No win in three league games and consecutive home defeats have not done PSG’s title ambitions any good at all. Failing to beat a Rennes side last night who played the majority of the game with a numerical deficit was a real slap in the face for the league leaders. With or without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as soon as the visitors went down to nine men in the 55th minute it would seem inevitable that a losing scoreline could be overturned – but it just did not happen. The reaction from Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the game with his post-match comments were striking to say the least. Not putting a brave face on at all he simply lambasted the attitude of the players before answering the question from a reporter; “Are PSG in crisis?” To which he replied; “Yes. I’m not afraid to say this but we are in crisis.”
So it begs the question, are we in a crisis? It does appear to be an over exaggeration from Ancelotti. You have to consider that prior to the defeat at home to Saint-Etienne two weeks back, we were one of a few top clubs in Europe to remain unbeaten in the league. The draw a week later in Montpellier was not ideal, but there were so many positives to take from the game. Like Rennes last night, we had to contend with a numerical disadvantage after Mamadou Sakho’s dismissal in the 10th minute and we were still able to take the lead, weather the storm and claim a valuable point.
The disappointing thing last night was that we let our guard down as soon as Goalkeeper Benoit Costil was sent off. Despite going behind early on, the side showed plenty of character to get back on level terms, playing attractive football and looking a threat going forward. Javier Pastore, Nene and Jeremy Menez were all linking up brilliantly and we were able to get in behind the Rennes defence. This all stagnated somewhat after the dismissal and we failed to make the 10-men pay. Instead, a piece of sloppy play from Blaise Matuidi (uncharacteristically) resulted in him conceding a freekick on the edge of the box. Salvatore Sirigu tried to get his peers to construct a wall, but much like the game as a whole, it floundered allowing Julien Feret to casually stroke his effort into the net. Again, a lack of concentration and perhaps a smidgen of arrogance by underestimating the 10-men.
Les Parisiens surely could not have believed their luck when Jean Makoun was dismissed 10 minutes into the second-half. Still trailing 2-1, the team threw the kitchen sink at the visitors but they were up against an inspired Cheick N’Diaye in goal – making the most of his opportunity after coming on when Costil was given an early bath. It was all PSG, literally every attack was coming in one direction. The woodwork came to Rennes rescue on a number of occasions and Ezequiel Lavezzi was smashing balls into the box but a blue shirt was unable to get on the end of them.
You have to gives Rennes all the credit in the world. They were biblical, resisting everything that was thrown into their penalty area, putting their bodies on the line. We just could not break them down. They would go on to hold out for the win as the boos echoed around the Parc des Princes.
Ancelotti was frank with his comments and somewhat surprising. We have seen since his time in Paris that he will whip the team if needs be and that was the case last night.
I do not want to be disrespectful to Rennes because they were superb, but failing to make the most a two-man disadvantage – with a team of the calibre of ours – is not good at all. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but had Zlatan been on the pitch would Rennes have held on? It is debatable but it is proof that we are over reliant on the big Swede.
Carlo also said in his post-match comments; “We didn’t have a good attitude. We’ve just lost two games at home & this is not possible for a team that wants to win the title. We are not a team yet and this period is difficult. We need to change something and I’ll change something”. So what does he mean? First and foremost, for whatever reason, we are ever so slow at getting into a rhythm in more or less every game we play. The tempo needs to be upped, especially at home, and it has happened on far too many occasions. We have allowed teams to play their game, almost daring them to come on to us. We should be going gung-ho on them, looking to take the lead as quickly as possible. Many times – this entire year in fact – we have gone behind and had to come back – doing things the hard way. Hopefully, Carlo can see this and no doubt he can.
There is nothing wrong with the system that is being utilised. The two men in the midfield trio have been a credit, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti. The defence has got better this season but we are still a little suspect at conceding silly goals. The ones from Rennes last night, particularly the first could have beaten any defence in Europe, but as a whole it is food for thought.
In attack, chances are created regularly by Menez and when Zlatan is back in the team we are a different animal. What exactly Carlo meant by ‘changing’ something is open for debate but I would not be surprised if we see Kevin Gameiro come into the fold partnering Zlatan up top next weekend. That has worked on the few occasions he has utilised this campaign and could be in his thinking.
So PSG, are they in crisis? I do not think so. There is room for improvement and the team is far from the finished article but nevertheless they have come on leaps and bounds. Would this question have been posed before the defeat to Saint-Etienne for instance? No, because the form up to that point was pretty flawless. Things do need to be tinkered with and Ancelotti will be like a man possessed at Camp des Loges as he prepares for the trip to Kiev where qualification for the last-16 of the Champions League can be secured. That would be a good place to start at getting things back on track.