Sunday, 30 December 2012

PSG's year in lists: 2012 edition

And so my friends, we come to the end of 2012, another year in which Paris Saint-Germain failed to win any  trophies. Or many friends.

Nevertheless, it's been an entertaining 12 months in the French capital, with the arrival of Zlatan and Thiago Silva, a reasonably successful foray into the Champions League, and more crisis' than your average war-torn middle-eastern country.

So, without further ado, here's our farewell to 2012, the PSG Tourist end-of-year list. If you have any alternative suggestions, feel free to drop me a line or a tweet.

Player of the Year - Blaise Matuidi: After steadily improving throughout the second half of last season, Mr Elastic has been in outstanding form since the new campaign got underway. He's even added goalscoring to his game, and headed the only goal in our top-of-the-table clash with Lyon earlier this month. Hurrah for big bad Blaise.

Unsung hero of the year - Salvatore Sirigu: Matuidi used to be our unsung hero, but everyone's jumped on the Blaise bandwagon in the last couple of months. So instead I'm going to nominate Sirigu, partly because his consistent excellence seems to be take for granted these days, and partly because he was shamefully robbed of the Ligue 1 keeper of the year title last season. You could count the number of costly mistakes the Italian has made in the last 12 months on the fingers of one hand. Of a snake.

Flop of the year - Gregory van der Wiel: Turns out those people who told me that the Dutch international is more interested in fashion than football these days may have been onto something. Has rarely looked comfortable since his summer move from Ajax, and certainly doesn't look significantly better than Christophe Jallet.

Match of the year - Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 Dynamo Kiev: We'd waited a long time for Champions League football to return to the Parc-des-Princes, and our first taste of the Big Cup since 2005 could hardly have been much sweeter. With Marco Verratti to the fore, PSG were in irrisistable form as they blew away an (admitedly dire) Dinamo Kiev outfit. Zlatan opened the scoring from the spot, before goals from Thiago Silva and Alex made it 3-0 in a completely one-sided first half. Shell-shocked Dinamo pulled one back late on thanks to Miguel Veloso's free kick, before Javier Pastore's deflected shot put the icing on an extremely tasty cake. Honourable mention: Lyon 4-4 Paris Saint-Germain.

Shambolic fail of the year: Auxerre 1-1 Paris Saint-GermainSo many to choose from; does one plump for the failure to beat nine-men Rennes in November, or perhaps the 0-0 snoozefest down in Corsica which we played out with Ajaccio back in September. No, instead I'm going for our draw in Auxerre last season, a inexcusable result against a team heading for relegation. Had we been a bit more ruthless against struggling sides we would have almost certainly gone on to lift the title.

Goal of the year: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Marseille. Zlatan found some space to deftly volley home following a Maxwell corner. Taikwondo-tastic.

Quote of the year: "It's as if I did not exist in the eyes of PSG. Those guys, they pissed on me from a great height. They did not stop humiliating me and going behind my back. I read that one day I laughed at Nene who was locked in the toilet after the match against Arles-Avignon . I think that was the height of their idiocy!" - Peguy Luyindula takes aim and fires at the PSG hierarchy.

Zlatan quote of the year: “It’s true that I don’t know much about the players in Ligue 1 but for sure, they know who I am.” 18 goals later, it's fairly certain everyone in Ligue 1 knows who Zlatan Ibrahimovic is.

Random shit tattoos of the year: Zlatan again, but I'm not going to tell him.

Weedy body of the year - Poor little Clement Chantome: Basically I just wanted an excuse to post this amusing picture again:

Bonne Anneé everyone!

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Rumour Mill: Everton left-back and Newcastle striker arriving in PSG's dictionary corner?

Another week, another daft story about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Having already been nominated for a prestigious literary award earlier this season, Ibra has now been immortalised in the Swedish dictionary, with the addition of the verb "zlataner", meaning to do something with force, or dominate. What next for Zlatan? At this rate I reckon he could become the first footballer to be shot into space. Or perhaps the Swedish government will build a giant monument to him at the mouth of Stockholm harbour, like the Statue of Liberty but with a bigger nose.

