It’s really obscene, some of the things you start to take for granted as manager of Paris Saint-Germain, you know. International players for example. I’ve already spoken about how far we’ve come from the days of getting overly excited about Lassina Touré nearly playing for Burkina Faso to now having a squad full of World-renowned talent, but over the break Alon Keren made his debut for Israel. When the news broke, I had what I’m sure is the same question you have: Who the fuck is Alon Keren?
Well I’m telling a bit of a porky really, because of course I know Alon. He was in our first team when I arrived in Paris but was quickly moved to the reserves and I’ve barely heard his name since. My point still stands though, which is that even Paris Saint-Germain’s reserve players, who are quite frankly nowhere near the first team, are considered sufficient quality to play international football. To be fair, Alon’s only so far away because we have so many attacking midfielders, which I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned. I almost feel ashamed to have such depth at my disposal though, as if I’m hoarding an army of wasted talent from the rest of the world. And you know that somewhere in the Israeli leagues there’s a Yossi Benayoun-esque journeyman midfielder playing 40 first team matches per season and fuming his tits off that he’s been beaten to a cap by a lad playing for a big club’s reserves. Anyway I suppose my point is… Good job, Alon.
In other international break related news, Boris Triponez came back nursing a broken nose that he picked up during Switzerland’s match against Sweden and will be out for a couple of weeks, while Orlando, who was very stubbornly not selected for the Brazil squad by Argel Fucks, picked up a calf strain in training and is also out for a short spell.
So with a crucial Champions League match against København just days away, what do we do about Ajaccio? On paper it’s another straightforward tie: We should sweep a probable relegation battling team aside, especially with home advantage, but with Orlando and Triponez out, Ricardo Ibarra suspended and Cvitanovic blowimg out of his arse, we’re going to have to make some decisions. I want a full strength side at full fitness against the Danes as we could qualify from our group with a win. You could even say that I’d be willing to play a second string against Ajaccio and risk sacrificing 3 points in the league to achieve that. Just to add an extra spice though, Monaco have just lost their first Ligue 1 match of the season against Lyon and so the top spot is ours for the taking. I’d take a scrappy win.
Although we’re resting some players, we’ve still got a strong lineup: Donnarumma starts in net with Marquinhos and Lucas in defence, Renan and Lato are our wingbacks, Neves and Éder are in central midfield and Coman, Veiga, Coutinho and Bueno are our front 4. Ajaccio look like they’re set up to frustrate and to grind out a clean sheet. Allez, Paris.
13 minutes in, Éder plays the ball to Veiga and sets off sprinting towards the box, but the Spanish playmaker spins and attempts to loft a ball over the top for Coman to run onto. Padovano rises to head the ball clear but only as far as Éder, who brings the ball down expertly just outside the box and drills it into the bottom corner to open his PSG account. Good lad.
Almost quarter of an hour later, Renan breaks up a rare Ajaccio foray into our half by winning the ball from Vasseur and hoofing it down the line for Coman to chase. Coman leaves Padovano in his dust, sprints to the byline, pulls the ball across and Bueno slides in to knock in our second.
Before the match, I said that a scrappy win would do. Well, at half time I bring on Dobby, Hutka and Osséré so that Lato, Neves and Coman can have a bit of a rest, after which… Fuck all happens. The match makes for grim viewing, but all that matters is that another 3 points lifts us clear at the top of Ligue 1.
Quite annoyingly, Rodolfo Chao goes and picks up a bruised shin in the buildup to the København match. Seeing as he’s not actually registered for Ligue 1 it would be handy to have him available for our Champions League ties, but to be fair we do have a lot of other options available ahead of him. Elsewhere, our unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 stretches to 20 matches and Éder makes Team of the Week alongside Auxerre’s Amine Reynier. My two biggest signings have had a good week.
For København’s visit we’re making just 2 changes: Marquinhos is short on fitness and so makes way for Triponez, while Silvio Cvitanovic replaces Veiga. I was also going to bring Kovacic in for Éder, but as the Brazilian picked up a booking against Ajaccio he’s now banned for our next match against Guingamp, so I may as well swap Kovacic in for that one instead. Ibarra and Darcílio both join the bench.
