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Whenever Paris Saint-Germain succumb to a defeat or are involved in a lacklustre display, you can guarantee that the media in France will start questioning Carlo Ancelotti’s future. Being eliminated from the Coupe de France has posed that question again with newspaper ‘Le Parisien’ running a poll asking fans if they think Carlo should remain in charge next season. I am pleased to say that the majority said ‘YES’ with 60% and rightfully so. This is a man that has brought a greater good to the football club and his job is nowhere near from completion.
His arrival in December 2011 certainly caused a stir. He replaced the ever popular Antoine Kombouare who had just guided us to the tag of ‘winter champions’ and only lost a handful of games. But, QSI identified Ancelotti as a marquee name that would not only attract world class players but would also install a winning mentality. He has achieved both the aforementioned, after an initial five months of experimentation. Yes, we came close to winning the title in that first season under QSI’s stewardship and who knows what might have happened if the continuity had been there with Kombouare but the owners were ultimately looking at the bigger picture.
Leonardo’s friendship with Carlo and their links in Italy’s Serie A were the root cause of the thinking. Would players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi made the move to Paris if Kombouare was in charge? I am not so sure. That is not a knock at ‘Toni’ whatsoever, what he achieved in Paris was remarkable before the takeover. He got us within a few points of Champions League qualification and guided us to a Coupe de France triumph the year before. But, Ancelotti embodies respect in European football, players want to play for him, they know him and are guaranteed silverware under his guidance.
Those first five months he tinkered with his selections in various games, identifying areas of the team that needed strengthening which he did in the summer. It was blatantly obvious that the defence needed bolstering as well as the capture of a striker – hence the arrival of Silva and Zlatan from Serie A. The big wage packet of course enticed them – it would be naive to think otherwise – but their adulation to play under one of Italy’s most successful coaches was a significant lure.
Carlo has had to evolve somewhat since arriving in France. His renown ‘Christmas Tree’ formation was adopted but it did not really take off. He persevered with it until the remainder of the 2011/12 season but it was in pre-season during the tour of America that he started to look at other methods. Lavezzi’s arrival played a major part in him adopting a 4-4-2 this season and it has worked an absolute treat. We have turned into a frightfully good counter-attacking team which has gone up a notch sinceLucas Moura arrived at the beginning of the year. It is a formation that I cannot recall Ancelotti utilising at his previous clubs – not on a frequent basis anyway. So, in that respect you have to admire him for being attentive and finding a solution that suits us. He does still have a tendency to play three central midfielders away from home which ultimately stagnates the attacking tempo. We are more predictable in that fashion allowing teams to suss us out. That is not so much of a criticism because I can see the logic as to why he utilises it but it is evident for all to see that we have been at our best when we have been playing 4-4-2.
The big question this season under his stewardship however has been the lack of motivation from the players in certain fixtures. No denying, in the UEFA Champions League and the pivotal games in Ligue 1 we have been stellar. It is the performances against smaller clubs, especially after games in Europe where we have been borderline average at times. We have scraped victories by minimal margins by not exactly playing well either. At the same time, I have said so many times this season that those wins are the hallmark of champions. We are not on the cusp of a first league title in 19 years as a result of a fluke, those wins have been fundamental. But, it is evident by the body language that certain fixtures just do not get the juices flowing for the marquee names but this has to change next season if we are to win silverware. Ancelotti should not have to motivate his players for a cup quarter-final, the incentive is there. He was let down by some of his players who looked as if they treated it as an exhibition match. Carlo said he takes the responsibility for the elimination but he should not take the full flack. Yes, he did not help himself by playing Blaise Matuidi – indispensable in central midfield – out on the left of midfield which was an evident flaw but at the same time he had enough quality on the pitch to get the job done.
All in all, his future may be continuously questioned and he may also be the favourite for the Real Madrid job as Jose Mourinho is incessantly linked with a move to the Parc des Princes. But, Carlo Ancelotti is still without question the perfect man for Paris Saint-Germain. His tenure has had a few minor bumps but that in no way outweighs the admirable job he has done in conjuring up a side on the verge of winning the club’s first league title in nearly two decades.
The club hired a winner and he has lived up to that billing.
Note: In 70 games under Ancelotti’s tenure, the club has lost just nine games. His win percentage is an impressive 63%.