PARIS (AP) — It seems no one is overly worried about Paris Saint-Germain’s defending. Certainly not the coach, Thomas Tuchel, or the captain, Thiago Silva.
Why would they be worried after conceding four goals to the team placed next-to-last in the French league?
Why would they be worried after conceding two goals in seven minutes against Lyon the previous weekend?
Why would they be worried when the team is about to face one of the best attacks in Europe?
Over the past four games familiar cracks have appeared in a PSG squad trying to avoid going out of the last 16 of the Champions League for a fourth straight season.
On Tuesday night the French league leaders travel to Borussia Dortmund for the first leg of their last-16 encounter, against a rampant lineup which has netted 24 goals n six games.
PSG was without its two best forwards — Neymar and Kylian Mbappé — in Saturday’s 4-4 draw at struggling Amiens. Midfielder Marco Verratti and center-half Marquinhos came on in the second and made an expected impact. PSG rallied to lead 4-3, only to concede again in injury time.
Leaving out some first-team players doesn’t justify how bad the defending was, considering PSG trailed 3-0 after 40 minutes.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was one of nine internationals in an experienced lineup led by long-serving captain Silva, and featuring two Premier League-hardened midfielders in Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye.
Silva was caught out of position on two of those three goals. On the other, he wasn’t close enough to the scorer and afforded him too much room to turn and shoot.
The 35-year-old Silva’s fading speed meant he was unable to cover enough ground, a problem evident during a midweek French Cup match. Amiens also played the ball in behind him because he was too static.
So what will Dortmund’s 19-year-old scoring starlets Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland do against him? Haaland scored his ninth goal in six games on Friday. But when asked if the poor performance against Amiens was worrying for him ahead of the Dortmund game, Silva was emphatic.
“No, not at all, because players will be coming back into the side and we will show a completely different mentality on Tuesday,” he said. “In the first half, it wasn’t the PSG we know.”
Tuchel acknowledged his players were not concentrating properly against Amiens and that it was “too easy to create chances” against his team.
He leaped from his bench, bursting with anger, when Amiens scored after just five minutes. It set the tone for a half where PSG constantly lost the ball in the middle and Amiens — despite its humble status — carved holes in a retreating defense.
Strangely, not to say defiantly, Tuchel saw no cause for concern.
“I’m not worried, I am confident. I know what we did and where we were missing something. It’s human, it’s normal,” Tuchel said. “I was angry after the 1-0 and the first five minutes. Then I tried to stay calm. These things can happen, even if we don’t want them to.”
His explanation seems ambiguous. Because if it was “normal” to have such lapses in a game, then why did he get angry?
If it were normal to play so erratically, then PSG would not be 10 points clear at the top of the league.
The opponent, too, must be taken into account.
For this was not Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona — the teams which have eliminated PSG from the Champions League in the past three seasons.
It was a team with the league’s second-worst defense, one which has tallied less than half of PSG’s leading total of 67 goals. Amiens’ top scorer Serhou Guirassy has only six.
Still, Tuchel continued to sound defensive when pressed about his team’s shortcomings.
“I’m not going to lose my head, either,” he said. “Now everyone’s going to say ‘We’re worried, we’re worried, we’re worried, there are many problems.’ No. That’s life, that’s football.”
It’s hardly a convincing argument.
More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports