PSG’s annual crisis coming now and not next spring leaves Ligue 1 title race wide open


6:23 PM BST

  • Julien LaurensCorrespondent

Usually, the crisis comes a bit later. Back in the pre-Qatar era, it used to be in November and December. Often, Paris Saint-Germain would implode at this time of the season. Since 2011 and the arrival of the petrodollars, it’s typically happened in February or March, when the habitual Champions League exit occurs.

But to see a PSG team so poor, as we saw on Sunday in their 2-1 defeat in Rennes, so early in the season, is really rare. Yet, it is not surprising.

In Brittany, the team displayed all its weaknesses, all its issues and all its deficiencies in just one game. The lack of cohesion and team spirit was perhaps the most striking. The Parisians didn’t play as a team. They didn’t play for each other. There were no patterns of play, no movement, no triangles. All PSG did was to rely once more on Kylian Mbappe, who can’t do it all by himself — especially when he only has three shots on target in 90 minutes, as he did at the weekend.

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The French prodigy is a victim of PSG not playing well as a team. He doesn’t get the service he needs and deserves, and in return, PSG are not using him to the best of his ability.

In the first two matches of the Ligue 1 season — the opening-day victory against Nimes, and the defeat at Rennes — the level of football has been exceptionally poor. Sunday was probably one of the club’s worst performances of the past few years; they committed more fouls, attempted fewer shots and registered fewer shots on target than Rennes. For Parisian fans and those inside the club, it’s becoming a genuine worry to see their team playing this way.

The mistakes made by Thomas Tuchel have raised more questions — again. The German manager is losing more and more credit as time goes by. He played a back five in Rennes, despite not deploying such a tactic all preseason. His team selection was poor — particularly Julian Draxler‘s place in midfield at the expense of Pablo Sarabia, and Marquinhos’ directionless role in the middle of the park — his coaching was poor and even his postmatch news conference was poor.

It feels as though the bright young manager that he was a year ago has lost his touch, his instincts in all facets of management abandoning him. He seems lost. And for a club that has averaged a new manager every two seasons since Qatari Sports Investments has taken over, there is precious little time for Tuchel to regain his bearings in his second campaign at the Parc des Princes.

The absence of Neymar seems to be a real burden for Tuchel. He talks a lot about his superstar, how he would lose sleep if the Brazilian left, how the club’s No. 10 would need to be replaced, how he would be able to solve problems if his talisman were able to play. You can’t blame Tuchel for wanting the best team possible, and Neymar would clearly make his team better, but he has to stop focusing on the man who created this mess in the first place by asking to leave the club.

The irony is that, on the other hand, Tuchel tries to convince people that the Neymar saga has no impact on his players. This is a very disturbing situation for the whole club. First and foremost, for the dressing room that wants Neymar to stay. It’s not the same for anyone without him.

This ordeal is a nuisance for the club, with the uncertainty over his future at the Parc des Princes having enormous repercussions in terms of marketing, financials and PSG’s reputation. His exit would be a huge loss off the field, for sure.

On Sunday, the Parisians host Toulouse. The pressure on Tuchel and the players will be huge.

The last time PSG started a season so badly, they ended up not winning the league. In 2011-2012, they were defeated by Lorient at home in the opening game of the season. Montpellier won the title that year. In 2016-2017, Monaco beat them on Matchday 3 and also went on to win the league. It might just be a coincidence, but a team like Lyon (perfect this season and atop the table with a plus-nine goal differential) are watching PSG destroy themselves with great pleasure, and suddenly it looks like the Ligue 1 title race is wide open — unless PSG can quickly resolve their issues, both on the field and in the board room, and return to their dominant ways.


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