The first 20 minutes of the match is disappointing. We’re having a lot of possession but our passes into the final third are woefully inaccurate. We need to pass to feet to work the ball through the visitors’ half more effectively. 7 minutes from half time however we get our first chance and in blatant disregard for my tactical instructions, Cvitanovic chips the ball down the left for Coutinho to run onto. Coutinho crosses for Manuel Bueno, who volleys the ball low and hard into the net to open the scoring.
Here’s a strange one: When I get into the changing room at half time, the team’s in good spirits. They’re relieved and happy and Bueno’s getting pats on his big balding head from everyone in reach. However despite the fact that he’s put us in front, I feel like he’s holding us back. Yes he got on the end of a cross, but during our build up play he’s being absolutely dominated and is losing the ball every time it’s played to him. Ignoring his look of dismay, I tell Manuel he won’t be going back onto the pitch for the second half. Moise Kean will be coming on instead as a deep lying forward. The opposition centre backs looked quite comfortable marking our static target man, but Kean will be dropping into space, moving into channels and giving them a bit more to think about.
We restart for the second half and Kean instantly makes a difference, giving the rest of the team a more mobile target who they can spring into space. Approaching the hour, a particularly good ball from Kingsley Coman is fired into the right channel and Kean beats the offside trap, latches onto the pass, sprints into the box and drills our second under Radu’s flailing body. God, I’m good. Kean’s not bad either.
A shot’s soon fired across the bows of my ego though when the Danes put together a good move: Thomsen passes to Kishna, who slips the ball into the channel for Benali, who shoots just inches wide of the near post. I make a few subs shortly afterwards, with Kovacic and Darcílio replacing Neves and Cvitanovic. Kovacic moves into Éder’s role while the Brazilian drops back to protect the defence and Darcílio goes out onto the left wing, allowing Coutinho to move behind the striker.
With 15 minutes to go we’re looking good value for the win and nearly get a third goal when Kovacic’s corner is cleared and given back to him by Darcílio. Kovacic crosses again, Varela tries to head the ball clear but only succeeds in flicking it on across goal and Moise Kean arrives to head it low against the foot of the post.
5 minutes later we put together a really fantastic move. It starts when Éder slides in perfectly on Benali to win us possession and Lucas takes over, passing to Triponez who then plays it to Lato on the left. The Spanish left back dribbles to the halfway line and passes it to Darcílio, who cuts in from the byline, surges past 2 København players and gives the ball to Coutinho. Coutinho plays it straight to Kovacic, who carries it into the final third and plays a one-two with Coman before digging his foot under the ball and chipping it into the box. Moise Kean chests it down on the turn, jinks past the outrushing Radu and rolls the ball into the empty net. It’s hypnotic, it’s mesmerising, it’s beautiful and fucking hell it might be my favourite goal ever. 3-0.
The visitors continue to offer very little going forwards. 7 minutes from time, Benali tries a really optimistic potshot from the right wing and hits the side netting. From the goal kick, we build another attack: Lato winds up with the ball in a deep position on the left wing, swings a cross in, Kean leaps to beat Radu in the air and guides his header into the net. The substitute’s hat trick is completed. Game over.
A couple of minutes later, Strand’s hoofed ball bounces over our back line and Gigi Donnarumma rushes out of his area to meet it, but Benali beats him to it, takes a touch to go round our keeper and slots in a consolation goal. It would’ve been nice to come away from such an impressive win with a clean sheet, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ve turned up in the second half playing attractive and effective football and we’ve largely got Moise Kean to thank. What a performance.
Elsewhere, Roma drew with Sevilla. This means that we’re out of reach of third placed Sevilla and have qualified from our group. Obviously that was expected and not doing so would’ve been seen as a complete failure, but I’m happy nonetheless that we’ve managed it with a game to spare. It also means that a draw from our final match against Roma will clinch us the top spot and a more favourable First Knockout Round matchup. Allez Paris!