How Paris Saint-Germain won its 6th title in 7 seasons
Although Lille kept the French league title race going until five games before the end, there never really was any suspense. For some, it was like a repeat of a dull soap opera with the ending already known.
It was only because PSG failed to wrap up the title three matches earlier that it took this long. The reality once again is that PSG simply had no rival to stop it winning a sixth title in seven seasons.
In the one season — 2017 — when it really did have a rival, PSG lost the title by eight points to Monaco, and failed to beat Monaco home and away. But Monaco sold its best players from a wonderful team which reached the Champions League semifinals that same season for a massive profit. Ever since Monaco was weakened, it has been easy once more for cash-rich PSG.
Last season PSG finished 13 points clear of second-place Monaco and this season it already leads Lille by 19. PSG has 84 points and Lille 65.
Although Lyon was once equally dominant, winning the French title seven times in a row from 2002-08, this season it is trailing PSG by some 25 points.
That says more about Lyon’s chronic inconsistency, however, considering it is one of only three sides to beat PSG so far this league campaign.
But PSG dominates everywhere, with a forward line of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani — supplemented by goal-scoring winger Angel Di Maria — which is far too strong for opposition defenses. A rampant attack has scored 95 goals in 33 games — 40 more than the second-best attacks of Lyon and Strasbourg — and PSG has the best defense with 27 conceded.
Here is a look at some of the talking points at PSG this season:
Mbappe reached 30 league goals with a hat trick against Monaco in a 3-1 win on Sunday night. It was his third hat trick this season and made him the first Frenchman to hit 30 since Jean-Pierre Papain for Marseille in 1989-90.
With five matches left, the 20-year-old France prodigy has a chance of matching Uruguay striker Cavani’s PSG tally of 35 from two seasons ago, but only an outside chance of equaling imposing Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s club record of 38 from the season before that.
Injuries to Neymar (a broken right foot in January) and Cavani (a thigh injury in February) opened the way for Mbappe to become the leader of PSG’s attack. Cavani (17 league goals so far) and Neymar (13) both returned from injury against Monaco.
At the halfway stage, PSG was unbeaten and boasted a goal difference of plus 48 after winning 17 games and drawing two.
Indeed, PSG looked certain to smash the 100-point barrier.
But the first defeat came against Lyon, which produced its best performance of the season to win 2-1 on Feb. 3.
Lyon showed that the way to beat PSG is to play at a high tempo and pressure a vulnerable defense, which was glaringly exposed in the Champions League by Manchester United in the last 16 and in the French league only recently.
Prior to this weekend, PSG had conceded 10 goals in three games — its worst three-game defensive spell since 1985.
Although PSG coped with several injuries, a lack of communication and leadership was evident in a 5-1 loss to Lille — the heaviest since Qatari investors QSI took charge eight years ago — and a 3-2 loss at Nantes considered by Tuchel to be the club’s worst performance this season.
As PSG’s form began to dip late in the season, so the excuses came thick and fast.
Too many injuries, bad refereeing decisions, not a big enough squad.
But while there were injuries, blaming refereeing decisions and lamenting video replays — as Tuchel and some players did rather too often — a club of PSG’s immense value has little cause for complaint in a top-heavy league it has so heavily dominated.
The annual budget, according to French reports, is 500 million euros ($562 million) — more than five times Lille’s budget.
IS TUCHEL ANY BETTER?
Tuchel’s predecessors Unai Emery and Laurent Blanc were both eventually fired despite securing domestic trebles because they failed to get past the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Yet Tuchel is reportedly in negotiations to extend his contract, which expires at the end of next season, even though he has done worse than both.
PSG can clinch the league and French Cup double if it wins the cup against Rennes next Saturday.
But the embarrassing way PSG went out of the League Cup quarterfinals at home to struggling Guingamp in January, conceding two penalties in the last 10 minutes, raised questions about a vulnerable defense which have not been fully addressed.
Then, Man United exposed the frailty to send PSG bundling out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage for the third straight season.