Ligue 1 – Can the talent-finders of Monaco upset the money-men of Paris Saint-Germain again?
The 2016/17 football season in France ended PSG’s 4-year dominating title-winning run. AS Monaco produced scintillating performances week in week out to clinch the title with a hefty 8-point margin between themselves and runners-up PSG and a big gap of 17 points ahead of 3rd place Nice.
The new season has already begun in France and both teams Have 100% records after two matches. The question is: can AS Monaco prevent PSG from regaining the title in the 2017/18 season?
First of all, let’s look at AS Monaco’s chances of replicating last season success.
Offensively: They have the firepower up front to get bags of goals. After an extremely disappointing spell in the Premier League Radamel Falcao has been rejuvenated since returning the more striker-friendly confines of Ligue 1. He scored 21 times last season, third highest in Ligue 1, and the Colombian’s aerial, finishing and poaching abilities will, in all probability get him another impressive tally this season. Similarly, if wonderkid Kylian Mbappé and Arsenal-target Thomas Lemar stay at the club then they will both contribute significantly to goals, having scored 24 times and provided 18 assists between them last season.
Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva completed his £43m move to Manchester City (read more here: http://readtheleague.com/the-big-feature/summer-transfer-ratings) and will be sorely missed by the Champions, having provided 9 assists last season, but manager Leonardo Jardim’s side possess enough talent and will no doubt unearth one or two other gems to make up for the big loss.
Defensively: It looks worrying for Monaco. Benjamin Mendy was a rock at left-back for Jardim’s side last season, not to mention providing 8 assists in all competitions, and he will be near-impossible to replace. As for Tiemoué Bakayoko, well the ‘complete’ defensive midfielder’s statistics say it all; only Danny Drinkwater and Gabi broke up more attacks (102) than Bakayoko (95) in the Champions League last season, highlighting the Frenchman’s impressive covering abilities. Monaco will struggle without him this season.
What do PSG have to offer?
Offensively: A lot. There’s no downplaying it; the addition of Neymar for a world-record fee of £198m makes the PSG attack a powerhouse and therefore, the overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy and prevent another upset.
Having established himself as one of the best players in the world (he’s certainly in my top 5), the Brazilian winger brings goals, assists and a shedload of excitement with his spectacular skills. No player in Europe’s top 5 leagues has completed more take-ons that Neymar in both 2015/16 and 2016/17. Combine Neymar with the virtually unstoppable Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, who netted 35 times last season to make himself the second highest scorer in the whole of Europe (2 fewer than Lionel Messi), and PSG will be scoring for fun this season whilst undoubtedly playing attractive football.
Despite being a full back, Dani Alves will also chip in with goals and assists, which is exactly what he did in his man of the match performance against AS Monaco in the French Super Cup on 29 July.
Defensively: The PSG defence is solid and reliable, two adjectives that perfectly describe their ‘keeper too, Kevin Trapp. The defence is so strong in fact that the side conceded the least amount of goals last season (27) in Ligue 1 and will be difficult to break down again this season. Add Dani Alves into the mix and PSG reach a higher level defensively. With the Brazilian’s attacking prowess, Les Parisiens will probably spend 80 of the 90 minutes in their opponents half anyway.
To summarise, the chances of Monaco defending the title look bleak, with further key players possibly leaving before the summer transfer window closes including Mbappe and Lemar. Whilst AS Monaco’s side has become weaker, PSG’s squad has become significantly stronger with the addition of Neymar and Dani Alves. It will take just about everything from Jardim’s side to prevent PSG from clinching the title and potentially creating a new era of dominance in French (and European) football, and even that may not be enough.