PSG came agonizingly close to bringing the UEFA Champions League to the French capital after falling in the final to a ruthless Bayern. The affair showed how far the Parisian club had come with Thomas Tuchel. Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, and Laurent Blanc had all tried but none had come this far with the club. PSG with its ambitious project will most likely be looking to close this gap. The difference in quality in terms of players and coaches wasn’t much in that final but the little difference did matter. At right-back Bayern Munich had the world-class Joshua Kimmich while PSG had Thilo Kehrer opposite him and in the 58th minute, Coman would lose him for what proved the decisive goal in that encounter. Kehrer who played at right-back after Thomas Meunier left for Borussia Dortmund had no place starting in such a match.
Kehrer was dragged all over the place by Kingsley Coman. He nearly gave away a penalty on the stroke of half-time as Coman easily took him outside and came inside him, leaving him pulling at the Frenchman’s shoulder. 3 minutes after the goal, he would find himself lost once again as Coman got on the end of a Thomas Muller cross but this time Thiago Silva would clear the ball away. For PSG, a player of a higher caliber is required in that position.
Further reinforcement is needed in other positions like defensive midfield and maybe in the striking department too. PSG had maintained a strong interest in N’golo Kante but Chelsea was never eager to sell and he was also never interested in a move back to France.
Thomas Tuchel would get the player he wanted as Idrissa Gueye arrived at the Parc des Princes. He would add steel to Marco Verratti’s guile and his arrival would help Marquinhos move back into defense where he was performing brilliantly. Gana’s first few performances were incredible as he showed an understanding of Tuchel’s pressing and won the midfield battles flawlessly. The highlight of his initial form being his first leg performance against Real Madrid in the group stage of the Champions League. He consistently forced errors out of Casemiro and Kroos in the buildup phase and looked to move things quickly. As time went on, his influence in midfield waned and a few injuries did not help with his continuity. Also, Tuchel had continued with Marquinhos at defensive midfield opting to use Gana and Marco Verratti higher up the field while Marquinhos mopped up. Presnel Kimpebe’s season made sure Marquinhos wasn’t sorely missed at the back but it is evident that PSG needs a holding midfielder. This summer, PSG should be looking to invest in a proper defensive midfielder that can offer defensive protection at the back while keeping things moving quickly in midfield.
The latter part of that statement is where Gueye has failed recently, looking clunky on the ball and stalling progression. His performance in the quarterfinal against Atalanta was heavy, uncoordinated, and showed a lack of finesse. When Leandro Paredes came on for him, the ball was moved faster in rotation. He would not make the starting lineup for the semifinal or the f inal. A defensive midfielder is needed to shield PSG’s back four going into the new season.
When the ugly divorce between Inter Milan and Mauro Icardi took place in 2019, PSG gave him a shirt to put on alongside some of the best players in the world. While he has scored a healthy amount of goals, his overall game might not be enough to keep him around for long. His wife/agent (yeah that’s a good idea) continually made jibbing comments to the Inter Milan bosses and he was stripped off the club’s captaincy which should never have been his in the first place. He would refuse to play in the Europa League as a result of this, earning himself a ban from the club. PSG at the end of the season came swooping in with club-record scorer Edison Cavani on the decline. The way Cavani was moved aside is a discussion for another day but Icardi was scoring so all was well. But when he isn’t scoring his faults as a footballer lay open. Icardi drifts through the game with minimal impact and constantly fails to link up play. This failing was shown in the big games when the press stifled PSG’s buildup. He would often stand isolated with the two centre-backs rather than drop back to help the game move forward. Standing with the two centre-backs is not the problem but he fails to even deliver piercing movement when required. Kylian Mbappé has mostly provided the off-the-ball runs to Neymar’s on-the-ball skills. His stationary style makes him almost useless in big games when the pressure is high and you need skilled movement from your attacker to make use of whatever space your opponent gives.
This has always been his style though. For long he dominated the touch/goal stat in the Serie A. He required minimal touches to score but it meant everyone had to work to get the ball to him. Against Atalanta, he managed just 20 touches before coming off and while he mostly covered this sort of performance with a goal or two, on this occasion, it didn’t happen. PSG should be looking at a high-quality backup striker for the big occasions. This situation is so bizarre considering they let Cavani go in the middle of a UEFA Champions League run-in. PSG can be strange this way (see their handling of Thiago Silva for more understanding). Cavani would have been a handful in those games where Icardi tended to drift through. Now PSG has to find an alternative that isn’t Maxim Chopou-Moting whose contract at the Paris club is up.
Nasser El-Khelaifi, Leonardo Araujo, and Thomas Tuchel need to understand that this is the best point to close the gap and achieve their dreams. A defensive midfielder, a right-back and a striker to help them close the gaps that existed between them and Bayern Munich on that night in Lisbon. PSG have moved forcefully but not always smartly. Ligue 1 is one of the deepest talent pools in football yet they have often opted for foreign transfers. The continuous outgoings from their academy is making the matter worse. Moussa Diaby can bring far more dynamism than Pablo Sarabia, Christopher Nkunku’s creativity at Leipzig has shown that he would have been the perfect successor to Angel di Maria. Adil Aouchiche and Tanguy Kouassi, two vastly talented young footballers have left the French club this season too. Such a fine academy continues to be vastly underutilized. Watch them allow Houssem Aouar and Eduardo Camavinga move to another country while they spend ridiculous money on some foreigners. It is not that the foreigners are bad, but PSG consistently refuses to explore a known market and in doing so, fails to promote Ligue 1.
The club’s handling of Cavani has been distasteful too. Leading him out the door like he is not a large part of their history. Thiago Silva’s agent in his recent comments showed how negligent the PSG authorities have been. PSG has a wonderful talent factory in their academy and an even larger pond in Ligue 1 itself. If Leonardo looks around, there can be one or two pickups in the league that will help bridge that gap in quality.