I'd like to see a few of PSG's out-of-favour players added to the dictionary. A "Siaka Tiene" would be an object/person with no discernible talent or use (e.g. Harry Styles is completely Tiene). If reports are to be believed, then Siaka could be on his way this January, with Toulouse reportedly leading the chase for his signature, ahead of Besiktas and some English clubs. Don't all rush at once.

To "Momo Sissoko" would be to act recklessly (e.g. My driving was Sissoko when I sped down the motorway at 150mph). Having rarely featured this season, partly due to injury, the Mali international may opt to join AC Milan or Spartak Moscow in January. "Sissoko wants to spend more time on the pitch," noted the player's agent Jose Segou. Trying to go more than five minutes without a red card would probably be a good start in that respect.

"Diego Lugano" would refer to something that still looks pretty good, even though it's clearly past it's best (e.g. Jennifer Aniston is Lugano these days). With his agent having dusted off the video tape of his pre-2010 performances and mailed it out to a load of clubs, Dishy Diego is apparently dans le viseur of a diverse range of teams, including Malaga and QPR. I won't tell them if you don't.

Finally, a "Guillaume Hoarau" would refer to an object that is chronically underused (e.g. my gym membership is Hoarau). With just six months left on his contract, Big Willy apparently fancies a move, and could become the new Niall Quinn after being linked with a move to Sunderland.

On the incoming side, RMC take the award for the most left-field rumour with their story that we might try and poach Everton left-back Leighton Baines. This is also being reported "exclusively" by The Sun, who suggest it would take £15million to prise the England international from David Moyes' cold, dead, hands.

Demba Ba has also definitely not been talking up a move to PSG.

"I watch PSG as a fan, a supporter. I have never hidden my attraction to the club and have been a supporter since I was little," he said.

"Now, they are doing important things, big projects for the future, and of course it would please me to play in the colours of a team I support."

Can you feel the but coming? Here it is:

"But as I said about Arsenal, it's something which is a long way off. For the moment, I am concentrating on what I have to do with my team - getting Newcastle out of the mess we are in."

Seems unlikely we'd be in the market for a striker, but you never know I suppose.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Have a champion Christmas

Paris Saint-Germain claimed Ligue 1's Autumn Champions crown for the second successive year thanks to Friday night's 3-0 win in Brest. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Gameiro got the first two goals, before ex-PSG man Bernard Mendy helpfully weighed in with an own goal in the last minute.

Victories over the weekend for Lyon and Marseille mean we only lead the table on goal difference, but it's a lead nevertheless, and one can only hope we can hold onto it when the season resumes after the winter break.

In the meantime, I'd like to wish all PSG Tourist readers a very merry Christmas, and put together this little festive picture as an early gift for you all. I'm thinking of offering it to the club so that they can use it as their official Christmas card in 2013.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Brest vs PSG: [insert terrible Brest pun of your choice here]

the first picture that appeared when I typed autumn into Google
I don't really get this business of being Autumn Champions.

Call me old fashioned, but I'd prefer to be actual champions and, as any cliche-spouting football manager will confirm, no prizes are handed out in December, except meaningless ones like Sports Personality of the Year. What do you get for being autumn champions anyway? Some conkers? A bag of fallen leaves? Bottled smell of bonfire?

The French seem to think it's a big deal though. PSG were Autumn Champions last year (for the uninitiated, this title goes to the team topping Ligue 1 going into the winter break), and are likely retain their "crown" with a win in Brest tonight in what is our final game of the first half of the season.

"The coach told us to focus on the fact that the holiday is only on Friday (today) at around 11pm, and not before," said Christophe Jallet, taking off his Santa hat and frantically trying to hide a half-eaten mince pie.

"[Brest] is a very dangerous team because they are very good at home. They need points and us? We want to be Autumn Champions."

