Champions League takeaways: Arsenal and Manchester City have no cause for complaint, PSG could go all the way

Alex Grimm

Paris Saint-Germain are worthy contenders for the big prize, while Arsenal and Manchester City cannot complain about the manner of their defeats after the first Champions League knockout games.

Paris Saint-Germain's thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen on their own patch was hailed by the French press as the re-emergence of the 'real' PSG - "the beautiful, the strong", as l'Equipe oozed. It was certainly something of a warning shot, which should remind everybody of the team's quality and potential to be successful in the tournament.

Of course, there is something more impressive than winning 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen: winning 5-0 at Bayer Leverkusen. That was a feat achieved by none other than, er, David Moyes' Manchester United, and at a time when the German club were in considerably better form. The Bundesliga is a very weak league this year, and in both games, Bayer were dreadful. Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti gave perhaps their best performances of the season, true, but they did so against a midfield that was previously overrun by Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones.

That's not to say PSG couldn't go all the way -- they certainly could, but the evidence does not lie in their all-conquering performances, or even in Europe. Instead, the way they've brutally and ruthlessly killed off games under Laurent Blanc offers their best hope. The coach has found a new resilience and spirit at the club which may be less exciting, but will certainly make them very difficult opponents in Europe for any big team. Combined with a host of players who are capable of finding something from nothing, they should be feared as much as any other opponent as the tournament progresses.

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Meanwhile, Manchester City and Arsenal learned the problem with having defenders who can produce fine displays but are prone to errors - that they are capable of ruining a season in a split second. They might feel hard done by and unfortunate, but it can't be ignored that these sort of things tend to happen to the worse teams more frequently than the better. They certainly seem to happen more often to the team that starts Martin Demichelis.

Most bizarre, however, was Arsene Wenger's defence of Wojciech Szczesny after the game, something that many people backed him up over, as if the red card was given for dangerous play or reckless force. What possible debate is there to be had if a player who is clean through on goal is brought down without the aggressor getting the ball? Hearing "he went for the ball", a defence now mostly abandoned in League Two, come out of the mouth of Wenger, was oddly jarring.

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Whispers have been flying for a long time, but things are reaching boiling point over the transfer of Mesut Özil. Last night was perhaps his worst game for the club -- by the time he missed his early penalty, he had already halted a couple of Arsenal counter-attacks and struggled to be effective in the game from then on. After the red card, he proved to be a liability, something that didn't escape the notice of Mathieu Flamini, who took to shoving and shouting to get his point across.

Now, of course Özil wasn't signed for his workrate, but if a player cannot be bothered to track runners when his team are only 1-0 down and playing with ten men in a Champions League knockout stage then something is clearly wrong. It would be excusable were Özil scoring magnificent goals and putting in glorious, matchwinning performances, but even offensively he's been par for the course at best.

Özil will have plenty of time to make something of himself at Arsenal, but it's ironic that, after being hailed as the inspiration for the club believing they were back among Europe's elite, the only player who appears unconvinced of that assertion is, judging by his disinterest, Mesut Özil.

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Milan are probably joining the dustbin of European history for yet another year, although Clarence Seedorf can make a far better claim than Massimiliano Allegri that the team's shortcomings are down to the squad rather than the manager. He managed to extract some excellent performances yesterday, most notably from Adel Taarabt of all people, who hadn't looked that good since he played in the Championship in Queens Park Rangers' promotion season.

The way Milan are run suggests he will have a job in rebuilding the squad on anything like a sustainable basis, but if he can continue to make the most of a bad situation and come back stronger next season, the omens could be good for Seedorf. Unfortunately, that may not be at Milan, where he'll presumably be landed with another cartload of 32-year-old defensive midfielders and full-backs to boost their chances come summer.

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