PARIS -- "Revons plus grand" -- "Dream bigger" -- the new, upwardly mobile Paris Saint-Germain motto, is plastered all around their Parc des Princes ground. Perhaps it was the inspiration to the person who conjured up the circuitous, almost epic-length walk the press now need to take to reach the media entrance. It is a surprise there is not a drinks station en route.
The 15-minute round trip, circumnavigating the adjacent Jean Bouin Stadium of rugby club Stade Francais, allowed not only time to reflect in four-letter-word technicolour on the sort of "thou shalt not pass" zeal shown by the stewards that the Daily Mail would love to instill in British immigration officials, but also -- inspired by the brain-like exterior of the rugby venue -- on the more cerebral nature of the oval-balled sport.
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It also raised the question as to the functioning state of my own grey matter: What on earth was I doing there? PSG had been woeful in their streaky midweek win over Valenciennes, who probably deserved even more than a point only to fall foul of Edinson Cavani; PSG's early Saturday evening opponents, Toulouse, have all the inspiration of a well-trodden doormat. Fortunately, the surname of their coach, Alain Casanova, allows for much punnery-japery in the press box, which threw a brightly coloured veil over what was a largely thankless 90 minutes.
After signing his one-year contract extension on Tuesday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had said he had done so not only because he was given a reported €1.2 million more a year but because he claimed "I cannot see greater ambition in Europe" than that at PSG. He may have a point -- certainly in terms of press access -- but against Toulouse, Laurent Blanc's team showed barely more aspiration than a pub team on a boozy continental end-of-season tour.
With 30 minutes gone, it was a game of chess, though stalemate rather than checkmate was the more likely outcome. Never the most adventurous, Casanova sucked all the romance out of the affair from the off, even if an early Etienne Didot header -- that brought a sharp, full-length save from Salvatore Sirigu -- suggested the visitors might not merely allow the pre-match passion to quickly fade.
Barely 10 minutes in, and the best first touch of the evening was shown by a pensive Blanc in the technical area when the ball went out of play; after half an hour, the Parc des Princes crowd -- who habitually have all the patience of a teething toddler anyway -- were booing. Even a member of the press corps sought solace in the sandwiches of the press room, muttering darkly under his breath.
The sum total of the excitement before Marquinhos bundled the ball over the line shortly before half-time -- appropriately enough cueing the welcome "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the 19-year-old's untidy but effective effort -- was a tempting diagonal ball behind the back four by Adrien Rabiot and the pleasing fact that Sirigu is clad this season in an old-school green goalkeeping kit, leaving his opposite number, Ali Ahamada, to sport a still more garish version of the fuchsia strip the Italian donned last season. The fashionistas assembled in the French capital for Paris Fashion Week no doubt approved, but they would have been the only ones to have a positive impression after 45 minutes' play.
After half-time, no doubt PSG improved, particularly with Ibrahimovic somewhat more mobile than in the opening half. His duel with the equally immovable Aymen Abdennour was entertaining, with one tussle between the Swede and the Tunisian leaving the former flat on his face and the latter with a win by an ippon. Ibrahimovic's departure, mouthing threats to Colombian Abel Aguilar after apparently exchanging blows with the Toulouse midfielder, for Edinson Cavani with 21 minutes left, was perhaps more with Tuesday's Champions League encounter against Benfica in mind rather than further evidence to support the nagging suspicion the pair cannot play together.
What does seem clear, at least on the evidence of the Toulouse game, is that Cavani works better as the central striker in Blanc's 4-3-3 rather than being exiled to the left flank to accommodate Ibrahimovic through the middle. Irritatingly pacy as far as Toulouse were concerned, the Uruguayan charged clear to win what was a debatable penalty he himself scored barely a minute after having raced back to the edge of his own box to recover possession. With Radamel Falcao earning appreciative ooh-la-las for his work rate as well as his goals for Monaco, the man who trumped him in terms of summer transfer fee seems to be keen to prove "anything he can do, I can do just as well."
What was worrying is that the Toulouse game -- again -- showed PSG's limitations. Though Toulouse's stifling tactics and the prospect of their impending European date did not help them, Blanc's side were frustratingly static, and singularly uninspired. The win over Bordeaux earlier in the campaign has been acknowledged universally as PSG's most complete performance so far simply because it is the only one in which they have convinced. It is also perhaps worth bearing in mind that when PSG played Toulouse, Bordeaux were in the relegation zone.
What must be of concern to Qatar Sports Investments, PSG's owners, is that Blanc was brought in to improve on the successful but unspectacular football played under Carlo Ancelotti, and surpass the Italian's achievement of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, and if possible win it. So far, he has clearly not managed to do the first, while the second issue remains to be resolved though looks far from promising.
Yes, there are mitigating circumstances for Blanc, not the least of which is how to shoehorn Cavani and Ibrahimovic into the same side. But, on the basis of the Toulouse game, which was more than characteristic of PSG this season, basketball stars Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum, hailed by the Parc des Princes crowd as the pair gave the ceremonial kick off having recently brought the European title home to France, will almost certainly be the only continental champions that fall within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower this season.