Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Les Bleus kick off World Cup preparation with classy showing

Well I guess my prediction of a drab 1-1 draw was slightly off...France kick off their World Cup preparation with a thrilling 4-0 win over Norway. And the score line could have been worse for the Scandinavians.

The Good:
  • Four goals...nothing to sneeze at. Les Bleus have struggled with scoring goals in the past, but seems that they found a key to unlock their goal scoring account, at least for 90 minutes today. Something to build on. It was encouraging to see the goals coming on some solid crosses from the flanks as well as some pacey play by the likes of Remy. It was also encouraging to seeing France's #2 striker, Giroud, score a brace. His second was from a wonder strike from the edge of the penalty box. He could have had a hat trick had his powerful header in the opening minutes gone in. Remy showed why he is on the team and could play a valuable role being used as a substitute where he can leverage his pace to break down a tired defense. He was a terrific reflex save away from getting his own brace. Scoring the 4 goals and having the offensive flow they had bodes well for the French offense confidence.
  • Le Petit Velo - Valbuena, has taken the role as the #10 and run with it. The Marseilles midfielder was at the center of the action against Norway. Acting as the creative fulcrum for the French. His high work rate, dribbling, passing and willingness to take chances on the offensive end really kept Norway off balance. His 3 assists are a reflection of his value to the offense for Les Bleus. With the likes of Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye acting as the muscle in the midfield, it allows Valbuena to roam freely in the midfield. What will be interesting is to see how he continues to interact with Ribery. Giroud's style usually has him on the last defenders' shoulder, while Griezmann added pace on the left but didn't roam too much. This gave the space that Valbuena enjoys on the right, center and left of the park. Served the team well...but might be an issue...more on that later.
  • The midfield trident of Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye. This is clearly the strength for Les Bleus. And the driving motivation for DD to lean on a 4-3-3 formation to ensure you get these three players on the pitch at the same time. Pogba is an absolute beast. It is amazing to remember that he is only 21. He scored a cheeky goal and controlled the midfield with his pace and size. Partnered with Matuidi, who seems to have a very high motor, and you have a powerful engine room for Les Bleus. With Cabaye doing a lot of the dirty work, and who can also bring a threat from distance, you have a powerful trident in the midfield. One that will determine how far Les Bleus can go in Brazil. 
  • Getting one of the reservists onto the pitch. Giving Cabella his first international cap was a shrewd move for DD. The 7, now 6, reserve players should view this as added motivation (Ruffier was part of the 7 and due to Mandanda's injury is now the #2 keeper). They all know that short of injury they will not be heading to Brazil. But there is 2016 to think about and this clearly gives them a taste of what they could work for post World Cup. And for DD, it gives him some time to blood some of his prospects and heaven forbid one of his 23 get injured, he already has vetted some of his prospects. Look for DD to do this again the next two matches, as he should.
The Bad:
  • Balance...even without Ribery on the pitch, France leaned heavily on the left side of the pitch. Yes Valbuena is on the right side of the pitch. But his tendency to roam, and he does a lot of that, means he sometimes vacates that right channel. And sometimes seems to be too often! It felt as if too much of France's offense was left dominant. This will only become more apparent with Ribery on that side. DD has to figure out a way to make sure that with Ribery and Valbuena on the pitch, that Le Petit Velo keeps in mind his role to support the right side of the attack. It is fine and recommended that the wingers switch sides from time to time, or even drop deeper. But, the right channel remains something that needs to be addressed.
  • The central defensive pairing. After keeping a clean sheet it is difficult to criticize the defense. But I am a little nervous at what Sakho showed. I am not saying he was bad, but there were some glimpses at his bad habits. Losing the ball in dangerous areas, making some rash challenges and some risk taking. In a way with Kos he can do that, since the Arsenal man is a good stay at home defender who can clean up such errors. But if Sakho makes some of these errors against the likes of Shaqiri or Valencia it could prove very costly.
The Ugly:
  • Nothing ugly about this match...maybe ugly for Norway.

So DD and France get their first preparatory match out of the way.  The 4-0 win will do the team a lot of good, they need to continue to build on this and will face a much more stern test against Paraguay. It will be interesting to see how things change if we see Ribery and Benzema find their way back into the starting line up, especially with the interactions with Valbuena.

Monday, May 26, 2014

First test for Les Bleus - midfield dry run

Now that we have dispensed with the formalities of ending the domestic seasons and deciding the European title, we can focus in on this small event called the World Cup. Many of the national sides will start to run through some of their friendly matches ahead of the June kick off for the World Cup. France will face their first test tomorrow against Norway.

According to some reports we may already know the starting eleven for Les Bleus:

Ruffier - Debuchy, Koscielny, Sakho, Evra - Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba - Valbuena, Giroud, Griezmann

No surprises in this line up. Lloris will most likely get one start, but after a long season with Spurs deserves some down time. Ribery has a slight knock on his back and Benzema just finished up with Real Madrid, and has a slight groin injury.  Otherwise the the starting 11 that DD is rolling out might be the one you will see to open against Honduras on June 15 (with a healthy Ribery and Benzema in place of Griezmann and Giroud). A few things to watch for:

  • Center backs - is the is the pairing we should expect for the tournament? DD has tinkered with this for many matches. Mangala showed well in the last friendly against Holland and the young Real Madrid center back Varane has also showcased for DD. The former has a slight knock and the later is late to camp due to the Champion League finals so the pairing of Kos - Sakho might have been more out of necessity. But the former PSG and current Liverpool player will also carry the armband for France. Might be an indicator of what DD thinks of Sakho.
  • Midfield trident - no surprise to see the starting three of Cabaye, Matuidi and Pogba. The question becomes, who is behind them in the pecking order? It will be interesting to see which players come on for those spots later on during the game. Look for
    Second showing for the youngster
    Mavuba and Sissoko to get some time tomorrow as well.
  • How will Griezmann do with his second match for Les Bleus? He was okay against Holland, appeared a little timid at times. With his second go around, and now that he knows he is on the plane to Brazil, will he be more at ease and allow his talents to take over? It will also be interesting to see if during one of the other friendly matches if DD tries to play both Griezmann and Ribery on the pitch together. Giving them some time on the field in case the situation arises that DD needs to have them both out there to chase a goal.
I am not sure how much we will be able to read from this game. Norway tends to be a solid defensive unit, but not much attacking creativity. As with many of these friendlies I would not expect much. Teams, especially the ones heading to Brazil, are going to want to test some pairings and formations. See how players work together. But the most important will be avoid injuries! Certainly want to avoid what happened to Cisse prior to the 2006 World Cup (sad to say but his pace off the bench might have a made a difference in that tournament).

I expect a drab 1-1 draw. Goal from Giroud.

Allez Les Bleus!!!

Did Klinsmann make it personal with Donovan? Maybe...

So the fans of the US Mens National Team (USMNT) have had time to digest that the one mainstay for the US team for the past decade - Landon Donovan - will not be heading to his 4th World Cup. Quite possibly the end of Landycakes' international career as well. There have also been a raft of theories as to why Klinsmann left the LA Galaxy forward off the list. The main ones revolve around the head coach's personal feelings towards the player. I buy into this as a plausible theory. However the more I chew on it, here are some ideas as to why Klinsmann made his choices:

