PSG manager Unai Emery struggled to string words together when asked to justify the shambolic defensive performance by his unit at the Camp Nou against hosts Barcelona. Brazilian attacker Neymar ran rings around the defence leading the Spanish giants to the next round on the back of a 6-1 win in the 2nd leg with the Parisians blowing a 4 goal lead.
The Spanish manager finally painstakingly mustered together a statement to the media, describing the debacle as a major consequence of lack of composure under pressure and a paucity of experience.
‘In the last few minutes we lost everything we had worked so hard for, and there’s no explanation for what happened in the final minutes, it was all or nothing. There can be no excuses, we did not play in the first half. After winning 4-0 in the first leg this is very difficult to accept, but we have no choice. You learn from negative experiences in the future and this is a very negative experience for the players, for me and for the staff.’
This loss was understandably a tough pill to swallow for the board who decided to invest in players considered nothing short of the best during the summer window prising Neymar from Barcelona for a world record sum along with talented French youngster Kylian Mbappe who had earned a glowing reputation for himself on the back of top-quality performances for Monaco. With world-class attackers like Neymar and Mbappe in the squad, there were many who termed the Parisians as the outright favourites for the Champions League.
Impressive performances in the group stages against the likes of Bayern Munich resulted in Emery’s men being billed favourites even after being paired against defending champions Real Madrid. Sadly, the skeletons in the closet tumbled out at the most inopportune moment possible after Madrid attackers Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema caused havoc in the heart of the defence with their inch-perfect accuracy and rich experience. A second consecutive exit in the early stages sealed Emery’s fate who was ruthlessly sacked in favour of ex-Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel known for his rock-solid gameplay and flawless tactical acumen.
The German manager certainly got a taste of the grave issues plaguing his side after a 5-1 thumping against Arsenal with German attacker Mezut Ozil and Gabon striker Pierre Aubameyang dominating the proceedings. The desire to add some much-needed stability to the backline reflected in the club’s fierce desire to target quality defenders in the ilk of Jerome Boateng, Diego Godin and Felipe Luis. The search has finally ended with ex-Schalke defender Thilo Kehrer who was swooped by the Parisians for a reported sum of €37m after negotiations with Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng failed to end on a satisfactory note.
However, the main question on everyone’s lips is whether Thilo Kehrer’s addition can effectively plug the holes in the defence for PSG?
Kehrer made his Bundesliga debut for Schalke in Feb 2016 as a substitute in a 3-0 win against rivals Wolfsburg. The young, lanky defender, however, announced himself to the world in style on April-1,2017 in a fierce derby against local rivals Borussia Dortmund earning his side a 1-1 draw on the back of a stunner.
The German defender was a key factor in Schalke eventually finishing as runner-ups thriving under manager Tedesco, earning praise from none other than Barcelona legend Eric Abidal. However, what makes him the perfect addition to the PSG squad is his awe-inspiring versatility after being deployed in as many as 8 positions in the Bundesliga. Kehrer enjoys a cool head, strength and awareness enjoying the ability to hold his own under pressure. Tuchel can easily deploy Kehrer who is comfortable with both feet as per his requirements with the 21-year-old capable of contributing with surging runs in attacks as well.
Kehrer could very well prove to be the next diamond from Schalke joining the likes of Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane in the illustrious list.
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