If March’s embarrassing Nou Camp collapse put a major question mark over Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain future, then failure to retain the club’s Ligue 1 title will surely increase the chances of the Spaniard looking elsewhere for employment this summer.
The former Sevilla manager could yet steer the Parisians to a domestic cup double – the League Cup has already been won, and there’s a French Cup Final date against Angers in the diary – but such trinkets won’t impress the club’s owners.
This is not the return on investment they crave. Winning Ligue 1 is the minimum requirement.
But even then, as Laurent Blanc knows, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) see Champions League glory as their ultimate objective.
Three league titles, two French Cups, three League Cups in his three-year tenure were not enough to see the club’s most successful manager ever get a fourth season at the helm.
Failure to go beyond the quarter final stage of the Champions League three seasons on the bounce saw him replaced by the up and coming Emery.
Leading PSG to a fifth consecutive Ligue 1 title looks to be beyond the Spaniard.
Last Sunday’s disastrous 3-1 defeat at third placed Nice leaves them needing snookers to overtake Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco.
Much might depend on how Falcao and co react to their own recent deflating Champions League experience at the hands of Juventus. But the Red and Whites remain clear favourites.
The 6-1 defeat at the hands of Barcelona was a massive setback for a club that appeared to be getting to grips with the Champions League.
Year-on-year under Blanc, there were results and performances that suggested growth and development.
Emery’s unprecedented treble of Europa League titles with Sevilla suggested that the 45-year-old might have the necessary nous to make the breakthrough at the highest level.
Their 4-0 first leg win, in which they swarmed all over the Catalans in an exhibition of the high intensity football Emery professes, looked to be a major statement of intent.
Of course, Barcelona were not the side of a few years ago, but PSG never let them play.
But the manner in which they collapsed in the Nou Camp dealt a heavy blow to the team’s confidence, Emery’s standing and, perhaps most critically, QSI’s esteem.
Galling as it must have been, the ease with which Juventus ousted Luis Enrique’s men in the last eight put PSG’s failure in a more unflattering light. Messi and co, who actually didn’t play all that brilliantly on the night, were there for the taking.
Had PSG played with the same bravery and intent they showed in the first leg, they would have qualified comfortably.
The Parisians’ failure to rise to the occasion in a number of big games has been a feature of their season.
Domestically, the have failed to beat either of their title rivals, picking up a paltry two points from the twelve on offer against Monaco and Nice.
Of course, beating rivals is not a requirement in a title tilt, but in a tight race, it can be telling.
And given the extent to which PSG dwarf their rivals in terms of finance, expenditure and squad depth – failing to put them in their place is not a good look.
In defence of the manager, PSG have certainly missed the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz. And few of those brought in have fared particularly well.
The likes of Julian Draxler, Grzegorz Krychowiak, and Goncalo Guedes could well come good, but it may be a season too late for Emery.
Ultimately, the Spaniard needs more time to impose his preferred style and see it implemented consistently.
Arguably though, the high energy pressing game and the quick transitions may not suit players more used to Blanc’s more considered approach.
Indeed, some of the older players simply may not have the legs for it.
But will the club’s owners afford him that level of patience? Will they feel that with the resources available, Emery should at least be delivering Ligue 1 and should have avoided that Nou Camp embarrassment?
Right or wrong, changing manager is a lot cheaper and easier than replacing players. Will they act on that seductive notion?