Archive for the ‘Ligue 1’ Category

To Paris With Love: A Revolution at PSG

This column by Eric Giardini. Proof once again that he does, in fact, write for TSG.

Messi is to Michael Jordan as Pastore is to Magic Johnson

At the conclusion of their 1-0 home loss to Lorient, jeers from the supporters rained down upon the Paris Saint-Germain players as they left the pitch at the Parc de Princes.

While home losses have become a common occurrence in Paris, this loss was especially disappointing to the home crowd. The capital club, which has floundered in mediocrity over the past decade, has not been in contention for the Ligue 1 title since 2004. With Lyon, Bordeaux, and Marseille all surpassing the once proud club in France in recent years, Parisians have almost had a laissez-faire attitude towards the club.

Since the 2001-02 campaign, the average attendance has dropped from approximately 43,000 per home match (86% capacity) to a low of 33,000 in 2009-10 (70% capacity, good for 12th in Ligue 1).

A week later, PSG followed up their home loss to Lorient with an away 1-1 draw Rennes and are currently in sitting in 15th place. With multiple bottom half of the table finishes in recent years, why are expectations so high in 2011 to get supporters worked up over an opening matchday loss?

Since the middle of June, the club has splashed €91.5m (91.5m!) bringing in eight new players. While the names and numbers of new faces in Paris are noteworthy in and of themselves, the crown jewel of the European transfer market packed his bags in Sicily, waved farewell to the iconic pink Palermo shirt, and will don the equally iconic red and blue for PSG. That’s right, PSG, the club that had become an afterthought in France, and even Paris, beat out the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid for Javier Pastore’s signature. How did this happen? One must look no further than the club’s new Qatari owners and new Director of Football.

Leonardo proves you can return to where you came from...

The Qatar Investment Authority, founded in 2005, was established initially with the goal of managing the extra natural gas and oil surpluses that the Qatari government was receiving. In six short years, the QIA now has more than an estimated $80 billion in assets. After numerous attempts to purchase clubs in the past (Everton in 2008-2009 and Manchester United in 2010), the QIA was successful in being able to purchase 70% of PSG on May 31, 2011. The group hasn’t looked back since.

On July 13, Leonardo returned to the club he spent a season at as a player in the mid-1990s and was appointed as the club’s sporting director – a move that was widely expected as soon as he stepped down from the manager’s post at Inter Milan in mid-June. With control over the estimated €100m transfer kitty, Leonardo went to work assembling a team to the specifications of the new ownership. Said Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, Head of the Board:

“Our aim is to qualify for the Champions League every year as of 2012. Then, from 2015, we want to play a major role in Le Championnat. We don’t want to sign Lionel Messi, but we want to invest in the big stars of tomorrow from all over the world, including France.”

Leonardo, thus far, has taken ownership’s edict to heart and four of the eight new signings brought in are French. Somewhat unusual though, is rather than focusing on players within Ligue 1, Leonardo has targeted Serie A for signings.

Gamiero was the first pin to drop...

Kévin Gameiro was the first big money signing for PSG as he was brought over from Lorient on June 12, prior to the arrival of Leonardo, for €11m (with add-ons, the deal can reach up to €15m) after scoring 51 goals in 110 league matches. Once Leonardo officially took control, action came fast and furious in the transfer market. On the same day, July 25, three moves were announced as final. Defensive midfielder Blaise Matuidi arrived from Saint-Étienne for an additional €10m to help shore up that position after the retirement of Claude Makélélé – big shoes to fill to say the least. Jérémy Ménez arrived from Roma for a cool €8m (with another €1m in potential bonuses). To round out the day’s action, Serbian center back Milan Biševac joined the club from Valenciennes for up to €4m. Three days later, on July 28, a double swoop of Serie A occurred with the purchases of Sissoko from Juventus (€8m) and Sirigu from Palermo (€3.5m).

While bringing in eight new players may have the potential to disrupt the chemistry of a club, these moves will ultimately pay dividends for PSG in the long term. While the supporters may have unrealistic expectations for this season, where anything less than the Ligue 1 title will be deemed a failure, the new Qatari ownership have set their sights more realistically. A top three finish should be easily obtainable for the club and their slow start shouldn’t change this. Additionally, the players brought in over the summer were brought in with a plan and not just for the sake of purchasing players. Seemingly each new addition can be seen as a direct replacement for someone who has moved on. For example, Sirigu was brought in to take over for the retired Grégory Coupet, Ménez in for Ludovic Giuly who moved to Monaco on a free transfer, etc.

Another question is whether the targeting of the Serie A players will have an adverse affect on their old clubs and the league in general. Obviously Palermo will have a hard time overcoming the loss of their starting goalkeeper and their top playmaker and the effects were already seen with the club being knocked out in the qualification stage of Europa League.

Sissoko became a fringe player at Juventus and didn’t appear to be in new manager Antonio Conte’s plans. Time will ultimately tell what the loss of Ménez will mean for Roma. While it seems like he would be a good fit for Luis Enrique’s 4-3-3 attacking formation, for chemistry’s sake he was deemed expendable and was allowed to leave. The loss of Pastore from Italy to France seems to mean less for the state of Serie A than the fact that yet another continental star has decided to spurn advances from England to stay on the mainland. Pastore was never going to be allowed to move to one of the big clubs on the peninsula and was always going abroad. The fact that he chose to go to France rather than England (and Alexis Sanchez chose Barcelona from Udinese over a move to England) may be a sign of things to come in future transfer windows.

While these signings were all well and good and will certainly help the club, the signing of Pastore is what sent shockwaves through the soccer world. The €42m transfer smashed the previous French record transfer fee paid from 2000 when PSG paid Real Madrid €33.5m for Nicholas Anelka.

What's wrong with PSG?

Pastore should bring a playmaking ability that hasn’t been seen in Paris since a young Ronaldinho was beginning to make his name in Europe. Fortunately for the club, Pastore couldn’t be further from Ronaldinho in terms of attitude and work ethic. The odds of manager Antoine Kombouaré having to discipline Pastore for a lack of effort hover at about 0.00%. Pastore will become the focal point in the PSG attack and help link the back four with a very formidable attack. Pastore, Ménez, and Gameiro arrive in a squad that already contains plenty of firepower. Nenê, Guillaume Hoarau, and Mevlüt Erdinç provided a potent three-pronged attack before the new arrivals. With the new insertion of attacking skill, opposing managers will have a headache trying to scheme their defenses. Conversely, Kombouaré will have his own troubles trying to keep everyone happy with playing time.

In the club’s first two matches, five of the new eight signings have started: Sirigu, Biševac, Matuidi, Ménez, and Gameiro. While Pastore has not featured yet for PSG (he is still recovering from participating in Copa America for Argentina), his debut may come sooner than later with the early season struggles. I can’t imagine Pastore making his debut away to FC Differdange of Luxembourg of their Europa League qualifying round fixture, but he most certainly should play a role in the next Ligue 1 match at home to Valenciennes.  If not, more than jeers may rain down from the Les Parisiens faithful.

Lyon versus Bayern – Champions League Semi part deux

Guest commentator at TSG today.

TWEET TWEET TWEET - Game over. Well that was a major disappointment if you’re anyone other than a Bayern fan, but they deservedly book themselves a place in the finals at the Bernabeu in a few weeks time. Join us tomorrow for Barcelona versus Inter Milan

2 minutes of stoppage time...WHY…END THE MISERY…Altintop has an open goal and sends a shot over and around the goal. That took more skill then shooting it on target!

85:00 – Lyon’s fans are in full voice. Their team is getting crushed…embarrassingly but they are having a great time. Bayern still dominating this game. In good news for me, I won the prop bet that this game would yield 3 goals or more…this is not how I expected that to happen though!

78:00 – GOAL. 3-0 Bavarians! Olic gets his hat trick. Lahm runs past the statues also known as Lyon defenders and sends a looping cross to Olic who heads the ball past Lloris. A nice hat trick by Olic who was not good in the first leg but is more than making up for it here in France.

77:00 – How is Muller on this team? To be fair I haven’t followed Bayern this season but on a 3 on 2 breakaway where he could pass the ball anywhere for a 1 on 1 with the keeper he sends a ball straight at the defender!

71:00 – Lyon are in shock and Bayern is moving the ball around the Lyon half at will. Robben gets the ball and sends in a stinging drive which is well saved by Lloris who has been Lyon’s best and most consistent player this entire semi finals. This isn’t saying much.

Meanwhile, Franck has waken up from his nap but apparently the game has bored him so much that he picks up his Hello Kitty address book, reaches for his cell phone and leaves the stadium. Well, we shall see him at the Bernabeu for the final but against whom? Will it be Barca who would like nothing more than to win club footballs biggest prize in their rivals stadium? or will it be Italian giants Inter Milan whose manager will probably use his stay in Madrid to finalize his contract for managing Real Madrid the following season?

67:00 - Game over. Olic scores his second goal of the match as he waltzes unmarked into the Lyon box as the Turkish midfielder Altintop sends in a lovely pass that Olic controls and sends past Lloris. 2-0 Bayern, 3-0 on aggregate.

