PSG: It’s alive!By: Brian | November 30th, 2009
So I’m back. It’s been awhile, so I should catch you up on the last 4 seasons.
But my laptop works again (thank god), the holidays are over (America! Fuck yeah!), and I made sure I had this file saved in a few places just in case.
When last I left you, I was lining up targets for my first big, big, big spending spree as a newly minted League Champion. And for a time, it was good. Bassong, Akinfeev, and Anyukov all joined up without any hiccups (well, I guess Anyukov being my second choice after Srna was a hiccup, but we got realistically priced out of Srna. Anyukov came at 2/3 the cost and 1/2 the wages). And then it all started to go poorly. I wanted Milito on loan again (he was the basis for my “can I offer loaned players a contract?” question), but he chose the riches of Man City and the end of their bench. Best of luck to him. van der Vaart left Madrid for HSV on another loan before I thought to throw my hat in. Diego Renan had to choose between us and Inter, and, much to my surprise, didn’t choose Paris. Who knew? And now he’s their starting LB, with Santon coming off the bench as the first option on either side. The window wasn’t closing anytime soon, but our first meaningful game, Le Trophée des Champions, was fast approaching and all of my targets were getting poached. It got to be so bad I actually had Yves take over a few of our friendlies as I struggled to find viable targets. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a decent fullback!? There’s a list of maybe 10.
In the end, I was able to grab what I hope is a significant increase in depth while cutting away a lot of the deadweight. The only problem I still forsee is Clément Chantôme. Sevilla made an inquiry, and I set his price at €25m. I don’t really want to lose him, he’s one of my first options off the bench, he always seems to play well for me, so I named a value that I couldn’t refuse and left it set to negotiable. Well, Sevilla backed off and he thought I’d refused the inquiry (or knew that I’d intentionally overvalued him) and is now unhappy with me. I even offered him an almost 300% raise and he wouldn’t take it. It doesn’t appear to be affecting his performances, so he’ll stay in the rotation and hopefully realize he has a future here.
Here are the Ins and Outs for the 2010 Summer Transfer Window (most player names are screenshots)
-Sebastián Blanco (Free)
-Marouane Chamakh (Free)
-John Pantsil (Loan to buy)
-Abou Diaby (Loan to buy)
|-Mateja Kezman (Loan, Le Mans)
-Ceará (Lens, €9.5m)
-Peguy Luyindula (Loan, Havre)
-Mateus (Loan, Nancy)
-Christophe Jallet (Sporting CP, €10m)
-Sammy Traoré (Free)
-Willy Grondin (Free)
-Bafodé Diakhaby (Free)
-Stéphane Véron (Free)
-Abdelaziz Barrada (Free)
-Lucien Owona (Free)
-Rafael Tolói (Loan, Boulogne)
-Everton Santos (Loan, Nantes)
-Zoumana Camara (Fulham, €2m)
-Mota (Sporting CP, €3.7m) [I signed him last season for €110k to train him to play LB but he never took to it and he didn't fit in my long term midfield plans]
-Loris Arnaud (Valenciennes, €4m)
-Jérôme Rothen (Loan, Havre)
-Bassirou Dembelé (Loan, Paris FC)
-Sylvain Armand (Valenciennes, €4.6m)
-Younousse Sankhare (Loan, La Berrichonne)
-Alfred N’Diaye (Loan, Guingamp)
-Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Loan, Evian)
-Tripy Makonda (Loan, ESTAC)
-Arouna Koné (Feyenoord, €5.75m)
-Adrien (Loan, Boulogne)
Positives from that group: our strikers are now much stronger, and when Hoarau recovers from his strained knee ligaments we can put out three forwards 6′2″ or taller. I don’t profess to know that much about the history of the sport but that seems like an unusual thing. Also, the nicknames, oh the nicknames! Mr. Mustache (Musacchio), Sokrates (Papastathopoulos, if anyone has seen Bill and Ted), Papa Dop (Papadopoulos), etc.
