Football Features

What next for PSG after CL heartache? The challenges PSG are facing following their defeat

By Ben Green

PSG: What next for Ligue 1 club after Champions League heartache?

Published: 16:00, 24 August 2020

Close, but no cigar in the end for Paris Saint-Germain and their unrelenting pursuit of Champions League glory.

The latter stages of the Champions League dished out plenty of thrills, spills and heartache, but for PSG it was further agony in Europe’s flagship competition as they reached the final hurdle in fine fashion but hit a snag with the finish line in sight.

The question now for those on the touchline and in the corridors of power is: what next? Since Qatar Sports Investments took over the capital club in 2011, the dugout has seen a wellspring of elite talent acquired in the obsessive quest to dominate Europe.

Domestically the Parisians have been all-conquering, but Ligue 1 titles and Coupe de France medals are simply par for the course; it’s ol’ ‘Big Ears’ that the powers that be truly crave. European glory is and always has been the main objective.

The likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery have all come and gone without crossing the final frontier, while Thomas Tuchel, often dubbed ‘Klopp 2.0’ has made the most significant breakthrough, reaching the final, but that thousand-yard stare just set in at the showpiece.

Fortunately for PSG it isn’t quite back to square one. Tuchel has laid the groundwork for a second assault, but there are certain weaknesses that need addressing, both tactically and mentally from this squad. But what exactly must Tuchel do to bring home the all-elusive trophy?

Transition from flat-track bullies to genuine giant-killers in Europe 

Perhaps most significantly, Tuchel must dispel PSG’s recent reputation in Europe as a flat-track bully. It seems almost disrespectful to utter those words in the same breath as a finalist, but many would argue that their route to the Lisbon showpiece wasn’t exactly the most ominous of runs.

Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta and RB Leipzig all represent difficult challenges, but arguably sit on the periphery of the truly elite bubble. In previous years they have exited to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City, and of course, have now come up short in the final this season.

Tuchel has the talent and tactical acumen to take down the big guns, but a mental block almost seems to set in when PSG butt heads with the best. More often than not it is their scalp being claimed and not the other way around. With a frontline of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, they almost have no excuses to fall flat and they must now find a way to navigate past the big boys.

Find an adequate heir to Thiago Silva’s defensive throne

The Brazilian bulwark may be 35, but you can understand why Chelsea are seemingly intent on bringing the PSG defender to Stamford Bridge. Silva is one of those unique players who seems to improve with age, cue the adage about fine wine, but he brings so much more to the plate than just defensive resilience.

PSG’s captain, Silva is a formidable defensive unit and leader, combining brains and brawn to intelligently read the game and snuff out danger. Those world class qualities, both on the ball and vocally, now leave a concerning void in the heart of Tuchel’s backline and he must address it urgently.

With the Ligue 1 campaign already underway, the German has been placed in an unenviable position to replenish his ranks with very little time. But, replenish he must. Silva’s absence could have a seismic effect on the squad harmony and balance at the back. If PSG are to challenge in Europe again, they need a proficient successor.

Look from within, the answers are not always in the market

There is a dramatic irony in Kingsley Coman scoring the match-winner against PSG. In their obsessive pursuit for Champions League glory, the academy graduate was almost ushered out of the door as his path to the first-team was blocked by the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani. As the Parisians stockpiled a cache of world class talent, Coman slipped out of the back gate and has now come back to haunt them.

Those big-money acquisitions failed where Coman has thrived: lifting continental silverware. PSG must now change tact in their transfer strategy and establish the Parc des Princes as a platform for precocious players to develop and hone their craft.

Tuchel forged a reputation at Dortmund for his ability to nurture young talent, with Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele just two of the players who improved exponentially under his tutelage. Paris is perpetually a hotbed for stars so, combined with Tuchel’s paternalistic propensity, there is almost a perfect recipe for PSG to bring through top talent.

The problem is only enhanced when you consider academy duo Moussa Dembele and Christopher Nkunku both reached the semi-finals with Lyon and RB Leipzig respectively this season. They wanted elite European quality on the books from far and wide, but it was staring them right in the face the whole time.

PSG still streets ahead of Ligue 1 challengers in 2020/21:

Despite another failure on the European stage, PSG seem likely to continue their stranglehold on Ligue 1 next season, according to odds from William Hill.

William Hill’s 2020/21 Ligue 1 title favourites:

  1. PSG – 1/33
  2. Lyon – 20/1
  3. Marseille – 28/1
  4. Lille – 66/1
  5. Monaco – 66/1

18+ only, Be Gamble Aware

Just like Silva, Cavani must be replaced

One could argue that Mauro Icardi fits the bill, but questions must surely be raised as to why Tuchel turned to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting rather than his £60m striker when PSG were chasing a goal at the Estadio da Luz. Sure, Icardi has scored goals for fun this season, even in the Champions League, but on closer inspection, his tally may not point so favourably in his direction as the front cover would suggest.

Five Champions League goals is an impressive return in any single season, but those five all came in the group stages against just two clubs: Club Brugge and Galatasaray. He fired a blank in both games against Real Madrid as well as his one knockout game against Atalanta.

It took the introduction of Mbappe and later Choupo-Moting before PSG resembled anything of a threatening side against the Italian club. In recent years, Cavani has netted in knockout games against Real Madrid, Barcelona (both legs in 2016/17) and Chelsea. Icardi must now look to follow suit if PSG want to take the next step.