Paris Saint-Germain might be off to their best start in the Qatar Sports Investments era, earning 20 points out of a possible 24, but the performances on the pitch have left supporters questioning the desire of the players and Laurent Blanc’s squad selection.
Despite not losing any of the matches in the league, the players look to have returned to the lackluster displays that plagued them last season and forced the title race to go late into the season—a problem Blanc has been trying to address. The manager had this to say after PSG’s slow start in Saturday’s 4-1 win against FC Nantes on Saturday:
We can be pleased with the reaction that we had after halftime but we can’t afford to make a habit of putting ourselves in those situations. It happens sometimes, it happened today. But I hope it won’t be the case again.—Laurent Blanc, Paris Saint-Germain manager
The complacency of the team is most likely down to the lack of competition in Ligue 1 which has seen the capital club win the championship three times in a row with relative ease. In the other top European leagues there’s at least two clubs competing for the title: Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and Chelsea and Manchester City in the English Premier League.
Last season, Olympique Lyon and Marseille challenged PSG before running out of steam but this had more to do with Paris playing down to their competition than Lyon and Marseille raising their level of play. It was only after being knocked out of the Champions League that PSG took Ligue 1 by the scruff of its neck, going on a six match winning streak to secure the title. This season however, Ligue 1 appears to be worse off with the likes of Lyon, Marseille and Monaco, offering little in the way of a title challenge. It makes you wonder what Zlatan Ibrahimovic thinks about Ligue 1 this year after his controversial comments about France not deserving the PSG last year.
There’s also still a lack of competition in the squad to a large extent. Despite the club strengthening the squad in the summer to a reasonable extent, most of the starting XI still looks the same with the exception of Kevin Trapp and Angel Di Maria. Due to the club’s focus on building a global brand off the image of its top players, players like Ibrahimovic and David Luiz will continue to start even if they experience a dip in form.
I believe we may not see enthusiastic performances from PSG until the club no longer relies on individuals to boost its image. Competition in the squad is vital and at the moment I don’t believe there is enough. PSG clearly don’t need to be at 100 percent to win matches in the league but my major concern is that performances like what we saw against Nantes will creep into the Champions League as seemed to be the case against Malmö.
It’s obviously going to be difficult to expect the players to step up knowing how poor Ligue 1 is this season. We can only hope that Blanc finds a way to motivate the squad for the Champions League and continue putting out effective performances in the league to secure the title as early as possible and avoid a late-season challenge.