  • There is something about Klinsmann having a small ax to grind with Donovan. As has been stated over and over the past few days there seems to be a history between the two men. Landycakes went to Bayern Munich in 2009 and was an abject failure, lasting only 6 games. The manager at the time - Klinsmann. Who was subsequently sacked the following season. I think there is no doubt their personalities were in conflict. Landcakes has always been dogged by the criticism that he is soft and also that he has not pushed himself professionally. Criticisms I fully agree with. It is telling that in the ESPN piece on the US Mens National Team journey to Brazil there is a segment where Klinsmann comes out and stays he is disappointed that Clint Dempsey decided to come back to the MLS. Klinsmann states, and I am paraphrasing, "I would rather have my top players playing in the world's top leagues, and those are in Europe." If the likes of Dempsey were at, say Barcelona, Klinsmann goes on to say, he would feel better knowing the player was training with the likes of Iniesta and Messi and competing against Ronaldo etc. It was not the only time Klinsmann has made his feelings towards Europe vs MLS heard. If Jurgen is critical of a player who went to the EPL and did well for himself at Fulham and Tottenham, how must he feel about Landycakes who left Bayern Leverkusen because it was too cold and he wanted to sit on the beaches of LA? Deep down I feel that Klinsmann questioned Donovan's heart and desire to be a true professional. For this when Jurgen said that Landon was "behind" others in camp, I wonder if he meant Landon's hear and desire weren't up to the level he would expect from a professional.
  • It is all about Russia in 4 years stupid. Klinsmann is a unique position as head of a national team. US Soccer decided it was a good idea to extend him for another 4 years...before the tournament even started! Wow. Clearly this is an indication that Klinsmann has the keys to the castle over at US Soccer. Reality is, the US federation is too nervous to risk losing the highest profile manager they have had...ever. Most likely they question whether they would be able to attract another such high profiled manager. With this in the back of his mind, Klinsmann most likely feels empowered to do as he pleases. That means a 4 year vision. Add to this that the US face a "group of death" in Brazil - facing Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Is Klinsmann looking at Brazil as a dry run for Russia 2018? Seems that way. Why leave a veteran player like Donovan at home, coupled with three untested young players - Green, Brooks and Yedlin? A player like Green has bags of potential...but plays in the 4th division in Germany and has not played more than 40 minutes for Bayern Munich! For most other national teams this would be a player who would showcase at the Toulon Tournament for U20...not the World Cup. A player that you would allow to work his way up the youth national teams...not give him a precious roster spot on your World Cup squad. Unless you viewed this World Cup as preparation for 2018. There seems to be an ulterior motive as well - Klinsmann is showing other dual nationality players that they have a fast track to the World Cup with the United States. Green was a prospect for the German federation, but he faced much sterner competition and a longer path to the World Cup. With the US, he could find his way to 2, 3 or even 4 World Cups. Add to that the fact the US play in the CONCACAF and basically ensures World Cup qualification, and you have an attractive recipes for dual nationality players who are on the fringe of another higher quality national team. Of course if Green played for Germany he would also have the European Cup to play for...
Klinsmann is taking a big chance with his roster for Brazil, he is going with some youth, maybe too much. He has cleaned house and has only kept 6 players from the 2010 World Cup. He has left off the most decorated national team player of all time - Donovan. He has taken on a 18 year old US-German national, with little experience. In a few weeks we will know whether his gamble pays off or whether or not he was really looking out 4 years.

I do think that Klinsmann, as others have argued, rid himself of his personal headache. But I am not sure that the collective team will be better without their MLS superstar.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

No sacred cows for Klinsmann - Donovan left off World Cup roster

A bit of a shocker from the US Men's National Football team - Landon Donovan will not go to his 4th World Cup. There had been some rumblings that the face of US Soccer might not be a guarantee to head to Brazil. Donovan had been struggling with some injuries and if anyone watched the ESPN expose on the national side there was some interesting statements from the player himself saying his body just wasn't able to keep up. But it is still a gutsy call from Klinsmann.

You mean to tell me that the US could not use a player of Donovan's World Cup experience to potentially come off the bench late in a game to chase a goal? Landycakes is clearly not the player he once was, and granted this blogger never thought he was that great a player then either, but he does bring some qualities to the side. US soccer fans all remember the goal he scored 4 years ago against Algeria to send the US through to the knock out stages.

