Friday, 30 December 2011

Carlo goes to Paris: Ancelotti unveiled at PSG

"Just think how many cigarettes I can buy with all that Arab cash"
Earlier today in the crazy world that is Twitter, one of the trending topics worldwide was “Eleanor goes to Paris”.

Having done some web-based research, I’ve ascertained that Eleanor is model Eleanor Calder, girlfriend of singer Louis Tomlinson from X-Factor band One Direction. Apparently romantic/sappy (delete as appropriate) Louis whisked his beau off to Paris for a surprise Christmas trip, bless his little cotton socks.

Personally I prefer the story “Carlo goes to Paris”, which sees heroic/scheming (delete as appropriate) Brazilian heart-throb Leonardo whisk Carlo Ancelotti off to Paris to persuade him to become Paris St
Germain’s new manager using the lure of a humungous salary being part of the QSI project.

“I loved my English experience at Chelsea but with PSG there is the possibility of [doing] something great,” said Ancelotti, as he was unveiled as the club’s new head coach earlier today on a two and a half year deal.
“The club has huge ambitions and I am very excited about this project.”

The Italian’s unveiling was preceded by an announcement confirming that Antoine Kombouare had been sent on his way with a golden handshake reportedly worth €3million.

“Carletto” will be assisted by Claude Makalele, and like his predecessor has been set the task of reaching the promised land of the Champions League.

“The priority is to participate in the Champions League next season,” he said. “The team should be competitive and effective in Europe in the near future. We are currently leading the league, we intend to remain there until the end of the current year and grow over that time.
“Improving every day will be the key to my work.”

That last quote is an interesting one for me. As I’ve said before, I have great admiration for the way AK turned a new group of players into an XI that, for all it’s faults, functioned well enough to top the table.

But did they improve during his tenure? You might argue they were no more of a team by December than they were in September, still relying on individual brilliance to get by when the chips were down.

In some ways Ancelotti is on a hiding to nothing between now and the end of the year. If he wins the league, AK takes at least half the credit, and besides which we ought to finish top given our squad and budget.

However if he can guide the team to Champions League qualification while putting a structure in place and engendering some team spirit in a squad which is likely to be bulging at the seams by the end of the
January transfer window, then we should be well set for next term.

After six months working with someone else’s man, the owners finally have a manager in place they are totally happy with. You would hope he’ll be given the freedom to lay some foundations for the future
without having to worry that every bad result is going to cost him his job. Over to you Carlo…

Thursday, 29 December 2011

PSG's year in lists

Clinging as I do to a lowly rung of the media ladder, I've come to realise that filling space at this time of year - be it in print, online, or in a television schedule - is a tricky business.

Unless you get an unexpected bonus like, I don't know, a member of the royal family being hospitalised, there's very little going on in the world, hence the prevalence of banal end-of-year lists. You know the type: Top 50 songs of the year, top ten reality shows, best door-knobs of 2011, that sort of thing.

Of course PSG isn't exactly a news-free zone at present. Indeed the long and drawn out process of changing coach should come to a conclusion in the next few days, given that the internet is awash with grainy photos and videos of Carlo Ancelotti getting in and out of cars across the French capital.

But while we wait for his appointment, I thought I'd do an end-of-year list anyway. For the purposes of this article, the year starts in June, when PSGT was "born". I know that's cheating, but it's my blog so naahh.

Player of the year
Salvatore Sirigu. The Italian has played behind a perpetually changing, and usually uncertain, back four since arriving from Palermo in the summer, but hasn't let that stop him putting in a series of outstanding performances. Without his phenomenal reflexes it's fair to say that PSG would be several points worse off than they are, and he looks a snip at €3.5million.

Flop of the year
Diego Lugano. It's very difficult for me to write this bit, as I'm a big fan of lovely Lugano. But since arriving from Fenerbache in September he's been a bit pants, looking sluggish and being directly at fault for a number of goals we've conceded. To make matters worse for the Uruguay captain, he's now lost his place in the side to Zoumana Camara.
In mitigation, he's probably knackered having played through the last two summers almost non-stop (at the World Cup and Copa America), and hopefully he'll get a new lease of life under Ancelotti.

Unsung hero of the year
Christophe Jallet. Though far from the most glamorous name in the PSG squad, the ex-Nantes man has been one of our most reliable performers this season, be it at right back or on the wing, providing pace and energy. It would be a shame if his services were to be dispensed with under the new regime.

Match of the year
PSG 2-0 Lyon. Probably the high point of the season so far, a result against one of the other title hopefuls that took us three points clear at the top, Pastore and Jallet with the goals. Bosh.

Worst match of the year
Marseille 3-0 PSG. Need I say more?

Goal of the year
Javier Pastore vs Evian. Everything that's good about Pastore encapsulated as the Argentine evades three tackles to get his side back into a match in which they were trailing 2-0. Remember those halcyon days of autumn when he used to do this every week...

Nickname of the year
Blaise Matuidi - Mr Elastic. Basically I just wish I was known as Mr Elastic.

Terrible haircut of the year
Jeremy Menez. Again, need I say more?

Quote of the year
Menez again (though he denies it): "Running is for the others. I’m here for the attacking play." Not sure he's really understood the point of football.

Lie of the year
"More than anything we want the new Messi. We don't want to sign Lionel Messi, but we want to invest in the big stars of tomorrow from all over the world, including France."
- Nasser Al-Khalaifi, speaking as QSI formalised their take-over of the club. Cue a six-month pursuit of that well known star of tomorrow, David Beckham.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all PSGT readers, here's to a Red and Blue 2012. Allez Paris!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Kombouare on his bike? PSG set to appoint Ancelotti

"There's no way that Italian bloke with the funny eye-brows is sexier than me"
AUTUMN CHAMPIONS declares the splash page on the PSG website. It's only when you click past this that you find the statement that points to the demise of the man that took us to top spot.

Most French media sources are running the story that Antoine Kombouare was finally dismissed from his position as PSG coach on Thursday morning, and that as of January 1 Carlo Ancelotti will be installed in the hot-seat.

Yesterday afternoon this statement arrived from the club, and hardly does much to dispel the swirling maelstrom of rumours.

It said: "Paris Saint-Germain and their first-team coach Antoine Kombouare would like to clarify that they are engaged in positive discussions, with a view to making a resolution that will protect both parties’ interests." That clears that up then. It seems unlikely these talks are going to end well for AK, apart from in the sense that he'll be walking off with a massive sack of Qatari cash.

As PSGT has said before, the departure of the former Valenciennes has been inevitable for a while, arguably since QSI arrived. 

"The real problem is internationally: who knows Kombouaré outside France?" said former OM president Bernard Tapie, sticking his beak in for reasons unknown. Or to put it another way, a headline in today's Parisien reads "He was just not sexy enough".

Personally I think AK is a perfectly sexy chap - just look at that enigmatic stare and fine bone structure. And the timing of this decision, however inevitable, feels a bit wrong. His critics would say that a lack of tactical imagination has hindered PSG this season, but his sacking (if it's happened) came less than 24 hours after arguably PSG's best team performance of the season, when they won 1-0 in St Etienne. Though the defence still looked shakier than a bouncy castle in a hurricane, the players were working for one other, with even the work-shy Jeremy Menez tracking back to help out when we were under pressure.

It was a result which took them three points clear at the top at the half-way point of the season, thus earning the aforementioned Autumn Champions honour. Given that has remit at the start of the season was supposedly to get into the Champions League, what more could the poor bloke do?

I have no problem with Ancelotti. After all, this is a man who survived a one-on-one confrontation with a bear. And while Tapie may be a match-fixing scum-bag, but he's correct that we need a coach with profile. Soon the team is going to be more Beckhams and Pastores than Armands and Bodmers, and the new influx will need someone who can keep them in check.

But it seems very shoddy to keep a club legend like Kombouare hanging on in his job for half a season while the club so transparently look for someone better. AK has acted with dignity, something the PSG hierarchy increasingly lack. If/when he goes, I'm sure all PSG fans will wish him every success in the future.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Player Profile: Sylvain Armand

Name: Sylvain Armand
DOB: August 1 1980
Former Clubs: St Etienne, Clermont, Nantes
Signed: June 2004, undisclosed
International: Full French international

On my second ever visit to the Parc des Princes, in April 2010, PSG were entertaining then Ligue 1 champions Bordeaux.

