2013 an excellent year for Paris Saint-Germain, what does 2014 have in store?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain clinched the Ligue 1 titleGettyImagesParis Saint-Germain players celebrate the goal that clinched the Ligue 1 title.

Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-2 draw with Lille OSC last week brought down the curtain on a successful 2013 for the capital club. PSG’s main objective going into the year was to win a first Ligue title in 19 years and, under Carlo Ancelotti, they did that and surprised many by reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League. The Italian departed at the end of last season with his job done, having won the Parisians the third Championnat crown of their history and former French national team coach Laurent Blanc is now in charge.

Brassell: Best European manager of 2013
Horncastle: 2013's best and worst players

The 2013-2014 campaign has started in impressive style and next year promises much domestically and in Europe. However, none of PSG’s potential future successes would be possible without last season’s title-winning campaign that saw Ancelotti’s side ease to an eventual 12-point winning margin. Despite being pushed close at times by the chasing pack who were led by bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille, PSG’s superior quality told by the end.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was key to the league triumph, scoring 30 goals and laying on a further seven in Ligue 1 alone, the first time anybody has scored that many since the 1989-1990 season when OM’s Jean-Pierre Papin tallied the same number. Thiago Silva and Blaise Matuidi were other key figures in the campaign, while Maxwell, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez also contributed significantly. David Beckham also enjoyed a cameo appearance and bid farewell to his illustrious career in the French capital, despite contributing precious little to the title victory.

Highlight of 2013

The undoubted high point of 2013 was the sealing of PSG’s first French title in 19 years with a 1-0 away win at Olympique Lyonnais. Jeremy Menez, now sadly a peripheral figure at the club, scored the game’s only goal to seal a narrow victory and jubilation greeted the final whistle at Stade Gerland. A lasting memory from that evening is the players staying until well after the crowd had exited the home of their longtime rivals to savour the hard-earned triumph.

Going out of the Champions League against Barcelona, only losing out on away goals, was another impressive achievement despite the initial disappointment of the exit. After eight years away from the European stage, to push the Spaniards all the way and even look capable of winning the tie at one point demonstrated major progress from the side. Ancelotti proved his pedigree in European competition by guiding the side and the experience gained from the two-legged encounter will serve PSG well as they enter the latter stages of this season’s edition.

Lowlight of 2013

Despite their Ligue 1-winning success and excellent Champions League showing, the players can be disappointed with their performances in both domestic cups. PSG were actually out of the Coupe de la Ligue by Christmas of 2012, having lost on penalties to eventual winners AS Saint-Etienne, but Ancelotti’s side also crashed out of the Coupe de France at Evian Thonon Gaillard in the same circumstances. Weakened teams were fielded for both games when the Italian arguably had more than enough depth to adequately rotate his squad and two quarterfinal appearances was not good enough. Laurent Blanc appears determined to place more importance on the domestic trophies this current season and knocking out holders ASSE to reach the league cup quarterfinals is a good start.

One other lowlight, albeit a minor one, was the 2-0 defeat at Evian in Ligue 1 at the beginning of December. The result itself was not the end of the world, but it did cost Blanc’s men the chance to break a number of records. The loss was the team’s first competitive defeat in 36 matches, since PSG lost away at Stade de Reims under Ancelotti in March, and it also cost them the chance to equal or better their own club record unbeaten streak of 27 league games. FC Nantes’ unbeaten run of 32 matches in Le Championnat therefore still remains and PSG will have to build up another impressive string of results before talk of more record breaking resurfaces.

The less said about the ugly scenes in Paris that marred PSG's title celebrations the better.

Best player of 2013

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was without a doubt PSG’s player of 2013. The year ends as it begins; top of Ligue 1, and that is largely down to the Swede’s impressive contribution. The talismanic striker netted 30 league goals in the 2012-2013 season title triumph, while in this current season he leads the scoring standings at the midway stage with 15 strikes. He has also provided six assists at present and laid on another seven goals last term. In just 70 appearances since signing for PSG, Ibrahimovic has scored 58 times and provided 22 assists, an incredible return on the club’s investment.

Worst player of 2013

It is never nice to single out a player for criticism, but in the cases of Argentine duo Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore it is necessary. The pair have been bought at high cost by the club in the two years since the 2011 takeover by Qatar Sports Investments, yet neither has really lived up to their billing so far. Lavezzi does not score enough or directly contribute to goals in order to justify his high price tag, while Pastore has regressed since his good start for the club in his first season. Jeremy Menez is not far behind these two on the list, despite scoring the title-confirming goal at Lyon; his bad attitude has undermined his talent and it looks almost certain that the France international will not finish the season in Paris.

Surprise of 2013

This year has thrown up a number of surprises, not least the excellent development of young Italian international midfielder Marco Verratti, who has come into his own with some mature performances after showing some naivety at times in the 2012-2013 season. Thiago Motta’s re-emergence from the treatment room has also been a major boost and, although people were writing off his time at PSG going into the current campaign, the Azzurri star has undermined his status as one of the world’s best in his deep-lying role.

Bought from AS Roma for almost 35 million euros, Brazilian defender Marquinhos has already started to help PSG fans get over the disappointment of Mamadou Sakho’s summer exit. The 19-year-old has played an important role in his first six months in the French capital and is now a full Brazil international. His Champions League performances, considering that he had no experience of European competition prior to this term, have been exceptional.

Edinson Cavani, another big-money summer signing, has adapted well to a new team, a new league and a new country, scoring 12 league goals in just 17 league appearances and 18 times in 25 games across all competitions. Blaise Matuidi’s excellent form throughout the 2012-2013 campaign must also not be forgotten, particularly in the early part of 2013 and in the title run-in.

However, the greatest surprise of 2013 has arguably been Motta because, aside from Ibrahimovic and Cavani’s goals and the Swede’s assists, the Italian has made some of the most important contributions on the pitch. Considering the situation he was in at the end of last season, having only featured 12 times, for the 31-year-old to launch this sort of comeback to become indispensable domestically and in Europe is impressive.

Objectives for 2014

Going forward into the New Year, it has to be Blanc and his players’ aim to win Ligue 1 once again. In addition to that though, there is more than enough quality and strength in depth for PSG to feel that they are favourites to win both the Coupe de la Ligue and the Coupe de France. A triumph in one of those trophies, particularly the league cup, where a victory would see the capital club become the most decorated side in the competition, would further underline the improvements made between Ancelotti’s reign and Blanc’s.

Reaching the Champions League quarterfinals again, particularly considering the relatively favourable draw handed to them in the form of Bayer Leverkusen, is now a minimum aim. PSG can arguably set their sights a bit higher and fancy their chances of reaching the semifinals depending on the draw for the next round. There is no doubt that the French champions have the strength in depth to challenge on all fronts and, with the right man in charge with regards to squad rotation and getting the best out of this current side, ultimate success on all fronts is not an unrealistic possibility.

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