Interview: PSG fans discuss the summer transfer window, Mauricio Pochettino, Mbappe and much more

Craig Hanson 4 weeks ago
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Les Parisiens already on course to reclaim the Ligue 1 title and will be hunting down that elusive Champions League trophy

When Lille momentarily broke PSG's dominance over Ligue 1 by winning the title against all odds last season, it was just that - momentary. Only eight games into the 2021/22 French league campaign we can say with some certainty that a miracle of that kind is not on the horizon this season. The Paris side already sit nine points clear of their nearest rivals Lens in second. At the time of writing, they have a 100% record, having won all eight of their opening matches. Only Napoli in Serie A have managed to do the same, but the Italians have played two games less. Barring a catastrophe, PSG will be celebrating their eighth Ligue 1 title in ten years come next May. This will come as no surprise to the hierarchy in Paris who would have expected such a result, even without the unbelievably good transfer window over which they have just presided this summer.

The main goal for the PSG top brass will be to finally win the Champions League. They've been serious contenders for a number of years now but there are so many variables that go into such a competition. Even with the squad they have, success in Europe can never be guaranteed. Nonetheless, fans will be buoyed by the arrival of the iconic Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, proven quality players in Gigi Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi, and the effervescent Gianluigi Donnarumma. On paper they are the team to beat. In the betting odds they are joint favourites with Manchester City. It's an exciting time to be a PSG supporter. Could this be the year that they move to the next level?

We caught up with Ed from PSG Talk to find out how optimistic PSG fans are about the signings they've made, the tactical shape of the team and their chances of winning it all this season.

Q. What was the reaction of the fan base to the club's transfer activities this summer?

Ed: Absolute jubilation. As PSG supporters, we're used to being in the headlines during the transfer window, but what the club managed to pull off was beyond anyone's expectations. In terms of star power, it doesn't get any bigger than Lionel Messi. That signing alone would have been enough to satisfy the fan base, but then to add Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi, arguably two of the best young players at their position, plus Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Nuno Mendes, and you start salivating over the potential of this super team.

Q. Some analysts have expressed concern that the team is too top heavy and will have difficulty matching elite European sides in the press. Do you think this argument is valid and does the issue concern fans?

Ed: First, let's just state for the record that most analysts despise PSG and you don't have to look very hard to find them on the record stating as much. They're looking for any reason to knock PSG down a peg and undermine the incredible team they've put together. Rest assured, if Manchester United or Liverpool built a team like this, the commentary would look very different. That said, PSG haven't looked great so far but there are a number of factors to consider, such as fatigue from international tournaments and injuries. Mauricio Pochettino has to figure out the right combination of players, what formation to put them in, and then the tactics to deploy against those elite European sides. Working in his favour, though, are three players who should be able to beat any press thrown their way, and they are Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, and Neymar Jr. On September 28, we should get a real good idea of how this PSG team stacks up when they host Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League.

Q. With the new look of the team including Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe, are fans buzzing about the style of play and attacking excitement they might see this season?

Ed: Yes! However, we haven't really seen it yet. It will take time but already, fans are starting to question whether Pochettino is the right manager for a team of this quality. He did come from Spurs after all. Also, the French league isn't really one to allow for exciting, free-flowing football. Unlike La Liga, where teams pretty much let Barcelona and Real Madrid do whatever they want, Ligue 1 teams get away with physical play against PSG and Neymar especially bears the brunt of it with very little protection from referees. I think this team will get there, eventually, but it's going to take time and it might involve a drastic change, like playing three at the back, to unlock this team's potential.

Q. What do you make of Mauricio Pochettino and the job he's done so far? Is he the right man to take PSG to that next level, in your personal opinion?

Ed: For me, I'm not ready to pull the plug on Pochettino but I need to see improvement soon. He's a former PSG player and he did manage to get Spurs to a Champions League final, which is no small accomplishment. However, losing Ligue 1 last season to Lille OSC wasn't a great look and he had some really poor results after he took over from Thomas Tuchel. He was also outcoached by Pep Guardiola in the Champions League semi-finals last season. The only manager that I can see PSG sacking Pochettino for is Zinedine Zidane, but being a Marseille boy, I'm not sure he would want to be associated with a club from Paris. Antonio Conte is out there but is he really that much of an upgrade over Poch? Maybe marginally. I think we'll learn a lot from the two upcoming matches against Manchester City in the Champions League. If PSG gets blown away like last season, I think Poch's seat is blazing hot and he could get sacked before Christmas like Tuchel.

Q. It looks like PSG will be running away with Ligue 1 again this season and normal service will be resumed. How do you react to the remarks of fans from other leagues that the French top flight is a "farmer's league" and doesn't offer the same level of competition as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A etc.? Do you think the league needs to even the playing field a little bit to make it easier for the sides below PSG to be more competitive?

Ed: The "Farmer's League" thing is funny because it usually comes from people who don't take the time to watch French football. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the quality in Ligue 1 is equal to that of other leagues around Europe because it isn't, but it's not nearly as bad as the trolls on Twitter would have you believe. Since Qatar Sports Investments took over in 2011, we've seen two teams in AS Monaco and Lille beat PSG to the league title. That's more than the Bundesliga but that conveniently gets left out. In 2017, look at what Kylian Mbappé did with that Monaco side in beating Manchester City and propelling his team to the semi-finals of the Champions League. The quality is in France. It's why all of the big teams shop for talent there. The issue is money. The Premier League, especially, is better at marketing and has a more lucrative television contract, thus, teams like Watford and Newcastle can overspend on players out of France and clubs have no choice but to sell because player sales are how they balance the books. With Messi coming to PSG, the hope is that more money will flow into French football and we can see teams like Stade Rennais hold onto a player like Eduardo Camavinga. In terms of Ligue 1 levelling the playing field to make it easier for teams to compete with PSG, I think that would be the death of the league. Without PSG, fewer football fans would have a reason to pay attention to French football. Even if PSG is playing an overmatched FC Metz side, people will tune in to see Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe and as I mentioned, more eyeballs watching the league should lead to better TV contracts and more money for the clubs to keep their best players, which in return should make the league more competitive overall.

PSG are eight in eight in the league, having scored four goals in three of those games. The league is already a foregone conclusion for them. They will however be less than pleased with a 1-1 draw in their opening Champions League tie away at Club Brugge. It's not a disastrous start but Pochettino would have hoped for more. Next up they host Manchester City in Paris on Tuesday night (Sept 28) If they lose that tie as they did both legs when the sides met last April, it could be a tricky group and the faintest of alarm bells may be heard ringing in the distance.

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