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Thoughts on PSG’s draw with Newcastle and Ousmane Dembele’s form
We saw late drama last night as PSG needed a stoppage time penalty, and a controversial one at that, to snatch a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle United. Obviously it will have to go down as a bit of a disappointing game for PSG, as they didn’t get the win at home when they created so many chances.
Equally, it would be worrying if they weren’t creating those opportunities, so as much as some people might debate how useful things like xG statistics are, they really should’ve scored more goals than the one they got last night, with Nick Pope making a pretty spectacular save from a close-range effort by Bradley Barcola in the second half.
So to take the positives, PSG played well and they still have the chance to top the group if they beat Borussia Dortmund. It was also kind of harsh on Newcastle, though, with the debatable nature of that penalty. In many ways PSG will also be left with more questions than answers after more tinkering from Luis Enrique – every time he does that it seems to have an adverse impact on the team.
Ousmane Dembele also continues to blow hot and cold since his move to PSG from Barcelona in the summer. He scored a superb goal against Monaco at the weekend and rightly earned praise from Enrique, but he manages to combine the sublime with the absolutely infuriating, and that was no different against Newcastle.
While there’s no doubt that Dembele provides moments of brilliance, he can also be frustrating to watch. I don’t really see Dembele becoming more of a consistent performer, it’s just not his profile, but of course if he could learn to not over-do things and take the simpler option it might improve his consistency levels. Enrique seems to like what he brings to the team, though, and a lot of fans do too. It’s easy for us to say he could do certain things better, but there will undoubtedly be fans who pay just to see the things he can do on the ball, because we can all see he has brilliant technique.
I think there may also be criticism for Kylian Mbappe from the French press, as it’s another big game that he didn’t really stamp his authority on. Still, I think most of the questions will be for Enrique and some of his personnel decisions, such as leaving it so late to bring on Goncalo Ramos from the bench when PSG had been creating a lot of good chances for about 20-25 minutes prior to that.
There are some questions as well though, about how well that front three of Dembele, Mbappe and Randal Kolo Muani is really working, and that’s an important question for the French national team as well as for PSG.
Youssouf Fofana attracting interest but deal might have to wait until the summer
Fabrizio Romano has reported on growing interest in Monaco midfielder Youssouf Fofana, and I certainly think he’s a player on several teams’ radars now. The top Premier League clubs and others around Europe are increasingly aware of him as he’s a fantastic player – one that I think probably won’t be at Monaco for that much longer.
Although links with PSG have been denied, Fofana does fit the profile of the kind of player the club are looking at as part of this new dawn, if you like, which is more revolved around bringing in young French talent. It’s difficult to predict at this moment in time, but I’m not sure PSG can be entirely ruled out.
A key factor in determining Fofana’s future will be if Monaco have a good season – if they qualify for the Champions League that would immediately up the asking price for Fofana, but if an attractive offer were to came in and Monaco didn’t have European football, that could open the door to a number of clubs.
One thing I would say is that I don’t see Monaco selling Fofana in the middle of the season. They’ve added some interesting players, so I will feel they have good chances of qualifying for the Champions League. I imagine that means they won’t want to risk losing Fofana in January, and then we’ll see what happens with him in the summer once Monaco know what kind of situation they’re in.
What’s behind the rise of Ligue 1’s surprise package Nice?
Nice are proving something of a surprise package in Ligue 1 this season, but they’ve been an interesting project for a few years now, even if they’re only now starting to really get it together.
They’ve become very, very difficult to beat under Francesco Farioli – their defensive record is fantastic, with only four goals conceded in the league so far. They’re a point behind PSG at the top, but they’re still unbeaten and certainly one of the best defensive teams in Europe if you look at their record.
This is all massively to Farioli’s credit, he’s done a magnificent job there since taking over in the summer, and fingers crossed it continues. In terms of whether this means a genuine title challenge, I think, even as much as they don’t lose games, if they perhaps don’t turn a few more of those draws into wins then I would expect PSG to start to pull away.
Still, it’s going to be an interesting race for the rest of the top four, with three automatic Champions League places up for grabs, and fourth place going through to the qualifying round. I think both Nice and Monaco will really fancy their chances of getting an automatic place by finishing in that top three. I think if you’d said to Nice that they’d even be in contention for finishing in the top four at the beginning of the season, they’d have absolutely signed up for it.
They’re a very interesting team to watch, and it hasn’t just come out of nowhere this season, because they’ve had top talents like Khephren Thuram and Jean-Clair Todibo who’ve attracted interest from top clubs in recent times. They’ve now also got Melvin Bard performing very consistently and starting to attract interest from other clubs in France and elsewhere in Europe as well.
Of course, it’s a frustrating time for Nice as well, because as we edge closer to Sir Jim Ratcliffe potentially getting through the door at Old Trafford with Manchester United, however you look at it, it’s difficult to see Nice continuing to be the focal point of INEOS’s footballing operations once that deal gets over the line.
Could Thiago Silva return to PSG?
Although he continues to play regularly for Chelsea, Thiago Silva’s future remains under the spotlight as he heads towards the end of his contract, while he’ll also turn 40 next season.
Silva had some great years with PSG which he looks back fondly on, but in terms of a possible return one day after retirement, I think one obstacle might be the manner of his departure. Of course some of those involved in his departure are now gone, such as Leonardo, but it was still perhaps a surprisingly un-emotional exit. It came at an awkward time of course due to the impact of Covid on the football world, it was the same with Edinson Cavani at that time too – two immensely popular figures, two loyal and long-serving players, but who didn’t get to say a proper goodbye.
Having seen what Silva has said about his future in the last year or so, it does seem like he wants to play for at least a year in Brazil before he hangs up his boots, so that seems like one to watch. If he was to continue at Chelsea for a bit longer, then I don’t think we’d see him play elsewhere in Europe.
He’s shown tremendous longevity in his career, and perhaps he could join someone like Zlatan Ibrahimovic in playing on into his 40s. If not, then I think he could soon be seen as someone with the kind of experience who’d be a fantastic addition to any backroom staff.
Still, for now I don’t necessarily see a return to PSG being something guaranteed, but a lot will depend on how and when he decides to finish his playing days.