With the score at 0-0 in the 31st minute, visiting keeper Ulrich Rame was sent off for handball giving PSG a free kick outside the box.

Up stepped a rugged looking defender going by the name of Sylvain Armand, who proceeded to welly the ball through the wall and into the net to score the opening goal.

It was one of nine goals the 31-year-old has scored in his seven years at PSG, during which time he has become a firm fans favourite.

Young Sylvain started his career in the academy of St Etienne, but was released at the end of his scholarship, and had to defect to Clermont in 1999 in order to get some first team football under his belt.

After just one season at the Stade Gabriel Montpied he had already caught the eye of bigger clubs, and the following summer he was on his way to then Ligue 1 side Nantes.

He probably didn’t imagine at the time that 12 months later he would be collecting a title winners medal, as Les Canaris romped away with the Championship under the stewardship of Raynald Denoueix.

This gave Armand the chance to play in the Champions League, and although Nantes didn’t make waves in the competition, the left-back notched this sexy goal against Lazio, which probably helped bring him to the attention of Europe’s bigger clubs.

It was also around then that he hit the headlines for alleged spitting incident involving Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy.

“I lost my mind a little bit because of an incident that happened on the pitch with their left-back,” said Ol’ Horseface.

“I got a bit annoyed in the tunnel. You don't often see that with me. It had been something on the pitch. I don't like to mention it because it was quite dirty. It had nothing to do with football.”

Armand denied expelling any fluids in RVN’s direction, and indeed the incident didn’t stop Sir Alex, along with Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, expressing an interest in bringing him to the Premier League.

But he remained at Nantes until June 2004, when he and team-mate Mario Yepes made the switch to PSG.

Faced with the daunting task of replacing Gabby Heinze, who had moved to Manchester United, Armand was philosophical.

“I like Heinze,” he said. “The comparisons will come inevitably because he left his mark at PSG. He has qualities that I do not and vice versa.”

Since then the Rouges-et-Bleu fans have come to appreciate Armand’s qualities, and he has racked up over 300 appearances, staying loyal to the club through the bad times despite strong interest from the then all-conquering Lyon.

Named player of the year in 2006/07, he initially forming a strong left-sided partnership with Jerome Rothen. However in recent seasons he has become something of a utility player, having been deployed in the centre of defence and in midfielder since Antoine Kombouare took over.

In the course of researching this profile, I found a couple of other amusing things.
Firstly, the La Strada restaurant in Nantes has created a Pizza Armand in his honour, though I’m unsure of the toppings.

Secondly, he has his own website, which features an amusing biography section. Here we learn that Sylvain’s biggest weakness is gluttony (“at home, there are always treats at hand”) and that his dislikes include discrimination, injustice, and, er, aluminium foil.

What a guy. I’ll leave the last word to the man himself, who said upon making his 300th appearance for PSG: “I’ve had seven seasons here and had many beautiful times. More difficult times too, but I have no regrets. I won titles with PSG and that's all I remember. I hope to play many more matches in the Red and Blue.”

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sochaux 0-1 PSG: Tevez talk as we re-take top spot

Neither Britain's coalition government nor PSG boss Antoine Kombouare appear to have a bright long-term future.

But while the cracks in the ConDem regime have widened this week following David Cameron's ill-fated appearance at the Eurozone negotiations, AK is probably feeling a bit more secure in his job than he did seven days ago.

Yesterday the PSG picked up their second successive win, beating Sochaux 1-0 thanks to Kevin Gameiro's excellent angled finish. Combined with Montpellier's surprise defeat at the hands of AK's old club, Valenciennes, it means Les Rouges-et-Bleu are joint-top of the table once more.

"Everyone had a great match," said Super Kev afterwards. "The defensive work of the whole team was great. Personally, I had more touches of the ball and more shots than before. We all realise that we must go through this if we want a successful season. Each player supports each other."

Teamwork eh? A radical new concept for PSG to consider, but one which they could do with embracing on a more regular basis, starting this Thursday when they entertain Bilbao in a crucial Europa League match. I didn't see yesterday's game, but apparently we were starting to show signs of being a more effective unit, which can only be a good thing.

However any chance of team spirit manifesting itself could be nipped in the bud, with reports surfacing on both sides of the channel that PSG are in the running to sign Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez. Apparently we're set to gazump AC Milan, who want to take the striker on an initial six-month loan, by making a €25million cash bid.

"I spoke with the player's agent, he told me that Carlitos preferred to go to Milan," Leonardo told Italian paper Corriere della Salla. "But Manchester wants to sell and not pay. If the City agree to loan Tevez goes to Milan, the case is closed. Otherwise the market is open..."

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rafa Benitez to PSG? Yes, no, maybe

Typical, I go offline for a few hours and miss Rafa Benitez's entire reign as PSG boss.

As is the way with PSG these days, what's actually happening isn't particularly clear, but here's how the story broke last night

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Crunch time for PSG (and Kombouare) as they host Auxerre

In about 50 minutes time PSG kick off against Auxerre, looking for a first win in five games.

Whether this afternoon's match will be the last time we see Antoine Kombouare on the PdP's home bench remains to be seen. Following Thursday's 2-0 Europa League defeat at Red Bull Salzburg, multiple sources claim that whatever happens this afternoon, the former Valenciennes boss is for the chop, with the untried Claude Makalele reportedly ready to step in as interim boss.

Personally I'll believe it when it happens, as these kind of rumours seem to have been floating around all season. A win against an Auxerre side 16th in the table and struggling for form is obviously imperative, and we could probably do with a stylish performance of the sort that hasn't been seen since the defeat of Lyon back in October.

PSG have reverted back to their tried and tested league line-up for this afternoon's game, with Pastore, Menez and Gameiro back in up front, Matuidi restored to the midfield, and Camara in at the back for Bisevac.

"I believe in the ability of my group, the quality of my players," said AK at his pre-match press conference on Friday. This is perhaps a surprising statement given that they've let him down so badly of late, but it does show admirable courage in his convictions. After all, this is the team that got us to the top of the table, and it would look a bit weak if he ripped it up and started again just because of a few bad results.

Kombouare's stubborness is one of his most endearing characteristics in my eyes, and we can only hope the players repay his faith in them this afternoon.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Broken PSG look for quick fix at Red Bull Salzburg

In the words of Michael Cox of Zonal Marking fame, PSG looked a "broken team" in Sunday's yes-it-really-did-happen-and-yes-it-really-was-that-bad clasico defeat to OM.

Ahead of tonight's Europa League clash with Red Bull Salzburg, Antoine Kombouare has not so much made repairs to his flagging as torn it to pieces and started again.

AK will be making his customary Europa League changes, meaning starts for Nicky Shower in goal and Mevlut Erding up front. Injuries will deprive him of Jezza Menneza and Diego Lugano, though on Sunday's evidence neither is a great loss, while Javier Pastore has been left at home because he's feeling a bit tired

"Let's be clear, this is not a penalty," said AK, which is lucky really as on current form El Flaco would probably miss if it was.

"He needs to have a breather and recharge his batteries. When he's in better shape physically, he'll be better mentally as well. I'm not punishing him; he needs some time."

Without the three big names, Clement Chantome is being tipped to make a first start for a while having recovered from injury. Irritatingly, he got a red card for the reserves at the weekend and won't be available for Sunday's league match with Auxerre. Pastore's role will be filled by Matthieu Bodmer, and with Momo Sissoko or Blaise Matuidi filling the third central berth, the team already has a more balanced, if less explosive, look about it.

Regardless of the side that starts, the 11 AK selects should have enough to see off Salzburg, a team who are muddling along in the middle of the Bundesliga table, but (slightly worryingly) come into this match on the back of a 6-0 tonking of the mighty Kapfenberger SVA.

A draw would be enough to take PSG through, and even with a win they're unlikely to win the group unless Bilbao cock up big time against Bratislava. Allez Paris!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Olympique Marseille 3-0 PSG: Derby despair

Highlights - OM 3-0 PSG

The PSG players have been in for extra training this morning. “This session is closed to the public” reports the official club site gravely.

