Referee Ruddy Buquet blew the final whistle at jubilant and euphoric Allianz Riviera on Sunday night, with every man in a red and black shirt celebrate a wonderful victory; in contrast to the 9 players left on the pitch in white portraying dejection and gloom.
The noise in the stadium was almost as deafening as the widespread joy throughout France as PSG’s stranglehold on Ligue 1 is almost at an end.
OGC Nice had toppled the champions with just three games left to play in Ligue 1. Before the game a draw for PSG would have been disastrous, a defeat catastrophic, in their bid for a 5th straight Ligue 1 title.
In truth, the capital club were well beaten; out-battled, out-fought and tactically second best for the entire 90 minutes which ironically has been the story of the season away from home particularly in Ligue 1.
The most alarming issue regarding Sunday night’s defeat was how the champions imploded in a way we have rarely seen before, particularly as the game came to its conclusion.
The usually reliable senior players collectively lost their heads at a time where calm and composure was needed. Captain Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria were all guilty of this. The list contained headbutting, unnecessary aggressive challenges and overreacting to Mario Balotelli’s exploits, which resulted in deserved red cards for both Motta and Di Maria.
For the first time in the QSI era, cracks in this PSG team were evident. A loss of control and discipline seemingly stemming from an accumulation of Monaco’s consistency, PSG’s continued limp performances and a slow adaptation has led to this campaign at best being described as a season of transition for the champions.
PSG’s performance also appeared as if it was one of a direct reaction to Monaco’s win at Lyon last Sunday; a fixture that PSG and their fans pinpointed as the one that realistically may find their toughest.
The plan prior to that fixture was for Monaco to drop points at Lyon, for PSG to exploit it and then pile on the pressure during the run in.
No such thing occurred and with Les Monegasques’ 2-1 win at the Parc OL, there came a collective admission that it was unlikely that Monaco were going to falter in their pursuit of a first Ligue 1 title for 17 years.
The frustration and aggression that occurred on Sunday night within the PSG team is something we have been unaccustomed to particularly in the QSI era where PSG have had it all their own way for most the Qatari’s tenure in the French capital. But for the first time since Montpellier pipped the rouge et bleu to the title in 2011-12, PSG looked broken and just did not have the answers in the most crucial moment of the season.
It was not just the players that reacted badly to the events of Sunday night. President Nasser Al-Khelaifi approached the referee after the game and reportedly told Buquet “Thanks for killing the game, well done”.
The reactions of both the players and hierarchy would not have done anything positive for PSG’s commercial image, instead highlighting the regression that the club has made in the past year.
Poor decisions have been made since the sacking of Laurent Blanc, particularly in regard to recruitment both on and off the pitch and Nasser Al-Khelaifi is responsible for that. Players within the squad who are stale and carrying complacent attitudes towards Ligue 1 should have been moved on and with the exception of Thomas Meunier and Julian Draxler, PSG’s acquisitions in the transfer market have been poor.
PSG have also been caught cold as the standard of Ligue 1 has drastically improved at a time when Les Parisiens have seemingly underestimated the competition.
Moreover, they have ultimately paid the price for arrogant and complacent second-rate performances at Guingamp, Montpellier, Monaco and Toulouse before the turn of the year coupled with a fantastic and relentless run of consistent results from AS Monaco.
With the title now set for the Principality, it is imperative that PSG hang on to second place in the classement with Nice now just three points behind Emery’s men.
PSG finishing outside the top two places in Ligue 1 would be viewed as a cataclysmic failure particularly so soon after the Barcelona debacle and would almost certainly be the difference between Unai Emery keeping his job or being relieved of his duties.
Captain Thiago Silva said after the defeat to Nice “Finishing third would be catastrophic for us, we’d have little vacation.” Maybe within that statement lies the problem?
Nasser Al-Khelaifi has already promised big changes in the summer and the rumours are already starting with Blaise Matuidi, Lucas and Marquinhos linked with moves away from the capital.
Perhaps the biggest change PSG must make is a in terms of mentality; from one that has a self-perception of invincibility to a more collectively focussed, motivated and relentless one, in the mould of AS Monaco.
There is no doubt that PSG will react, their attraction and resources are too powerful to stay down for long. The huge egos at the Parc des Princes will be hurting and the powers that be will want to make significant statements ahead of a crucial summer.
But they must be aware that with more emerging young talent, established stars from abroad now open to playing in France and continued foreign investment, Ligue 1 is as strong as it has ever been and growing year upon year.
A new winner of Ligue 1 might be viewed as a positive for the division by the masses, but it just may act as a trigger for a new-look, stronger-than-ever PSG next term.