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Before Paris Saint-Germain – Monaco (L1, 4th day): Defense, a necessary downside for PSG?

Before Paris Saint-Germain - Monaco (L1, 4th day): Defense, a necessary downside for PSG?  - Eurosport EN

Statistics do not always reflect the reality of a match. There was thus something frankly paradoxical when reading the statistics of the meeting between Lille and PSG on Sunday. LOSC had sent as many shots as Paris (16) and had even framed more (10 against 9). However, he suffered the brilliant Parisian demonstration and a real humiliation on the scoreboard (1-7). The attack of the champion of France makes a strong impression with already 17 goals scored over the first three days of Ligue 1.

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This offensive orgy makes it easy to forget the three goals conceded by the formation of Christophe Galtier. Paris takes on average one goal per game and this figure shows a slight defensive fragility, even if the Parisians had conceded fewer shots against Clermont and Montpellier (7 each time). However, PSG generally made a good impression in the defensive sector, especially considering the switch to 3-4-1-2, radically different from last season’s 4-3-3 in all aspects of the game, and especially defensive. .

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This is one of the big differences with Pochettino’s PSG. Under the direction of the Argentinian, Paris had difficulty in controlling the exits of the opposing ball through the corridors. There is already very clear progress with Galtier. Positioned higher, Hakimi and Mendes offer better performance in pressing. Thanks, too, to the higher pressure exerted by the central defenders who do not hesitate to go out on the attackers beyond the halfway line. This requires a lot of coordination work. The Parisians have already developed quite impressive automatisms in just four official matches.

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They also know how to use a little vice by multiplying the faults to immediately stop the possibilities of opposing counterattacks when the ball is lost and allow the block to be replaced. With 12 fouls per game according to the site whoscored.com, