PSG vs Monaco: A Preview on the New Dynamic of French Football

French football is about to embrace one of the biggest matches in their history as two of the richest clubs on the planet are set for a collision which could change the dynamic of the French game for a long time.

Paris Saint-Germain’s climb to the top of the French mountain was complete last year by winning Ligue 1 for only the third time in the club’s history. After two years of Qatari investment and over €360 million spent, the Parisian club has spent more than the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid to become one of the giants in European football.

However, PSG are not alone in the changing landscape of French Football, as last year’s champions from Ligue 2, AS Monaco, were bought by an investment group led by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in December 2011, have spent €210 million in a bid to dethrone the champions.

Both are with significant riches and both are unbeaten so far in domestic competition with AS Monaco leading the French league with 13 points from five games, and PSG are currently third with 11 points in the same amount of games as their opposition. A win for Monaco would see them go four points clear at the top, whilst a win for PSG would see them go top, ahead of Monaco by a single point.  Whilst it is way too early to call this match a “title decider”, the implications coming in to this match are significant.

It is without a doubt that unless there is going to be another takeover in this division, then PSG and Monaco’s money will make the league a duopoly for years to come. And even though Montpellier beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title in the 2011/12 season, PSG added Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura to their attacking ranks as well as Thiago Silva and Gregory van der Wiel to their defence, to make life easier for the team in the French capital.

This season has seen PSG add more talent to their ranks, but it has come at a cost not just financially but on the field too. Whilst Marquinhos may have scored on his debut against Olympiakos in the Champions League midweek, he has yet to start for the club in Ligue 1, and he will have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders to follow through on his €31m price tag.

However, the real problem signing has been Edinson Cavani from Napoli, who has only got two goals in five games for PSG so far. Cavani’s signing might turn out to be a good one, but manager Laurent Blanc has had to change his title-winning system to cater for both Ibrahimovic and Cavani. When they have played a 4-4-2, PSG have not won a game, but with a 4-3-3, PSG have won all their games thus far. This has meant that Cavani has been forced to play on the left wing, a spot that could easily be taken by Lavezzi, Lucas or Javier Pastore. It has also seen a transformation of PSG’s play, as Ibrahimovic, who has started all his games for PSG this season, has scored one goal in the five league games. For a player that has been labelled as selfish, he has managed two assists for PSG, and has thrived as a goal-provider dismissing his critics claims of selfishness. Despite this Ibrahimovic and Cavani’s three goals between them should be a cause for concern for new manager Laurent Blanc.

Monaco, as previously mentioned, has spent a lot of money this summer, to compete with PSG. Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, Eric Abidal and Ricardo Carvalho are a few of the names that have been signed in a summer spend that has totalled around €165 million, a figure that many have found ridiculous. Rybolovlov may be laughing at the fact that his team are currently the league leaders in France, but he might stop laughing when he realise that some of the money might have gone to waste.

The problem is that Monaco is very similar to PSG in the sense that the financial costs may not equate to what should happen on the field. While Radamel Falcao has scored four games in five appearances, it has been home-grown Emmanuel Riviere who has taken the league by storm getting one more than his Colombian superstar teammate in less starts. Fellow Colombian James Rodriguez has suffered a far worse start for his new club, because despite being a much hyped wonderkid, he has only managed one start for the principality based club. He has lost out on his left-winger position to Belgian under-21 international Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, who has started every game for Monaco this season.

Not that Rybolovlov and his manager Claudio Ranieri will lose that much sleep about it. When you are at the top of the table, facing the prospect of going four points clear at the beginning of the season then why would you swap the relative unknowns outside of French football for your superstar signings. And even then the problems of not playing their big name, big money signings isn’t that much of a problem. Their free acquisitions of Carvalho and Abidal have helped boost their defence which also features two future stars in Layvin Kurzawha and Fabinho. Their blend of determined youthfulness and top-flight experience has meant that Monaco has the best attack and defence in the league with nine goals scored and only two conceded at the beginning of this campaign.

And there lies the difference between these two new giants of French and even European football. Monaco has managed to keep everybody hungry for starting time, rotating options when necessary and so far they have seemed to transition from Ligue 2 football to Ligue 1 leaders with complete ease. However, they do face their toughest challenge as of yet in PSG at the Parc des Princes. Yet PSG, a team whose money might have brought them a new found success but at times last season, and even now, have appeared to struggle far more than one would think.

With over €550 million spent between the two squads over the last three seasons, this fixture will not only be a mouth-watering one for tomorrow night but for years to come. Tomorrow will see the new dynamic of French football come into full effect and win or lose; both these teams know that the league will become a two-horse race as of tomorrow for a long time to come. Maybe PSG/Monaco will become the new Real/Barca… but I shall leave that debate for another time.


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