Two years ago to this very month, in February 2010, I went to the Parc-des-Princes for the first time ever to watch what could only be described as the worst Football game I’d ever seen. On that day, PSG triumphed 1-0 over Toulouse in a match that included Claude Makelele and Ludovic Guily, but was the most dire, boring, negative-minded matched Football game I’d ever been to. Not to mention the freezing temperatures that day!
Fast forward two years, the weather has gotten colder (-6 degrees), but the atmosphere around the place is very different. Ever since the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) purchased the club, PSG have been on the rise both on and off the pitch. I asked the two people who joined me at the game about their thoughts on the new ownership, since they’re both PSG fanatics and I’m nowhere near being a PSG fan, and one of them, a good friend of mine, made the best analogy I’ve ever heard regarding a club’s takeover (I can mention his name if you ever feeling like quoting him or killing him - if you're a lady): “Imagine being married for 10-15 years to your wife and being used to her. Not the greatest looking woman in the world, but you’re still in love with her nonetheless. Then suddenly she's offered to get plastic surgery to enhance her chest, her backside and a bunch of other stuff. Initially you might not like it and it’ll take time to get used to it, but at the end you’ll like it”. Words of wisdom...almost.
PSG faced mid-table Evian Thonon Gaillard. Not the most threatening opponents, but another vital 3 points to play for. Arriving to the stadium at the last minute without tickets wasn’t the best idea, but buying tickets within 3 seconds of coming out of the metro wasn’t a bad shout. Sat at the lower tier of the mythical “Boulogne” section in the stadium, the Parisian supporters’ noise levels were extremely high. As opposed to two years ago, when controversy surrounding their fans scarred their reputation, this time the fans were positively cheering their troops on.
The first half was a dull affair, but one that demonstrated how Ancelotti has been marking his authority on the side since his arrival a month ago. Playing a formation that he accustomed to his former Chelsea and Milan sides, PSG needed time to gel in a 4-2-3-1 formation that the Italian has previously made Champions out of. The back four were solid and not making any forceful errors. Maxwell showed all his Barcelona-esque touches, Sakho was the man mountain organizing the defence, Lugano made some clumsy mistakes and Jallet pulled the strings at right back – a complimentary force. But the real star of the show in both halves in my opinion was Thiago Motta. The new recruit from Inter Milan was a calming presence in the midfield, keeping a mature head on things when others would panic.
Very few chances were created by both sides during the first half as Gameiro looked isolated up front. The defence and midfield looked composed, but there was no urgency about PSG’s play. The final third was always lacking inspiration. Nene and Menez, for all their talents, must be two of the most frustrating players to watch given that they try to pull off too many tricks, too many times, and end up losing possession. Everything they do is almost perfect, except that final ball; a bit like Nani at Manchester United, but to a lesser extent and with less of an end product. They did create one brilliant opportunity in the first half as they combined very well only for Menez, despite dribbling past the keeper, to blast the ball onto the post. Half-time loomed and against the run of play, Evian took the lead through Cambon, who latched onto a fumbled shot from outside the box. PSG 0 – 1 Evian. PSG fans were disappointed, but my friend rightly pointed out during the interval that whereas in previous seasons this scenario would mean that PSG would be unable to come back from going a goal behind, this current PSG side always have a goal in them and a capability to bounce back - something these fans could get used to.
The second half began and PSG were a different monster. Two minutes after the break, Nene broke free of the Evian defence and found himself one-on-one with the keeper, he seemed to take one touch too many and then unleashed a low shot which, from our view, never crossed the line. But the goal was given and looking at the replays it shows that the ball did slightly bumble over the line. How the referee saw that, I’ll never know, but I can only guess the voluptuous noise made by the “Boulogne” fans is what got that decision. The scores were now leveled at 1-1, and even though PSG kept pushing to create something, Evian were gradually taking the upper hand. Up until the point that Ancelotti finally changed his tactics and took off Bodmer (who was playing as the attacking midfielder behind the lonely Gameiro) and brought on another striker in Hoarau to add some support up front. PSG suddenly looked dangerous again and before we knew it, Menez was tripped in the box and the home side were awarded a penalty which Nene converted with ease (click here for fans reaction). 2-1 and there was no way back for Evian as PSG were in the ascendency. They wrapped it all up when a fine interception by substitute Matuidi was converted by Gameiro. Game over. 3-1. PSG are now sitting comfortably at the top of the league and are looking hot favorites for the title.
This time around, the Parc-des-Princes was different. The aura has changed. There is a strange positivity surrounding the Parc. The fans know they’re on the brink of something big - albeit with the massive help of QIA - and I don’t think it bothers them one bit. Because as this Parisian revolution begins to make its mark, it’s only a matter of time before they become the dominant force in French Football.