On Sunday evening, Unai Emery fell short in his first Le Classique match-up at the Parc des Princes, with Paris Saint-Germain held to a 0-0 draw with Olympique de Marseille.
PSG may remain undefeated at home, but drawing 0-0 against their bitter rivals is not the result that is going to have everyone believing he is the right coach to take this club to the next level.
Far from a classic match, new Marseille boss Rudi Garcia set up his team in a way to frustrate and limit the Parisians. The former Lille boss won the tactical battle, and Emery didn’t seem to have an answer to the 5-3-2.
.@BafGomis: “We can match any team. We’ll try and pick up points, match by match.” #PSGOM pic.twitter.com/l60xYO8XsC
— Olympique Marseille (@OM_English) October 23, 2016
It worked, and PSG failed to create any real chances in the first half. Too often there were limited options in the final third. There was a lack of movement, with huge gaps between the midfield and the front three. The hosts ended up relying on mistakes from the defence, rather than being able to create their own opportunities.
Marseille failed to impact the game in a positive way, but at least you could say that they arrived in Paris with a game plan, something that can’t quite be said for the Spanish manager.
“For me, every game is important when you are defending the colours of Paris Saint-Germain,” Emery told reporters before the game. “That’s the case for the players, but also for me. Having said that, a game against Marseille has a particular flavour, and we’re going to play it in front of our fans which makes this one even more special.”
The PSG fans leaving the stadium would not have been filled with a special feeling after that performance, and rather than the players, it is the Spanish coach who is coming under fire.
Marseille didn’t push up the pitch in the second half, but it became clear that they were coming for point and that it was up to PSG to stop them.
Emery making his 1st change before 60 minutes. Is this really happening? #PSGOM
— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) October 23, 2016
Fans and journalists have been critical of the former Sevilla man’s decision to make late substitutions, so when they saw Blaise Matuidi ready to enter the battle before the hour mark, it had them excited and shocked.
Then, when Marco Verratti’s number was shown on the board, the fans inside the stadium turned. Even the Italian himself was angered by Emery’s decision. He tried to hide his initial thoughts with his hand, but his body language and eyes gave it all away.
Marco Verratti après son remplacement pendant #PSGOM #Jplus1 pic.twitter.com/BowULn9MLm
— J+1 (@jplusun) October 23, 2016
A tweet with subtitles from JPlusUn, a Canal+ TV show, suggested that Verratti was questioning Emery’s decision. Asking if he was bad, if the coach thought he was bad. It’s clear that not everyone in this team is on the same wavelength.
It’s understandable, too. Thiago Motta—despite, according to WhoScored.com, completing 93.2 percent of his passes and making 29 more passes than anyone else on the pitch—was ineffective at anything more than simple passes across the middle of the park.
Our performance can be summed up by the fact that Motta stayed on pitch for 80 mins against a team that routinely put 11 men behind the ball
— PSG Tourist (@PSGTourist) October 23, 2016
Quite often over the past few games, that link between Verratti and Matuidi was the instigator in a number of PSG goals. Motta’s last league assist came in the second game of the 2015/16 campaign at home in the 2-0 win over Gazelec Ajaccio. He’s not that type of player. Verratti is.
When you are dominating the game and playing against a side that will fail to record a single shot during the game, you don’t need Motta, not even the Motta from three or four years ago. Especially when you are keeping Adrien Rabiot on the pitch.
Also, the fans weren’t happy when Emery made the decision to take off Angel Di Maria for Jese Rodriguez. It was a coin toss between the Argentinian and Lucas Moura, but it’s clear that the style of performances, the results and the coach’s decisions are not sitting well with the Parc des Princes crowd.
Regardless of how or who they are playing, PSG will always get one chance. One clear chance that will give them an opportunity to win all three points. As Emery would have hoped, that chance fell to Edinson Cavani, but the striker with nine goals this season missed when it seemed easier to score.
on compense avec edi pic.twitter.com/TMZkf6k5dB
— philippe (@philousports) October 23, 2016
It’s one thing to score four against Caen when the game isn’t a challenge, but in a tight, frustrating game, when goalscoring chances are thin on the ground, you need Cavani to be clinical. This is the biggest criticism against him, and he did nothing to change that view on Sunday.
.@RudiGarcia: “There’s been a real team spirit. I asked for 2 things before the game: solidarity and cohesion. Both have been fully met” pic.twitter.com/fiAygiwmGf
— Olympique Marseille (@OM_English) October 23, 2016
The only person who wouldn’t have been frustrated with Sunday’s performance would be OM’s new manager, Garcia. He parked the bus, and as he did time and again at the Parc des Princes with Lille, he made Marseille competitive. He may have parked the bus, but he did it convincingly.
It’s interesting to see outsiders, especially those that followed his time at AS Roma, look critically on his side’s inability to create a shot on goal through the 92 minutes, but there is no one in France who will look poorly on what Garcia achieved on Sunday night.
Rudi Garcia will blame this on __________? 🎻🎻🎻 https://t.co/rsdNZYq359
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) October 23, 2016
That was easily Marseille’s best defensive performance of the season. There’s no way to know if he will stick to that formation, perhaps with William Vainqueur to come back, the prospect of going to 4-3-3 would cope better against the less-demanding opponents. But Garcia picked the right personnel for the fixture, and the league’s decision to hand Rolando the Man of the Match award backed that up.
It was only the centre-back’s second appearance of the season, but he was heroic in the middle of the defence. Helping to guide Doria and assist Rod Fanni, they stopped PSG from dominating in the positions on the pitch that they would trouble the back five.
An almost perfect night from Garcia. A bad, poor night for Emery. It almost feels like a loss to PSG. To play OM at home and struggle and crawl towards a draw, especially the way Marseille has played previously this season, is two points well and truly lost.
Well done Emery, well done #PSG. #PSGOM pic.twitter.com/MVPoR6cwxD
— Andreas Karlsson (@AndKarlsson) October 23, 2016
Something has to change in this PSG system. Perhaps it’s time for Emery to listen to his career, rather than disgruntled players, and go back to his Plan A: the 4-2-3-1. He has the players to play it in a different number of ways, even without the likes of Javier Pastore and Hatem Ben Arfa playing from the start.
These past few weeks have been poor. They say playing bad and getting the points is the sign of champions, but PSG have gone past that now. They are now six points behind Nice at the top of the table.
Emery needs to change something, or it is not going to get better any time soon.