PSG’s Great Summer Rebuild: Goalkeeper and Defense

PSG’s Great Summer Rebuild: Midfield and Attack

The goalkeeper situation has been one of Paris Saint-Germain’s major issues since Qatar Sports Investments took over in 2011. There’s been little stability at the position with several players of similar quality all vying for playing time. The current strategy, rotating players every 3-4 matches is absolute nonsense and manager Thomas Tuchel vowed to fix the situation next season. So, it is safe to say that the goalkeeper role will be defined moving forward and we should have a clear-cut starter for Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League matches and a backup who will play in domestic cup competitions.

Tuchel’s defense was horrific the second part of last season, conceding 32 goals in 30 games (21 in the last 11 games), setting a new record in the QSI-era for worst defensive stats. Tuchel seemed to have found a solid defensive balance during the first part of the season after trying several options (3 center-backs, 2 center-backs, 4 center-backs) until the Manchester United debacle. Injuries and performances below expectations from substitutes led to a nightmare end of the season and I think that most of the fanbase will agree that drastic changes must be done in that part of the roster if we don’t want to live through another disastrous season in that part of the pitch.

Goalkeepers

We know that Gianluigi Buffon did not extend his contract and left the club as a free agent.

Alphonse Areola has had plenty of opportunities to claim the starting role but has never quite been able to live up to expectations. The Frenchman will likely not settle for a backup role either, which makes PSG’s decision on what to do with him that much more difficult. I believe PSG could sell Areola for a decent fee, around €20 million, and if a real offer of that amount comes in, I think the club must do the deal.

Keylor Navas is available on the transfer market as Real Madrid are happy with Thibaut Courtois as their starter. Navas only has one year left on his contract, so I believe the most he would go for is around €10-20 million. He will turn 33-years-old in December, but for a goalkeeper, that is a prime age for performance, and besides, he is eight years younger than Buffon who seemed very outdated at times last season. Navas played a major role in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League successful runs and I think PSG needs to jump on the occasion to make him the starter next season.

The reigning French champions still don’t want to spend too much money on keepers as they have other pressing priorities at different positions—like a defensive midfielder. In my opinion, PSG should try and convince Kevin Trapp to return from his loan from Eintracht Frankfurt and settle into the backup role next season. He had a decent loan spell with the Bundesliga club but he continues to be too error-prone to be considered a clear-cut starter for PSG. Trapp should be a decent backup to Navas if he accepts the fact that he will sit on the bench for much of the season.

Center-Backs

Captain Thiago Silva is entering the last year of his contract and PSG will need to make a tough decision in the near future. Unless a club comes with a decent offer to recruit him this summer, PSG should keep him until his contract runs out. He is turning 35-years-old, has had a history of injuries, and has displayed some technical and mental deficiencies during some of the most important matches for PSG. For these reasons, I believe PSG would be smart to not extend his contract and let him leave the French capital. Instead, the club should go all-in for Matthijs de Ligt this summer to transition him into the new leader of the defense for years to come. This move will be very costly, probably in the €80 million range, and he will demand a very high salary, but given his performances this past season with Ajax, he’s absolutely worth every penny at only 19 years of age.

Marquinhos has sacrificed himself for the good of the team and for the manager by agreeing to slot into the midfield on multiple occasions last season. This should stop next season in my opinion. The Brazilian needs to be a full-time center-back again and should not be moved around anymore. He is a defender and the club should keep it that way.

Presnel Kimpembe has been extremely disappointing ever since he received a contract extension and a hefty raise. It is said that his attitude ever since winning the FIFA World Cup with France has been problematic in the locker room. I believe he still has a pretty good reputation in Europe when it comes to his skill level, so PSG should be looking to see how much they can get for their once-prized defender. If a €40-50 million offer were to arrive on Leonardo’s table, he should definitely consider letting the Frenchman leave. If there aren’t any decent offers for him, then PSG should give him the chance to redeem himself and allow him the opportunity to compete for a starting position—which could be difficult if de Ligt chooses PSG.

Thilo Kehrer is another player that was moved around between two positions this season. He started as a center-back when he arrived last summer but didn’t appear to be very comfortable, making costly mistakes and getting red carded several times. He was the starting right-back for a while, and he did the job just fine until he lost his momentum by having an awful game against Manchester United. After that performance, he lost all of his confidence and momentum. Kehrer should be kept to compete for a spot anyway as I believe he will continue to improve next season.

Stanley N’Soki wants more playtime but his performances so far haven’t warranted additional chances from the manager. PSG should listen to offers for him this summer so that he can get what he wants and the club can add to their transfer purse. Loïc Mbe Soh should remain on the first team training squad and should play with PSG’s Under-19 team unless they have penury of central-backs at some point in the season.

That gives PSG 5+1 center-backs to compete for a place in the starting lineup, which isn’t too many players considering Tuchel likes to vary his defense from two-to-three at the back depending on the opponent, injuries, and the fact that he needs enough depth to be performing well in four competitions.

Right-Backs

Dani Alves was never going to be any better than what we saw last season, which wasn’t great, and it was a relief to hear that the Brazilian would be moving on after a brief stint in Paris.

Thomas Meunier seemed more worried about his social media beef with PSG supporters than his performances this past season. His career with PSG got off to a good start but his contributions have gone down from there. His lack of defensive capabilities cost him to be surpassed in the hierarchy by youngster Colin Dagba in the latter part of the season. PSG should sell him while he’s still worth a decent amount, preferably to a Premier League side that will overpay.

Dagba was the big surprise of the season. He has shown that he’s easily a Ligue 1 player already and he still has a lot of room to improve. I believe he will do just fine and will get plenty of playing time to progress as the backup right-back next season.

With Alves gone and Meunier likely looking around for a new club to sign for, that leaves PSG with no clear starter at right-back There are several players that are attainable at this position this summer. I’m thinking about Youcef Attal (OGC Nice) who would be a promising solution. He had an outstanding season and has the same profile as Alves, in that he’s more of an attacking player rather than strictly defensive, which would work with either two or three center-backs. He should be available for around €25-35 million (PSG tax included). With a similar profile, there is also Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City) who would be the more experienced solution. He has shown consistency in his performances in the Premier League and he probably wouldn’t mind a more interesting challenge than Leicester City. He should be available for €30-40 million. If PSG were to fail in negotiations to recruit either of those two players, there is Kenny Lala (RC Strasbourg Alsace) who has had two above-average seasons in Ligue 1, but to give him the starting spot in such a crucial position is a bit of a gamble because PSG are unsure of his abilities on the biggest stage.

Left-Backs

Juan Bernat was another big surprise last season. Signed at the last minute of last summer’s transfer window, he has shown that he is a very valuable player at Paris Saint-Germain. PSG must retain his services and hope for another similar performance from the Spaniard this season.

Layvin Kurzawa has been at PSG for five seasons now and he has never lived up to the potential that surrounded his arrival from AS Monaco. In fact, it doesn’t even seem like he has progressed at all. I think it’s time for him to move on and find a new club to regain what he lost. If Leonardo can get €25-30 million for him I think you have to do the deal.

Paris now needs a guy that can compete with Bernat. Same story as the right-backs, there are several possible recruits. Raphaël Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) wants a new challenge and Dortmund doesn’t seem to want to go against his will. He has had some problems with injuries last season but seems to be coming back slowly. He should be up for grabs for around €35-40 million. There is also Ricardo Rodríguez (AC Milan) who wishes to go to a club that will play in the Champions League after Milan failed once again to qualify. He did reject PSG’s offer three summers ago in favor of Milan, but he might be more motivated to come now that PSG has Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé. He should also be available for around €34-40 million. The last player I think PSG should target is more of a personal wish than something that is feasible. Nineteen-year-old Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham FC) has shown tremendous potential at both left-wing and left-back positions the past two season with Fulham, which makes him a perfect fit for Tuchel’s three center-back formations. He wants a new challenge as Fulham will be going to the second division next season and they shouldn’t hold him because he only has a year left on his contract. He should be available for around the €45-50 million range, but it is very unlikely that PSG will have a go at him simply because English players tend to want to stay in the Premier League than go to a foreign league.

That gives PSG two right-backs and two left-backs with enough talent to compete for the starting lineup. It is a little slim in case of injury, but players like Kehrer or Dagba are versatile enough to fill one of these roles if need be.

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Posted by Terry Le Terryble

Parisian expat' in Florida, born and raised Paris SG, passion for football and dark humor.