With A New Ethos, Paris Saint-Germain Kicks Off Champions League Campaign – Forbes

PARIS, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 28: (L – R) Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain … [+] celebrate after victory in the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on September 28, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain welcomes Juventus to the Parc des Princes. It’s a fixture replete with storylines and star power. It’s the kind of match that evokes expectation: the Parisians, a nouveau riche club with ever-more influence in European soccer against Juventus, one of the traditional heavyweights struggling to adapt to new realities, even if the Italians’ Super League plans tried to reshape the landscape last season.
PSG and its chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi were not a part of the breakaway cabal. Instead, following the dramatic collapse of the Super League proposal, PSG is enjoying good ties with UEFA, courtesy of Al Khelaifi, who sits on the UEFA executive committee and heads the European Club Association (ECA). His Juventus counterpart Andrea Agnelli is isolated.
That shift in the balance of power is also reflected on the pitch. It’s telling that PSG is the overwhelming favorite to win tonight. This is no longer the Juventus that is associated with upstaging other major clubs through grit, determination and class. This Juventus is more mundane – a club that no longer boasts Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon or Roberto Baggio. Even Cristiano Ronaldo has departed. Instead, the Turin-based club is seeking to reestablish itself under seasoned coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Juventus’ start to the new Serie A season has not been encouraging with nine points from five matches, including three draws. The Turin club doesn’t score much, it’s xG is 0,88 and Allegri’s team doesn’t shy away from playing reactive soccer, dropping deep to keep spaces tight. It’s a strategy that Juventus may employ at the Parc and a scenario the host will encounter countless times this season: a massed defense seeking to thwart PSG’s stellar forward line, the famous or infamous MNM.
Manchester City may have Norway’s ultimate force of nature Erling Haaland and FC Barcelona may have Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s greatest striker of all time, but no forward line in the world can match the sheer class and devastation of MNM. On the face of it, Messi, Neymar and Mbappé is the most exciting front three assembled in the modern era of the game, but under previous coach Mauricio Pochettino the cost of fielding those three was too high. They didn’t track back when it mattered and so PSG became structurally incapable of playing modern, cohesive and pressing soccer, the way Pochettino likes it.
What transpired was another painful and predictable exit in the Champions League, notably at the hands of Real Madrid, a club PSG is so desperate to emulate. That dramatic elimination at the Bernabeu followed previous exits against Manchester City, Manchester United and FC Barcelona. Each and every time PSG invented new ways to depart Europe’s premier club competition. The club gradually became something of a parody, a status exacerbated by the petulance of its stars and club hierarchy. Even Messi’s arrival did not bring redemption. Instead, it complicated dressing room dynamics: who after all was the team’s lodestar?
This summer PSG tied national hero and local boy Kylian Mbappé further to the club. It required intervention from France’s head of state, Emmanuel Macron. Such is the drama at the Parc. Perhaps, the arrival in July of coach Christophe Galtier signifies something more fundamental – a change in ethos and in perception at last. His name is far less sexy than Laurent Blanc, Carlo Ancelotti, Thomas Tuchel and all those that have come before him and failed to conquer the Champions League.
Galtier has already shown that he is not afraid to bench his stars, even if it is just to rotate. It’s a sign that he wants to prioritize the collective over the individual stars. That down-to-earth attitude is perhaps what this club and squad need, even more so in the Champions League where only a staunch collective can triumph. PSG and MNM then know what to do against Juventus.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: