The defining matches in PSG’s title-winning season

Ligue 1 returns to the capital as Paris Saint-Germain claim a historic twelfth title. A draw for Les Parisiens against Le Havre, with AS Monaco dropping points to Olympique Lyonnais, was enough to decide the league with three games remaining. We take a look back at five defining moments that helped path to becoming champions, in a season that has been shaped as much by its high as it has by their lows.

PSG 0-0 Lorient: An opening stalemate (12th of August 2023)

The summer hung over PSG as they opened the campaign against last season’s surprise package. The departure of Lionel Messi had been confirmed, while 14 other players had been ostracised and made to train with the reserves as part of the club’s “undesirables.” 

Kylian Mbappé had been provided what proved to be a hollow ultimatum to sign a new contract with the club or get out, and until he decided which one he would choose he would not be allowed to represent the club.

The forward watched from the stands as the club created stale possession upon stale possession, the air sucked out of their puffed-up chest, and their bluff called into question as Mbappé made his season debut off the bench the very next week with his contract left unsigned. 

Brest 2-3 PSG: Grit and Glory (29th of October 2023)

A slow start to the season had seen PSG off the pace as they visited Stade Brestois at the Stade Francis Le Blé. Les Pirates unlike their much-fancied opposition had by this point of the season topped the table, in what has proved to be a historic campaign for the Bretons. 

It had taken a while for Les Parisiens to adjust to the demands of Luis Enrique, and his management system was having more than a few teething problems in the early part of the season. The club had lost 3-2 to OGC Nice and suffered a bruising 4-1 demolition at the hands of Newcastle United in the Champions League. And it looked as if another shock result was at hand for PSG as an early two-goal lead was levelled in a second-half comeback.

Questions were slowly being posited midgame over the brittleness of the Spanish manager’s charges, and whether his system was the right fit for the club. Sometimes all that’s needed to vanquish a narrative is a bit of fortune; PSG were far from the better side but managed to end up winners in a gritty game, as a momentary bit of headloss from Lilian Brassier led to a last-minute penalty that Mbappé was more than happy to finish. 

PSG 5-2 Monaco: A statement victory for the league leaders (24th of November 2023)

It had taken 12 weeks for PSG to reach the top of the table but once they had grabbed hold of the top spot they never let it go again. A visit from Monaco looked as if it could prove a threat to a side that had struggled to put in a statement performance against a club near the top of the table.

Les Parisiens outgunned a team that had excelled in the early parts of the season through swashbuckling attacking interplay. There were five different goal scorers for PSG on the night as Gonçalo Ramos, Mbappé, Vitinha, Ousmane Dembélé, and Randal Kolo Muani all found the net. 

A statement victory was needed for Luis Enrique’s squad and delivering it against Monaco was the perfect assertion. The early part of the season was dead, and a new PSG had risen from its ashes.

Nantes 0-2 PSG: Planning for the future (17th of February 2024) 

The news had broken ahead of their visit to the Stade de la Beaujoire that Mbappé would be leaving at the end of the season. The forward had made his decision, the hollow ultimatum playing some part in convincing him that it was time to leave and search for pastures new (possibly in a neighbouring capital). 

Still it was a shock to see Luis Enrique start the game without the league’s top goal scorer on the pitch. Since the third week of the campaign, the manager had started Mbappé regardless of team or competition. The Lorient stalemate came springing back to mind as PSG struggled once more without their star man’s constant threat. 

Again narratives can change on the smallest of details, but PSG were able to score before Mbappé came on the field (even if the forward was warming up as a substitute when the goal went in) and while it felt like they were a far worse side without the star perhaps there were enough signs that the team had progressed to the point where they were not fully reliant on their greatest ever goal scorer. 

In the games that have followed, Mbappé has been used sparingly with his minutes carefully managed in the league. “Sooner or later, when it happens we have to get used to playing without Kylian,” Luis Enrique explained, and it seems that the team have finally managed to grow and develop ways of playing well even without their greatest threat, as they defeated Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 without him. 

PSG 3-3 Le Havre: Crossing the finish line (27th of April 2024)

Perhaps they stumbled over rather than crossed the finishing line after a chance to secure the title at the Parc des Princes was lost when Le Havre shocked the eventual champions with a spirited performance. 

PSG battled back from 3-1 down to draw level with Le Havre but it meant that the league was to be earned away from the field. Ramos managed to preserve an unbeaten streak in the league that has run since the 15th of September with a last minute goal to prevent what would be only their second defeat of the season. 

The much-rotated team had one eye on the Champions League midweek tie, and for a season that has shown so much promise from the club, it was somewhat of an anticlimactic finish. A maiden title for Luis Enrique at Les Parisiens would wait until the day after the draw as the club watched Monaco drop points at Lyon. 

This was a title very much earned on the pitch and it was unfortunate that it was not claimed and celebrated in front of their fans. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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