"On a psychological level, I think we need a vacation," added Carletto. "Players need to recover a bit. Afterwards, physically, we will be at the best time of the season."

Brest's league form has sagged (sorry) after a good start, and they currently lie 13th. Despite this, their home record is decent, and they've only lost twice in eight matches. If they do beat PSG it will be their first victory against us since 1985.

Missing for Les Rouges-et-Bleu will be Alex, Bodmer, and Nene, but everyone else is fit and the starting line-up will probably be unchanged.

Yesterday's Champions League last-16 draw pitted us against Valencia. The first leg will take place in Spain on February 12, with the return match at the Parc scheduled for March 6. Woof.

"Valencia is a good team with great individuals," said Ancelotti. "We have time to observe them, and they have a tough schedule in January including Madrid and Barcelona. At this time, they have problems, like all teams can have. One might think that this is a good draw, but we must be ready. "

Certainly should be an occasion to look forward to in 2013.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Nene and Luyindula in the departure lounge, Zlatan in the dock

A wild Luyindula, pictured in it's natural habitat - the bench
 Christmas is just around the corner, and people everywhere are hitting the shops to pick up those last minute gifts for their nearest and dearest.

The world of football is no exception, with plans being made in earnest for the opening of the January transfer window.

Over in the United States, New York Red Bulls will be unwrapping a slightly soiled Peguy Luyindula, after the striker's Paris Saint-Germain contract was cancelled, allowing him to join the MLS side. You may remember that Peg-Leg was frozen out at the Parc-des-Princes after a conflict with former boss Antoine Kombouare, but after threatening to take the club to court was awarded a new contract in the summer.

But having seen just 12 minutes of action this season, he's decided to start afresh across the Atlantic, where he will  link up with his old pal Thierry Henry and another Ligue 1 luminary, Juninho. I just hope the Americans aren't expecting Peguy to be as good as Henry, or they could be in for a nasty surprise; make sure you keep the receipt Red Bulls, although I doubt PSG will be offering any refunds.

If being given a Luyindula is the equivalent of finding a second hand pair of socks under the tree, then receiving a Nene would be like unwrapping a brand new Versace jacket. Confirming the worst kept secret in Paris, the Brazilian announced on Wednesday that he would be off in January.

It had already been revealed that Nene would not be joining the rest of the squad for their winter jaunt to the Middle East, and in a post on his official website yesterday, the former Monaco man confirmed that we've probably seen him in a PSG shirt for the last time.

"I love the city, the PSG and their fans, who always treated me with great respect," he said. "Personally and through social networks, I have received numerous messages from fans asking me to stay. It's a tough decision, but I think it is time to follow a new path in my career."

Nene also seems to think that PSG will just let him go for free, adding: "I believe we will reach a consensus and [I'll] be released from the remaining contract." If this is the case then I hope we'll stipulate that he can't join another Ligue 1 club - a move to Turkey, or back to Brazil, seems more likely, but it would be annoying if he pitched up at Lyon or Lille.

I wrote a long post earlier in the season about why we should let Nene go, but now it's actually happening I feel a bit sad. He's been a brilliant servant of PSG in the last couple of seasons, and his goal record of 48 in 112 games is particularly impressive for someone who isn't an out-and-out striker. Good luck wherever you end up Mr Nene.

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given an unwelcome gift this week, when French football's governing body, The Ligue de Football Professionnel, announced he would have to attend a disciplinary hearing to answer allegations that he deliberately stamped on Dejan Lovren in Sunday's match between PSG and Lyon.

I said on Twitter at the time that I felt this wasn't an intentional act on Zlatan's part - it looked a lot worse when put into slow-motion than at full speed. I suspect this hearing is only happening a) because he's Zlatan, and b) because Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has been carping on about it, but nevertheless, the Swede could be looking at a three-match ban. A date for the hearing has yet to be set.

Monday, 17 December 2012

PSG 1-0 Lyon: Blaise-ing a trail to the top of the Ligue

Big Bad Blaise is coming to get you

Blaise Matuidi's first half header was enough to send Paris Saint-Germain back to the top of Ligue 1 after a hard-fought victory over Lyon.

