With Messi, what scheme will PSG play with?

When Mauricio Pochettino returns to Camp des Loges this week, he will see Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria and Messi in front of him. With them were Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler and Pablo Sarabia.

With a coach known for his high-pressing, energetic football like Mauricio Pochettino, he has not been able to completely bring about the same image at PSG since leading this team.

That's life

That’s life“Ici C’est Paris”, Messi appeared at Bourget airport – Paris in a T-shirt with that text. The whole world watched that event and it shows how much influence Lionel Messi has…

In a team where Neymar and Mbappe just don’t have to have health problems, this duo will almost always take the main kick in attack, and these two stars provide little support in the process. defense on the front lines. But because of the values ​​​​that Neymar and Mbappe bring when having the ball in the attacking front, the “special” is understandable and the remaining individuals in the system need to make more sacrifices.

Now, with the addition of Messi, the problem of balancing and balancing the defense will become even more difficult for Pochettino.

MNM trio with Di Maria

The headache that not everyone is fortunate to receive like Pochettino does not come from having to arrange Neymar, Mbappe, Messi or Di Maria on the attack, but it is to find a common perspective for the remaining positions. again.

Even if you want to put all four attacking stars above into the same system and put them in the starting lineup, the solution will still be available. Brazil of the 1970 Mundial used to bring maximum attack power with a 4-2-4 system. In terms of position, the regular range of Neymar, Mbappe, Messi and Di Maria offers an easy answer if you choose the scheme in that way: Neymar on the left, Di Maria on the right, Mbappe and Messi side by side. up front with PSG’s new number 30 playing backwards as a “virtual 9” or an “enganche” in the traditional Argentinian style.

If Messi played low and behind Mbappe, the system with the “fantastic four” present on the field would probably be 4-2-3-1. Last season, 4-2-3-1 was also one of Pochettino’s two most frequently used systems at Les Parisiens.

During his 17 years with the Barcelona first team, Messi has made evolutions in terms of position. If in the early days, El Pulga was still simply a winger with a tendency to cut diagonally into the middle to finish, then since Pep Guardiola sat on the Barcelona coaching bench, Messi began to move in. middle way until it becomes a true “enganche”. The ways of deploying troops and selecting personnel later in Barcelona through the generations of coaches also always find ways to help Messi maintain this position. In theory, Messi is often placed on the right wing, but the coverage on the field is always dense at number 10.

In that central position, Messi is right at the hot spot zone 14, can both approach the 16m50 round, as well as continue to play the role of building the game like at Barcelona, ​​including going deep down the middle circle. field to receive the ball and develop the ball.

But it also means that Neymar’s influence will not be the same at the Park of the Princes. In the last season with Barcelona (ie 2016/17), the position of the MSN trio (Messi-Suarez-Neymar) is quite clear. In which, Neymar plays in the position of left wing striker. The range and location of the Brazilian star’s shots are also mostly concentrated in the area to the left of the 16m50 round, as this illustrative map comes from The Athletic.

Neymar's activity trend is concentrated on the left wing

Fast-forward to the 2020/21 season that has passed with PSG, the position of Neymar’s shots has spread out more evenly. That reflects the freedom in his play and position. The same story was also seen at the last Copa America 2021. But when PSG has more Messi, Neymar can hardly be the one to receive the ball regularly and become the focus, the sharing is mandatory.

Neymar's activity trend at Copa America

However, if all of the aforementioned fanciful quartets are on the field, PSG’s midfield will lose in numbers. The other stars will probably retreat, but being present is not enough, because the requirement lies in the level and effectiveness of defensive support. The big responsibility will fall on the central midfield pair.

Last season, in the arena Ligue 1, if playing with a 4-2-3-1 system, Idrissa Gueye and Danilo Pereira are the duo that plays most often in the center of midfield, serving as a platform for Di Maria, Neymar, Mbappe and Moise Kean above. While in the Champions League arena, also when the same system was used, the person chosen to stand by Idrissa Gueye regularly was Leandro Paredes.

