LIGUE 1 22/23 GUIDE | PSG – Christophe Galtier the key man in new tougher Paris era

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Key Man: Christophe Galtier – No other man is more important this forthcoming season for PSG than the ex-Marseille player and former Saint-Etienne, Lille and Nice coach, Christophe Galtier. Galtier’s arrival may have been delayed compared to the club’s new sporting director Luis Campos, who was working on recruitment at the end of last season, but, make no mistake. he very much came in the Portuguese director’s suitcase. Having worked together at Lille, building the basis of the 2021 title winning side, Galtier is essential to the project Campos wants to run and is currently moulding. Never has so much pressure been placed on the PSG squad as a whole to start behaving like true professionals. Galtier now has to handle a world-class side with Kylian Mbappé finally extending his stay in Paris and, despite reports that Campos would like him gone, Neymar seemingly staying. Campos, not Galtier, has instigated a change in formation towards a 3-4-1-2 and away from last season’s 4-3-3 under Mauricio Pochettino – PSG’s traditional formation during the QSI era. Galtier will be under an obscene amount of pressure as early as the Champions League group stages, given his lack of experience at that level and poor record with Lille in Europe, most notably from the club’s management. Can he succeed where more decorated managers like Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel have failed? Luck will play its part, but he has most of the tools needed to succeed.

Signing To Watch: Vitinha – PSG have long been guilty of not having enough ball-players in midfield. Indeed, Marco Verratti aside, the squad is filled with players better equipped for defensive work, which is a problem in the usually pragmatic Ligue 1 where most of Paris’ 19 opponents will play with 10 men behind the ball at home and away. Joining from Porto for €40m as Campos’ first signing, the 22-year-old Portuguese international Vitinha will bring the skilful ball control, ball retention and forward-passing between the lines that only Verratti has seemed capable of for some time. His arrival is an exciting one and looked upon by PSG observers as a step in the right direction.

Squad AnalysisLa liste des indésirables! Such hardball tactics from the PSG leadership towards those deemed surplus to requirements is rare under QSI. The club have often tried to offload overpaid benchwarmers during transfer windows before, without succeeding, under previous sporting director Leonardo. Although the Brazilian was criticised, it would take a gifted negotiator to convince a player with several years left on a weighty contract to move on for less money. Effectively publicly pointing out players who are not welcome and demanding that they train with the reserves, such as Julien Draxler, Ander Herrera, Thilo Kehrer, Layvin Kurzawa, Rafinha and Georginio Wijnaldum, is another sign that things are getting serious at the club while reported attempts to offload Neymar may have been more of a strategic ploy to motivate the Brazilian. The new additions are solid performers like Vitinha, former Montpellier wing-back Nordi Mukiele, who will compete with Achraf Hakimi at right-wing-back, and Hugo Ekitike, a bright centre-forward prospect from Reims, all will add balance to the group.

Strengths – Having finally agreed a new three-year contract after months of media intrigue concerning his future, Mbappé’s surprise decision to stay in Paris, rather than join Real Madrid this summer, was arguably the biggest win for the club this year, both sportingly and politically, perhaps more so than the 2021 title itself. Mbappé’s triumphant ‘unveiling’ before the demolition of Metz at the end of last season seemed to re-energise a club that had been drifting for some time, reeling from the disastrous Champions League exit at the hands of Karim Benzema and Real Madrid in last season’s last 16. Having ended last season as a strong contender, Mbappé enters the new campaign with a chance to become the continent’s leading player.

Weaknesses – The big drawback of having a such famously wealthy owners is that players rest on their laurels and take things for granted. which has been the case at PSG ever since Zlatan Ibrahimović left. Overpaid players have been willing to coast on long contracts with other clubs not willing to match their salaries, meaning the squad, and the wage bill, have continued to grow. Campos’ arrival and his more authoritative approach seems to have changed that but, while there will always some dressing room unrest, it remains to be seen if a tougher and more pragmatic management of the club will translate to mental strength at key moments on the pitch. 

Verdict – Winning the league seems a given even if, like last season under Pochettino, the players aren’t performing at their best or coasting through most Ligue 1 games as the evenly matched group of half a dozen sides chasing the champions repeatedly taking points off each other, not allowing one challenger to emerge, as Monaco did in 2017. Europe is all that really matters for the club and the PSG’s season will again be defined by Champions League progress.

Philip Bargiel

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