Summer of change beckons for Chelsea
There are many areas Chelsea need to work on this summer, not least finalising the permanent replacement for Guus Hiddink. But this was a clear demonstration that, once that work is done, they need to spend some serious money on this midfield too. That has been Chelsea’s blind spot for years and while Jose Mourinho managed to briefly glue it together with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas last season, it clearly needs major work again.
Last night Hiddink partnered Fabregas with Jon Obi Mikel and Paris Saint-Germain, even without their heartbeat Marco Verratti, were far too sharp for them. Adrien Rabiot is not first choice but he found it far too easy, as did Blaise Matuidi despite being far away from 100 per cent fit. Matic has not recovered from his struggles against Mourinho, Fabregas needs a defensive platform and Mikel is further from the top level than ever before. Chelsea need to get their chequebook out.
Away goals rule is out of date in this day and age
The away goals rule was created in a different era of European football, when conditions were inconsistent, referees biased, and travelling treacherous. To win away against a good team was almost impossible, which was why one away goal counted double. But why, in 2016, is that still the case? There was nothing unfamiliar about Stamford Bridge for PSG, this was their third game here in three years, on standardised pitches, with standardised officials. All the away goals rule achieved was making Chelsea too cautious early on, before shutting them out of the tie when Paris scored their second. It is a 20th century anachronism and should be abolished.
PSG have it too easy in their own championship
PSG have won just one of their past four Ligue 1 games but even then are still 23 points clear of second-placed Monaco. That extreme dominance, beyond anything enjoyed by anyone else in Europe, may play against them. Last night they flitted between brilliance and complacency, as they often do, looking like a team that has never had to learn about discipline or application.
For the first 20 minutes PSG played unbelievably good football and threatened to take the game far away from Chelsea’s reach. But they could not score a second and soon enough sloppy mistakes started to creep into their game. They always tried to play out from the back but gifted the ball back to Chelsea far too regularly, something they have to worry about less when playing Ajaccio or Guingamp. They have as much technical ability as anyone, but experience of competitive intensity is another matter.
Diego Costa proves he is anything but a ‘fraud’
Gary Cahill warned before the game that Diego Costa did not need any extra motivation, after Paris Saint-Germain’s social media team had decided to include him in a video entitled ‘spot the fraud’. Whether or not Costa saw the video is unclear, and his motivations are not always easy to read. But last night he played as if he had a point to prove.
There is a theory with Costa that he is all talk and no walk, that he is merely an agent of chaos and a master of the dark arts. That theory is nonsense. Costa is a clever, gifted, powerful centre-forward as he proved again here last night. He gave Thiago Silva and David Luiz a very difficult evening, not least when he skipped inside Silva to score Chelsea’s goal in the first half. He is not quite back at the level he reached last season, but he is not far away, as he proved again with this quality performance on the biggest stage of the season.
Di Maria shows you can take risks on biggest stage
Angel Di Maria can be infuriating but there can be no doubt that the good outweighs the bad. He is an unlikely player in the modern game, a risk taker who does not mind losing the ball four times if the fifth ball is perfect. Last night he made some mistakes, and lost the ball in some inadvisable areas. But he was also the best player on the pitch, the creator of both PSG goals, and the most important reason why they are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
It was Di Maria, the former Manchester United player, running into the vacant space at left-wing, whose perfect first-time cross allowed Ibrahimovic to end the game from close range. He is a brilliant player who deserves to be back on the biggest stages.