Thursday, 29 September 2011

Beckham to PSG? Bullsheee...

A lot of stuff is written about PSG on the internet, and some of it I tend to ignore in the hope/belief that it’s not true.

Thus you won’t have seen any mention of the BBC’s OMG D-Beck could join PSG!!!111!1! from a few weeks back on this blog because I was of the opinion that it was, in the immortal words of The Wire’s Clay Davis, a load of sheeeeeeeeeeeiiit.

But wait, today’s Parisien is positively bulging with Beckham, who is alleged to have spoken to Leo about a move to the capital.

Dubbing Beckham “the Spice Boy” (someone should perhaps tell them he never wore one of those infamous White Armani Suits, or played for Liverpool) the paper quotes a source close to the former England captain who claims he and Leo have had a little tete-a-tete.

“Leonardo wanted to know what David’s intentions are and what he intends to do with his career, they spoke together about PSG,” said the source, though it seems no formal discussions are scheduled.

With Beckham out-of-contract at LA Galaxy this October, I suppose it could happen, but it seems more like a case of two plus two equalling five. And I think it goes without saying that, though I’m not a Beckham hater, it would be a terrible idea to try and shoe-horn a 36-year-old has-been into the magic square.

More immediately, the PSG are in Spain tonight to take on La Liga basement dwellers Athletico Bilbao in their second Europa League group fixture. Under the stewardship of the wonderful Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa, the Basque club have made a poor start to the season, with their only victory coming in Europe against Bratislava.

“They are in trouble, but Bilbao is a great team,” said AK. “In the stadium, the atmosphere is very hot.”

With one eye on Sunday’s show-down with Lyon, the coach has left Kevin Gameiro and Jezza Menezza at home, and is likely to bench Javier Pastore and Mr Elastic Matuidi, with Momo Sissoko coming in for a first start.

Monday, 26 September 2011

PSG gallop on after Montpellier win

Last week a magic square, this week a race-horse. PSG keep winning and the slightly dodgy metaphors keep rolling.

Saturday’s 3-0 win at Montpellier lifted Les Rouges-et-Bleu to joint-top of the table, but had France Football’s managing editor Denis Chaumier calling for calm.

“There are many obstacles to overcome before we can say PSG have the calibre of champions, it is better to be cautious,” said Chaumier.

“They lack something, a commune vie (common life), that their new elite status cannot replace.

“Some would want to push them to reach the higher levels quickly, but the ‘horse’ is reluctant. It knows its way and does not like to run into unknown lands. It gallops, though, believe me.”

So there you go. I can’t find a fitting translation of commune vie, but I assume in this instance the author means team-spirit or something similar, and it’s probably a fair point he’s making, albeit in a slightly convoluted fashion.

What I do know is that PSG keep improving, and that the nearest thing the team has to a thoroughbred, Javier Pastore, keeps scoring.

The Argentine netted twice against Montpellier; his first, and PSG’s second, was a brilliant angled volley after a long cross from the left, while his second was a harder-than-it-looked finish into the empty net from an acute angle after an horrific error from home keeper Geoffrey Jourdren. Kevin Gameiro had earlier opened the scoring in typical fashion, running clear to clip a neat finish past the exposed guardien.

Boss Antoine Kombouare was also boosted by a debut appearance from Momo Sissoko, who played 19 minutes as a substitute as he continues his come-back from injury.

“We knew what to expect here against the league leaders and the team with the best defence in the division,” said AK.

“They had conceded only one goal at home, so this was a good performance. I have to congratulate the players for a fantastic performance.

“It is an important victory that allows us to stay up at the top of the table but we have only played eight games. We are only at the very beginning of a very long road, so let's keep our feet on the ground.”

PSG now hold Ligue 1’s top spot alongside Montpellier and Lyon, who they meet at the Parc-des-Princes on Sunday night. Tasty.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Penalties prevelant at the Parc

Maths and football aren't necessarily subjects that fit naturally together. Unless you're a French journalist that is.