It was probably a good move for the squad’s protection to keep the fans out, though I would have been interested to know what exactly they were practicing. On the basis of last night’s game they could do with brushing up on a few things: tackling, passing, shooting, little details like that.

As you can probably gather, last night’s Clasico was more disastrous than Jeremy Menez’s latest trip to the barbers. Fair play to Marseille, who bossed the match from start to finish and were superior in every department from the moment Loic Remy hung in the air to nod in Cesar Azpilicueta’s long cross from the right in the fourth minute.

Pundits always bang on about the importance of an early goal, and on this occasion it certainly seemed to boost the home side’s confidence, while PSG retreated into their shell. The magic square seems to have exhausted it’s supply of magic, with Pastore in particularly rancid form, misplacing passes all over the show. The closest we came to a goal was a low scudder from Momo Sissoko which rattled against the bottom of the post.

Antoine Kombouare must’ve been delighted to see Leonardo make and appearance in the dressing room at half-time, and regardless of what was said, and by whom, it had little effect. There seemed to be no plan as to how we might get back into the game in the second half. There was no tempo, no cohesion, and precious little passion. I usually stick up for AK but on this occasion I feel he has to take some blame for what was, after all, a collective failure to perform.

In fact the only fighting spirit we saw after the break came from Mamadou Sahko, who got involved in a bit of handbags with the Ayew brothers, and from Gameiro when he and Pastore were substituted. The former Lorient man booted the dug-out in frustration as he exited the field.

Withdrawing his underperforming stars was an eye-catching gamble from the boss, but
unfortunately it didn’t pay off as OM got the crucial second a minute later. Matuidi surrendered possession meekly in midfield, allowing Morgan Amalfitano to seize on the loose ball and sprint forward before aiming a precise angled drive across Sirigu and into the far corner of the net.

The excellent Kaba Diawara made a great tackle to deflect sub Melvut Erding’s goalbound effort behind for a corner, but PSG did little to deserve a route back into the match, and Andre Ayew’s header deflected header, which trickled over the line in the 85th minute, was a fitting finale on a night which belonged to Les Phocéens.

Man of the Match: Er, I’ll get back to you on that one.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Know your enemy: Olympique Marseille

PSG's good start to the season has perhaps been made all the more sweet by the struggle of our rivals from the south.

After winning the title in 2010, and finishing runners up in 2011, Champions League qualification in 2012 is going to be a big ask for Didier Deschamps' Marseille. Ahead of tonight's Clasico at the Stade Veledrome (9pm), they languish in tenth in the Ligue 1 table, 15 points behind PSG and a hefty 10 behind third-placed Lille, albeit with a game in hand.

To make matters worse, a 1-0 midweek defeat to Olympiacos means OM now face a winner takes all clash with Borussia Dortmund to decide who progresses to the knock-out stage.

The possible reasons for Marseille's poor form this season are myriad, and explored nicely in this excellent article by @OMarseilleUK, and the pressure on Deschamps' water-carrying shoulders was increased this week after a row with striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who threw his toys out of the pram after being named as substitute for the Olympiacos match. Deschamps subsequently dropped the forward from the squad all together.

"What happened happened," Deschamps told France Football. "A decision was made, and I'm not interested in the future of Andre-Pierre Gignac.

"What interests me is Sunday's game (...) the group works to prepare for the big game ahead. We must be sure to have the answer because OM-PSG games always have a special flavor.

"We know our position in the league, and we find that Paris is one of the favorites for the title in terms of potential and position. There are all the ingredients for a great match and it will be up to us to get a result.

"It is also an important game with what it means for the city and the fans. This is not an ordinary match."

No pressure then. Personally I'm a bit gutted Gignac isn't in contention, as I've never rated the ex-Toulouse man. But it will be interesting to see whether, in his absence, the rest of the players get behind Deschamps or whether divisions have been created and/or widened in the squad.

What is for certain is that Marseille's passionate supporters will expect their side to get on the front foot, and that could play into PSG's hands if they leave space for Nene, Pastore, and the returning Jezza Menezza to counter-attack. On the other hand, Loic Remy and co probably fancy their chances of breaching our dodgy defence, and the pressure is on PSG to regain top spot in the league after Montpellier's win yesterday saw them hit the summit.

The midfield battle could be crucial too. OM's Alou Diarra is due a big game, but he and Benoit Cheyrou are likely to have their work cut out if, as expected, Antoine Kombouare pairs Momo Sissoko with Blaise Matuidi in the engine room. The winners of this physical confrontation could also find themselves taking home the points.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Player profile: Salvatore Sirigu

Name: Salvatore Sirigu
DOB: January 12 1987
Former clubs: Palermo, Cremonese (loan), Ancona (loan)
Signed: July 2011, €3.5million
International honours: Full Italian international

This is the first PSGT player profile, so perhaps it’s fitting that it concerns the club’s number one.

Technically Salvatore Sirigu wears the number 30 shirt, but since his summer arrival the Italian has firmly established himself as PSG’s first choice stopper.

Sirigu was born in Sardinia, but moved to a slightly less classy island (sorry Mafioso, but it’s true) to further his footballing career, joining Sicilian side Palermo as a youngster.

Though he made his debut in November 2006 against Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia, Sirigu’s first prolonged taste of first team action came on loan at Cremonese in Serie C1. Landing there for the whole of 2007/08 there, he made 21 appearances and conceded 19 goals.

The next season was also spent as a loan ranger, this time at Serie B outfit Ancona. Sirigu struggled to dislodge Brazilian stopper Da Costa, and turned out just 15 times for the Biancorossi.

Back at Palermo for 2009/10, Sirigu must have been sick of the site of Brazilian keepers, as he started the season second choice behind another samba star, Rubinho. I use the term “star” loosely there, as Rubinho was a bit pants, and Sirigu was drafted in by manager Walter Zenga (who ought to know a good keeper when he sees one) for the match against Lazio.

Although Palermo only managed a 1-1 draw, 22-year-old Sirigu was named man of the match: “I was very happy to have put in a good performance, because it was my first match in Serie A,” he said afterwards. “I am a young and my job is to work hard without expecting too much.”

Level-headed and good looking (see above for photographic evidence), what a man. He kept his place for the next match, against Juventus, keeping a clean sheet as Palermo won 2-0 against the Old Lady, and never looked back.

By then Sirigu was already an established member of the Italy under-21 side, and got his first call up to the full Azzuri squad for the first time in February 2010 for the match against Cameroon.

He was named in the 28-man provisional squad for that year’s World Cup, but didn’t make the final cut, and eventually made his debut in August 2010 against Cote D’Ivoire. Since then he’s only been able to add one more cap, with the likes of Gigi Buffon ahead of him in the pecking order. Buffon, though, thinks Sirigu has what it takes to succeed him in the Italy goal.

“I must say that Sirigu has shown he is a serene keeper with some excellent qualities,” he said, before adding modestly: “In effect he is like me from a physical point of view.”

After two years between the sticks for Palermo, this summer came the move to the Parc des Princes for a bargain price of €3.5million. With good height and presence in the box, Sirigu's main strength is his superb refleces, and he has already had ample opportunity to demonstrate these behind an ever-changing and rarely-solid PSG back four. Long may his impressive form continue.

Parisiens derailed by Nancy boys

Not AK's funeral, although I'm sure he'd be happy to meet the masked lady

Sorry for the lack of blog activity recently. I’ve been hampered by a lack of internet access (thanks Plusnet), which has only just been resolved.

The Ligue One season got back up and running this weekend, and PSG hit an unexpected bump in the road when they were beaten 1-0 by Nancy at the Parc yesterday. Jean Calve scored the only goal as Jean Fernandez’s side secured their first away win of the season.

For under-pressure boss Antoine Kombouare it was a result which was about as welcome as a Sepp Blatter appearance at the MOBO awards. I say “under-pressure boss” because this is the ridiculous situation we’re in now, whereby every slightly dodgy result sparks speculation about his future.

“Kombouare could jump (go) at any time, and a second loss in a row, especially in the symbolic Velodrome, could look like his funeral march,” notes the grave Parisien today.

