s men so far this campaign and aside from one more loan spell with a club playing Champions League group-stage football, there is little extra experience for the Paris-born netminder to acquire before he is ready to challenge Trapp for the starting role.

It could be that a new coach fancies the Frenchman over the German and that Areola begins next term as PSG’s starting goalkeeper.

Moving on to the defence, the first port of call is Serge Aurier. The Ivory Coast international was an unmitigated disaster across both legs against City, and the 23-year-old’s reintegration after serving punishment for his ill-advised Periscope episode could not have been handled any worse.

If Blanc stays, does the African who publicly undermined him have a future at Parc des Princes? Or is a new coach the former Toulouse and RC Lens man’s only hope to save his career with Les Parisiens now?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: Marquinhos of PSG in action during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Etihad Stadium on April 12, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The second leg against City produced few positives but one of those was that Marquinhos, who demonstrated exactly why he should be starting ahead of the suspended David Luiz regularly in Paris.

It is possible that a new coach would fancy the latter as a defensive midfielder instead, so Marquinhos could get that starting berth alongside captain Thiago Silva that he craves but also merits.

On the flanks, veteran left-back Maxwell should be allowed to leave at the end of his contract this summer, while the same can be said of right-back Gregory van der Wiel.

The Brazilian—although still consistent and dependable domestically—has started to look his age in Europe, while the Netherlands international has simply failed to prove that he is good enough for a team that aspires to win the Champions League in the near future.

Paris Saint-Germain's French defender Layvin Kurzawa(L) celebrates a goal  during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs Lorient on February 3, 2016 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. / AFP / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo cre
FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Maxwell making way would enable Layvin Kurzawa to take over the starting role that he is arguably ready for right now, while the returning Lucas Digne could provide depth.

Neither France international would relish being in competition with each other for the starting berth, but healthy competition could bring the best out of both and benefit PSG for a while.

Should the French giants opt to sell Digne instead, they will have to look for a new left-back or a full-back capable of playing on either side—a rare breed of player—something that they have in Youssouf Sabaly who will return from his loan at FC Nantes.

Jordan Ikoko, who has spent this term on loan with Lens, is another option who will be available in the summer.

On top of those moves, Presnel Kimpembe must be loaned out next season to ensure that his development remains unimpeded, and that means that a new central defender would be required to cover Silva, Luiz and Marquinhos.

Moving into the midfield, PSG need a successor to the ageing Thiago Motta sooner rather than later, but they arguably have too many potential starters in that area—even without the Italy international.

Depending on whether or not Blanc stays and his preferred 4-3-3 shape is maintained, Le President or the potential new coach would have a headache picking three—or even four—from the current five options.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 25: Marco Verratti of PSG in action during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and AS Saint-Etienne (ASSE) at Parc des Princes stadium on October 25, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Azzurri veteran Motta, Italy international Marco Verratti, talented France under-21 international Adrien Rabiot, senior French star Blaise Matuidi and elegant Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore all merit inclusion in a starting XI.

If Motta is taken out of the picture because of his age and the 12 months that will be left on his contract from this summer, that leaves Verratti, Matuidi, Rabiot and Pastore—still potentially one of the best midfield units in Europe on paper.

Once recovered from his injury struggles this season, Verratti is a nailed-on starter and will not be going anywhere.

Matuidi has looked jaded at times because he gets run into the ground by club and country, but if he were rested more often, his position would not be under as much scrutiny as it has been this term.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 06:  Adrien Rabiot of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on April 6, 2016 i
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The emergence of Rabiot—now definitely capable of starting regularly for PSG—makes the French youngster difficult to drop, and the club would be foolish to sell at this stage of his development, while Pastore is a difference-maker when fit and functional.

Romain Habran will also return from his loan spell at Stade Lavallois to add another potential option.

Benjamin Stambouli offers little from the bench and can be done without, even if his attitude towards being a substitute and fighting for first-team opportunities is exemplary, while Christopher Nkunku needs first-team opportunities to develop further.

With those three areas take care of, then comes the attack.

Although he is still performing phenomenally well domestically and contributed greatly in the Champions League as well, PSG need to let Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave this summer. The money from his massive salary alone will enable significant regeneration within this team.

In terms of replacing the super Swede, Les Parisiens should look within before they decide to spend big money on the next figurehead of their ambitious project.

Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring a goal  during the Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Chelsea FC on February 16, 2016, at the Parc des Princes stadium
AFP/Getty Images

Edinson Cavani has struggled massively at times in Ibrahimovic’s shadow, but if assured that he will be the Ligue 1 champions’ main attacking threat going forward, he could be reborn. Will Blanc do that? It is unlikely, although a new coach might take a shine to El Matador.

Angel Di Maria is still in his debut campaign—a largely positive one at that—and although he went missing in both legs against Manchester City, he will be key to rebuilding or restructuring the attack in future.

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian midfielder Lucas (C) celebrates after scoring a penalty kick during the French L1 football match Guingamp vs Paris SG at the Roudourou stadium in Guingamp, western France, on April 9, 2016.     AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE / AF
LOIC VENANCE/Getty Images

Lucas Moura is perhaps under greater threat than the Argentina international. The Brazilian has flattered to deceive for most of his PSG career so far, and although he could be a key player under a new coach, this is something he has rarely been considered under Blanc.

If a new boss is brought in, then Lucas deserves a chance to prove himself in a new system. Otherwise, the South American should consider a summer move, with Blanc struggling to truly tap into his immense potential.

Jean-Christophe Bahebeck will also return from his time with AS Saint-Etienne at the end of the campaign.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 25:  Jean-Kevin Augustin #29 of Paris Saint-Germain reacts after missing a shot on goal against Chelsea during their International Champions Cup match at Bank of America Stadium on July 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Chelsea w
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Finally, young starlets Jean-Kevin Augustin and Odsonne Edouard—once he officially signs a professional contract—should be loaned out, while Hervin Ongenda should be allowed to leave permanently after failing to truly convince of his potential talent.

PSG need to learn from the mistake they made by keeping Augustin this season as a squad option. The 18-year-old has not benefitted from his time as a peripheral member of the senior group so far and lacks confidence.

Once all of those areas have been looked at, only then should the capital club assess their squad and decide which areas need reinforcing.

It promises to be a busy summer at Parc des Princes, and PSG cannot afford to stand still if they want to improve their chances of Champions League success next season.

Possible regenerated PSG 2016-17 squad without new signings:

Goalkeepers: Trapp and Areola.

Defenders: Aurier, Silva, Marquinhos, Luiz, Kimpembe, Kurzawa, Digne, Sabaly and Ikoko.

Midfielders: Verratti, Rabiot, Matuidi, Pastore, Habran and Nkunku.

Attackers: Cavani, Di Maria, Lucas, Augustin and Edouard.