"The quartet offensive (Menez, Nene, Pastore, Gameiro) of PSG keeps getting better and looking more like a magic square," declared L'Equipe in the wake of the team's 2-1 victory over Nice in midweek.

Perhaps the correspondant should've watched the Evian game, because it was certainly hard to discern any shape, magical or otherwise, during that.

All the goals in Wednesday's fixture came from the penalty spot, with Nene and Gameiro converting the PSG kicks. I didn't see the game, but from the highlights I've squinted at all three decisions seemed fair enough, and the unbeaten run is now up to a none-too-shabby eight matches.

"This was a great win secured in difficult circumstances," said AK afterwards. "But it's great to have lads who are committed and who fight to the death.

"Getting the three points was the best preparation for the trip to Montpellier [on Saturday]. In the first half we showed the doubters that we can play well as a team. It was a fantastic first half, my team's best this season."

The only sour note was the dismissal of Christophe Jallet, who replaced Tiene for the match but will now be suspended for Saturday's fixture away at early pace-setters Montpellier.

Much has been made this season of how poor PSG have been in the first half of matches, with the Nice game being cited as the first time they have turned it on in the opening 45 minutes. It will be interesting to see whether Wednesday's match truly marks a turning point in the evolution of this team, because one imagines Montpellier will not let them get away with being sluggish for half the match.

In other news, Mevlut Erding has signed a one-year contract extension, which presumably also comes with a Qatari-funded pay rise. Another striker, Peguy Luyindula, has been moaning about his exile from the first team. The 32-year-old has been training with the yoofs this season as he doesn't fit into AK's plans.

"I am trying to understand why I have been sent away, but I can't," Luyindula told Le Parisien.

"When I ask, I am told that it is the choice of the manager. I am being treated like a leper. I don't dare go to Parc des Princes to watch my team-mates because I don't know if I would be welcomed or sent packing."

You can always rely on footballers to keep a sense of perspective.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Evian 2-2 PSG: Parisiens show they're not Bodd-lers

How many pictures of non-alcoholic beverages can one blog feature you may ask? Well, unless we draw little-known Cypriot side Dr Pepper United in the latter stages of the Europa League, then this will be the last one for a while so make the most of it.

PSG continued stretched their unbeaten run to seven games yesterday with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Evian in Annecy.

It was a match which probably summed up the season so far for Antoine Kombouare’s men, occasionally brilliant going forward, permanently dodgy at the back. AK chose his umpteenth centre-back pairing of the season for the match, selecting fit-again Sylvain Armand alongside Diego Lugano, and one suspects that until we get some continuity in this position defensive uncertainty is going to be an ongoing problem.

Poor old Armand didn’t enjoy a great first start of the season, and it was his leg that deflected Yannick Sagbo’s pass into the path of Jerome Leroy, a man for whom the term evergreen could have been coined. The 37-year-old ex-Parisien finished with aplomb to give the newly promoted side a shock lead.

It got worse six minutes later, as Armand made a hash of clearing a ball into the box, and clumsily fouled Mohammed Rabui as he tried to recover. Stick-on pen, and Sagbo did the honours from the spot to make it 2-0.

At this point PSG had offered little in attack, but they slowly came to life with Javier Pastore and Kevin Gameiro providing much of the impetus, ably supported by Nene. Gameiro, though, seemed to have left his shooting boots in the dressing room, passing up two chances he would usually put away in his sleep. The first came when home defender Tie Bi’s awful backpass left him all alone in front of goal, but the former Lorient striker’s effort was too close to goalkeeper Stephan Andersen, who blocked.

Then in the second period a fine pass from Pastore put Gameiro in on goal, but rather than trying a shot himself he went to return the ball to the Argentinean, only for a covering defender to put it behind for a corner.

