With the Champions league finale drawing closer and closer, I have decided to look at what many people, myself included, believed was a club that could go the distance; Paris Saint-Germain. PSG has a long and illustrious career in Ligue 1, the French soccer league, where they have acquired a record number of Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, and Trophée des Champions. This has made PSG the most successful French club in terms of silverware and has also lead PSG to be the only club in Ligue 1 which has never been relegated to Ligue 2. But despite all this success in the French league, PSG has only once won the most coveted prize in all of Europe; the Champions League Cup. Their victory on May 8th, 1996 got them their single trophy but it is more shocking that in today’s soccer landscape they have not managed to get the round of 16. So why have they struggled so much in international competition and how can they improve?
Just as a preface, Bleacher Report has already published an excellent article on the very same topic. However, the article is from 2018 when PSG was knocked out of the tournament by Real Madrid during the round of 16, so I will be discussing if PSG learned anything from this previous defeat and explain why they were knocked out again in this year’s tournament. The very first thing that the article mentions is PSG’s lack of an elite goalkeeper. During the 2018 tournament, PSG used goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who although can be faulty at times, is a decent keeper. He often times leaves his line to palm crosses but that usually results in the ball being placed in a dangerous area and that is something that a team seeking a European prize cannot afford. It seemed that PSG recognized this problem going into the offseason and searched for a better keeper to sign for the upcoming season. However, I cannot say that their pick, Gianluigi Buffon, was the best choice. Although the start-studded keeper has had a long and illustrious career, including a world cup and several champions league finals appearances, he is quickly approaching the end of his run as a keeper. When it was confirmed that Buffon would not be returning to Juventus, many people including me believed this would be his last season of professional soccer. So it was a surprise to see him sign with PSG.
Now don’t get me wrong. As I said before Buffon is a phenomenal goalkeeper and certainly brought experience and knowledge with him to PSG. He has been playing the game for over 20 years and with that comes to experience that you cannot teach. But as stated before, he is on his last legs. I would have like to seen PSG sign a goalkeeper that is on the come-up and can stay as their goalie for the years to come, much like what Buffon was for Juventus. Signing someone such as Thibaut Courtois, Jan Oblak, or Alisson Becker could have ensured an elite goalkeeper that could have played for multiple seasons in the future. And yet they decided to only give Buffon a one-year contract. As much as I respect Buffon for all that he has done for the sport, it is in PSG’s best interest that they release him this offseason and look for a goalkeeper that can stay at the Parc des Princes for a while.
Another problem that has affected PSG for multiple seasons is their cracking under pressure. For the last three Champion’s league season, PSG has dominated their respective groups, usually not receiving much if any opposition. But the efficient machine they are during the group stage crumbles when they arrive at the knockout stage. Many spectators attribute this lack of driving mentality to their mindstate and manager. Adrien Rabiot, PSG’s central midfielder puts it best, “It’s all well and good putting eight goals past Dijon, but it’s in matches like this that you have to stand up and be counted. We always say the same things, we always do the same things, and in the end, we are always floored in the same way.”
Let me be clear in saying that PSG is not a bad team. Drawing Barcelona and Real Madrid in back to back seasons was rotten luck and losing to Manchester on a controversial penalty kick was not reflective of how they played. They have one of the strongest attacking trio’s in Europe with Cavani, Neymar, and Mbappé and have great subs in Di Maria and Draxler. It is a shame that they have not been able to find success in the Champion’s League but hopefully with this defeat they can finally learn what has been troubling their team and fix it. I will also link the full Bleacher Report article because it’s a great read!
Bleacher Report Article: https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2763004-what-psg-need-to-fix-to-win-the-champions-league