Indeed, the symbolic Veldrome is where PSG head next weekend for Le Classico against the dastardly Marseille, who also lost 1-0 at the weekend to second-placed Montpellier.

A derby is hardly the match you want after a couple of dodgy results, but Leonardo insists AK is here to stay. Sort of.

“We have total confidence in Antoine Kombouaré, and we continue to have that, even if there are things to be improved,” said the Brazilian.

“We hope for a good match at Marseille next week but this defeat changes nothing. It's only Week 14 and we still have a lot left to accomplish.”


Friday, 11 November 2011

PSG stars go international

With no Ligue 1 action this weekend, they’ll be plenty of people with some extra free time on their hands.

Personally I plan to spend my days looking at pictures of cats in sinks, but if international football is more your thing, then check out the PSG players who are in action for their respective countries.

France have a match tonight against the USA (8pm), before hosting Belgium on Tuesday (8pm). Mamadou Sakho, Jeremy Menez, and Kevin Gameiro will all be hoping to get some pitch time for Laurent Blanc’s team.

The Italy squad features Salvatore Sirigu, who will probably be performing bench-warming duties in their friendlies with Poland (Today) and Uruguay (Tuesday). In Tuesday’s match he’ll probably come face to face with Diego Lugano, who is also taking his lovely hair back to Uruguay to lead the Copa America champions in their qualifier with Chile (today, 8pm).

Javier Pastore was at Euro Disney this week, but there’s nothing Micky mouse about Argentina’s games this weekend, as they have World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia (today, 5pm) and Columbia (Tuesday, 4pm) to contend with.

El Flaco could start tonight’s match as Sergio Aguero is struggling with an injury, but otherwise will probably have to settle for a place on the bench.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ancelotti rumours not poppy-cock

No doubt what the week’s number one football story has been: Poppies have been everywhere, and I’m not talking about Kettering Town.

COMMON SENSE HAS PREVAILED seems to be the mantra of the day after FIFA relented and decided to allow England to wear black armbands with poppies on during their friendly with Spain to mark Remembrance Day.

Without wishing to seem disrespectful, I think common sense went out the window several days ago, and some of the behaviour of our public figures (hello David Cameron) has been beyond parody. But there we go, at least now everyone is happy, including the EDL.

It’s not clear whether or not Carlo Ancelotti was wearing a poppy during his two day visit to Paris, but what is obvious is that his trip to the capital can’t be good news for incumbent coach Antoine Kombouare.

“Ancelotti met Leonardo, the sporting director of PSG, who he rubbed shoulders with at AC Milan, and Nasser al-Khelaifi, the chairman of the board,” said today’s Parisien and every other French paper with a vague interest in football.

“The three men laid the foundation for a future collaboration aiming to make the 52-year-old Italian the new PSG coach next season.”

Apparently AK didn’t help his cause with a slightly bristly response al-Khelaifi’s declaration that the season will be a failure if we don’t win the title. Apologies if this is a poor translation, but I think the jist is right:

“There is no problem, these are the words of the president,” said the coach. “I stick to my line and he knows that [...] Let us not forget that the original target was the Champions League. For the Championship, there are plenty of factors to take into account.”

I like Kombouare and think the way he has handled himself since the takeover has been spot-on. He’s generally kept his head down, forged a functioning, if slightly disjointed, team from players he didn’t necessarily pick, and managed to get them to the top of the league.

But you kind of get the feeling that QSI are just waiting for an excuse to get shot of him, and that the good run in the league is just delaying the inevitable. If the aim of the project is to become one of the top teams in Europe, then they will need a coach with a suitable profile, and Ancelotti probably fits the bill.

Let’s just hope that if the end is nigh for AK, that the club deal with things in a professional manner and we don’t have to endure a trickle of rumours and leaked stories for the rest of this season.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Bordeaux 1-1 PSG: Momo on the go-go as attackers falter

“After a thunderous start, Ligue 1 is running out of steam,” declared France Football today, describing the latest round of matches as “boring”.

On the basis of last night’s 1-1 draw between Bordeaux and PSG, it’s difficult to argue too much. Les Rouges-et-Bleu’s attacking quartet failed to sparkle, and it was left to Momo Sissoko of all people to head us in front in the tenth minute before Yoan Gouffran grabbed an equaliser for the Girondins three minutes later.

Bordeaux had the better chances to take all three points, and it took some good saves from Salvatore Sirigu to preserve our unbeaten run.

I may have mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of Sissoko, but the Malian yellow-card machine is beginning to show signs of some decent form, having apparently played quite in Thursday’s win over Bratislava.

“The goal was certainly to take the three points, especially as the results of our competitors gave us the opportunity to take off,” said Sissoko afterwards.

“But ultimately we did well. Don’t forget that we remain first, which mentally is very important.”

That’s true enough I suppose, and I think most supporters would have taken this position if offered it at the start of the season. Certainly I’m happy with how things have been going on the whole.

But it would have been nice to go into the international break five points clear at the top, and I think last night’s result is indicative of the team’s immaturity. After all the other challengers dropped points, the pressure was on PSG to deliver and they didn’t quite manage it, whereas you would expect seasoned title winners such as Manchester United to turn the screw on their rivals by grinding out a win.

That kind of winning mentality will only come with time, and for now Antoine Kombouare will be hoping his globe-trotting squad members return from international duty unscathed.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Rivals falter as PSG target rare Bordeaux win

One of my few visits to the Parc was for a match between PSG and Bordeaux at the end of 2009/10

PSG won 3-1 that day, defeating a Laurent Blanc-managed side who were in the final throws of their stint as league champions, and whose line-up contained the likes of Yoaan Gourcuff and Marouane Chamakh

"I don't really trust statistics," said AK, ever the killjoy. "Bordeaux's record is two wins, six draws and four defeats and they have yet to win at home. That will obviously happen at some point and I hope that is doesn't happen on Sunday evening."

Amen to that, and it's lucky Kombouare is a stat-sceptic as PSG's record in Bordeaux does not make for pretty reading, with just one win there in the last 21 encounters at the Stage Cheban Delmas. But with Lille having dropped points at home to Evian last night, a victory tonight would give us an eight-point advantage over the Champions. At the time of writing second-place Montpellier are 1-0 down to St Etienne, allez Les Verts!

Aside from long-term absentee Guillerme Hoarau, the only missing player for tonight's match is Chantome, who is likely to be on the sidelines for three weeks with a thigh strain.

Elsewhere club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi gave a very interesting interview to L'Equipe this week. After re-assuring fans that we won't be leaving the Parc-des-Princes for the Stade de France on a permanent basis (PSG will be playing at the Stade in 2012/13 while the Parc is renovated) talk inevitably turned to a former England captain

"David Beckham transcends sport. He's an ambassador, a brand, he's an example to others," said Al-Khelafi.

Hard to argue with any of that, but:

"He's also a very good footballer whose age poses no problems," he continued. "PSG is interested in all big players and Beckham is of course one of these."

It's going to happen isn't it...

Friday, 4 November 2011

PSG 1-0 Slovan Bratislava: Nobody does it better than El Flaco

I love James Bond films, but can't really get excited about the announcement yesterday of 007's latest outing, Skyfall.

Firstly because the last Bond, Quantum of Solice, was a confusing, plot-less, mess, and secondly Skyfall is a terrible title - it sounds like a new model of Japanese car: The Suzuki Skyfall, coming to a forecourt near you.

The Spy Who Loved Me (with Roger Moore, above) is my favourite Bond movie, and PSG's 1-0 win over Slovan Bratislava in the Europa League brought to mind the wonderful theme song by Carly Simon. Because nobody does it better for the PSG than Javier Pastore, who netted the only goal of the game with a back-post volley from Nene's cross.

"Against Montpellier I scored the same type of goal," said the ever-modest Argentinean, who celebrated by revealing a wrist-band sporting the letter H, apparently a tribute to former club Huracan. "Nene was able to find me and I was lucky that the ball went between the legs of the goalkeeper."

Performance-wise it wasn't the best night for either Pastore or the team as a whole, as AKs boys struggled to break down a resolute Bratislava side. They were mostly restricted to shots from distance, though Diego Lugano was perhaps slightly unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside.