By then Pastore had dragged his side back into the match with a superb solo effort on the stroke of half-time. Picking the ball up outside the box, he surged between three defenders, and held off a fourth before drilling a low shot into the far corner.

Evian remained dangerous on the break, and Sagbo could have put them out of sight when he ran onto Leroy’s fine through-ball but fired over the bar.

And it was left to two substitutes to earn PSG a point, as Mevlut Erding flicked on an 80th minute corner and Matthieu Bodmer surged in to shin the ball home from close-range.

A draw was probably a fair result, and it was good to see the PSG show a bit of fight to recover from what looked a fairly hopeless position after the first 20 minutes. But there are still plenty of problems for AK and his coaches to deal with: Despite not being the most prolific of scorers (six goals in six Ligue 1 games this season) Evian carved out chance after chance in the match, and better teams will punish us if we give them so many opportunities.

There is still work to do in attack too – the front six were a bit stretched out for my liking, and though Menez had a few nice touches he for the most part cut a peripheral figure on the wing.

Next up is a home match against Nice, who picked up their first win of the season on Saturday with a 3-0 tonking of Ajaccio. Let’s hope they’re not coming into form at just the wrong time.

Man of the Match: Javier Pastore – Pulled the strings with the poise of a master marionette operator.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Getting to know you... Red Bull Salzburg

PSG have a 100 per cent losing record this season against teams named after energy drinks, and will be looking to put that right this evening when Red Bull Salzburg visit the Parc as part of the first round of games in Europa League Group F.

It’s unlikely to be an easy game for AK and the boys, as the Red Bulls currently top the Austrian League with four wins and three draws from seven games.

The club enjoyed a good run in the Europa League two years ago, winning all their group games before going out to Standard Liege in the last-32. Last year they stalled at the first hurdle, picking up just two points.

Coach Ricardo Moniz said: “PSG are a strong team for sure, but I am not over-awed. There’s definitely a difference to preparing for a match against them than versus Baumgarten or Mattersburg.”

Too right, Baumgarten and Mattersburg don’t sound like real places.

The Dutchman added: “We want to put in a fair showing in Paris and be more than just a sparing partner. “We need to prepare ourselves mentally and if we do that anything is possible – as we proved two years ago in the Europa League.”

Player-wise, amusingly named Brazilian pair Douglas and Alan are both out injured, but Lugano and co will have to keep an eye on Austrian international striker Stefan Maierhofer, who had an unmemorable two-year spell at Wolves before returning to his native Austria this summer, while another dangerman is Brazilian winger Leonardo (not that one) who counts Ajax among his former clubs and is currently on loan at Salzburg from another Dutch side, NAC Breda.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pastore is PSG's Brest man

(Joke shamelessly nicked from @_bobeto_)

Isn’t Opta great?

I mean how else would lazy folk like me notice statistics like the following, posted earlier today by @OptaJean on Twitter:

5 - Javier Pastore has delivered four assists and scored one goal in his first
five competitive appearances for Paris SG. Flaco.

Flaco indeed, though the PSG’s points total is looking considerably less skinny after three successive wins, the latest of which came courtesy of Pastore’s goal against Brest at the Parc last night.

By all accounts it wasn’t the most fluid performance from the Rouges et Bleus, but AK understandably didn’t care too much.

“It's very satisfying. It's the first time since I came to the club that we've won three in a row and it's also our first clean sheet for the season,” he said.

“Brest were, along with Lyon, the only undefeated team in the league. So it's satisfying even though there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We have a lot of talent in the squad that needs to be harnessed for the good of the team - for example, we saw Kévin Gameiro make lots of runs tonight but not get as much of the ball as I would have liked.”

Work to be done then Kombouare and his coaches, though his Brest counterpart Alex Dupont was probably not too chuffed with the defending that led to Pastore’s goal. Four defenders converged on the rampaging Menez, leaving Pastore and two team-mates unmarked on the edge of the box. When the ball was passed to the Argentine, he stepped inside a challenge before dinking a shot over the keeper.

