PSG prepare for Emery era and life after Ibrahimovic with trio of deals
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | July 5, 2016
For four successive seasons now, PSG have won the Ligue 1 title at a canter and fallen in the Champions League quarter-finals.
All change in Paris
One constant of the mega-rich French capital club’s rise to prominence, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has left the Parc des Princes for free to join Manchester United. Head coach Laurent Blanc has followed him in leaving Paris.
PSG prepare to begin life after Zlatan with the appointment of successful Sevilla boss Unai Emery – an expert in winning European trophies, albeit the Europa League rather than the top prize desired by the Middle East owners.
Coral go 14/1 that PSG can end their elusive quest for Champions League glory in 2016/17 and their summer signings to date suggest new manager Emery is not overly concerned about filling the Ibrahimovic shaped hole up front.
Ben Arfa not the eye-catching arrival
Maverick winger Hatem Ben Arfa, rejuvenated by a spell on the Riviera with Nice, has arrived in the capital for free, but it is the captures of Poland anchorman Grzegorz Krychowiak and Belgium right back Thomas Meunier that catch the eye.
Signing players on international form and what they can do at a tournament is often fraught with mishap. Remember El Hadji Diouf? He never looked the same in a Liverpool shirt to follow up on being named in the 2002 World Cup Team of the Tournament for his displays with Senegal.
Emery’s arrivals in Paris may be an exception to this rule, however. He has mentored midfield enforcer Krychowiak at Sevilla, transforming him from rough diamond into a holding player that several top Premier League clubs were tracking.
Krychowiak and Meunier moves make sense
While the Pole’s arrival at PSG does little for the prospects of former Spurs flop Benjamin Stambouli and would hint that veteran Thiago Motta’s future lies elsewhere, Krychowiak lining up in the engine room alongside dynamo Blaise Matuidi and playmaker Marco Verratti looks very attractive.
Meunier’s more modest move from Club Brugge, meanwhile, is made with the aim of solving the problem position at right back. Serge Aurier is often in trouble for off the field reasons, while Gregory van der Wiel has left the Parc des Princes on a free for Fenerbahce.
Under Blanc, PSG often had to play Brazil international Marquinhos slightly out of position on the flank of defence, but his future clearly lies at centre back with club captain Thiago Silva turning 32 in the autumn.
Judged on his Belgium form, a dismal team performance in losing the lead against Wales apart, the Parisians have got a rare thing for a modern full back in Meunier – someone who gets the balance between defence and attack right.
Cavani can emerge from Ibra shadow
Ibrahimovic’s exit from PSG will finally allow Uruguay marksman Edinson Cavani to step out of the Sweden superstar’s shadow and carry the goal burden that he has already demonstrated he is capable of doing.
Scoring at least 25 goals in each of his three seasons in Paris, Cavani’s numbers may not be as impressive as those of his now former teammate, but his preference for playing centrally should now be respected.
Further striking backup may be needed, though, with promising French forwards Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Jean-Kevin Augustin still raw and untested at the top level.
One-time Newcastle United flop Ben Arfa’s Bosman capture leads to embarrassment of riches on the wings. Joining fellow supporting cast members Angel Di Maria, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore, there is competition for places all with a sole aim – getting supply to Cavani to convert.
Capital club seek continental acclaim
Undoubtedly in pole position to continue their utter dominance of French domestic football, Coral go a massively long odds-on 1/12 price on PSG retaining their Ligue 1 title and making it five in a row.
Emery, who could’ve been a leading contender to succeed Vicente del Bosque as Spain coach, will be hungry to add further silverware to his hat-trick of consecutive Europa titles, so that should shield the players from complacency to some extent.
In Europe, his aim is to see the defence hold firm. Across their four Champions League quarter-final ties, PSG have let in at least three goals over the two legs and they simply have to be meaner at the back in order to get over this hurdle.
Tackling and overcoming this is how Emery will be judged regardless of success inside French football – if predecessor Blanc’s tenure is any indicator.
You’ll find more features like this one on Coral’s Champions League page throughout the 2016/17 season.