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Paris Saint-Germain ended the season with a 3-1 victory over Lorient on Sunday in a game that had many of this season’s characteristics.
There was some frenetic fast paced football, good interplay, accomplished finishes and an influential Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Then there as the other side. Mundane play in the first-half, no real impetus to press forward and a little bit of chaos as well with Ronan Le Crom being sent off. To cap it off Mamadou Sakho had to go in goal to everyone’s amusement except Ronan. But, that has been the story to everyone affiliated to the club this season and you know what? We would not change it for the world.
It has been a rollercoaster, no doubt about it. There have been plenty of ups but also some downs. At times the team have not done themselves justice with below-par performances against the so called smaller clubs but when push came to shove in the big games, they delivered. Not at one point this season have they bottled against the likes of Lyon or Marseille. Neither in Europe when they put everyone in Europe on alert with a biblical performance against Catalan giants FC Barcelona over two-legs.
But, comments from Leonardo such as; “the team is more suited to play in Europe”, was a feeble excuse at the abject displays that hampered our title hunt at times. Perhaps there was some truth in that. One problem we have had this season is taking the game to teams right from the get go. That has allowed teams to settle and encourage them to press us, particularly in the second-half. Safe to say we have made life a lot harder for ourselves than perhaps we should have.
Nevertheless, what really mattered was what our standing would be after 38 league games. We now have the realisation of a dream that had been brewing ever since the heady days of the mid-nineties. Here we are 18-months into QSI’s project and they can glee with a smile. Paris Saint-Germain are the champions of France. It was the goal at the start of the season and one that has been achieved. The delirium of the supporters, players and staff told the story with wonderful scenes two weeks ago in the city. Of course, this was soured by nearly three dozen or so idiots taking matters into their own hands but it should not tarnish the club or the proper supporters of the club. They have waited so long for this, they deserve to enjoy it
There have been plenty of heroes in the culmination of this success and Carlo Ancelotti is right at the top. I have said countless times that his work at this football club should not be understated. He has been integral in building a side of capable of beating anybody on their day. The football at times is wonderful and top of all that the defence has been worked on rigorously. Last season that was the one major flaw that cost us the title to Montpellier. We were leaking goals for fun but it has been a completely different story this time around. Conceding just 23 goals in the league this season, it is statistically the best.
One fundamental reason for that, the arrival of Thiago Silva. We had to wait two months for him to make his debut as he had Olympic duties with Brazil but he has not looked back since. Straight away, we knew we had a special player. He was colossal in the debut against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League and even scored. Ever since he has not only implanted himself as one of Ancelotti’s first choice players but he was also handed the honour of being named captain. That just underlines the belief has had from his coach. It made him an even better player for it and his presences alongside Mamadou Sakho has made him better for it too. He is an influential player that will be just as important next season.
Speaking of influential, you can stick Blaise Matuidi into that category. Signed from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2011 he had a terrific start to his PSG career. Ironically though, when Antoine Kombouare was dismissed and Ancelotti came in, the Italian did not utilise the midfielder as much as you would think. He often found himself out of the team. What a difference a pre-season makes though as the European Cup winner truly got to see the capabilities of the Frenchman. He did not start the opening game against Lorient last August; Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a second-half brace that day to salvage a draw. But, when he came into the starting-XI against Ajaccio the week after he has played every game ever since. He is Mr Consistency, the motor engine in the three man midfield. His energy, burst of pace and elegant nature have contributed to us becoming champions just as much as anyone. For me, he is player of the season.
Then up top, the main man Zlatan Ibrahimovic. What an unbelievable season he has had. He finishes as Ligue 1’s top goal scorer with 30 goals, equalling Jean-Pierre Papin’s tally 23 years ago for Marseille and has undoubtedly enhanced Ligue 1 as a whole to the global audience. He is a genuine superstar that has won games on his own for PSG this season. The acquisition of him last summer sent ripples across Europe and we have reaped the benefits. Unquestionably his goals have won us the championship. He perhaps has not been as domineering as he was before the winter break but he has still bagged 11 goals in the league. He is adored by the supporters and rightfully so.
In the end, the club achieved what it set out to do. Become champions of France. On top of that, an impressive display in the UEFA Champions League won over many from the outside looking in who genuinely saw the quality of this team.
Big questions are to be answered in the coming weeks though which will either be detrimental or beneficial to the club. Ancelotti is on his way to Spain with Real Madrid leaving us with the task to find a successor. It is a hugely important decision for the football club and hopefully it turns out to be the right one.