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

Comments (2)
Comment by danielmak 2012-01-12 20:27:51

There is clearly a regular process that plays out when rich men buy teams: they spend a lot of money on very good players who tend to be selfish or who don't know work well quickly in a team unit. The players who do work well are kept and the others are sold off or more likely loaned out for a loss. The team finishes in a higher spot because so much money was spent and even talented players who don't fit well together are talented enough to finish toward the top of the table. The next wave is to fire the coach and replace him with someone who has more experience working with a collection of international stars. And, again, the most selfish players are sold or loaned out and replaced with players who will now come to the team because it has started to succeed and that next wave of players seem to be more team-oriented. That is, they aren't constantly crying that they want a transfer (e.g., Robhino, Tevez, and Adebayor). We saw this with Chelsea, we saw this with Man City, we will see this with Malaga and PSG.

All of that is to say that PSG was going to fire Kombouaré no matter what. He could have seen what happened with Raneiri and with Mark Hughes. And to be honest, PSG should still be in the Europa League and PSG should still be in the Coupe de Ligue. Although the players ultimately got bounced out of those competitions, not the coach, the coach needs to get the players ready to play and needs to make tactical changes to win games against sides that should be beaten. Kombouaré didn't do this. Ancelloti will do a better job with this team and he will be a draw for the next round of players who will be more stable (again, see what happened with Chelsea when Mourhino arrived and with City when Mancini arrived).

Comment by jameswba 2012-01-13 05:56:36

I did wonder how much this sacking had to do with Europa League elimination. I saw a couple of PSG's group games and was very disappointed with them. Either some of those players aren't quite as good as they're said to be or they weren't too bothered with the competition. Bilbao were by some distance the best side in that group and Salzburg's progression at PSG's expense was well-merited. PSG could only manage one goal in two games against Slovan Bratislava.

'Ancelloti will do a better job with this team and he will be a draw for the next round of players who will be more stable (again, see what happened with Chelsea when Mourhino arrived and with City when Mancini arrived).'

Not sure it's that clear-cut. I do agree Ancelloti will be a draw. I also think Mourinho sorted out a lot of the Chelsea egos when he arrived (notably Hernan Crespo - wasn't it said that he'd been 'taking the piss for months' under Ranieri?) but quite a lot of the 'throwing dollies out of prams' at Man City has actually gone on under Mancini.

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