It was a match that put the crap in scrappy, with neither side at their flowing best. But PSG's extra star quality told in the end, and victory in our last game before the winter break - against Breast on Friday - is likely to see us crowned autumn champions for a second successive year. I wonder if they'll give us an actual trophy this time?

"We lost at Nice, and since then, a lot of things have changed," noted Carletto afterwards. "We've now got a solid team that can do things this season.

"Football is sometimes weird: who'd have thought PSG could change attitude in 15 days? The players have worked well and deserve to be top of the table. It's important to be there, but the most important thing is to finish out in front."

Indeed, solid is probably the best word to describe last night's performance. It was a win built on granite foundations, with centre-backs Thiago Silva and Mamadou Sakho in outstanding form, and Matuidi dashing around in midfield like a man possessed.

Elsewhere in the team there was little to get excited about; Pastore did pretty well, and Menez and Lavezzi showed flashes of their quality, but Ibra's involvement was limited to the odd good touch and some thunderous stares at the ref/Lyon defenders/his team-mates.

The visitors, whose squad was decimated by injuries, lined up with five at the back, with Michel Bastos and Anthony Revelliere as roving wing-backs. And it worked pretty well in a first half which they probably shaded. Lisandro was inches away from opening the scoring when he raced in to meet a cross at the far post, but his volley bounced off the inside of the upright and away to safety. OL boss Remi Garde, dressed dashingly in a rollneck sweater and tight trousers, held his head on the touchline.

Up to that point PSG had rarely threatened, with visiting keeper Vercoutre only making one save of note, a parry which foiled Pastore's effort. However we always looked a threat on the counter-attack, and on the stroke of half-time we broke away with devastating effect. Silva robbed Lisandro on the edge of our box, and sent the ball out to Menez. He moved it on quickly to Zlatan, whose cross took a deflection and sat up kindly for Matuidi to power home a header. Big Blaise's joyful, arm-whirling, celebration was a sight to behold and it sent the crowd, who had been booing their team moments before, into raptures.

PSG had done well to keep Lyon at arms length for most of the first half, and it soon became apparent in the second period that the visitors were running out of gas. And as the game wore on it was Les Rouges-et-Bleu who looked the more likely scorers. Ibra was denied a tap-in by a great sliding tackle from Umtiti, Vercoutre blocked an effort from Lavezzi, and Jallet saw a swerving shot flash just past the post.

But in the end Matuidi's goal proved to be enough. It's a shame that Lyon were so depleted, as the game might have been a better spectacle had Gourcuff, Grenier, Briand et al been available. Certainly Garde didn't have many options to make changes when they were obviously required in the second half. If PSG are to go on and win the title this season, the extra squad we have when compared to OL or Marseille might be a decisive factor.

Man of the Match: Thiago Silva - Graceful, decisive defending from the skipper, on this form he and Sakho are a formidable partnership.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

PSG's December: the story so far

It's been a while since this blog was last updated.

I'd like to say this is because the large team of writers behind PSGT have been living it up in our secluded blogging bunker just off the Champs Elysees, surrounded by booze, coke, and hookers dressed in Jeremy Menez shirts, but the reality is a lot more mundane; I've been busy at work.

Anyway, enough with the excuses, here's a quick round-up of what's happened in the crazy world of PSG while we've been away.

December 1: Nice 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain

The beginning of December meant we were able to crack open this fabulous Kinder advent calendar which my mother-in-law sent over from France. Look at it! What a thing of beauty! Unfortunately PSG's performance against Claude Puel's side wasn't quite so sweet. The team struggled to get going, and inevitably fell behind in the 76th when some quite ridiculous defending from substitute Gregory van der Wiel allowed Cvitanich to twist and turn and set up Bautheac for a close range strike.