Landycakes can probably not be count on for the full 90 minutes anymore. But leaving experienced strikers such as Eddie Johnson and Donovan off the roster, Klinsmann is banking that some of his less experienced players can make up for the loss in veteran leadership. With one of the most difficult groups of the World Cup - Ghana, Portugal and Germany - it seems a mistake to leave someone of the experience of Landycakes at home. Granted Klinsmann still has players such as Howard, Dempsey and Bradley he can turn to, but would have been good to have someone of the stature of Donovan as well - and a player that can come in late on to chase a goal! I just cannot imagine that there was not a role for this veteran on the roster. Coming from someone like me, who has been very critical of Donovan, says something!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FA Cup win...phew, about time for Arsenal. But was it bad for long term?

Phew, finally...Arsenal finally ended their 9 year drought this past weekend by winning a thrilling FA Cup final. After being down 0-2 to Hull City within the first 15 minutes, Arsenal found a way to claw back to force extra time where Welshman Ramsey slammed home the winner after a cheeky back heel from Giroud. The Tigers almost equalized late on in extra time when Mertesacker slipped and then Fabianski decided to do his best impression of Rene Higuita, allowing Aluko to strike the ball across the entire empty goal, only to see it refuse to cross the line.

Glory glory for Arsenal! Or is it.

With this long awaited silverware, Wenger was quickly given a three year extension, and supposedly a nice war chest to spend in the transfer season. Okay...great. There is no question that Arene revolutionized how Arsenal handled their business. His impact was felt across the EPL. But as the last 9 years have shown, not sure he still has it. Winning the FA
Scratching that 9 year itch
Cup was nice. However for a club of Arsenal's ambitions it still falls short, and really only means much if it is coupled with league title or a European cup. Neither of which Arsenal have come close to sniffing in a long time. If you believe what Arsenal and Wenger have been spouting the past few seasons, there has never been a shortage of transfer funds. Wenger's transfer record as of recently has not been stellar. He has brought in a number of decent players - Giroud, Podolski, Carzola, Mertersacker, Arteta...he did get Ozil who is world class (but that is more because Real Madrid got Bale and saw Ozil as excess). Otherwise, Wenger has not been able to get world class players to come on his own - Hazard and Daxler come to mind. He has also seen the likes of Cesc and RVP walk out the door...

This transfer season will be key for Wenger. Can he bring some real steel to this club and make Arsenal a legitimate contender for the EPL and Europe? The Gunners need a world class striker, right back, central midfielder (someone that brings some steel to that midfield). Just not convinced that Wenger will change his ways. FA Cup title or no FA Cup title.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More chirping from the Citizen about France snub...good riddance?

One of the biggest snubs for the French national team is, of course, Nasri. The freshly minted EPL champion will be watching the World Cup from a television this summer - the second time this fate has struck. There has never been a question of his footballing talent. From a purely footballing skill perspective, the Marseille native has been looked upon as the potential "next one" for France. Yet it is what is between his ears that has always let him down. Whether it was the supposed disruption he created on the squad in 2008 as part of the "brat pack" or his actions on the pitch after scoring a goal against England in the 2012 Euros, there always seems to be some controversy that follows the mercurial player.

It has also been apparent that he had a difficult time accepting the fact he wasn't the focal point of the French attack. A role that has gone to Ribery and Valbuena. Yet it isn't as if DD has not given Nasri his opportunities to take over the midfield and earn the right to be the

next "#10" for Les Bleus. During a friendly against Australia he gave us a glimpse into what he could be, if he had his head screwed on straight. Alas those showings were few and far between for Les Bleus.

So now the player is threatening to quit the national side. Saying, in part, that what player likes being a substitute? Note to Mr Nasri, when you play for your country, especially one of the likes of France, there are going to be numerous players of world class levels. Therefore starting is never a given...this blogger freely admits making a case that Zidane shouldn't start for France after a poor group showing at the 2006 World Cup (oops). There are no sacred cows. In a way, I think if Nasri takes himself out of the mix for France it might be a blessing in disguise. Addition by subtraction. I had floated this notion a few months back when it looked like Nasri might have picked up an injury that would have kept him out. It is time to stop chasing the Nasri of our hopes and admit that the Nasri of our reality is more of a detriment than an asset for Les Bleus. There are other creative players in the wings, who may not possess the raw skill and talent of Samir but who are better equipped to help a team win.

