In general the 2016/17 season has left many Paris fans with a bitter taste in their mouths after failing to retain their Ligue 1 for the first time in four years to Monaco and crashing out of Europe in the most embarrassing way possible at the hands of Barcelona. Paris did end the season with both domestic trophies, however, and Edinson Cavani had his nest season in France to add a something positive to a overall disappointing first season in charge for Unai Emery.
Spanish manager Unai Emery was appointed as Laurent Blanc’s successor last summer. The expectations and excitement was high surrounding the new man in charge with the hope that he may finally be able to deliver success to the club on the European stage – after winning three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla previously. His first game in charge was a success when PSG ran out 4-1 winners over Lyon to win the Trophee des Champions and Emery’s new 4-2-3-1 formation worked a treat. League form, however, was a different story. The season started with wins over Bastia and Metz respectively but the Spaniard tasted his first defeat to the hands of Monaco only three games into the new Ligue 1 season. The 3-1 defeat was then followed by draws at home to Saint Etienne and Arsenal, but a loss to Toulouse later in September sparked a 12 game unbeaten streak… but then December came!
Shameful defeats to Montpellier and Guingamp saw Les Parisiens surpass the amount of loses they recorded throughout the whole of last season, and Paris fell behind in the title race for the first time and never really seemed to recover. Not only did December cost Emery’s men the league, a 2-2 draw to Ludogorets cost Paris there top spot in the group – ultimately putting them up against Barcelona which was a roller coaster ride to say the least.
Julian Draxler joined Paris in the January transfer window and from January onwards, the season was spit into two parts in my eyes: Before and after La Romatada. Amongst the mist of uncertainly surrounding Unai Emery’s job after such a horrendous month on the pitch , the side pulled together and won six game on the bounce, only conceding once in the process, before a significant draw at home to AS Monaco when Bernardo Silva rescued a point for the eventual league winners in added time seemed to spark the end of Paris’ title challenge.
More wins followed until the ominous fixture with Barcelona came calling for Les Parisiens. Paris defied the odds in the first leg and sent the rest of Europe into shock with an unbelievable 4-0 win in front of the Parc and that was followed by a 5-1 away win against rivals Marseille a couple of weeks later – only to brought back down to Earth in the sickening 6-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou three weeks later which saw Emery crash out of Europe in the Round of 16 in his first season in charge.
It took the team and fans alike weeks to get over the bitter disappointment of La Romatada and by the end Paris were unable to catch the run away train of Monaco who charged their way to a first Ligue 1 title in a decade, and Paris were left with both domestic cup successes to console them from an overall disappointing 2016/17 season in Paris.
With 49 goals in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain this season, nobody can argue that Edinson Cavani has been the standout player this season. It’s been talked about a lot throughout the season but Cavani really had huge shoes to fill when record goal scorer and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimović left last summer but with an incredible 35 goals in the league – taking home the golden boot for the first time in France – saw the man named ‘El Matador’ carry the side at low points score the most crucial of goals throughout the season.
Other than his goals, Cavani’s transformation into a world class striker has been most impressive in my opinion. The Uruguayan received a lot of stick and critisism playing out wide for several years, and back in September Cavani would still pass up many clear goal scoring chances, but the amazing goals scoring record shows how far he has come in becoming a leader for Paris Saint Germain and even picked up Ligue 1 player of the year award for the first time in France.
Outside of Cavani, Thomas Meunier has an exceptional first season in Paris, producing some wonder goals from right back too. Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti once again proved their world class abilities with consistent performances that got them into the Ligue 1 team of the year, alongside Edinson Cavani of course.
Of course the lowest point of the season was when Emery’s men went to Camp Nou and were humiliated 6-1, losing on aggregate after a dominant 4-0 win in the previous leg. The embarrassing defeat sent fans, like me, into tears through the utter disbelief of what they has just witnessed and it took weeks for Les Parisiens to move on from the tragic Round of 16 defeat to Barcelona.
The best way to put what happened in March into perspective is describing a video of Thomas Meunier, Marco Verratti, Blasie Matuidi and Julian Draxler joking about throwing away the 4-0 lead they had heading into Barcelona… Heart-breaking!
Paris Saint Germain probably put on the greatest show and performance that the Parc Des Princes will ever witness from Les Parisiens when they blew Barcelona apart in that 4-0 thrashing earlier in 2017 which sent shockwaves across Europe – only to blow it three weeks later.
The game that doesn’t break my heart to recall, however, was the 4-1 Coupe de la Ligue win over AS Monaco in the final. Paris tore the eventual Ligue 1 winners apart twice in the cup competitions – also thrashing them 5-0 in the semi finals of the Coupe de France – and beating them in such convincing fashion both times on our way to a domestic double was very satisfying.
What next for Paris?
It was always going to be a transitional campaign from Paris with a new manager in charge and nonetheless not claiming a third straight quadruple is seen as a step back in the capital.
Despite his poor first season, owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi has stood by Unai Emery: stating that their is a “200% chance” that the Spaniard will stay in Paris next season. In the summer then Emery will hope to work effectively alongside new sporting director Antero Henrique to bring in new names in a critical summer ahead for Paris Saint Germain as the hope to restore glory and success across all competitions next time around.