Written by @JordTheDesigner
“Getting rid of Cavani, Silva, Alves and Buffon is a bold move for any manager but by a new manager at PSG, with the level of scrutiny and expectation from the board, Eric Moreau may already be setting himself up for failure. ” - Jose Mourinho on Bein Sports (August 2019)
Implementing the project
The Ile de France has always produced some of the best youngsters that France has to offer, teams from all across the country send their scouts around the outskirts of Paris, looking to sign the next big star of French Football. Monaco, Lyon and Marseille frequently find a gem and convince the Parisian players to move further afield. PSG’s new manager Eric Moreau wanted to change all that, he wanted to make sure that young Parisians dreamed of playing for PSG and knowing if they were good enough they’d be offered a pathway to the first team. Before the appointment of the 37 year old, who had played his football in the lower leagues of France, there was only 3 players born in the region who were part of the first team squad.
By the start of the season that had changed to 15, through signings and promoting players to the first team. Former youth products Kingsley Coman and Moussa Dembele were brought back to the club after the sales of Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani, despite the Uruguayans stand out season, Eric Moreau looks to place his trust in his more youthful forwards. Julian Draxler, Juan Bernat and Jese quickly followed the two South American’s through the exit door, Moreau had little need or want for bit part players on high wages. Moreau’s project began to attract the attention of the worldwide media when Buffon, Dani Alves and Thiago Silva were all told that they could leave. Buffon returned home to Parma whilst Dani Alves and Thiago Silva found themselves in the Premier League for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. The last to leave the now heavily depleted squad would be Kevin Trapp, Mazxim Choupo-Moting and Layvin Kurzawa, leaving the team with 14 first team players and youngsters who could play a part throughout the season.
Tagy Ndombele was the first of the Paris Project signings through the door, a strong centre midfielder with an eye for a through ball, Moreau believes that Tagy can be his Yaya Toure in the midfield. With both left backs sold and no real standouts in the academy, Mathieu Gonclaves was brought in from Toulouse and instantly loaned out to Orleans in the second division, Mathieu would be one for the future. After spending most of the season injured, Bernard Mendy has transfer listed by Man City and was quickly on a plane to Paris, the attacking left back would be appointed as vice captain in the coming weeks. Alphonse Areola was the only recognisable goalkeeper at the club after Frankfurt offered to give Remy Deschamps first team football, Bingourou Kamara was swiftly brought in and will compete for the number 1 spot.
With no number 10 at the club, Moroccan Amine Harit was brought in from Schalke after his £21.5m release clause was activated. After a stand out pre-season Harit could prove crucial to PSG’s European challenge. The final signings for the first team were the experienced striker Wissam Ben Yedder and exciting centre back prospect Evan N’Dicka who was scouted by Man United and Arsenal before PSG struck early and brought the heavily sought after French Under 21 star to the club.
The Paris Youth
Maolida, Quinas, Konango Mbon, Touati and Massengo were all brought into the reserve team to develop and push for the first team football in future years. Maolida, Touati and Quinas all left on loan valuable experience. With the reserve team and youth team each containing 25 players, the development system were a lot more streamlined and and players who wouldn’t be good enough in the future for the first team were let go.
After numerous meetings with the board, no progress was made with increasing the youth coaching or gaining an affiliate, this combined with the loan restrictions that only 7 players can be leave on a domestic loan meant that the development pathway was still as vague as ever, hopefully by January this will have some progression.
One positive for the youth development was the PSG will feature in the UEFA Youth League and the Premier League International U23 cup, allowing some of the players to gain experience against the best youngsters in Europe.
The Asian Experience
Pre season consisted of nine friendlies and the Trophee des Champions which was played in China. The first two friendlies were played around France with Niort and Paris FC playing host to the richest team in France, both games saw seven goals with PSG winning 5-2 and 6-1 respectively. The first of two tours was next on the agenda as PSG traveled to the Benelux region playing affiliate Antwerp, Sevilla, Feyenoord and Ajax. Three wins, 13 goals scored and only four goals conceded was a big confidence boost for the youthful PSG team.
The second tour saw PSG with all the new signings bedded into the team by this point travel to Japan ahead of the season curtain raiser. Kashima Antlers were the first team that newly appointed captain Presnel Kimpembe would lead his team out for. A professional performance saw the French side take home a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Harit and Coman. With two games in four days and only a three day break until the Trophee des Champions, Moreau played two differing starting XI’s in the games against JEF United and Sanfreece Hiroshima. The rotation proved no issues as PSG scored nine across the two games and came away with convincing wins, a good sign ahead of a tough Ligue 1 opening few games with Lyon and Marseille on the horizon.
1500 fans made the trip to Shenzhen for the game against Coupe de France winners Strasbourg, the team responsible for the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. Eight of the fourteen players to feature were born in the Paris region, whilst another two, Tim Weah and Kimpembe are both home grown at the club. Within the first four minutes, the travelling fans had reason to celebrate as Kingsley Coman tapped home a Bernard Mendy cross after Strasbourg failed to clear Neymar’s dangerous cross the goal free kick. Two minutes later and Neymar delivered another valuable free kick with compatriot Marquinhos towering above his marker and heading past Sels to give the Parisians an early 2-0 lead. Ten minutes later, with Strasbourg struggling to get out their own half, Mendy and Coman again combined to put PSG 3-0 up and out of sight. From the 30th minute on the game descended into a keep ball session with Ndombele and Neymar finding the net in added time to give PSG an eight Trophee de Champions, overtaking Lyon’s record.