You can’t win them all. For the first time in 16 months, Paris Saint-Germain lost a Ligue 1 match at the Parc des Princes. Stade de Reims traveled to the French capital last Wednesday to face a heavily rotated PSG squad and came away with a well-deserved 2-0 victory. It was their second win in a row over Thomas Tuchel’s team dating back to last season’s Ligue 1 finale at the Stade Auguste-Delaune.
The match was a difficult watch for supporters. Sure, Neymar Jr. was named in the starting lineup but he wasn’t surrounded with the quality he’s used to. Leandro Paredes and Layvin Kurzawa were both given a chance to prove themselves along with youngster Loïc Mbe Soh. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting led the attack with Pablo Sarabia who continued to struggle since arriving from La Liga. In defense, Abdou Diallo and Presnel Kimpembe partnered in the center-back role. It was an interesting lineup that I doubt we’ll see much of this season especially when you consider the result. Paredes and Kurzawa looked completely lost on the pitch and Mbe Soh proved he is not capable of playing right-back at this stage in his career. Choupo-Moting had to be subbed off due to injury and Keylor Navas’ shutout streak since arriving in Paris was broken.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 25, 2019
This isn’t a lineup fans can expect to see the rest of the season. Marco Verratti was suspended, Idrissa Gueye was left out of the team to rest, and Marquinhos started on the bench. Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani continue to recover from injuries and Thiago Silva watched from the stands. It was very much a makeshift team with Tuchel giving some fringe players an opportunity to earn more of his trust and with that, more playing time. Unfortunately, no one really stood out.
This match is very much a case where statistics can be deceiving. PSG had 72 percent possession, the same amount of shots on target (3), and a 91 percent pass success percentage compared to Reims’ 72 percent. Les Parisiens had a better aerial duel success rate, won more dribbles, and had more tackles. In football though, all that matters is how often you put the ball in the back of the net and without their versatile midfield and world-class attackers, PSG struggled as most teams would in their position.
What we learned is this. PSG is not as deep as we originally thought. Sporting director Leonardo worked hard this summer to increase the number of players available to Tuchel to cover for injuries and suspensions but perhaps this was a perfect storm in that Tuchel had to rely on too many fringe players. Perhaps Paredes would look better next to Verratti and Gueye for example. The best way to describe PSG’s play against Reims would be like a toddler trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
The first goal, scored by Hassane Kamara in the 29th minute, was the cause of multiple errors. Kurzawa allowed the Reims attacker entirely too much time to set up to cross into the box. The Frenchman literally stood there and watched Marshall Munetsi pick out Kamara and take his time to deliver a perfect ball. All Kamara had to do was out-jump Mbe Soh (who didn’t jump at all) and get his header past a diving Navas, who did get a hand on the ball but couldn’t keep it out entirely. The second goal didn’t come until stoppage time at the end of the match and there will be some question as to whether Navas should have saved it. Boulaye Dia acrobatically fired a shot on goal that bounced off the pitch, off the post, and past the Costa Rican’s outstretched arm.
We had a lot of players missing, that’s why we made so many changes. I have to manage the playing time of the squad. And I think it was possible to play better with the team we had on the pitch.—Thomas Tuchel
Reims absolutely outplayed PSG and earned the famous victory. PSG will point to their rotated squad as the primary cause but I still believe they had enough quality on the pitch to put in a better performance. It happens though and fans shouldn’t be too upset. PSG was brilliant against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League and ground out a win over Olympique Lyonnais on the road leading up to this match. A letdown like this was bound to happen when you consider the absences. Look at Manchester City recently. They lost to newly-promoted Norwich City and then turned around to win their Champions League match and defeat Watford FC 8-0. A season is all about ebbs and flows and as long as results like the one against Reims don’t become commonplace as we saw at the end of last season, you can live with a poor performance once in a while after a difficult stretch of games.
I do want to point out one issue that I’m not so willing to forgive and I hope Tuchel addresses with his team. In the first half, Neymar nutmegged Mathieu Cafaro who then chased the Brazilian down from behind and kicked/pushed him. Neymar is a player coming off two consecutive seasons with ankle issues and Cafaro should have been sent off for this in my opinion. This was not a football play and there was malicious intent here. The referee spoke to Cafaro but he didn’t even receive a yellow card for his transgression. If you’re Ligue 1, you cannot have this happening on a consistent basis to the biggest star in your league. If you are a PSG player, you can’t let this go without action either. I would have liked to have seen someone in PSG colors stick up for Neymar and let Cafaro know this type of behavior isn’t going to be allowed with physical force—an enforcer if you will like in hockey.
There are many ways one can react to being nutmegged by Neymar.
This is one of them. 🥜😡 pic.twitter.com/Xad3OV7Shw
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) September 25, 2019
Paris Saint-Germain remains at the top of the table despite the loss but they’re now level on 15 points with the surprise of the season Angers SCO. Up next for PSG is a road trip to Girondins Bordeaux for a Ligue 1 battle before heading to Turkey to face Galatasaray SK in the Champions League for Matchweek 2. We’ll have more on both matches so check back often and subscribe to our podcasts. Allez Paris!
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