When looking at the squad that Mauricio Pochettino has at his disposal, the nauseating mediocrity that Paris Saint-Germain have passed off for ‘football’ this season has simply not been acceptable.
Recent weeks have epitomised the severe disappointment that the club has bestowed upon its fanbase. Despite sitting 11 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit they’ve been, well, pretty rubbish – and that, for hefty fee-paying fans, isn’t really fair.
A 0-0 draw with Nice before only just rescuing a point at Lens in their last two domestic outings seemingly signalled the death of any hope for their European campaign. Disjointed performances lacking in the collective spirit needed for Champions League success blatantly suggested the difficulty they’d face when lining up opposite the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool or Real Madrid.
But, just when the pressure was off and there was absolutely no need to put on a feast of a performance, PSG finally dazzled.
Tuesday evening’s 4-1 blitz of Club Brugge may not have been an important result, but it was certainly a vital performance in the big picture of Pochettino’s side’s campaign.
Where PSG had previously relied on individual stars to earn results, the side was clearly pushing in a unanimous direction and stepped up to the plate as a collective on Tuesday. Where a lack of intensity and desire had previously cost the side, it was an unmatchable pace that blew Brugge away. And where fans were previously left despondent, the Parc des Princes was absolutely rocking on a glorious Champions League occasion.
From the first second there was a buzz and determination surrounding the movement, link-up and overall creativity within the PSG squad.
Kylian Mbappe’s opening strike after just 70 seconds was suggestive of the night that Brugge had in store. Then his second goal, a stunning effort coming within seven minutes, confirmed the Belgian outfit’s prior fears.
Both goals were born out of increased urgency in the Parisians’ play. From more movement between the lines – creating more opportunity for quick-minded interplay – to a visibly developed understanding between the players themselves – facilitating said interplay – things just clicked. And, playing at the speed they were in the first half, Brugge couldn’t have been expected to handle their hosts.
Indeed, seven minutes before half-time, Lionel Messi scored a stunner to compound the visitors’ misery. Mbappe was once more central, doing superbly down the left wing before playing the ball inside to his Argentinian colleague. The little magician then took a few touches towards Simon Mignolet’s goal before curling the ball around Brugge’s helpless goalkeeper.
A first half, that would have felt an eternity for Philippe Clement and his men, went by in a flash for PSG-affiliated and neutral spectators alike.
The second was a little rougher, with Brugge enjoying a resurgent spell soon after the interval. Despite Clement’s side getting a deserved goal to pull one back, however, Pochettino’s men soon regained control, bossed their opposition and added a fourth for good measure.
Generally speaking, it was a performance stacked with composure, tenacity, desire, intelligence, cohesion and unearthly quality that reared its head in the build up to the first-half goals – in other words, qualities that you wouldn’t really have paired with PSG’s season up to this point.
The 4-1 victory may mean absolutely nothing to PSG’s final standing in their Champions League group but, on a wider level, it was definitely a little reminder that they can still play – and that when they want to play, they bloody do.
It’s been quite an underwhelming 2021/22 campaign thus far, but they’re definitely still in contention for their first European Cup.