Despite Paris Saint-Germain’s crushing defeat to bitter rival Marseille, its second straight loss without even scoring a goal, the club’s sporting director Leonardo insists that coach Antoine Kombouare’s job is safe.
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Big-spending PSG has not won in three league games, and has managed only two goals in its last four games overall, increasing the pressure on Kombouare after Sunday’s embarrassing 3-0 defeat away to Marseille.
”I’ve never brought it up for discussion whether he stays here or not. He remains the coach,” Leonardo said. ”It’s a tough loss, but it doesn’t change our thinking about the team and the league.”
PSG has been linked with former Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti in recent weeks, with Leonardo even admitting he had met with Ancelotti in Paris, but saying no offer was made to the Italian, who twice took AC Milan to Champions League success.
The manner of Sunday’s defeat was particularly alarming for PSG, however, with its expensive collection of players unable to stand up to Marseille’s robust approach.
”We’re really gutted,” Kombouare said after the game. ”We had time to get back into the game. But we were nonexistent in terms of the impact and in the challenges. Things become difficult when you can’t stand up to a physical challenge.”
PSG has wealthy Qatari backers and spent ?82 million ($116 million) this season – including ?42 million ($60 million) on the 22-year-old midfielder Javier Pastore, an Argentina international. Pastore’s form has fallen off after a bright start with the club.
PSG is in second place, three points behind Montpellier – which has spent a fraction of PSG’s huge outlay, but has a tremendous team spirit and work ethic that appears to be absent at PSG.
Kombouare refused to take sole responsibility for the defeat, urging his players to show more bite.
”Marseille has something we don’t have: grit, passion, the capacity to hurt in the tackle,” Kombouare said. ”They were sometimes borderline (tackles), but that’s football.”
He added that it was a ”collective failure” and refused to single out Pastore for blame because ”everyone has to sweep up in front of their own door.”
Montpellier’s mix of aspiring, talented homegrown players and hard-working veterans, allied to the sharp finishing of striker Olivier Giroud and the superb passing of Younes Belhanda, has proved successful for coach Rene Girard’s side.
Giroud, who recently broke into the France team, scored a hat trick to lead Montpellier to a 3-1 win at Sochaux on Saturday. He cost Montpellier just ?2 million ($2.83 million) when he joined from second-division Tours two years ago.
PSG’s top scorer Kevin Gameiro has not scored in his last nine matches and was taken off against Marseille midway through the second half, along with the sluggish Pastore – who had another disappointing game.
PSG’s next two matches are crucial and may go a long way to deciding whether Kombouare stays beyond the winter break, when the league takes its annual holiday over Christmas and the New year.
PSG is at Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday, and then hosts Auxerre at Parc des Princes on Sunday.
”I still believe in my players,” Kombouare said. ”However, I’m waiting for confirmation.”