Ahead of the new Ligue 1 season, here’s a look at the big name signings, departures and what’s next for Paris Saint-Germain …
The big question: Can Thomas Tuchel take PSG to the next level?
French football has been curious about new PSG boss Thomas Tuchel. There are so many questions over him, ranging from his coaching, management and personality. He also needs to get the best out of Neymar, to give Kylian Mbappe the freedom that he needs, and to build a strong collective unit with all the individual talent at his disposal.
Up to now, the signs are positive and the players are totally on board with what Tuchel wants them to do. The way they interrupted his news conference after the superb 4-0 victory against Monaco last Saturday in the Trophee des Champions — showering him with champagne and making him to sing in front of everyone — showed the strong relationship the dressing room already has with their new manager.
The drills at training are interesting, the intensity is there and the tactical work with a lot of different systems has gripped the players. Tuchel wants his team to play a high pressing style of football with intensity and movement. He wants his players to be able to set up in to different formations and attack in different ways.
However, the acid test for the former Borussia Dortmund coach will be the results. He has been hired to take PSG to the next level. By that the club means to improve in Europe and reach at least the semifinals of the Champions League. Domestically, Tuchel and his team won’t be troubled. There will be no title race, no real tests, except maybe away at Lyon and Marseille.
Is he good enough and experienced enough to succeed in Europe? Will this first season be more of a learning curve? Can he afford it to be only a learning curve? Tuchel needs to hit the ground running straight away to get the momentum going and make the players and fans believe they can win the Champions League.
Tuchel is a very intense, hardworking coach; a perfectionist with bright ideas, incredible tactical knowledge and so far his players are in total harmony with him. All the ingredients are there for success.
The big signings
1. Gianluigi Buffon. At 40, and after 17 years at Juventus, the Italian goalkeeper decided that PSG was the best project to embark on to continue his career. For the club, it is a win-win situation: Buffon came as a free transfer, is another big worldwide star and will bring huge experience.
2. Aleksandr Golovin. The Russia attacking midfielder was one of the stars of the World Cup on home soil. Monaco spent €30 million to sign him from CSKA Moscow and will hope he can be the team’s new playmaker.
3. Danilo. The 22-year-old Brazilian might not be a household name just yet but he could be very soon. Joining Nice from Braga after impressing in Portugal last season, he is a very technical central midfielder and a former Brazil under-21 international.
The big departures
1. Thomas Lemar. He almost left last summer and last January; this time, Monaco could not keep him at the club. Lemar chose to go to Atletico Madrid and will link up there with his friends Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez, with whom he won the World Cup with France.
2. Fabinho. Another key player in Monaco’s title winning season in 2017, the Brazilian is one of the most intelligent players of his generation. Like Lemar, he was determined to leave the Principality and will certainly achieve great things with Liverpool.
3. Javier Pastore. He was the first big signing of the PSG revolution back in the summer 2011. But after seven years of ups and downs, many injuries and a status of substitute more than a starter, the playmaker went back to Italy, signing for Roma.
Who will win the league?
Ligue 1 would love a title race but everyone knows it won’t happen. PSG are untouchable, even with a new manager in charge and with the uncertain dynamic of the Mbappe-Neymar duo.
Their demolition of Monaco last weekend with a B team showed how far ahead of the competition the Parisians already are. PSG have only made one signing so far, in Buffon, but they have kept all their stars and Mbappe has moved into a new dimension too. Lyon and Marseille, who have also kept their best players, will try to push the champions as far as possible, but Monaco may struggle.
Who will qualify for Europe?
Like last season, there are three clubs fighting for two Champions League positions. Lyon, Marseille and Monaco will battle the rest behind PSG and one will miss out. Marseille missed out last time but their desire for revenge, the fact they have kept all their best players and that they will strengthen their squad before the end of the month, puts them in a strong position.
Lyon are in a similar situation having kept all their leaders — including Nabil Fekir after his move to Liverpool fell through — and will get new players in too.
Monaco look the weaker of the three. The departures of some of their leaders (Lemar, Fabinho and Joao Moutinho) and an even younger squad than last season will make it tough for manager Leonardo Jardim. He has already stated this could be the hardest season since he moved to Monaco four years ago.
It is hard to see anyone else breaking into the top four. Rennes have the momentum from last season when they finished fifth, and Nantes have hired a talented manager in Miguel Cardoso who did great things at Rio Ave last season.
Nice have opened a new chapter with Patrick Vieira in charge and Mario Balotelli is still there for now.
Battle at the bottom
Last season, two out of the three promoted teams, Strasbourg and Amiens, managed to stay up, while Troyes went straight back down.
Nimes and Reims were promoted to Ligue 1 this season and they will struggle to stay there. Their squads are still quite thin, despite some new faces coming in and the lack of experience at that level could also be costly.
For Amiens and Strasbourg, the second season in the top flight could prove very tricky too. Caen, with a new manager, and Dijon could also have a tough year.