Now, Nasri please stop spouting off...well maybe that should be directed at your girlfriend. Oh and a side note, before anyone points out that Pat Vieira commented that it was a huge mistake that DD left Nasri off the list...think about where Vieira works now and where Samir plays his club football.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DD's list for Brazil - no real surprises...and calls the Nasri situation as it is

Today Deschamps announced his list of 30 for Brazil. Unlike prior tournaments, he announced the list of the 23 that will go to Brazil, so we avoid the situation that Domenech put his squad through of having players "cut" during the training camp. From a players' perspective this should make the time spent at Clairefontaine more peaceful. The two lists:

The 23 that are on the Brazil list:

Lloris, Mandanda, Landreau - Debuchy, Digne, Evra, Koscielny, Mangala, Sagna, Sakho, Varane - Cabaye, Grenier, Pogba, Matuidi, Mavuba, Sissoko, Valbuena - Ribéry, Benzema, Giroud, Griezmann, Rémy

The 7 that are reservists:

Cabella, Gonalons, Lacazette, Perrin, Ruffier, Schneiderlin, Trémoulinas

The surprises for me:

  • The exclusion of Nasri. I guess this really should not be a surprise since even the player has been expressing his feelings that he himself did not expect to get the call from DD. Yet I still find it somewhat surprising that he was not even in the expanded group of 30. Then again when you hear what DD had to say about the player, it all makes sense. DD finally came out and verbalized what many had assumed with
    A sight never to be seen again?
    regards to Nasri - he does not play well with others. Deschamps was clear that when Nasri is not a starter and comes off the bench he pouts, he pouts and his teammates do not appreciate that. So it looks like the maturity issues with Nasri remain. Does this put an end to his career for Les Bleus? Clearly if DD remains in charge of France through the Euros in 2016, yes. The issue with Nasri has never been his talent, but his attitude. Unless that has a radical make over, it appears evident that we will not see him wearing the French #11 shirt anymore.
  • Some intrigue at left back. I thought that DD might go young and call up the Monaco left back Kurzawa and get him into camp. The inclusion of Tremoulinas is interesting.  Why? Because the former Bordeaux left back was always in the conversation as an option at the position, yet the past few seasons he has faded into the background. With the likes of Digne and Kurzawa as well as Clichy still hanging around, it appeared that Benoit's chances to showcase for France had all but disappeared. That appears to be premature. Speaking of Clichy. How far the former Arsenal left back has fallen in the pecking order. The recently crowned EPL champion to not even make the list of 30 is telling. He may need a move away from Manchester City, where he is no longer a regular starter, in order to jump start his international career again.
  • Welcome Mr Schneiderlin. After all kinds of chatter concerning the Southampton midfielder it is nice to see him get a call up. The English press was all over the fact that he should be selected for the English national team...and to be honest since the
    Back in Bleu...at least as a reservist
    rules around national team eligibility is so confusing I am not even sure if that was an option. Regardless it was good to see the player get a call from DD. Will Morgan have a chance to break into the squad? Yes. But he has some strong competition, with the likes of Matuidi, Cabaye and Pogba firmly entrenched as starters. The question is does Schneiderlin have a legitimate chance to move ahead of the likes of Mavuba in the peaking order? Time will tell. One advantage that France has, unlike the aforementioned England, is depth at holding midfielder - with Gonalons, Mavuba, Schneiderlin etc.
Overall the list has any major surprises. There is no Chimbonda in this list, aka a player that no one expected being included in the list. Deschamps has been very consistent with his rosters and the players he will be taking to Brazil is no different.

Allez les Bleus.

Monday, May 12, 2014

48 hours before the first list - where will the surprises come from for Deschamps and France?

In about 48 hours DD, will announce his first list for the World Cup. A list of 30 names that will need to be cut down to the 23 that will head to Brazil. Doing a rough estimate there

Hmmmm who will I take with me to Brazil?
seems to be about 15 names that will go to Brazil barring any injury. Here are how I see the 15:

  1. Lloris GK
  2. Mandanda GK
  3. Koscielny Def
  4. Sakho Def
  5. Varane Def
  6. Evra Def
  7. Debuchy Def
  8. Sagna Def
  9. Matuidi MF
  10. Cabaye MF
  11. Pogba MF
  12. Ribery MF
  13. Valbuena MF
  14. Benzema FW
  15. Giroud FW
So that leaves us with 15 more slots that should be on the list Tuesday. The next group are players that I think have an excellent chance to go to Brazil, but are not locks like my first 15:
  1. Landreau GK
  2. Mangala Def
  3. Digne Def
  4. Mavuba MF
  5. Grenier MF
  6. Remy FW
That gives us 21 names for the list...2 more to go to Brazil and 9 total more for the Tuesday list. Here are 9 names I think will be added to the above.
  1. Ruffier - The St Etienne keeper has been capped before. He seems to be the leading candidate to take the #3 role for Les Bleus. The question becomes, with Landreau announcing his retirement, does this change the way DD approaches the #3 role in goal? Should he go with a keeper that can learn from the experience or give a veteran an homage for a solid pro career? Regardless, expect the St Etienne keeper to be in camp.
  2. Rami - The central defender used to be a mainstay with Les Bleus, but since DD has taken over the ranks his star has fallen. Does the move to AC Milan indicate some stability is in the future for the former Lille star? Deschamps will most likely want to look at some other central defenders. He will have some flexibility with the likes of Sakho who has played out wide for Liverpool at times. So many DD doesn't feel he needs to carry as many defenders, but I feel he will want to take a look in camp at all his options. (I could also see DD calling up Zouma from St Etienne as cover in the center of defense)
  3. Kurawa - There were rumblings that the Monaco left back was going to be called up for the last France friendly. Instead Digne was called up and got a half in during the 2-0 France victory. But I have a feeling DD will want to see both young French left backs. Might be an open competition for the role backing up Evra.
  4. Schneiderlin - Get ready for this surprise. The Southampton midfielder has been a
    Surprise visit to Clairefontaine?
    rising name in the EPL. The player should be in camp. If DD goes 4-3-3, which I believe he will, there will be need for cover in that middle 3. In particular, players who can act as the sentinel in front of the defensive back 4 - something Morgan has done with aplomb at Southampton. 
  5. Nasri - The former OM midfielder has a lot of controversy around him. The rumors of his being a cancer in the dressing room continue to dominate any conversation of the Manchester City midfielder. Even though Sami seems to assume he will be watching the World Cup on TV, I think he will still get a look. His offensive talents are difficult to leave at home.
  6. Payet - The current OM winger/midfielder has fallen out of grace with DD. Not that I am surprised. I just don't see what he brings, other than he can play on the right wing. But DD seems to like him and I have a feeling will at least get a call to camp, maybe even a plane ticket to Brazil.
  7. Gonalons - The Lyon captain has had a few cups of coffees with the national side. Deschamps seems to like solid holding midfielders who can control the pace of the game. Something the OL midfielder does. Look for him to have a call up and outside shot at heading to Brazil. Would be in direct competition with Schneiderlin and Mavuba to take the role as holding midfielder behind Cabaye. 
  8. Lacazette - With 15 goals this season in France, he is quietly working his way back into the conversation. Is he a winger or top of formation striker? He seems to be able to fill both roles, something that DD might want to take a serious look at. 
  9. Gomis - Ok another OL player I realize. But the other OL striker has always been a fringe national team player. And when he has had his chance to play he has shown some glimpses - remember his brace in his first game for France? I am not sure that DD will want more than 3 strikers on his final roster (I am considering Remy as a striker, along with Benzema and Giroud) so the opportunity for another pure striker to go to Brazil are thin. But maybe DD cannot pass up a goal scoring player...
Players on the outside looking in - Menez, Clichy, Ben Arfa, Stambouli, Cabella, Ben Yedder, Gignac, to name a few.

Should be an interesting list on Tuesday. What do you think of the list?  

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

PSG - chickens coming home to roost. Fair play hits club hard.

PSG now knows the penalty they will pay under the new UEFA "Fair Play" rules to target rampant spending (think PSG and Manchester City). Speaking of the citizens, they are believed to be fined a hefty amount as well - 50m pounds. But for this post, let us focus on what PSG is facing next season. After trying to convince UEFA that their sponsorship deal
PSG ... you have been naughty
with the Qatar Tourism Authority for £167m-a-year was deemed not valid and put PSG in violation of the fair play rule. The penalties PSG face:

  • PSG will not be able to increase their payroll, which is already the highest in Europe at 240m euros.
  • PSG will not be allowed to purchase any players during the transfer window until they sell off players. They can also only spend 60m Euros on one "star player" but cannot break it down into 2 players for 30m or 3 for 20m. Not sure what about buying rotation players at say 5m Euros...
  • With regards to transfers, they are allowed only 21 players on their Champions League roster as opposed to the usual 25 player list. Also at least 8 must be formed by the club.
  • Finally they will have to pay a nice little fine of 60m euros paid out over 3 years. 
With this ruling, expect things to be very interesting in Paris this summer. It could be argued that if PSG had a healthy Zlatan they might have gone further in the Champions League, something their wealthy owners are most interested in than saving a few Euros to get back in the good graces with UEFA. Their current squad should once again challenge for Ligue 1 as well as domestic cups next season, even if they do not add any new players. Other than the obvious impact on the coffers, here are some story lines to be watched:
  • Look for many of the rumors of player exits to gain more steam and some coming to fruition. Even without this penalty, PSG had to do something with Cavani. Under Blanc's current system, the striker has had difficulty emulating the impact he had in Italy with Napoli. Rolling out a 4-3-3 left the Uruguayan striker out wide, somewhere he did not seem comfortable being. With rumors abound about him heading to the EPL, Manchester United being one of the most discussed destinations, I think there is fire where there is so much smoke. Look for Cavani to end up either in Manchester or in London with Chelsea.  This will also free up 10m Euros in salary.
  • The log jam in the midfield. Blanc leans on the trident of Matuidi, Motta and Veratti in his 4-3-3. With the addition of Cabaye over the winter, and the rumors of targeting Pogba as well as the emergence of Rabiot and you have a bit of a log jam. It will be interesting to see if the Pogba transfer gets shelved and what happens with Rabiot, who is rumored to be heading to Chelsea. Will PSG look to off load Veratti? Sell him to the likes of Arsenal? What about the Pastore? Who is really a central midfielder and has been more of a bench player. I see Pastore being moved, probably back to Italy as he is excess already and moving his 4m Euro salary would be seen as an addition by subtraction. I think Rabiot will be kept. Not only is he a talent but he is home grown...something that is going to carry even greater importance next season. Also, look for Sissoko to be moved as well.
  • Speaking of log jams, what about the wingers? Menez, Lucas and Lavezzi are all
    Closer to reality?
    options on the wings. As is, out of position Cavani. However there are some rumors that PSG will make a push to bring back Hazard to Ligue 1. The fact the Belgium winger has had some words with the Special One, might add some fuel to that fire. Could PSG move Menez and Lavezzi, to then use their one big signing to get Hazard? That would slot Hazard on the left and Lucas on the right...seems like a good formula. With Menez and Lavezzi out - PSG would save over 7m Euros. Granted if they added a player of the likes of Hazard they would be adding payroll.
PSG will have to do some house keeping this summer. They will have to get rid of some of the expensive dead weight they have - Pastore, Menez, Sissoko are first to come to mind. They will need to figure out what to do with Cavani. I think the situation, both on the field and on the balance sheet means he will be heading out of Paris.

By the beginning of next season PSG will still be a favorite to win the Ligue 1 title. The question will become, can they manage the balance sheet and the penalties to get their club to a position where they can challenge for a European title?