In a two-part analysis (Part 1 | Part 2), I took a look at what, if anything, appeared missing both from the psychology of Paris Saint-Germain, as well as the required components of flow, defined as a deployable, effective “psychology of optimal experience.” When elite sports franchises keep their players, manager, and support staff in flow—or in as many components of flow as possible—they perform better across the season.
After ten games, where do we find PSG?
While some of the raw, most relevant stats should not surprise us—PSG in first place, the leader in goals, and goal difference—the journey getting to this point is instructive.
The First Three – W, L, W
PSG began the season with a win against Nîmes Olympique that was more of a struggle than it should have been, really only unlocking their opponent after a VAR decision led to an Edinson Cavani penalty goal. Two players that, in the past year, have exhibited mental strength in seeing their skills as applying directly to the challenges in front of the squad, Juan Bernat and Angel Di Maria, demonstrated their intent to drag their teammates to a debut win.
The apparent ongoing lack of concentration and focus among the remainder of the squad combined in game two with PSG’s domestic boogeymen in a flying Stade Rennais FC squad smarting from their Trophée des Champions loss to Paris to deal the club from the capital their first loss of the season. Note that last year, Thomas Tuchel’s assembled squad would break the record for the most wins to start to a domestic league season, registering 12 straight victories. Great teams center themselves on challenging themselves against record-setting standards. This version of PSG, this year, fell at the second time of asking, belying a lack of focus.
PSG came back to still have a truly below-average performance not revealed in the 4-0 scoreline against Toulouse FC. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s deeper relationship with Tuchel (see “Feedback,” here) allows the manager to smartly position and call upon the big striker against the right (read “weaker”) league opponents and see results.
The Next Four – W, W, W, L
PSG’s next four matches—FC Metz, where, again, it took a penalty call (and Di Maria’s conversion) to unlock the opponent, RC Strasbourg and Olympique Lyonnais (where Neymar Jr.’s late-game skills bundled fortunate wins around a dominant PSG/Di Maria performance in the UEFA Champions League) and a deserved loss to Stade de Reims—reflect where I think most of the 2019 calendar year-portion of PSG’s season will lie. Injuries appear to be the surface rationale for many in terms of the inconsistency of performance, and while I think that plays a part, for me it exacerbates other issues; namely, the lack of a clear effort to establishment of control among the players. In a previous article I wrote “…Control is having such clarity in the lead-up to intense moments that you dictate to those moments, rather than them dictating to you…,” and these first seven matches certainly spring from the latter mindset than any exhibition of ownership/control by the players or the plan.
The Last Three – W, W, W
Paris began this last phase of their first 10 matches with more of the same at Girondins de Bordeaux: late-minute heroics from Neymar, but the way in which the goal came about was more promising than previous goals that won games from the Brazilian this season. Harassing play from Idrissa Gueye leads to a turnover, distribution to Kylian Mbappé and a scintillating cross to Neymar…all without thinking. All in flow. Such moments of emergent synergy have happened more often in the last two matches, high goal-tally wins against Angers SCO and OGC Nice, with at least half of the goals in each game far more reflective of a set of teammates in flow than at any other point in the league season thus far.
We will look at PSG at the 10, 20, 30 and 38-game mark for clues and insight as to the level of optimal readiness and performance of the Parisians across the season.
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