Paris Saint-Germain are into a difficult February. Olympique de Marseille have already knocked them out of the Coupe de France, AS Monaco are up this weekend, Lille OSC, and OM come again in Ligue 1 as well as Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. Some pessimists in the French capital already believe that the damage has been done and that this season will not amount to much, others believe that Les Parisiens will react favorably to the challenging circumstances. However, one thing is clear and undisputable: PSG have not been the same since the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Unbeaten across all competitions before the tournament, it did not take long for Christophe Galtier's men to be tripped up in Ligue 1. RC Lens and Stade Rennais both got home wins while Folarin Balogun's Stade de Reims also took points away from their trip to Paris, and they have now crashed out of the Coupe de France to bitter rivals OM.
Kylian Mbappe is out for the next few weeks and a major doubt to be fit to face Bayern at Parc des Princes next week despite Julian Nagelsmann suspecting that it is a bluff. That is despite the France international being given time off post-Qatar, having returned early to help the team in the immediate aftermath.
Mbappe has often been there to bail his team out under both bosses but now that the Frenchman is absent, there is added emphasis on Lionel Messi and Neymar in attack. The World Cup winner has remained fairly productive since returning to domestic action but the Brazilian has struggled, yet both were in incredible early-season form ahead of Qatar. Messi did not have the desired impact against Marseille, however.
Galtier has rested Neymar of late yet brought him back against Marseille in the cup this Wednesday to little effect, and it has taken longer than expected to get him ready. Equally, Marco Verratti's injury issues and then untimely suspension did not help from a creativity standpoint.
If those two can stay fit against Bayern, then PSG still have a chance, but they are not the only area of concern. Defensively, PSG have looked woeful of late with Presnel Kimpembe working his way back from a lengthy injury layoff, captain Marquinhos out of form and veteran Sergio Ramos suddenly struggling for form despite his goal vs. Marseille.
2011 - Marseille have beaten Paris at home for the first time since November 2011 (3-0 in L1), ending a nine-game winless run against this opponent in all competitions. Party. #OMPSG https://t.co/vXKm6o9h50— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 8, 2023
PSG failed to capitalize on the January transfer window and are facing major expenditure issues as they battle to keep their wage bill under control beyond the end of this season. Milan Skriniar's arrival from Inter Milan has to wait until this summer but a loan move for Hakim Ziyech also failed.
Perhaps most worrying of all, though, is just how sluggish PSG have looked lately with many of the post-World Cup outings similar to some of the performances that we saw under Mauricio Pochettino. Despite a few smart additions and a number of departures, it is many of the same players lining up under Galtier who featured for the Argentine.
Conceding in eight of 10 games since the World Cup is far from watertight and is a major concern ahead of the showdown with Bayern. The midfield has also struggled to pick up without Verratti and Carlos Soler as well as Fabian Ruiz have come under increased scrutiny of late given that they were expected to solve those sorts of problems along with the injury prone Renato Sanches.
Youngster Warren Zaire Emery has been a rare ray of hope in a dark winter period but the feeling is that the key lies in the system -- Galtier started this season with a 3-4-3 system which PSG got used to and fared well with in a short space of time. The French tactician has rarely been able to utilize it in months.
Since moving away from that due to a lack of defensive options with Nordi Mukiele also struggling for fitness, the overall form and chemistry has suffered. Getting Verratti, Neymar, and Ramos back for Marseille was important, but added emphasis has been placed on the fitness of Kimpembe and the form of Marquinhos and Ramos now that no central defender was signed in January.
By the end of this month, we could already know whether or not the World Cup killed PSG's season with the Coupe de France now gone for a second straight year and the Champions League well and truly in the balance.