PSG now know a draw in their next match, away to Salzburg, would be enough to see them into the knock-out phase following Bilbao's 1-0 victory ove the Austrian outfit last night in the group's other match.

Meanwhile, David Beckham's future remains up in the air: "The only thing I can say to the French is that I'm still a player of the Los Angeles Galaxy," he quipped helpfully following LA Galaxy's 2-2 win over Thierry Henry's New York Red Bulls. Zzzzz. A more interesting transfer rumour is the renewed link to Sochaux's Ryad Boudebouz, though whether we need another attacking midfielder is debatable. Lyon are also reportedly keen on a January move for the 21-year-old.

Laurent Blanc's France squad for the friendlys against Belgium and the USA includes PSG trio Sakho, Menez, and Gameiro, which is nice for them. The matches are played on November 11 and 15 respectively.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

PSG brothers prepare for Slovan Bratislava clash

The Waughs. The Charltons. The, er, Nevilles. Siblings in sport are commonplace, and apparently a new pair has popped up in Paris recently.

"Tonight there will again be more than 30,000 spectators at the Parc des Princes. But to see which PSG?” muses today’s Parisien. “The one bursting with health, flying in the championship? Or it’s twin that remains on two defeats and a draw in the cups (Europa League and the Coupe de Ligue)?”

It’s fair to say that the contrast between the PSG’s record breaking, six-wins-in-a-row, league form and their patchy cup record is a stark one, but I think that only highlights what an early stage the Qatari “project” is at. AK has been rotating like a crazed spinning top this season, and at the moment we don’t have the strength in depth to cope with that and not suffer a dip in performance as a result.

By the looks of things we will be fielding a strong-looking attacking line-up in tonight’s Europa League clash with Slovan Bratislava, with Menez, Pastore, and Nene all set to start, while Gameiro could get the nod over Erding, who has been an ever-present in the European competition so far this season. Tiene and Chantome are suspended after their indescretions in Slovakia, while Milan Bisevac could be available as he continues his recovery from injury.

Bratislava, currently fourth in the Slovak league, are bossed by Vladimir Weiss, who is also manager of the Slovakian national team.

"It will be hard there,” he said. “They'll be playing at home and they have to win if they want to progress in the competition. We are going there to learn but we'll try to put on a good performance.

"Obviously, the hosts will put us under a lot of pressure because they have great quality. But it should be a good game, and in football you never know.”

Monday, 31 October 2011

PSG march on as Eden Hazard prepares to march off

(Not my holiday destination)

You may have noticed a lack of activity on this blog in the last week. For once this isn’t down to my laziness, but because I have been en vacance. And very nice it was too, apart from a small delay in getting back (thanks Eurotunnel).

The hurly-burly world of Ligue 1 allows no time for holidays of course, and in my absence the PSG have been busy strengthening their position at the top of the table.

First they proved they can cut the mustard (sorry, but it had to be done) by beating Dijon 2-0 last Sunday. They declined to do so again in a Coupe de Ligue tie played on Wednesday night, which DFCO won 3-2, but got back to winning ways with a comfortable-ish 4-2 victory over Caen on Saturday, making it a club record six consecutive league wins.

“I expected a tough game against a good side, and that is what happened,” Antoine Kombouare said matter-a-factly afterwards. Bloody smart-ass.

“When you have the extra man, it is never easy,” he continued. “I must emphasis how good we were in the second half.”

Indeed, AK’s side played against ten-men for most of the game, and with that in mind perhaps should have won a bit more comfortably than they did. But two penalties for Nene – who now has four goals in two league games – and strikes from Menez and Pastore got the job done.

The manager was probably less happy with his side’s defence, which was absent without leave when Caen scored twice from corners. Sloppy defending at set-pieces has accounted for a lot of the goals PSG have conceded this season, and as I’ve mentioned on here before, the constant chopping and changing of the back-line can’t help. It’s about time AK picked a back four and stuck to it for a few matches, injuries and suspensions permitting of course.

Elsewhere Eden Hazard has put Premier League clubs on red-alert by announcing that, quelle surprise, he’ll be leaving Lille soon. But unfortunately LOSC's Belgian wizard probably won’t be pitching up at the Parc.

"Paris is not for now,” he told L’Equipe. “Paris is magical, of course it attracts me. But for now I do not want to go to a rival club of Lille.”

Not the most categorical brush-off I've ever heard, and it will be interesting to see whether he maintains his position should a large pile of Qatari cash be plonked in front of him. Hazard goes on to say that he'll make a decision at the end of the season, stay tuned folks.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Slovan Bratislava 0-0 PSG: Digging deep as red mist descends

A ban on a group of naughty travelling supporters, and a subsequent boycott by the other, non-naughty travelling supporters meant there was very little Parisien presence in Slovakia last night as PSG ground out a 0-0 stale-mate with Slovan Bratislava in their latest Europa League Group F fixture.

Those not present missed a match which turned from two points dropped to a point gained in the blink of a second-half eye, with Clement Chantome and Siaka Tiene sent off in quick succession, meaning Antoine Kombouare's side were reduced to nine men for the last ten minutes but showed good presence of mind to dig in and hold on for a draw.

PSG had squandered several good chances to go in front, while at the other end Nicholas Douchez, making his customary Europa League appearance, was only called into action a couple of times, even after the red cards.

"It's just a point," said non-plussed guardien Shower at the end of the match. "In the end we may be relieved to have got a draw buton the whole we should have pocketed three points. It's a game we should have won easily."

Indeed, it's one I had us down to win, and the result puts a little bit of pressure on the last three matches. With two home fixtures to come we *should* still be able to make it through, but three points in the return clash against Bratislava in a couple of weeks is vital if we're to progress to the knock-out stage.

Monday, 17 October 2011

AC Ajaccio 1-3 PSG - Gameiro goals gaul-ling for Corsicans

Whenever I think of Corsica I think of weird little Mediterranean people eating wild boar, which in turn makes me think of Asterix the Gaul.

So I was a little disappointed to tune in to yesterday’s match at the Stade Francois Coty and discover that none of the Ajaccio supporters – or indeed players – resembled Asterix, Obelix, Getafix, or any other members of the gang.

In fact the only man who might have looked at home in an Goscinny and Uderzo comic strip was Kevin Gameiro, who appeared to have been supping on some magic potion before the game. The striker notched a hat-trick as PSG claimed a victory which takes them three points clear at the top of the table.

AK had to shuffle his expensively assembled pack, with Lugano, Menez, and Matuidi suspended and Mamadou Sakho, Christophe Jallet and Momo Sissoko taking their places. Jallet made a good impact on the right of midfield, showing good energy and, as you would expect, doing a lot more tracking back than you’d get from Menez. The other two weren’t quite so assured, with a Sakho and centre back partner Zoumana Camara enduring a few nervous moments, and Sissoko once again showing that, for a defensive midfielder, he’s pretty rubbish at tackling. While I can afford him some leeway given that he’s been out injured for a while, for me he’s still by far the least impressive of the summer signings.

PSG had the lift of an early goal, Ajaccio failing to deal with a corner from the right, and Armand’s flick falling perfectly to the unmarked Gameiro, who swept the ball home at the back post.

If anyone thought this might be the cue for the league leaders to light up the cigars and stroll to a comfortable win against struggling opposition, a) they haven’t watched PSG this season, and b) they were in for a rude awakening. Although Jallet saw a shot cleared off the line, and Nene drew a good save from Guillermo Ochoa, Ajaccio levelled when poor defending from a free kick allowed Carl Medjani time and space to control the ball inside the box and slot home. Merde.

Javier Pastore had to this point been a peripheral figure, but El Flaco showed his class with a lovely defence-splitter that put Gameiro in the clear, only for his angled shot to be saved at full stretch by Ochoa.

Prior to that the ex-Lorient forward had blazed a shot over the crossbar after Clement Chantome’s drive had rebounded off the keeper into his path. He was not in such profligate mood after half-time however, and put PSG back in front with another poachers effort five minutes after the restart. Jallet’s high cross looped over to the back post, where Sissoko nodded the ball back across and Gameiro swivelled to score from inside the six yard box.

