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Paris Saint-Germain and the pressing problem of the PSG trio

In theory, Paris Saint-Germain’s MNM trio is very strong. However, they are not perfect and also have weaknesses.

Messi Neymar Mbappe

In the rock / metal village, all artists agree with the following concept: “Dozens of people beat or not equal one person to beat.”

Since lead guitarist Slash left Gun N’ Rose, among the replacements that leader Axl Rose sought out was the famous “mutant” Buckethead, but in the end, this relationship only lasted for a while. It was short and ended without leaving anything truly memorable but the tales of Buckethead’s eccentricities. Also, the infamous Zakk Wylde was previously a tried-and-tested name in the search for a guitarist to play doubles with Slash in Gun N’ Rose, but in the end there was no joining.

Another example, after the death of The Rev drummer, the name brought back by Avenged Sevenfold to replace the deceased brother’s position was the legendary Mike Portnoy – he was also The Rev’s idol – but The two sides only stuck together for a year and then went their separate ways. The two names that Avenged Sevenfold came up with later, Arin Ilejay and Brooks Wackerman, both had a much lower reputation and level than Mike, but both – especially Brooks – were longer with the A7X, also like satisfying the rest of the members more.

It’s clear that making a good band isn’t simply about bringing together the best, most famous people in their respective positions to succeed. The same is true in football, and Saint Johan Cruyff once had a brilliant quote on this issue: “If you merely select the best players for each position, you will not have a real squad. strength, but just 11 single outstanding individuals.”

It is for that reason, after Lionel Messi officially landed at Paris Saint-Germain, besides the atmosphere of excitement, admiration, praise and exaggeration, as well as envy for the strength of the club. owner of the Parc des Princes, there is also a sense of anxiety mixed in.

However, the question is whether PSG’s “Dream Team” in general, and the highly-anticipated trio MNM (Lionel Messi – Neymar – Kylian Mbappé) in particular can combine into a truly excellent army and Helping Les Parisiens realize their ambitions or not, will completely depend on Mauricio Pochettino’s ability to use people. And only time can give the most accurate answer. But right now, we can still clearly see the problems that will make the Argentinian military leader struggle to find solutions.

But first, let’s think about the positives, because the top attacking stars that PSG have are worthy of us. Messi, Neymar and Mbappé are all excellent at getting the ball into the box, all three of them able to create chances for teammates or score on their own.

Messi Mbappe Neymar
Messi, Mbappe, Neymar – the perfect attacking trio of PSG. Photo: Paris Saint-Germain

Worried about Mbappé’s speed at the top of the line? My condolences to you; Chances are that will leave you open a lot of space behind the French striker, and that is where Messi and Neymar have tortured and destroyed so many opponents over the past decade.

Do you also want to prevent this? Well then, good luck. If you divide the rating scale of each set of indicators of the players into from 1 to 99 in order from poor to good (percentile), Neymar and Messi both have the “99th percentile”, or at least 98th. when included in the group of wingers/attacking midfielders (that is, above 99% of the players in this group), in the aspects of “drag”, translational passing, actions leading to shots shooting (shot-creating actions ) and npxG+xA (“expected goal without penalty” plus “expected assist”). In addition, if you put Messi in the group of central strikers, except for npxG+xA which “only” has the 97th percentile, the rest of his aspects are 99.

Remember, no opponent could really completely neutralize Neymar or Messi during their years apart, and now both will be on the field at the same time. In addition, if you are too focused on the crazy goal of removing both Messi and Neymar from the game, it means that you are spending less “resources” on stopping Mbappé, one of the profitable players. the most harmful in the football village in taking advantage of the gap and exploiting and penetrating the gap.

When the ball is in the last third of the field, PSG’s destructive power – in theory – will be terrible, and to admire that power will be a blessing, an honor for anyone. anyone, as well as a pleasure to enjoy.

However, in the defensive phase – when possession is in the possession of the opponent – ​​negative problems can arise and adversely affect this team – because of the superstars they admire the most.

Last season, Messi recorded 8.92 pressing every 90 minutes, while Mbappé was even lower with 7.71. When included in the group of players playing in the position of attacking midfielders/wingers for comparison, the percentile for both Messi and Mbappé is only 1, while if placed in the group of central strikers, the percentile of Messi and Mbappé is only 1. they are also only 8 and 4 respectively. Neymar is clearly superior to the two teammates in this respect, but the figure of 15.64 pressings per 90 minutes is recorded in the Brazilian star in terms of performance. basically just average among players in the same position, with the 52nd percentile.

Messi stays, Barcelona still has a lot of work to do
Messi is a super attacking player, but in terms of pressing, his statistics are not high. Photo: Getty Images

Ángel Di María owns very impressive numbers in this respect (18.24 per 90 minutes and 75th percentile in the wingers/attacking midfielders), but it’s the Argentinian’s take on playing a “double lead” role on the attack instead of one of the other three is extremely unlikely – for a variety of reasons.

So, the question that needs to be asked is whether PSG can realize their biggest ambition – to win the Champions League – with an extremely lazy pressing front line?

In the 2020/2021 season, the statistics of the average pressing times per 90 minutes were recorded in the 4 players who most often took charge of the attack of Champions League champions Chelsea including Mason Mount (21.3), Christian Pulisic ( 17.4), Kai Havertz (15.4), and Timo Werner (13,1).

Before that, Bayern Munich had won the Champions League with four attacking players recording at least 12.6 pressings per 90 minutes: Robert Lewandowski did just that, while 17.2 was Kingsley’s number. Coman, Serge Gnabry at 17.8 and Thomas Muller at 22.7 – 75th percentile among wingers/attacking midfielders (with just one month to turn 32, respectable. !).

In the 2018/2019 season, Liverpool’s top attacking trio also displayed a similar image in the period when possession belonged to the opponent, Roberto Firmino was recorded statistics of 23.6 pressing times per 90. minutes, while Sadio Mane is 19 and Mohamed Salah’s number is 16.1.

Even the attack of Real Madrid’s army to conquer the Champions League for the third time in a row also pressed more, more aggressive than the pressing method of the MNM trio last season: Although Cristiano Ronaldo only recorded the number 8, 9 and Gareth Bale are (only slightly) inferior versions of Neymar with 14.2 pressings per 90 minutes, but Karim Benzema’s statistics are 16.7 and Isco (21.5) is also a significant name. used, even replaced Bale in the final.

Mason Mount Christian Pulisic
The recent Champions League winners all have pressing specialists on their team. Photo: Getty Images

It can be seen that, even though the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the schedule of tournaments, thereby creating negative effects on the physical aspect of the players, the champions Champions League opponents are all teams that possess a very pressing attack. If counted in the past 4 seasons, no team has won the championship in Europe’s most prestigious arena that has done it with a lazy pressing attack as the image is likely to appear in PSG in the next 2 seasons. .

Will they have to experience more disappointment because they have built a team that goes against the general trend of top football? Or will their attack be so good that the mentioned weakness completely overshadows? Or, by some miracle, the legs of the MNM trio will suddenly have enough energy to help PSG not have to regret for “lagging behind” compared to rivals?

It can be said that if PSG can realize the dream of conquering the Champions League when the top three attacking players are really MNM and the three of them do not need to change the intensity of their activities during the period when the opponent controls the ball, it would be like in a world where power metal is dominating, a Doom metal band re-emerges and takes the top of the charts.

(Stats used in post from FbRef)

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