Heartbreak and disappointment are emotions that Paris Saint-Germain supporters have become all too accustomed to in the past couple of years. Devastating late Champions League exits in consecutive seasons have revealed an inherent problem for the Parisian giants – a lack of composure, maturity and bottle that has prevented the club from re-enacting their domestic domination on the European stage. However, following a strong-minded victory against Lyon on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain Champions League hopes should have received a boost.
Comeback Win Against Lyon Should be Considered a Boost for Paris Saint-Germain Champions League hopes
The Problems so Far
Seven Ligue 1 titles since 2012 is proof that there’s been no lack of outstanding quality since Qatari money has propelled them to lofty heights. However, when competing outside of the league they’ve dominated for the past decade, there have been well documented issues.
After three consecutive last 16 exits, PSG finally progressed to within touching distance of continental glory during the 2019/20 campaign. A comprehensive 3-0 semi-final victory over RB Leipzig put Thomas Tuchel’s side into the final, although it was former academy graduate Kingsley Coman’s header for Bayern Munich that denied the Parisian’s their first ever Champions League crown.
A side with undeniable firepower, unable to find the appropriate steel-like characteristics to stretch their legs over the final hurdle.
And that disappointing conclusion was followed up by an arguably even more disastrous exit the year after. Tipped as one of the favourites, Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG were drawn against an equally much-fancied Manchester City, who showed the composure that the French outfit simply couldn’t.
Marquinho’s early headed goal in the first leg set things up perfectly for PSG. A dominating and blisteringly ruthless first-half performance was nothing but wowing to spectators’ eyes. But a sloppy and truthfully helpless showing against a reinvigorated City side in the second half revealed the same problems for the Parisians.
Incapable of regaining their stability after Pep Guardiola’s side’s breath-taking response, PSG fell to a 2-1 first-leg defeat before losing the second leg 2-0 against the Cityzens mature and measured approach. It was everything that PSG weren’t.
It was truly the epitome of ‘men against boys’. Once realising that the tie was firmly put to bed, was tucked in and had gone to sleep, a childish and reckless demeanour began to appear.
Harsh challenges designed to hurt, desperate whining when things hadn’t gone their way and a general losing of heads – it turned into a performance that confirmed that PSG were never destined to achieve European glory last season. Their lack of grit and composure was compounded with the dismissal of Angel Di Maria – supposedly one of the club’s senior professionals and leaders – courtesy of a petulant and stupid off-the-ball incident, which was infuriating, embarrassing and utterly laughable all at once.
And their problems on the continent in the 2020/21 season were reflected by their failure to win the Ligue 1 title – pipped by a plucky and well-drilled Lille side who eventually finished a point above their showbiz competitors.
Signs of Change in Mentality
However, this year – Pochettino’s first full term as PSG boss – there have already been signs of change at the club.
Sunday night brought with it the side’s first real test in the early stages of the 2021/22 league campaign. The visit of a talented and in-form Lyon side was always going to be a challenge, although their resolute defence and superb midfield dynamism made that challenge a whole lot more difficult than anticipated.
Indeed, it was the visitors that broke the deadlock with a quickfire move finished smartly by Lucas Paqueta. Subsequently, it took a moment of magical trickery by Neymar to unlock a stable back line, winning a penalty off young full-back Malo Gusto before converting from 12 yards.
Subsequently, it was the hosts’ game for the taking. Previous PSG sides have encountered this type of situation but have rarely fared well. However, this time round there was an abundance of perseverance, determination and almost serenity with the daunting prospect of finding a winner.
And, keeping their bottle against a superbly solid Lyon system, the Parisians found a last-gasp goal through Mauro Icardi’s clinical header from a perfectly weighted Kylian Mbappe cross – a winner born form calmness, composure and collectedness that has previously proved lacking.
Paris Saint-Germain Champions League: Win Against Lyon is a Message to the Doubters
However, the most important thing to take away is that PSG are not the type to lose their nerve, anymore. A hard-fought and well-earned comeback win against a noteworthy Lyon side is proof that the squad’s mentality is changing following the arrivals of proven champions this summer.
Admittedly, Pochettino’s side have commenced European matters in dim fashion this season. A depressing 1-1 draw against Club Brugge to kick things off in Group A may suggest a similar outcome to previous campaigns.
Despite that disappointing start and the fact that they haven’t yet faced so-called elite opposition, however, a so far perfect league record and a firm and resolved showing on Sunday should remind us all that Pochettino’s PSG are certainly contenders for European glory this time around.