12 January ~ Halfway through the season, Paris Saint-Germain are "autumn champions" of the French league for the first time in 15 years. They sit three and four points ahead of Montpellier and title-holders Lille respectively. Yet that was not enough for coach Antoine Kombouaré to keep the job he was appointed to in 2009. Leonardo, who became PSG's director of football last summer, doubted Kombourae's ability to improve the team’s style of play so dismissed him after a win away at Saint-Etienne. The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti was made official a few days later.
This decision has not been well accepted by PSG fans, most of them judging it unfair and brutal. It reminiscent of what happened at Olympique Marseille in 1990 when Bernard Tapie, their president and owner of Adidas at the time, fired Gérard Gili to appoint Franz Beckenbauer when the side was topping the table. The move didn't work out, with Beckenbauer leaving after only four months in charge.
Even if Leo and Carletto got on well while working together at Milan, it seems to have been a struggle to persuade the former Chelsea manager to join PSG. The first approach was made last summer. Ancelotti, whose priority had been stay in England, finally accepted the project presented to him: prepare PSG to be a serious Champions League contender in the near future.
His name – and the bottomless wallet of the club's Qatari owners – should enable PSG to attract top-class players. Ancelotti’s experience and honours speak for themselves. However, there is still a long way to go for a team that was knocked out of the Europa League by Red Bull Salzburg, Kombouaré’s biggest failure.
Ancelotti has changed the formation to fit into the “Christmas tree” (4-3-2-1) he used at Milan. We will discover whether it is more effective than the previous 4-2-3-1 in the next few weeks. Given that the midfield is constantly weakened by injuries (Momo Sissoko, Blaise Matuidi, Clément Chantôme), signing David Beckham would have made sense for the new set-up.
The new formation may also suit Argentinean playmaker Javier Pastore, who played in that system at Palermo. After an excellent start at PSG, he seems to have lost heart and become too casual in his play. Off the pitch, Ancelotti has already changed the layout of the training centre facilities, in order, it is said, to make them both more functional and friendly. Ligue 1 resumes this weekend. Matthieu Richard