Paris Saint Germain played Lorient in the league today. And they won. Just like they have in each of their last eight matches, and 17 in their last 18, and 30 in their last 33. That’s because as good as PSG undoubtedly are, Ligue 1 sucks.
More so than Lorient, PSG were going up against history today. With this latest victory, the Parisiens broke Ligue 1's all-time record for the longest unbeaten streak, which had been held by Nantes in the 1994-95 season (although Nantes accomplished this feat all in one season, while PSG’s dates back to the end of the last campaign). The numbers they’ve racked up during this span are staggering:
On top of those raw stats, consider these:
- After 24 matches, PSG currently sit atop the league with 66 points from a possible 72.
- PSG have a +50 goal difference.
- Monaco, in second place, have 42 points and a goal difference of +7.
- There is a bigger gap between first and second place (24 points) than there is between second and second-to-last (22 points).
- PSG need only 19 points, the equivalent of six wins and one draw, from their remaining 14 league matches to mathematically wrap up the title—and that’s predicated on Monaco winning all their remaining games.
- Monaco are on pace to end the season with about 66 points total.
It’s truly ridiculous how enormous the difference is between PSG and everyone else.
You can’t fault PSG for the state of things. There’s no reason why a club with the resources of PSG’s owners shouldn’t go out and assemble the very best squad available to them, and it’s not their fault that no one else in France can compete. However, this set of circumstances does not bode well, either for France or for PSG themselves.
The longer Paris Saint Germain stand head and shoulders above everyone else in the league—and this dynamic has already existed for years now—the more and more entrenched the status quo will become. The Paris club will continue to amass talented players on their way towards cultivating a team that can compete with Europe’s elite, and their ostensible local competition—historically strong French clubs like Lyon, Marseille, Monaco, etc.—will feel powerless to compete and thus not even try. Eventually most every club in France will turn into a glorified sellers market, polishing up their available talent and putting them in the display window in hopes PSG or some other European team comes in to buy them. (You could argue this is already the case.)
A sorry Ligue 1 will also hurt PSG, making them entitled and complacent for nearly the entire season and trying to muster up some urgency for the Champions League knockout rounds when their weekend league matches irrelevant to them with the Ligue 1 title all but assured. Ask Bayern Munich over the last few years how sealing the league title by March can negatively affect the Champions League games in April and May.
The comparison between Bayern and PSG is probably the most illuminating, in terms those two cases’ similarities and differences. Even when Bayern have dominated the Bundesliga by similar margins, they at least could regularly count on a world-class foe at home to test their steel every season in the form of Borussia Dortmund. PSG have no reliable measuring stick in France, where they are galaxies better than even their closest rivals. And when PSG finally meet real challenges in the Champions League, they’ve regularly faltered. We can be quite sure that Bayern Munich of recent vintage would wallop all but the best two or three teams in Europe week in and week out if they had to. But we have no real way to determine just how good PSG are.
For that reason, it’s hard to feel in any way impressed by PSG’s run of dominance. Presumably there’s some entertainment value in watching them crush literally every team in the league every week, and with guys like Marco Verratti, Ángel Di María, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thiago Motta, and more, the team has to be considered among at least the top 10 teams in all of Europe. But how many teams around Europe would give them a run for their money if they were in France? Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Tottenham, Villarreal, Fiorentina—teams you might not automatically list as the best teams in the world would very likely push PSG for the title way harder than any existing French club. And there are probably a dozen clubs around Europe—Athletic Bilbao, Roma, AC Milan, Sevilla, Liverpool, to name a few—that would pretty easily be at least the second best team in France.
Until they can prove their strength against someone other than a tomato can, we can’t be sure where exactly they fit in the hierarchy. And as it currently stands, the situation in Ligue 1 does them no favors in reaching those heights.
Photo via AP