Two minutes later he was at it again, this time Jallet and Chantome combined to present him with a simple chance to complete his hat-trick and take his tally for the season to eight.

So yeah, PSG were far from their fluent best, but did enough to win and despite a few wobbles created a lot more in the final third than the hosts, which is kind of what you would expect given the two clubs respective resources. The best thing to come out of the match for me was that Pastore wasn’t directly involved in any of the three goals, we need to be able to grind out victories even when he’s having an off-day, otherwise the “one-man team” tag is going to stick.

Man of the Match: Kevin Gameiro – the archetypal renard dans la boîte

Friday, 14 October 2011

Back in the old routine

Like England's rugby World Cup campaign, the international break has finally, thankfully, been put out of it's misery.

The French footballers weren't quite as potent as their egg-shaped counterparts, but got the job done and booked their place at Euro 2012 thanks to an edgy 1-1 draw with Bosnia on Tuesday. A summer of expectation followed by crushing disappointment and stroppiness awaits.

Jezza Menezza and Kevin Gameiro both featured for Les Bleus, and came through unscathed despite Menez going into the game with a slight injury. The former Roma winger won't be playing for the PSG on Sunday though, as he is suspended after picking up three yellow cards.

"After the international break, the squad is approaching the game in serene fashion," said Menez.

"We're top of the league, we can't afford to put ourselves under pressure and we have to build on our performances of recent weeks. Unfortunately I won't be there but my heart will be with my team-mates."

Isn't that sweet. Unfortunately Jez isn't the only one who will be missing, with Lugano and Matuidi also suspended. You may remember that Matuidi is injured anyway, and we're unlikely to see him again for another five weeks or so.

Talented Mexican keeper, and one time PSG target, Guillermo Ochoa aside, Ajaccio are pretty rubbish, but with so many players out I've got a bad feeling about this match. Bisevac is still injured, so Mamadou Sakho is poised for an immediate return after an appearance for the reserves last Saturday. It's good to have the skipper back of course, but he wasn't up to much before he got injury, and so far this season defensive change hasn't been a recipe for success. But I'm sure we'll be fine. Maybe.

Meanwhile, a quick update on BECKHAMWATCH. Apparently he and Vicky have been apartment-hunting in the French capital, and are on the look out for a triplex. Makes sense, they're probably one of the few couples who can afford more than a broom cupboard in Paris. According to Le Parisien, negotiations are ongoing and the former England skipper could sign an 18-month contract, joining the squad after the winter break. Someone pass the razor-blades.

Monday, 3 October 2011

PSG 2-0 Lyon: Pastore bosses OL

Highlights: PSG go 3 points clear at top of Ligue 1 thanks to 2-0 win over Lyon

As temperatures soared across Europe, PSG turned up the heat on the other title contenders with a 2-0 victory over Lyon in last night’s big match.

“Last Sunday it was asked: who is the boss? This Sunday evening, the boss is Paris,” declared L’Equipe as goals from Javier Pastore (standard) and Christophe Jallet (er, not standard) put the Parisiens three points clear at the top. Hopefully we're more Bruce Springsteen than David Brent.

Pastore’s goal was a fine finish, but one which owed much to Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris leaving a helpful gap at his near post for El Flaco exploit. And after Bafé Gomis had missed the kind of chance he’d usually put away in his sleep, Jallet popped up at the far post in the second period to convert Nene’s floated free kick. Scorchio.

It was Pastore’s fifth goal of an increasingly productive season, but speaking afterwards keeper Salvatore Sirigu insisted that we’re most definitely not a one-man team.

“PSG isn't just about Pastore, that would be unfair,” said Sirigu. “Javier put the effort in just as everybody else did. He's a top player, but he is surrounded by quality players. When everybody's at 100 per cent then things will become easier for PSG.”

Much as I hope this is true, the evidence so far indicates the contrary. The team were pretty dire at the start of the season before Pastore got involved, and he was decidedly off-colour on Thursday when we lost 2-0 in Bilbao.

On the other hand, the team does seem to be slowly gelling, and it will be interesting to see whether they can cope if the Argentinean is sidelined for any significant length of time.

For now the Ligue 1 season takes a break as yet another round of international fixtures kick in. Fingers crossed the players make it back from far-flung destinations across the world in one piece.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

PSG versus OL: The key match-ups

The PSG lost 2-0 in Spain on Thursday, Athletico Bilbao comprehensively outplaying a mix and match Parisien team in the latest Europa League group match.

A trademark silly lunge from Momo Sissoko which earned the midfielder a red card on his full debut didn’t help matters, and AK was philosophical afterwards.

“We had almost forgotten what it was like to lose and how much we hate defeats,” said the gaffer.

“So now I expect a reaction from my players. Today, all the lights were red. And this will allow us to be more focused, more attentive and have a spirit of revenge.”

Red lights? Spirit of revenge? Woof. Said spirit will be put to the test tonight when Lyon visit the Parc (9pm BST). With the teams level on points, and indeed goal difference, at the top of the table, the match will be a good chance for one of the teams to put a maker down on the title race. Here we look at a few of the individual battles that could swing the match.

Diego Lugano v Bafetimbi Gomis
Big Bafe’ has enjoyed something of a renaissance this season having previously struggled to recreate his St Etienne form for OL. The striker is back in the France squad after netting six goals this season, and will give Lugano plenty to think about. The Uruguayan didn’t have his best game in Bilbao, and will be looking to put that right.

Javier Pastore v Maxime Gonalons
What can be said about El Flaco that hasn’t been said before? Well, quite a lot probably, but even so it’s fair to say that the €42million playmaker has hit the ground at a gallop, with two goals and five assists to his name already in the league since his summer arrival. Keeping him quiet will in part be the responsibility of Lyon’s deep-lying central midfielder Maxime Gonalons, who could be in for a busy evening.

Jeremy Menez v Aly Cissohko
Lyon’s highly-rated left-back was heavily linked with a move away from the Stade Gerland in the summer, with Liverpool, Newcastle, and Juventus all reportedly interested in one-cap French international. He’ll be up against Jeremy Menez on the PSG right, and the former Roma man’s searing pace is bound to put him to the test. Menez hasn’t been the most impressive of the PSG summer signings, but has made several telling contributions already this term.

Salvatore Sirigu v Hugo Lloris
Two of Ligue 1’s best keepers will be on show tonight, and if one of them has a blinder it could be decisive. Ex-Palermo stopper Sirigu has already showcased his top-drawer reactions with several classy saves since arriving at the Parc in the summer, while Lloris (pictured above) is back between the sticks for OL after missing their last match through suspension, and will be eager to make up for lost time.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Beckham to PSG? Bullsheee...

A lot of stuff is written about PSG on the internet, and some of it I tend to ignore in the hope/belief that it’s not true.

Thus you won’t have seen any mention of the BBC’s OMG D-Beck could join PSG!!!111!1! from a few weeks back on this blog because I was of the opinion that it was, in the immortal words of The Wire’s Clay Davis, a load of sheeeeeeeeeeeiiit.

But wait, today’s Parisien is positively bulging with Beckham, who is alleged to have spoken to Leo about a move to the capital.

Dubbing Beckham “the Spice Boy” (someone should perhaps tell them he never wore one of those infamous White Armani Suits, or played for Liverpool) the paper quotes a source close to the former England captain who claims he and Leo have had a little tete-a-tete.

“Leonardo wanted to know what David’s intentions are and what he intends to do with his career, they spoke together about PSG,” said the source, though it seems no formal discussions are scheduled.

With Beckham out-of-contract at LA Galaxy this October, I suppose it could happen, but it seems more like a case of two plus two equalling five. And I think it goes without saying that, though I’m not a Beckham hater, it would be a terrible idea to try and shoe-horn a 36-year-old has-been into the magic square.

More immediately, the PSG are in Spain tonight to take on La Liga basement dwellers Athletico Bilbao in their second Europa League group fixture. Under the stewardship of the wonderful Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa, the Basque club have made a poor start to the season, with their only victory coming in Europe against Bratislava.

“They are in trouble, but Bilbao is a great team,” said AK. “In the stadium, the atmosphere is very hot.”

With one eye on Sunday’s show-down with Lyon, the coach has left Kevin Gameiro and Jezza Menezza at home, and is likely to bench Javier Pastore and Mr Elastic Matuidi, with Momo Sissoko coming in for a first start.

Monday, 26 September 2011

PSG gallop on after Montpellier win

Last week a magic square, this week a race-horse. PSG keep winning and the slightly dodgy metaphors keep rolling.

Saturday’s 3-0 win at Montpellier lifted Les Rouges-et-Bleu to joint-top of the table, but had France Football’s managing editor Denis Chaumier calling for calm.

“There are many obstacles to overcome before we can say PSG have the calibre of champions, it is better to be cautious,” said Chaumier.

“They lack something, a commune vie (common life), that their new elite status cannot replace.

“Some would want to push them to reach the higher levels quickly, but the ‘horse’ is reluctant. It knows its way and does not like to run into unknown lands. It gallops, though, believe me.”

So there you go. I can’t find a fitting translation of commune vie, but I assume in this instance the author means team-spirit or something similar, and it’s probably a fair point he’s making, albeit in a slightly convoluted fashion.

What I do know is that PSG keep improving, and that the nearest thing the team has to a thoroughbred, Javier Pastore, keeps scoring.

The Argentine netted twice against Montpellier; his first, and PSG’s second, was a brilliant angled volley after a long cross from the left, while his second was a harder-than-it-looked finish into the empty net from an acute angle after an horrific error from home keeper Geoffrey Jourdren. Kevin Gameiro had earlier opened the scoring in typical fashion, running clear to clip a neat finish past the exposed guardien.

Boss Antoine Kombouare was also boosted by a debut appearance from Momo Sissoko, who played 19 minutes as a substitute as he continues his come-back from injury.

“We knew what to expect here against the league leaders and the team with the best defence in the division,” said AK.

“They had conceded only one goal at home, so this was a good performance. I have to congratulate the players for a fantastic performance.

“It is an important victory that allows us to stay up at the top of the table but we have only played eight games. We are only at the very beginning of a very long road, so let's keep our feet on the ground.”

PSG now hold Ligue 1’s top spot alongside Montpellier and Lyon, who they meet at the Parc-des-Princes on Sunday night. Tasty.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Penalties prevelant at the Parc

Maths and football aren't necessarily subjects that fit naturally together. Unless you're a French journalist that is.

"The quartet offensive (Menez, Nene, Pastore, Gameiro) of PSG keeps getting better and looking more like a magic square," declared L'Equipe in the wake of the team's 2-1 victory over Nice in midweek.

Perhaps the correspondant should've watched the Evian game, because it was certainly hard to discern any shape, magical or otherwise, during that.

All the goals in Wednesday's fixture came from the penalty spot, with Nene and Gameiro converting the PSG kicks. I didn't see the game, but from the highlights I've squinted at all three decisions seemed fair enough, and the unbeaten run is now up to a none-too-shabby eight matches.

"This was a great win secured in difficult circumstances," said AK afterwards. "But it's great to have lads who are committed and who fight to the death.

"Getting the three points was the best preparation for the trip to Montpellier [on Saturday]. In the first half we showed the doubters that we can play well as a team. It was a fantastic first half, my team's best this season."

The only sour note was the dismissal of Christophe Jallet, who replaced Tiene for the match but will now be suspended for Saturday's fixture away at early pace-setters Montpellier.

Much has been made this season of how poor PSG have been in the first half of matches, with the Nice game being cited as the first time they have turned it on in the opening 45 minutes. It will be interesting to see whether Wednesday's match truly marks a turning point in the evolution of this team, because one imagines Montpellier will not let them get away with being sluggish for half the match.

In other news, Mevlut Erding has signed a one-year contract extension, which presumably also comes with a Qatari-funded pay rise. Another striker, Peguy Luyindula, has been moaning about his exile from the first team. The 32-year-old has been training with the yoofs this season as he doesn't fit into AK's plans.

"I am trying to understand why I have been sent away, but I can't," Luyindula told Le Parisien.

"When I ask, I am told that it is the choice of the manager. I am being treated like a leper. I don't dare go to Parc des Princes to watch my team-mates because I don't know if I would be welcomed or sent packing."

You can always rely on footballers to keep a sense of perspective.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Evian 2-2 PSG: Parisiens show they're not Bodd-lers

How many pictures of non-alcoholic beverages can one blog feature you may ask? Well, unless we draw little-known Cypriot side Dr Pepper United in the latter stages of the Europa League, then this will be the last one for a while so make the most of it.

PSG continued stretched their unbeaten run to seven games yesterday with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Evian in Annecy.

It was a match which probably summed up the season so far for Antoine Kombouare’s men, occasionally brilliant going forward, permanently dodgy at the back. AK chose his umpteenth centre-back pairing of the season for the match, selecting fit-again Sylvain Armand alongside Diego Lugano, and one suspects that until we get some continuity in this position defensive uncertainty is going to be an ongoing problem.

Poor old Armand didn’t enjoy a great first start of the season, and it was his leg that deflected Yannick Sagbo’s pass into the path of Jerome Leroy, a man for whom the term evergreen could have been coined. The 37-year-old ex-Parisien finished with aplomb to give the newly promoted side a shock lead.

It got worse six minutes later, as Armand made a hash of clearing a ball into the box, and clumsily fouled Mohammed Rabui as he tried to recover. Stick-on pen, and Sagbo did the honours from the spot to make it 2-0.

At this point PSG had offered little in attack, but they slowly came to life with Javier Pastore and Kevin Gameiro providing much of the impetus, ably supported by Nene. Gameiro, though, seemed to have left his shooting boots in the dressing room, passing up two chances he would usually put away in his sleep. The first came when home defender Tie Bi’s awful backpass left him all alone in front of goal, but the former Lorient striker’s effort was too close to goalkeeper Stephan Andersen, who blocked.

Then in the second period a fine pass from Pastore put Gameiro in on goal, but rather than trying a shot himself he went to return the ball to the Argentinean, only for a covering defender to put it behind for a corner.

By then Pastore had dragged his side back into the match with a superb solo effort on the stroke of half-time. Picking the ball up outside the box, he surged between three defenders, and held off a fourth before drilling a low shot into the far corner.

Evian remained dangerous on the break, and Sagbo could have put them out of sight when he ran onto Leroy’s fine through-ball but fired over the bar.

And it was left to two substitutes to earn PSG a point, as Mevlut Erding flicked on an 80th minute corner and Matthieu Bodmer surged in to shin the ball home from close-range.

A draw was probably a fair result, and it was good to see the PSG show a bit of fight to recover from what looked a fairly hopeless position after the first 20 minutes. But there are still plenty of problems for AK and his coaches to deal with: Despite not being the most prolific of scorers (six goals in six Ligue 1 games this season) Evian carved out chance after chance in the match, and better teams will punish us if we give them so many opportunities.

There is still work to do in attack too – the front six were a bit stretched out for my liking, and though Menez had a few nice touches he for the most part cut a peripheral figure on the wing.

Next up is a home match against Nice, who picked up their first win of the season on Saturday with a 3-0 tonking of Ajaccio. Let’s hope they’re not coming into form at just the wrong time.

Man of the Match: Javier Pastore – Pulled the strings with the poise of a master marionette operator.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Getting to know you... Red Bull Salzburg

PSG have a 100 per cent losing record this season against teams named after energy drinks, and will be looking to put that right this evening when Red Bull Salzburg visit the Parc as part of the first round of games in Europa League Group F.

It’s unlikely to be an easy game for AK and the boys, as the Red Bulls currently top the Austrian League with four wins and three draws from seven games.

The club enjoyed a good run in the Europa League two years ago, winning all their group games before going out to Standard Liege in the last-32. Last year they stalled at the first hurdle, picking up just two points.

Coach Ricardo Moniz said: “PSG are a strong team for sure, but I am not over-awed. There’s definitely a difference to preparing for a match against them than versus Baumgarten or Mattersburg.”

Too right, Baumgarten and Mattersburg don’t sound like real places.

The Dutchman added: “We want to put in a fair showing in Paris and be more than just a sparing partner. “We need to prepare ourselves mentally and if we do that anything is possible – as we proved two years ago in the Europa League.”

Player-wise, amusingly named Brazilian pair Douglas and Alan are both out injured, but Lugano and co will have to keep an eye on Austrian international striker Stefan Maierhofer, who had an unmemorable two-year spell at Wolves before returning to his native Austria this summer, while another dangerman is Brazilian winger Leonardo (not that one) who counts Ajax among his former clubs and is currently on loan at Salzburg from another Dutch side, NAC Breda.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pastore is PSG's Brest man

(Joke shamelessly nicked from @_bobeto_)

Isn’t Opta great?

I mean how else would lazy folk like me notice statistics like the following, posted earlier today by @OptaJean on Twitter:

5 - Javier Pastore has delivered four assists and scored one goal in his first
five competitive appearances for Paris SG. Flaco.

Flaco indeed, though the PSG’s points total is looking considerably less skinny after three successive wins, the latest of which came courtesy of Pastore’s goal against Brest at the Parc last night.

By all accounts it wasn’t the most fluid performance from the Rouges et Bleus, but AK understandably didn’t care too much.

“It's very satisfying. It's the first time since I came to the club that we've won three in a row and it's also our first clean sheet for the season,” he said.

“Brest were, along with Lyon, the only undefeated team in the league. So it's satisfying even though there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We have a lot of talent in the squad that needs to be harnessed for the good of the team - for example, we saw Kévin Gameiro make lots of runs tonight but not get as much of the ball as I would have liked.”

Work to be done then Kombouare and his coaches, though his Brest counterpart Alex Dupont was probably not too chuffed with the defending that led to Pastore’s goal. Four defenders converged on the rampaging Menez, leaving Pastore and two team-mates unmarked on the edge of the box. When the ball was passed to the Argentine, he stepped inside a challenge before dinking a shot over the keeper.

Pastore himself said, in typically bland footballer fashion, that he’s happy with the progress the team is making.

“We have a good team but need to keep working,” he said. “The goal is to finish as high as possible and play a leading role [in the title race]“What we want most is to be champions. Paris is a great club and should be at the top.”

Amen to that.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday September 10
Ajaccio 3-1 Valenciennes, Bordeaux 0-0 Evian, Caen 0-1 Toulouse, Dijon 1-2 Lyon, St Etienne 1-3 Lille, Sochaux 1-1 Lorient, Marseille 0-1 Rennes.
Sunday September 11
Montepellier 1-0 Nice, Nancy 0-0 Auxerre, PSG 1-0 Brest.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

International round-up featuring a lot of Parisien substitutes

Sirigu - Italy's number two. If he's lucky.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds international breaks intensely dull.

We've already had two and the season's barely been up and running for a month - is there anyone out there on planet football who gets excited about the prospect of Bulgaria versus England or Moldova versus Hungary (0-2, if you were wondering)? Wake me up when Euro2012 starts please.

But several members of the PSG squad were busy in the last few days representing their countries in far flung outposts across the globe. Sadly for them, but perhaps not so sadly for the club's title chances, not many of them saw much action on the pitch.

Gameiro, Matuidi and Jezza Menezza were all with Les Bleus for their qualifiers against Albania and Romania, two matches about which the most notable thing was that the opposition had rhyming names. Gameiro was on the bench (unused) for the 2-1 victory over Albania, but none of them featured in the 0-0 snoozefest in Romania. Blaise reportedly has a bit of groin-knack, but will hopefully be fit and well for Sunday's clash with Brest.

Italy aren't pulling up any trees either, and huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 over the Faroes on Friday, with Salvatore Sirigu an unused sub. In the same group Milan Bisevac got a better more of a look at the Islanders on Tuesday night, starting for Serbia before being withdrawn with a suspected abductor strain. The big man is now doubtful for Sunday. Bloody internationals.

Javier Pastore trekked half-way round the world to sit on the bench for Argentina in their crucial friendly with Nigeria in, er, Dakkar. Whether this was particularly beneficial for a player who is already some way behind his team-mates in the fitness stakes is open to question, but he did get to see Lionel Messi being brilliant, so at least it wasn't a total waste of time.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Good player, lovely hair
I should start by apologising for the lack of new material on this blog in the last couple of weeks - it's been a bit manic at PSGT towers, but normal service should be resumed this week.
Since I was last with you the PSG have picked up two wins, a single goal triumph over that Luxembourg team in the Europa League, Nene scoring the decisive goal. And an impressive 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Toulouse which, if you believe the media, probably saved Antoine Kombouare's job. For now.

The transfer window has also slammed shut, closing out the barrage of rumours surrounding potential new stars heading to the Parc. Expect those to return in January, especially if there's been a change of coach. It was a pretty low key end to the transfer window in the capital, with PSG actually doing some sensible business, leaving us supporters free to snigger at Lille signing the new Magic Chris, aka Joe Cole. Teehee.

Anyway, arriving before deadline was Diego Lugano, captain of Uruguay and erstwhile defensive rock of Fenerbache. I'll be honest and say he's not a player I know a great deal about, but on the face of it he appears to be just the kind of guy we need (ie defender, leader, experienced). Plus he has excellent hair.

Mevlut Erding was the surprising non-departure, given that he appeared to already be half-way to Rennes last week. Perhaps his goalscoring cameo against Toulouse changed Leonardo's mind. "Both club and player have decided to continue their current adventure together," trumpeted the club website, sounding ever so slightly like a Famous Five book. I'm not Mevlut's biggest fan, but it's obvious that keeping him makes sense. We need someone who's prepared to play second fiddle to the wonderful Kevin Gameiro, so bringing one of the many touted big name strikers would have likely ended in tears for someone or other.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

PSG's predictable start

Lots of things about French life perplex me: the strict adhesion to priorite a droite on the roads, the lack of public toilets, the continuing popularity of Michel Polnareff (above).

Another is Monsieur et Madame jokes. If you’re unaware of these, think of them the French equivalent of Knock Knock ... The format is as follows:

Q: Monsieur et Madame Bonneau ont un fils. Comment s’appelle t-il?
(Mr and Mrs Bonneau have a son, what’s his name?)
A: Jean

Geddit, Jean Bonneau said quickly sounds like jambonneau, or a leg of ham. There are millions of them out there, but I’ve come up with my own which I think is a cracker:

Q: Monsieur et Madame havehadadistinctlyaverageanddepressinglypredictablestarttotheseason ont un fils. Comment s’appelle t-il?

The answer of course is “PSG”, who in my absence have registered one win, one draw, and one defeat from their opening three league matches, finding time to stuff some bunch of jokers from Luxembourg 4-0 in the Europa League in between.

Sunday’s unconvincing yet vital 2-1 win over Valenciennes, courtesy of goals from Kevin Gameiro and Nene (pen), will have hopefully have lifted a bit of pressure from the shoulders of Antoine Kombouare. Thursday’s return leg against Diffedange (aforementioned jokers from Luxembourg) should be a formality, Sunday’s trip to unbeaten Toulouse less so.

The coach is, again unsurprisingly, finding it difficult to mould his hastily assembled squad into a coherent unit. And while the individual skill of the likes of Gameiro and Jeremy Menez will always offer a threat going forward, especially with Pastore now in contention, a lack of a team-work at the back cannot be glossed over.

In the absence of the injured Sakho and Armand, Leonardo has been mumbling non-committal stuff about buying a defender, with Werder Bremen’s Per Metersacker and Porto’s Rolando mentioned in dispatches.

Sadly the arrival of another striker seems more likely, with Marco Boriello and Diegos Forlan and Milito being touted as replacements for Mevlut Erding, who seems to have finally accepted that his days in the capital are numbered and could be on his way to Rennes this week. Then there is Kaka, a potential signing about which I could be more underwhelmed if someone called whelmed was sitting on my head. Eight more days of transfer window left, please just make it stop.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Pastore arrives (and I depart)

What a day. The Ligue 1 season will finally get underway, Javier Pastore has finally officially signed up at the Parc-des-Princes, and I'm finally going on holiday to, funnily enough, Paris.

It's been at breathtaking summer for the PSG, and though I won't be able to take in a match while I'm over there, I'm looking forward to sampling the atmosphere in the city. Hopefully when I return in two weeks we'll have nine points on the board and all will be well in the world. Allez!

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