PSG comfortably beat Bayer Leverkusen over two legs to confirm their spot in the next round of the prestigious European competition. As soon as they were drawn to play against Chelsea, both the teams have flirted against each other as the clock ticks down to kick off. Chelsea fans were intrigued at how the Parisian team line up. Yes, I can assure you that they don’t have 11 Zlatan Ibrahimovics playing in the Zlatan formation at the Ibrahimovic Stadium.
Paris Saint-Germain won their round of 16 second leg tie with a score-line 2-1, which was drastically different from what happened back in Germany. I’ve been able to pick up a few fine points about their system, which are open to be refutable.
First off, this is how PSG lined up in that game.
Their somewhat 4-4-3’ish lineup is very detailed. Many sides in Europe do pay attention to finer details but I honestly didn’t expect Blanc to do the same. The 4 at the back are aggressive if I were to define them in one word. The full-backs literally get forward at every opportunity while tracking back in time (not always common). The two center-backs under the leadership of Thiago Silva aren’t afraid to push at oncoming forwards.
In front of them sit a three man midfield , in which two rotate. In this case, Cabaye and Rabiot rotated while Pastore acted as the connector between the forwards. Cabaye was the passer. We all wanted him at Chelsea and it’s not hard to see why. He’s always composed in situations of high pressure. Rabiot is the rougher one. Not afraid to tackle and willing to push you off the ball. Pastore was quite lazy in the game. Barely tracked back but did well to connect and hold the structure ( I’ll not judge him through this game) .
The front three is composed of Lavezzi, He Who Must Not Be Named and Cavani. Cavani and Lavezzi have brilliant work-rates. They never hesitate to get back which is one of the main reasons PSG have a brilliant clean sheet record in Ligue 1.
To summarise, this gif will help –
(watch it more than once to pay attention at everyone)
PSG conceded their first goal in the 5th’ish minute , so I’ll have a look at that.
Paris have given the ball away, and Bayer have a chance to reorganize and work their way down one flanks. One of PSG’s biggest downfalls is that they’re easily attracted towards the side where the opponent is attacking. This opens up space on the opposite side of the pitch.
Here we have the midfield three in one side. So you can imagine how only Lavezzi and Digne are on the opposite flanks, with the midfield wider than Arsenal’s goal after picking up the ball 6 times from the net. Bayer midfielders have sensed this, and attack right at the throat.
Here we can identify two mistakes.
1. Pastore’s pitiful work-rate – In the game he would even make Fernando Torres looks like an absolute work-horse. He ran a bit and then casually started walking while Cabaye and Rabiot kept up with the play. Jallet pressed high , which both the full-backs did throughout the night.
2. Marquinho’s ‘not so clever’ pressing – He was easily attracted, and the next thing you know , he made a dreadful tackle which let the wingers easily proceed down the flank. I don’t even think that was a tackle to be honest. He hesitated, flinched and fell with a leg sticking out. The damage had been done though, PSG were now officially lopsided with a tremendous amount of loop-holes on the other side.
So to compensate, poor ol’ Digne had to drift in and act as a make-shift center-back. With Lavezzi nowhere in sight, the right-flank was now open. A pass was slotted in, which was latter crossed and met with a brilliant header. A header that even Sami Hyppia would’ve been proud of. PSG do have their defensive frailities though their League makes it look like they don’t. This isn’t a dig at the French, just an honest opinion. Apart from a few occasions such as this, PSG’s pressing and organization helped them grab a win
Talking about structure, PSG often emphasised on locking down the midfield and then proceeding to block passing lanes. This was easy as Cavani and Lavezzi weren’t exactly lazy.
The ball playing midfielder was trapped in the middle and all possible passing options were closed, which can be seen by Lavezzi’s effort in winning the back for the team from Paris.
Talking about their wide players tracking back, I must also mention that they prefer to track back inward, rather than outward. At Chelsea we have Eden and Willian tracking back outwards, which helps Cesar and Branislav close in the middle. Cavani and Lavezzi however track back into the midfield, which explains why PSG are susceptible to crosses.
Here we see Lavezzi and Cavani pressing inside exactly after being attracted to one side of the field once again .
A second later, we see it’s disadvantage as the right side opens up for Bayer.
All in all, this was just a report on a specific game, rather than an entire fixed system like I usually do. This is mainly down to my lack of time in the present moment. All in all, the first leg of the quarter-final, is going to be one exciting game from a tactical stand-point.
Open image in a new tab if it can’t be seen.