Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain slipped to its fourth defeat in the French league, losing at Guingamp 2-1 on Saturday in another setback that cranks up the pressure on coach Unai Emery.
With one game left before the winter break, PSG has already lost twice as many league games as it did last season, when it was unbeaten in the league until Feb. 28, won Ligue 1 by a record 31 points, and scored 102 goals for whopping goal difference of +83.
PSG lost only four games last season in all competitions, winning a second straight domestic treble under former coach Laurent Blanc. The other two defeats were in the Champions League against Real Madrid in the group stage, and Manchester City in the quarterfinal return leg.
“Something’s not right,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “For us, it’s a crisis.”
With the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left for Manchester United, PSG has the same side.
“It’s a problem in our minds, with concentration,” Verratti said. “We’re starting games as if we’ve won them. Football is not like that. Last season, we won because we were at 100 percent when we came out onto the pitch. We have to get that back.”
Still, Verratti backed Emery.
“We’re working harder than previous years. It’s not a problem with the coach,” the Italy international said. “It’s our fault, the players.”
PSG’s defensive frailties were exposed again as Guingamp scored twice in quick succession midway through the second half.
After forward Yannis Salibur opened the scoring in the 66th minute, midfielder Nill De Pauw added the second four minutes later.
Last weekend, PSG trailed 2-0 at home to league leader Nice and salvaged a 2-2 draw thanks to two second-half goals from league top scorer Edinson Cavani.
But despite Cavani’s 80th-minute goal – his 17th of the season – against Guingamp, PSG lost for the fourth time away from home this season.
The others were at Monaco, Toulouse, and Montpellier two weeks ago.
“I spoke to the president (Nasser Al-Khelaifi) after the game and he’s behind us,” Emery said. “It’s difficult for everyone.”
PSG has taken only one point from its last three league games and won only one of its past five overall – a midweek League Cup win over Lille – and Emery is struggling to impose his methods after replacing Blanc.
Blanc was fired in the summer because of PSG’s failure to get past the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Just months before, Blanc was given a new contract and it reportedly cost PSG around 20 million euros ($21 million) to remove him and his coaching staff.
PSG replaced him with Emery, whose reputation was high having just led Sevilla to its third straight Europa League title.
Guingamp’s win must have been particularly satisfying for coach Antoine Kombouare.
He was sacked by PSG at roughly the same stage of the season five years ago, despite his side being three points clear at the top heading into the winter break.
Kombouare explained his strategy for beating PSG.
“The idea was to stop them passing out from the back,” he said. “We closed them down high up, and when we won the ball we pushed forward quickly.”
The win moved Guingamp up to fourth place behind PSG, which trails Monaco by three points and Nice by four.
The gap could be larger after Sunday’s games, with Nice at home to 17th-place Dijon, and Monaco at home to Lyon.
A late goal from center half Christopher Jullien helped Toulouse salvage a 1-1 home draw against Nancy.
Despite dropping points, Toulouse moved within one point of sixth-place Rennes, which lost at home to Corsican side Bastia 2-1.
Mid-table Montpellier, which beat PSG 3-0 at home two weeks ago, followed up with a 4-0 home win against Bordeaux.
Also, Saint-Etienne lost 2-1 away to Lorient, which next travels to play PSG.
Five years after his last league game for Saint-Etienne, backup goalkeeper Jessy Moulin was red-carded in the 10th minute.