Paris Saint-Germain v Arsenal: PSG have lost invincible aura following loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and look vulnerable for visit of the Gunners
They might have become one of Europe’s most feared clubs since their 2011 takeover by a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, but a summer of flux has left Paris Saint-Germain looking uncharacteristically vulnerable as they prepare to face Arsenal.
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Ruthless PSG jettisoned manager Laurent Blanc in order to hire Sevilla coach Unai Emery during the close season, saw totemic frontman and global marketing tool Zlatan Ibrahimovic depart for Manchester United and then sold another of their biggest stars, David Luiz, back to Chelsea.
The results have been mixed. Injuries have left Emery short of senior players in defence and attack, and PSG have started their Ligue 1 title defence in sluggish fashion, with seven points from four games.
Emery facing litmus test
Emery led Sevilla to an unprecedented hat-trick of Europa League titles, and his recruitment was a pointed attempt to improve PSG’s results in the Champions League, where they have failed to translate domestic dominance into European progress.
In their four consecutive years of winning Ligue 1, the two most recent of which featured a clean sweep of all four domestic trophies, PSG always bowed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, most recently against Manchester City last term.
A first major European fixture, against their main rivals to win Group A, represents a litmus test for Emery, then, although the Spaniard’s last two games have seen PSG thumped 3-1 at Monaco and held 1-1 at home by Saint-Etienne.
Ibrahimovic not replaced
PSG have struggled without the prolific Ibrahimovic. The club did not sign a direct replacement, with Hatem Ben Arfa, a free transfer from Nice, the main attacking arrival. Edinson Cavani, handed the central role he has craved, as has scored just once in three league games.
At the other end, the sale of Luiz has left them short of fit senior players in defence. Centre-back Thiago Silva is yet to play this season, while injuries to full-backs Serge Aurier, Layvin Kurzawa – their leading scorer – and Maxwell have left the rearguard looking threadbare.
Playmaker Javier Pastore is the only doubt in midfield, where by contrast PSG are abundantly stocked with Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Blaise Matuidi.