I have yet to settle on a lineup, especially with Hoarau out. He was playing well with Chamakh and Milevskyi in the friendlies before he went down, and I’d like to bring Kléber off the bench for now. Kléber doesn’t seem to grasp my tactics quite yet, which will hurt us if he plays for longer stretches. But being able to bring him or Erdinç off the bench is much more preferable than my options last season of Giuly/Koné/Luyindula. As for tactics, I’ve changed the fullbacks to a “support” role in an attempt to reduce our goals allowed. I’m sure I’ve tweaked other things between now and when I last posted the file, though at this hour (it’s 3 a.m.) I’m not sure I remember what else I did. Anyway, here’s the file: http://drop.io/10pufks
Some other things of note. We are now the parent club of Boulogne, which is actually a bit of a coup for us as it means I can send prospects to a Ligue 1 team for game experience, and also loan out non-EU players I wouldn’t otherwise be able to register. We are also linked to Cordoba, who were relegated from the Liga Adelante to the Segunda Division for this season, but maybe they’ll give us a foothold in Spain. I don’t have a dedicated scout for Spain yet, simply because it seems unrealistic to expect La Liga players to want to drop down a (perceived, in our case) level or to poach promising youngsters. We will soon though, and I do have a scout for Central Europe, so we get information regularly about Spain and Italy. The rest of my scouts are focused on: Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe, Holland, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, France, and Belgium. When I can hire a few more I’ll get a scout or two for African (although I’ve never found one to be useful in previous saves), and hopefully in a few years PSG won’t be a ridiculous destination for the top players in Europe.
Speaking of ridiculous, in the world of the big clubs, some moves that have left me scratching my head:
-Santi Cazorla to Real Madrid for €32m
-James Milner to Barcelona for €26m
-Jonas Olsson to Manchester United for €19m (and he’s currently playing for their reserve team. Really, Fergie?)
-Christopher Samba to Wolves for €14m (not a big club but €14m on one player, Wolves, and it’s this one!?)
The best move of the window not made by me actually goes to Rafa Benitez, who grabbed Miguel Veloso for €14m.
As for the fixtures I’ve played thus far:
I think we’re going to be a truly dominant force in Ligue 1 this year. But, Brian, you won the league last year! True. We did. But that team wasn’t as driven as this one, wasn’t as seasoned, and honestly wasn’t as good. We were one or two serious injuries away from disaster (and losing vdV for even a few weeks made every match a struggle). This season I think we could legitimately go undefeated in the league. Which is what I strive for. It’s what I told the board when they hired me, it’s what I tell the press when they ask me who I think will win the league or who will win our upcoming match, and it’s what I tell the team before each match. I just hope I’m not buying into a mirage.
Despite the fact that Marseille had managed to convince the powers that be that, rather than a semi-exhibition in Montreal, the Champion’s Trophy should be played in Marseille, we grabbed a 3-1 win and another trophy for our hopefully growing collection. An early goal from Sessegnon gave us a 1-0 lead at the half. Capoue built on that by pouncing on a rebound and jabbing it into a wide open net, and despite a 62nd minute goal by Lucho Gonzalez (who I think is on a mission after I bad-mouthed him), Kléber came on as a sub for Erdinç and was able to put victory beyond doubt with a late tap-in. Hurray for our side.
We opened the season at home to Auxerre. Chamakh absolutely blasted in a header for his first goal in a PSG shirt, but a silly foul just before the half gave Christian Grindheim (great name) a free kick just outside the box and he buried it. In the second half, Sakho scored a header from a corner to put us back in front, but Auxerre was able to equalize 20 minutes later through Kamel Chafni. Fortunately, Sakho is finally starting to get a hang of his role during corners and he headed another home in the 84th minute and we held on.
Away to Dijon, in what is a must-win for a team as good as ours, we started off in a fashion I thought was too slow. Despite threatening around the box, we didn’t convert one of numerous chances until Artem decided to hell with the box and buried a line drive on the bounce into the net from 20 yards away. It was a beautiful display of ball movement, started and finished by Artem. Chamakh poked another in from an Anyukov cross, and Artem converted a penalty in the second half for a convincing and expected 3-0 win.
We then traveled back home for a second match with Marseille before summer ended. It started off anything but well for us, as M’Bengué was whistled for jumping unfairly with Niang at the very top left extreme of the penalty area, gifting Marseille the softest penalty in the history of penalties. I was prepared to earn a touchline ban and tear the ref a new asshole or four if that cost us the game. Cheik never recovered from the incident, and eventually I had to take him off and put Bassong in his place. Hopefully it was a learning experience for all involved (and I learned that, in a pinch, Bassong is more than capable of playing LB in a pinch). Anyway, the Luchador converted that penalty. Their lead was short-lived as Mamadou Sakho grabbed another goal off of a corner. In the 37th minute, Milevskyi made a fool out of Bougherra and blasted a rocket past Mandanda from 10 yards to give us a 2-1 lead. I told the team not to get careless, but apparently they weren’t listening, as Nicklas Bendtner (seriously, wtf!?) connected with a Romaric cross to draw them level. The play started when Romaric intercepted a lazy Bassong pass and dribbled unopposed down the left wing. This lead was even more short-lived as we kept the ball from kickoff, and MIlevskyi made Adil Rami this time look absolutely rooted to the ground before hitting a shot so hard that Mandanda was able to get a significant piece of it and it still had enough momentum to trickle under and past him to give us a lead we would not relinquish. We’ve won our last 3 matches with Marseille, but this was my first league win against them and it produced the best feeling of any of our victories thus far.
We then traveled to Toulouse, and after such a high-tension effort the previous week, a letdown was almost inevitable. Despite the outcome, and how it arose, I am still choosing to view this as a positive moment. Sessegnon, taking over the playmaker role this year, got free in the box and had enough time to collect Anyukov’s cross with his right foot and switch the ball to his left before placing a shot across Yohann Pelé and into the corner of the net. Our defense held strong until Bassong knocked the ball out for a corner. The incoming corner was kicked around for a good 10 seconds before Dindane rushed towards it and poked it home with Akinfeev already sprawled out. I was incensed at the time, because we were so close, but upon reflection realized that last year’s team probably would have found a way to let in another at the death. I’m also realizing that our best defense is still our strong offense and controlling the ball. Aside from the first match at Marseille, we have had at least 57% of possession in every match (and over 60 against Auxerre and Dijon), but on this day we only managed 49%. Coincidentally, in this match I played the second half to protect our lead, rather than to extend it. Fortune favors the brave, and I was not.
Our next match is against league leaders Lyon, who have won all 4 matches thus far and are 2 points above us on the table. We’ve owned Lyon throughout my brief tenure and hopefully this will be a statement game for us. After that, we take a midweek trip to Romania and the beautiful metropolis of Craiova as we begin our European adventure. Remember how I was gloating over the results of the other major leagues and predicted we’d still get group of death-ed? Well. Joining Craiova and ourselves in Group B will be FC Barcelona and F.C. Internazionale, more commonly known as Inter or Inter Milan. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Barcelona are 3-1 favorites to win the whole thing, and Inter are 5-1. Real Madrid is at 4-1, and everyone else is pretty much an afterthought. Getting out of this group will be a miracle. When it comes to points for advancing, pundits always say the magic number is 10. Realistically, we have to beat Craiova twice and then manage to steal a win from one of the giants and/or fight them to draws to get to double digits. We can’t drop a single point to Craiova. Can’t. Cannot. Can not. I can’t decide what I want Barca and Inter to do when they play each other. Hope for one team to win both and short the other team 1-4 points? Hope they split and each earn 3 from two matches, or even better draw both times? I have no idea how we’re going to do this. Meanwhile, Marseille are grouped with Rubin Kazan, Everton, and AZ while Lyon gets Leverkeusen, Galatasaray, and Ajax and Bordeaux have Roma, Madrid, and Man City to battle.
My plan for Europe then is to throw out our strongest squad possible for every match, hope that Barcelona and Inter don’t or are also visited by the injury fairy and can’t, and hope for the best. Another mild concern: players like Milevskyi and Sakho getting big-time exposure and gaining suitors. Right now no one is interested in either one and I’m totally fine with that.
Wish us luck. My next update will be after the Barcelona match. Hopefully they forget Paris, or we can make them wish they had.