Watching Paris Saint-Germain over the last few weeks has been akin to viewing some of the contestants in the early rounds of MasterChef.
The wannabe chefs usually have a decent idea for a dish, and some delicious ingredients to make it with, but for some reason it doesn’t quite come together: the duck skin isn’t crispy, the samphire is too soggy, or the rice is overcooked and sticks together like a big white glob of gluten.
As we know, PSG shop at the footballing equivalent of Fortnum and Masons, and have assembled a collection of luxury ingredients unmatched by the other Ligue 1
clubs. We also know that together they often taste delicious. But at the moment the flavouring isn’t quite right.
Of course, when a dish isn’t cooked properly it’s natural to blame the chef. And Laurent Blanc is bound to come under further scrutiny after his side could only manage a 1-1 draw with Sochaux, meaning a second successive Ligue 1 title has yet to be secured.
“We came here looking for all three points, so we’re disappointed with the result,” Blanc said afterwards.
“We were a long way from our best and Sochaux played very well. We started well; we scored a very nice goal, but it wasn’t enough.
“They [Sochaux] caused us real problems in the second half, they equalised and we didn’t do enough to win it. The draw was the right result.”
Blanc’s been getting a bit stick since the Champions League exit at the hands of Chelsea, with three ropey Ligue 1 performances (the Lyon defeat, today’s draw and Wednesday’s streaky win over Evian) surrounding the Coupe de la Ligue final win last week.
And while the coach has some questions to answer, specifically relating to his team selection and powers of motivation, laying all the blame solely at his door seems somewhat simplistic. The loss of Ibra to injury obviously hasn’t helped, but other areas of the team seem to be lacking too; the midfield isn’t operating with the conveyer-belt-like efficiency that it did before Christmas, while Greg van der Wiel’s injury has been a big blow to the team’s attacking power down the right. Though VdW is now back in the side, he is (quite understandably) still readjusting to the pace of first-team football.
But for all these deficiencies, PSG could quite easily have come away with three points from the Stade Auguste Bonal following a terrific match which saw the teams trading punches like two over-the-hill heavyweight boxers incapable of delivering the knock-out blow.
They hit the front in the 25th minute through Edinson Cavani; Thiago Motta spotted the run of El Matador, and delivered a superb pass over the top of the defence. Cavani’s chest control was instantaneous, and his volley was perfect, through the legs of Sochaux keeper Pele. To misquote MasterChef’s Greg Wallace, football doesn’t get any better than that. 1-0.
Ezequiel Lavezzi should have made it two soon afterwards, blazing over from inside the box after shaking off a defender, but the Sochaux supporters were left holding their heads just before the break when Jordan Ayew’s flick put Sebastien Roudet in on goal, but he could only fire against the legs of Salvatore Sirigu.
Possibly buoyed by this chance, Les Lionceaux made an enterprising start to the second half, and were rewarded in the 56th minute with the equalising goal. Ayew laid the ball off to Florian Marange, whose cross was punched away by Sirigu, hit Silva on the back and rolled into the net. Merde, 1-1.
The rest of the match saw play ebb and flow from one end to the other. Substitute Marco Verratti somehow hit the goalkeeper from eight yards after a fine Van der Wiel cross left him the clear, while Lucas shot just wide of the post and Cavani was denied by Pele after escaping the attentions of a defender. However, they were lucky to escape when a fine Sochaux move involving Roudet and Ayew saw replacement Cedric Bakambu just fail to turn the ball in from close range. Fragrant Sochaux boss Herve Renard, resplendent in his trademark white shirt paired with a completely superfluous scarf, looked mildly annoyed on the touchline as this chance went begging.
PSG’s next chance to wrap up the title won’t come for another ten days, with the match against having been put back to Wednesday, May 7 owing to the Brittany club’s involvement in the Coupe de France final. Let’s hope Blanc gets the recipe right on that occasion – it’s about time PSG came back to the boil.