PSG, Unai Emery brace for turmoil after historic collapse vs. Barcelona

Monday March 13th, 2017

In the week that Paris Saint-Germain was on the receiving-end of the most unlikely comeback in Champions League history, conceding three goals to Barcelona in the final eight minutes for a 6-1 defeat, previous coach Laurent Blanc was reported to have bought a classic car worth over a million euros. Blanc’s PSG team had twice been eliminated by Barcelona in Europe, but never like this. All the progress and goodwill that current coach Unai Emery had built up after PSG’s 4-0 first-leg win has gone. In fact, it would have probably been better for him to have lost both legs 2-0 or 3-1 and avoided the ignominy of what L’Equipe's headline called "Unspeakable."

The obvious conclusion is that Emery, who was brought in specifically to further PSG’s European ambitions, cannot survive beyond this season. This is not a guarantee. Emery has given game time to a young French core of players like Adrien Rabiot, Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kimpembe, the center back who was outstanding in the first leg against Barcelona and arguably unlucky to be dropped for captain Thiago Silva for the return.

How helpful is it to sack the coach after every European disappointment? It’s just what PSG did with Blanc last year; and just like against Barcelona, it was not the quarterfinal defeat to Manchester City that did for him, but the manner of it. And so you can expect that the likes of Arsene Wenger, Diego Simeone, Max Allegri and yes, even Luis Enrique, will be linked to the job between now and the end of the season.

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It may be that another senior figure takes the hit for this. What about sporting director Patrick Kluivert, whose first season in the role has produced more misses (Jese, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Hatem Ben Arfa) than hits (Julien Draxler, Thomas Meunier)? Even president Nasser Al-Khelaifi might not be safe in his role any more. This is a political club, and everyone will be trying to protect his own position.

The club is also at war with L’Equipe after it reported that Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti were in a Paris nightclub hours before they were due to fly to Spain for the second leg. In a statement, it branded the claims “an insult to their professionalism and their club” and said the paper had zero credibility. It also denied reports that the club had already asked Paris police for a parade down the Champs-Elysees if they won the Champions League.

The best Emery can hope for is a repeat of Blanc’s domestic treble success from last year. Even beating Lorient 2-1 Sunday night was scant consolation; the team is still three points behind Monaco in Ligue 1 and faces the free-scoring Ligue 1 leader in the League Cup final next month. Nothing has been decided yet, but suddenly everyone at the club has an eye on his own future. 

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