Pastore himself said, in typically bland footballer fashion, that he’s happy with the progress the team is making.

“We have a good team but need to keep working,” he said. “The goal is to finish as high as possible and play a leading role [in the title race]“What we want most is to be champions. Paris is a great club and should be at the top.”

Amen to that.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday September 10
Ajaccio 3-1 Valenciennes, Bordeaux 0-0 Evian, Caen 0-1 Toulouse, Dijon 1-2 Lyon, St Etienne 1-3 Lille, Sochaux 1-1 Lorient, Marseille 0-1 Rennes.
Sunday September 11
Montepellier 1-0 Nice, Nancy 0-0 Auxerre, PSG 1-0 Brest.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

International round-up featuring a lot of Parisien substitutes

Sirigu - Italy's number two. If he's lucky.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds international breaks intensely dull.

We've already had two and the season's barely been up and running for a month - is there anyone out there on planet football who gets excited about the prospect of Bulgaria versus England or Moldova versus Hungary (0-2, if you were wondering)? Wake me up when Euro2012 starts please.

But several members of the PSG squad were busy in the last few days representing their countries in far flung outposts across the globe. Sadly for them, but perhaps not so sadly for the club's title chances, not many of them saw much action on the pitch.

Gameiro, Matuidi and Jezza Menezza were all with Les Bleus for their qualifiers against Albania and Romania, two matches about which the most notable thing was that the opposition had rhyming names. Gameiro was on the bench (unused) for the 2-1 victory over Albania, but none of them featured in the 0-0 snoozefest in Romania. Blaise reportedly has a bit of groin-knack, but will hopefully be fit and well for Sunday's clash with Brest.

Italy aren't pulling up any trees either, and huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 over the Faroes on Friday, with Salvatore Sirigu an unused sub. In the same group Milan Bisevac got a better more of a look at the Islanders on Tuesday night, starting for Serbia before being withdrawn with a suspected abductor strain. The big man is now doubtful for Sunday. Bloody internationals.

Javier Pastore trekked half-way round the world to sit on the bench for Argentina in their crucial friendly with Nigeria in, er, Dakkar. Whether this was particularly beneficial for a player who is already some way behind his team-mates in the fitness stakes is open to question, but he did get to see Lionel Messi being brilliant, so at least it wasn't a total waste of time.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Good player, lovely hair
I should start by apologising for the lack of new material on this blog in the last couple of weeks - it's been a bit manic at PSGT towers, but normal service should be resumed this week.
Since I was last with you the PSG have picked up two wins, a single goal triumph over that Luxembourg team in the Europa League, Nene scoring the decisive goal. And an impressive 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Toulouse which, if you believe the media, probably saved Antoine Kombouare's job. For now.

The transfer window has also slammed shut, closing out the barrage of rumours surrounding potential new stars heading to the Parc. Expect those to return in January, especially if there's been a change of coach. It was a pretty low key end to the transfer window in the capital, with PSG actually doing some sensible business, leaving us supporters free to snigger at Lille signing the new Magic Chris, aka Joe Cole. Teehee.

Anyway, arriving before deadline was Diego Lugano, captain of Uruguay and erstwhile defensive rock of Fenerbache. I'll be honest and say he's not a player I know a great deal about, but on the face of it he appears to be just the kind of guy we need (ie defender, leader, experienced). Plus he has excellent hair.

Mevlut Erding was the surprising non-departure, given that he appeared to already be half-way to Rennes last week. Perhaps his goalscoring cameo against Toulouse changed Leonardo's mind. "Both club and player have decided to continue their current adventure together," trumpeted the club website, sounding ever so slightly like a Famous Five book. I'm not Mevlut's biggest fan, but it's obvious that keeping him makes sense. We need someone who's prepared to play second fiddle to the wonderful Kevin Gameiro, so bringing one of the many touted big name strikers would have likely ended in tears for someone or other.

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