France's big three need plenty of work if they are to compete in Europe

Harry Engels

Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco and Olympique Marseille could all become much more dangerous in Europe in the near future, but a lack of vision is hampering their emergence as real forces.

As with all clubs which have had the word "project" applied to them, Paris Saint-Germain's recruitment policy is not an immediately obvious one. It has left the club with a deeply imbalanced squad, and their future transfer plans show little sign of being able to redress it. They may well go far in the Champions League this season, but they still look a long way from having a team which does justice to their comparative riches.

The general belief in France is that Paul Pogba will be the number one target for the club in the summer. He meets the two obvious criteria of being French, and a marquee signing, as arguably the best player of his age in the world at the moment. It's not an entirely superfluous move either - PSG's current problem with attempting to accomodate both Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left them needing to play a 4-4-2 much of the time, and Pogba's physicality makes him a far better option as the ball-player in such a system than the lightweight and lethargic Marco Verratti.

It's not obvious what reason is behind it, but there are a lot of average players in this PSG squad getting away with not being good enough. Perhaps the status of PSG and underachievement in Europe by French clubs has led them to almost be considered akin to the French national team by some. Perhaps last year's European campaign left them believing they had less to do in order to build a Champions League-winning side. The focus on certain key members of the side, who may or may not be Swedish, has certainly distracted from potential scrutiny afforded to others. But there is a lot of work to be done here.

Primarily, full-backs are the problem. Without players of a sufficient calibre in either position, PSG's already questionable defence is worsened, and the lack of drive in their midfield is also exacerbated by not having good enough players bringing the ball out from defence on the flanks as an alternative. Yet there is an extraordinary amount of faith being placed in Lucas Digne, with Christophe Jallet and Maxwell far from up to standard.

It's probable that AS Monaco will help push PSG onto the next level too. Although, curiously, both they and Marseille, another potential challenger, have almost exactly the same weaknesses in possessing only vague promise at full-back. All three clubs have taken different approaches to the transfer market, but all have invested in youth, and then seem to expect instant returns.

As for Marseille, they would appear to have a lot further to go - should they lose to Dortmund tonight, they will be the first former winner of the competition to go out of the group stage without a single point. Injuries played a large part, as well as deciding to virtually forfeit the competition as soon as it looked unlikely they would go through. They are in a good position overall, but still at an obvious disadvantage.

They have as much future talent in their ranks as either of their two rivals, from genuine world-class potential in Florian Thauvin to their other new recruits this summer, as well as a handful of players good enough to launch a title challenge. But the strange Ligue Un deity which bestows invincibility on a random team each season appears to have missed Marseille out once again. An excellent summer has been negated by an inability to recruit managerial talent of the same calibre.

In all, it's odd that the first-choice fullbacks of the big three in France should contain the likes of Rod Fanni and Jallet. Chasing Pogba, Cavani and Falcao is certainly ambitious, but giving Alex another contract to continue as a first-choice central defender and assuming Digne will become good enough suggests they lack ambition of a different kind, the sort necessary to build a team genuinely capable of challenging at that level.

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