Ibra powered a free kick through to equaliser in the 82nd minute, but PSG's joy was short-lived, and Eysseric snuck in ahead of Maxwell and Alex to snatch a winner four minutes later.

The aftermath of the match was what I imagine it will be like come the END OF THE WORLD, with most experts agreeing PSG's season was doomed. Various reports also stated that Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Harry Redknapp, Barry Fry, and Sven were all being lined up as possible replacements for the beleaguered Carletto. Leonardo's position - schmoozing with rich people and buying players from Serie A - is/was also said to be under threat.

December 4: Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Porto

Carletto promised big changes, and what we got were, er, well, changes. Mainly a subtle formation shift from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, with one of the holding midfielders sacrificed in favour of an attacking line of Lavezzi, Menez, and Pastore behind Zlatan.

It worked pretty well, and PSG hit the front when skipper Thiago Silva leapt like the proverbial salmon to head home a hanging free kick from Maxwell. Sadly the lead was short-lived, as our defence parted like the proverbial Red Sea to allow Martinez to slide in an equaliser moments later.

A draw would have been enough to see Porto top the group, and to their cost they sat back in the second period, and PSG took advantage thanks to some horrendous goalkeeping from Helton, who dropped a proverbial clanger by allowing Lavezzi's tame shot to sneak under him and into the net. So PSG progressed as group winners, and will be one of the top seeds in the last-16 draw. The Champions League world is our proverbial oyster.

December 8: Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Evian TG

Evian caused a few teams problems this season, but their attacking threat has been watered down (sorry) this season, and PSG took full advantage.

However, the visitors did a good job of bottling up Les Rouges-et-Bleu's attacking quarter until the 29th minute, when Ibra slid the ball home following good work from Pastore and Jallet. Lavezzi rifled home a second, his first in Ligue 1, three minutes later, but anyone who thought the flood-gates were going open was sadly mistaken.

In fact PSG were far from their best, but two goals in the last ten minutes gave the scoreline some perhaps undeserved gloss. First a nice pass from Pastore allowed Thiago Motta to tap in, then Menez laid the ball up on a plate for substitute Kevin Gameiro to smash home.

December 11: Valenciennes 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain

We've now scored four goals in a game on six separate occasions this season, and this quartet capped what was perhaps our finest performance of the season to date.

Valenciennes are no mugs, and have been enjoying a great start to the season, but once Ibra had diverted Lavezzi's shot into the empty net in the 28th minute the result was never in doubt.

PSG played with a swagger befitting of the quality of our team, and Zlatan bagged a second in the 48th minute, slamming the ball into the net after home keeper Penneteau had parried a powerful effort from Pastore.

Menez then set up Ibrahimovic's hat-trick goal, leaving the Swede to tap the ball into the empty net after a good run down the left. It emerged afterwards that some of the PSG players, Sakho and Matuidi thought to be the chief culprits, have given Zlatan the nickname "Inzaghi" due to the amount of tap-ins he's scored this term. Those crazy footballers and their bantz.

Anyway, Lavezzi rounded things off, breaching the VA offside trap to slide the ball past the exposed Penneteau. With league leaders Lyon only managing a 1-1 draw with Nancy on Wednesday, it means a victory for PSG in tomorrow night's showdown with OL at the Parc-des-Princes will see us go top of the division on goal difference.


Looking back it's been a pretty weird month so far. The problem with PSG is that opinions are always polarised; when we lose it's a catastrophe, when we win we're hailed (in some quarters) as world beaters.

Football managers I've spoken to in the past always talk about the importance of keeping things on an even keel - not getting too high on victories or too down after defeats, and everyone involved at the Parc-des-Princes, and in the media, could do with bearing that in mind. Unfortunately PSG exists in a universe where there is only drama and/or crisis; it was like that before the QSI money arrived and certainly hasn't improved since.

Still, at least things are never dull, and we seem to have been building some momentum since the Porto game, so I'm feeling reasonably confident going into Sunday night's big match. Let's hope the Nice game proves to be a nadir for the season. Allez Paris.

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