Friday, June 2, 2023

PSG progress report: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar off to a strong start under Christophe Galtier

Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-0 win away at Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1 on Sunday sends the French champions into the September international break in a commanding position. Aside from a draw at home to AS Monaco in Le Championnat, it has been a strong start to the 2022-23 season with 10 wins from 11 matches across all competitions in a so far unbeaten campaign.

PSG are top of the domestic tree and lead their UEFA Champions League group along with SL Benfica with a Trophee des Champions title already secured at the beginning of this term. Christophe Galtier has Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi producing their best collective form since the Argentine’s arrival back in the summer of 2021.

The scary things is that, despite the strong start, there is room for improvement. Sporting advisor Luis Campos was not satisfied by the most recent transfer window with Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar a key target who was not acquired. The defense is also not yet watertight with at least one goal shipped on five separate occasions across all competitions including both continental clashes so far.

However, compared with last season under Mauricio Pochettino, Galtier is making light of some of the Argentine’s struggles and PSG are now set for a strong finish to club action ahead of the FIFA World Cup at the end of this year. Neymar, Mbappe and Messi look particularly sharp ahead of the Qatar-hosted event with 33 goals between them already.

Les Parisiens might not have played their best flowing soccer in every game so far this campaign, but they do look markedly different and far more convincing than in previous years. The crucial upcoming doubleheader with Benfica in UCL Group H promises to be telling in terms of the French capital club’s European ambitions.

Looking at bit closer at some of the minor negatives and PSG’s Ligue 1 record reads only two points dropped with Lyon and Lille OSC beaten on the road with the Monaco draw not harmful to their hopes of an invincible season. That win away at OL and a narrow home victory over Stade Brestois 29 were both by a goal which came since the start of Champions League action in a packed run.

The only negative which truly stands at this point is the fact that Galtier’s squad is a little thin in certain areas with central defense a particular concern now that Presnel Kimpembe is out. The France international picked up an injury recently which now makes captain Marquinhos and a revived Sergio Ramos indispensable and requires Danilo Pereira to step back from midfield.

“I am not 100% satisfied with this summer’s business,” said Campos to RMC Sport last week. “It was not just Skriniar as we also negotiated for other defenders. However, we failed to sign them and so we are missing a piece which was needed. Achieving perfection is difficult but we are always keen to get as close to it as possible.”

If missing out on Skriniar or another defender was a setback, then Campos can look at the early success enjoyed by Vitinha in the midfield with great satisfaction. The Portugal international has arguably been the most convincing new arrival at Parc des Princes so far and has slotted in seamlessly alongside Marco Verratti.

Perhaps most telling about Galtier and Campos’ dual impact so far in Paris is that the Frenchman is largely succeeding with more or less the same starting XI as predecessor Pochettino with the exception of Vitinha. Otherwise, Galtier has helped to coax good form out of Neymar and Messi while rejuvenating Ramos which looked impossible for much of last season.

It has not been perfect and there have been road bumps on the way such as Neymar and Mbappe’s frosty relationship on the pitch at the start of the campaign and Galtier’s comments about PSG traveling by private plane stirring up a bit of domestic controversy. However, it is relatively tame compared with what we have seen in years gone by and consistency is a welcome change.

Mid-October looks to be the most important part of this term so far with the home encounter with Benfica followed by Le Classique against bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille at home which is a top two matchup at present. After those two clashes, we should have a better idea of where this PSG side could be headed under Galtier post-World Cup.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles


Subscribe to stay updated.