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Carlo Ancelotti described last night’s elimination to Evian in the Coupe de France as the “worst game of the season”. He lamented the performance as well as the attitude of the players whilst taking full responsibility himself by saying it is the coach’s job to motivate the players. Although some of the tactical decisions were a little wayward, in no way did it result in such a lacklustre performance against a team sitting 16th in Ligue 1. It is certainly not the first time we have seen a performance like this but it was perhaps by far the worst. There is an unhealthy trend in the camp regarding a real lack of motivation in these sort of games and it has to change next season.
When you put it into simple terms, Carlo Ancelotti should not have to motivate his heavily paid players for a cup quarter-final. It should be second nature to them. Even so, it was a wonderful opportunity for a lot of those players who have yet to taste that feeling of winning some silverware and they have let an opportunity just pass them by with ease.
It looked as if we were well on our way after Javier Pastrore opened the scoring early on. It was a wonderfully crafted goal, Beckham played a delicious ball out to the right for Christophe Jallet who cut the ball back for Pastore to flick up and volley home via the crossbar. We were on our way to the last-four it seemed. But, complacency well and truly kicked in. Unable to construct anything meaningful in attack, we were also getting caught out in the middle of the park. We were giving the ball away, passes going astray and being ultimately the contributors to our own down fall. Evian’s equaliser was a result of that after we cheaply gave the ball away, allowing Yannick Sagbo to counter who calmly played the ball across goal for Saber Khelifa to tuck home.
Generally, the game was poor but that suited the hosts who gave a resolute account of themselves. They clearly wanted it more, having the better of the play and even conjuring up the more dangerous openings. It took till extra-time for us to create a real clear cut chance when Ezequiel Lavezzi brought out a fantastic save from Bertrand Laquait at close range.
We utilised a standard 4-4-2 which has brought out the very best out of the team this term, more so than the 4-3-3 which we normally adopt away from home. But, strangely, Ancelotti decided to put Blaise Matuidi out on the left-hand side. We really could have done with his energy in the middle of the park where David Beckham and Thiago Motta were operating. Both of those players are too similar with much of the passing going back and forth with no real outlet to stretch their legs as Mauidi would have done if he was there. The lack of pace down the wings was evident also. We were nowhere near as threatening on the counter-attack as we would have been if Lucas Moura and Lavezzi had started. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jeremy Menez who partnered one another up top barely had a kick between them. Zlatan perhaps had his worst game in a Parisien shirt to date; too many times he was dispossessed, caught in possession and his link-up play was genuinely awful. He even missed his penalty in the shoot-out which ultimatley summed up his night.
So just like in Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de la Ligue, we bowed out on penalties. We got what we deserved really. We did not see a Paris Saint-Germain side that was pumped and ready to win the game. The club has such a grand affiliation in the Coupe de France and to go out in the way we did leaves a bitter taste. There was a genuine opportunity to capture the club’s first league and cup double but it went up in smoke.
The alarming issue is the team’s attitude and that must change next season. In the Champions League and marquee fixtures in Ligue 1, we have been fantastic. But, when it comes to playing the smaller teams we just do not show up. Director of football Leonardo said a number of months back that the team is more suited to the Champions League and his comments do not look so merciless now. We have to pay smaller clubs the respect they deserve and any game in a Parisien shirt is as important as any. As I said, Ancelotti should not have to motivate his players for a cup quarter-final so they have to take a bulk of the responsibility, not just Carlo.