This summer transfer season 2021, PSG also brought in Georginio Wijnaldum. At the past Euro 2020, the Dutch midfielder was given the opportunity to penetrate and approach the opponent’s box more. But with the situation of PSG, Wijnaldum is afraid to return to the role of a “cleaner” when there are too many “artists” in front of him. Choosing which central midfield duo will be an important problem for Pochettino, if 4-2-3-1 with fantastic four play together. It will not be too surprising if this tactical plan and personnel is brought out by the Argentine coach to display in the Ligue 1 playground on a regular basis. But with the Champions League arena, especially against formidable opponents, it is difficult.

Sacrifice Di Maria

If not for the fantastic four to play together in exchange for more balance between the lines, perhaps Angel Di Maria will be the player that Pochettino has to sacrifice.

In the past two seasons, Di Maria deserves more recognition than he receives. In the 2020/21 season, in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, Di Maria assisted PSG the most with 13 times. Before that, in the 2019/20 season, also in the two most important arenas, Di Maria had 20 assists, also the most Les Parisiens. The creativity and especially the stability of Di Maria, however, cannot match the natural attraction of Mbappe and Neymar.

Sacrificing Di Maria for that would be an unfortunate and deliberate move for Pochettino. But it would still be a more forgivable decision than sacrificing one of the three names Neymar, Mbappe and Messi. Saying sacrifice does not mean that the Argentinian player nailed regularly on the bench, but that there will be rotation options from Pochettino through a system that is not 4-2-3-1, despite the season. In the previous tournament, Di Maria inherently did not play much.

Sacrifice Di Maria

If not 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 would be an understandable choice. This is also the system used mainly by Pochettino last season when it became clear that it provides a more balanced balance between front and midfield. This will also be the system that brings the most acting space for Leandro Paredes. The key trio of midfielders in the 4-3-3 system in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League in the 2020/21 season of PSG are Leandro Paredes, Marco Verratti and Ander Herrera.

A flat 4-3-3 could still put PSG in a trio of top splits with midfield, i.e. a realm on each line. But anyway, Neymar, Mbappe and Neymar with their ability can decide the match on their own. And especially the midfield more or less also have more troops. In the past, Barcelona under Luis Enrique also had success with such a split system when owning MSN in attack: The role of playmaker was less dependent on midfield, by the likes of Messi, Neymar and Messi. Suarez that day could do it all by themselves.

Another possibility when accepting the sacrifice of Di Maria is that PSG will play with a 4-4-2 diamond system: Neymar and Mbappe in attack, Messi playing behind at the top of the diamond in midfield, or Neymar and Messi swap positions with the same diagram. Basically, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 diamonds easily rotate with each other.

3-man defense

With Sergio Ramos in hand in the summer 2021 transfer window, PSG can provide an image of a defense that is a combination of Ramos in the center, Marquinhos at center-back and Presnel Kimpembe at left-back. At that time, Pochettino can use a three-man defense system, through 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2.

Using this system provides a more solid defensive foundation, as Thomas Tuchel did at Chelsea last season. Since then, PSG can still continue to promote the fast counter-attacks as it has performed in the Champions League in the 2020/21 season.

Under Thomas Tuchel at PSG, the German coach even put Di Maria in the role of a left wingback. If Pochettino still has the idea for a fantastic four to play together, that can be a reference. However, the ideal would probably still be the wingback pair Achraf Hakimi and Juan Bernat forming a 5-man defense when not in possession of the ball for Les Parisiens.

3-man defense

However, if defensive certainty is emphasized, once again the numbers in the center of midfield are exposed. Whether 3-4-3, 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2, Pochettino’s use of Neymar, Mbappe and Messi could hardly be different. This further thins PSG’s midfield. The lesson of England in the Euro 2020 final against Italy needs to be considered, especially when dealing with opponents who possess a good midfield to maintain possession or simply create dominance. in terms of numbers in this area.

So, it can be seen that owning Messi does not give Pochettino a headache about how to position the stars in the attack compared to which system to choose, how to arrange personnel in lines and positions. rest. Well, the life of a coach rarely has such a headache.

Hoang Thong Le Foot


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