One can only hope that tomorrows game is more exciting. Mourinho will certainly do his best to stifle the Barcelona attacks, but as we all know the Catalan team possess the best and most creative attacking force in football today.

59:00 – Cris gets booked for a challenge on goalscorer Olic. It’s a good tackle I feel and apparently so does the Brazilian captain of Lyon who after getting booked, sarcastically applauds the ref. The Swiss referee is having none of it and immediately pulls out a second yellow and gives Cris his marching orders. This is madness from the referee. It wasn’t even a bookable first offense. Hopefully the World Cup won’t be like this. Lyon down to 10 men and this doesn’t look good.

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Champions League Semi Final part deux – Bayern versus Lyon

Not winning any beauty contests, but these two were tearing it up until Ribery dismissal

Next week will be an epic two games in the Champions League. All 4 teams ooze class and style. Barcelona have it all to do at the Nou Camp and Lyon will feel comfortable at home knowing they have their fans behind them as well as not having to deal with Ribery. They still need to figure out how to stop Robben.

TWEET TWEET TWEET – What an exciting game. Both teams finish with 10 men and Robben, the obvious man of the match scores a goal to send Bayern off to Lyon in a weeks time with a slim 1 goal lead.

92:00 - Lahm is everywhere on the right side of the pitch as he sends in another great cross that causes panic in the Lyon 6 yard box. Its cleared but he immediately wins it back.

3 minutes of extra time

89:00 - In an effort to remind everyone that they can play too, Lyon string a nice attack and Bastos sends a daisy cutter inches wide of the left post of Butt. Really have no idea why Van Gaal would take Robben off. He was far and above the best player on the pitch and an extra goal would have been huge. Will he pay for his defensive attitude?

85:00 – As the commentators and I were simultaneously wondering if Robben is better now than in his Chelsea days, he gets the ball and leads a breakaway as he passes to Gomez who sends a poor ball back. Robben still controls it well and sends a stinging drive which is well saved by Lloris. Strangely this is the last action of the game for him as he is substituted for Turkish midfielder Altintop. Robben is obviously not pleased and lets Van Gaal know who in turn admonishes the dutch winger in front of everyone. That was poor from the Dutch manager.

82:00 - Lahm and Robben combine effortlessly as Lahm sends in a shot that caroms of the head of a Lyon defender and up in the air. The ball can still be won but “2 right feet Muller” sends a harmless header out for a goal kick.

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TSG Weekender: Globes ‘R’ Us

Absolutely no reason for the title. It’s just as lame as our globe pic this week is, well, wacky. For those new…we feature a cheesy soccer ball graphic on the weekends for no reason and we select a few games to profile. Note: We usually have more depth and use less video.

DaMarcus, that's not your car, right?

Go.

Friday

• Bundesliga: BoMunchen go down the road to FC Cologne

We don’t really follow Baby Bradley all that much

Saturday

Ligue 1

The Official Charlie Davies Watch is On!

Who’s Sochaux playing? Who cares! (They play Lens)

“Davies In, Davies Shot, Davies Goal.

Goal for the United States at Azteca. Only the 4th man to do it for the Red, White & Blue and they’re going crazy in the corners!”

———-

Rennes hope Toulouse don’t cut loose

Good test here for the in-form Boca. French nattie 1st teamer  André-Pierre Gignac should square up against Captain America a few times throughout the 90+.

(How come the French video has the tunes you’d expect?)

———-

EPL

Aston Villa host Wolverhampton

5:30AM PST – ESPN2

COACH A said: “Once we develop somebody in our team, I’m sure we would do it. We’ve got young PLAYER B, who’s very good in the reserves, I think it’s a natural thing. I think some players can throw the ball decent distances and other players can’t.

Coach A is Martin O’Neill, Player B is Eric Lichaj and I don’t care that he’s just talking about Rory-Delap-like throw-ins. How does Heath Pearce get run out by Coach Bradley, but Lichaj not get a sniff. Care to explain?

Oh, Brad Friedel continues his disarmament of EPL strikers as does Marcus Hahnemann…rooting for 2010 roster players in this one.

Oh and in case you’ve missed it.

———-

Portsmouth attempt to cage Hull

Hull are sporting a new manager hoping to keep them up. It’s gang up on USMNT South Africa opponent Algeria in this one perhaps if Amr Zaki (Egypt) partners Jozy Altidore. They go up against Nadir Belhadj of Algeria. The dynamite fullback for Algeria, who’s been playing in the midfield for Pompey, was rumored to be on Barcelona’s shopping list earlier this year in the January window and is now banned for Algeria’s critical first game of the World Cup against Slovenia.

Lot of drama.

Boom: Nadir Belhadj

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