Thomas Tuchel was eager to pay tribute to his players after Paris St Germain beat Nantes 1-0 at the Parc des Princes and went 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
In a contest that saw the unbeaten champions – without Neymar due to his groin issue – have numerous chances, Kylian Mbappe netted a 68th-minute winner, converting from close range for his 13th league goal of the season.
The large gap between PSG and second-placed Lille grew by three points with Les Dogues, who have played two games more than the leaders, having been beaten 2-1 at home by Toulouse on Saturday.
PSG boss Tuchel was quoted by L’Equipe as saying after the game: “We had 70 per cent possession, we had 23 shots. It’s amazing. We played with a lot of quality.
“We do very aggressive counter-pressing. We just lacked precision in the last touch, in the last pass.
“In my opinion, this is a match that we could win with four goals. We controlled the match.
“We deserved to win. We are tired, but that’s normal. The team has been amazing today. I compliment my players.”
Following Tuchel’s appointment at PSG over the summer, the German has overseen 15 victories in 17 league matches – they had drawn each of their last two top-flight games prior to this one – and guided the club to the Champions League last 16 as winners of Group C.
Asked for his assessment of the past few months, Tuchel said: “When you look at the results, it’s almost perfect.
“I am very, very happy. You can see the progress of the team, you can feel the energy of the team. Everyone was very open to new ideas. It’s been fun.”
Nantes boss Vahid Halilhodzic, whose side have dropped a place to 14th, was quoted on the club’s official website as saying: “We can have some regrets. The players made a good game.
“We were well organised and we did some interesting things, especially defensively.
“PSG is another dimension, perhaps the best team in the world.
“On the occasions we had, we did not have success. We were a little timid. It would have taken a little more determination, rigour and malice, surely. It’s these little details that make the difference.”
Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are being closely monitored after both suffered injuries on international duty, the Ligue 1 champions have announced.
Neymar was forced off with a groin injury after just eight minutes of Brazil’s 1-0 victory over Cameroon in Milton Keynes on Tuesday.
And club team-mate Mbappe sustained a shoulder injury after an awkward landing during France’s 1-0 win over Uruguay in Paris.
PSG, who host Liverpool in a crucial Champions League tie next Wednesday, confirmed they would reassess both Neymar and Mbappe in the next 48 hours.
A statement on the club’s official wesbite read: “Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe have undergone medical examinations today that confirmed: for Neymar an elongation of the right adductors. For Kylian Mbappe a contusion of the right shoulder.
“A period of 48 hours of care will be observed to judge the clinical course.”
Neymar believes the injury he sustained is “nothing serious”, while – after the game – Brazil boss Tite would not discuss the injury.
The player himself said in a message posted on Instagram: “Thanks to everyone who sent me messages wishing a good recovery, I think it was nothing serious.”
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar also suggested Neymar’s issue was not a major one.
Lasmar was quoted by SporTV as saying: “He has been evaluated, has already initiated the treatment. (He) will need a little more time for a better evaluation, an image exam, but at first it is nothing important.”
Neymar was replaced at Stadium MK by Everton’s Richarlison, who scored the only goal just before half-time.
A World Cup winner at 19, Kylian Mbappe has earned all the rights to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the giants of modern football.
The French wonder kid can brag about possessing the best curriculum vitae since the legendary Pele himself. With Neymar failing to live up to the promise ever since he decided to ply trade in Paris Saint Germain’s colours, we might just be looking at the next big talent after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in Mbappe.
However, to be mentioned in the same sentence as that duopoly – the two best of this generation – the World Cup winner still has a long way to go. To start with, the forward should consider a move to one of the teams in the top four leagues, preferably La Liga or the Premier League.
Ligue 1? Too easy
Mbappe became the first teenager to score a brace in the World Cup finals since Pele and tore apart Argentina in the Round of 16. However, he was relatively quiet against a sturdy Uruguayan defence in the quarter-finals and sub-par in the presence of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in the semi-final clash with Belgium.
The 19-year-old likes match ups with slow defenders playing a high line, yet he’s failed to perform against more technical and intelligent defenders. This is evidenced by the fact the Frenchman was anonymous against Real Madrid in their Champions League Round of 16 tie last season.
Mbappe failed to trouble Virgil van Dijk in PSG’s group stage fixture at Liverpool earlier this season and was totally suffocated by an overpowering Napoli giant Kalidou Koulibaly at Stadio San Paulo. More recently, he failed to draw sweat from young Dutch sensation Matthijs de Ligt.
Incidentally, these defenders happen to constitute the top 90+ percentile of the defenders Mbappe has faced in the past season or so. If Mbappe is fighting to win the coveted crown from the two extra-terrestrials, the standards are extremely high and the margin of error is narrow.
But how can one expect the youngster to perform against the very best when he’s involved in making a mockery of sub-par defenders in the Ligue 1 every weekend? PSG have won all the 13 games until now and will have one hand on the title by Christmas.
His excellent record of 1.36 goals every 90 minutes says a lot about the defenders he’s had to put up with while representing the French capital.
With all due respect to Ligue 1, Mbappe is already far too good for the league and is better off testing himself in Spain or England if he is to realise his massive potential.
Need to expand skill-set
The Frenchman’s key trait which has helped him get to the top is his incredible athleticism.
Mbappe is super quick and has incredible acceleration, but he has to prove he’s much more than that. While pushing the ball and outpacing the defender to it might help the youngster against the likes of Marcus Rojo and Javier Mascherano, there’s enough evidence to conclude that pace alone won’t help the World Cup Winner against top defenders.
Mbappe has to imbibe other attributes such as better reading of the game, improved technique and vision in order to justify his position in the upper echelons.
These are the traits that will keep Mbappe at the top of his game after serious injuries which are bound to rock his career.
Mbappe must ensure his game is not built around athleticism only and Welsh superstar Gareth Bale would surely agree with this. Touted to be the next big thing after Ronaldo, Bale failed to make it large after a series of injuries ruined his career as he had nothing to offer apart from pace and a fair bit of finishing.
Simply put, Mbappe is at the end of his learning curve at PSG and complacency might prevent him from reaching the heights that destiny has planned for him.
If he switches to any of the Madrid clubs, Barcelona or the top clubs in the Premier League, he will be able to learn a lot as an understudy to the likes of Messi, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and so on.
The learning curve is longer and steeper in England and Spain and Mbappe must step out of his comfort zone.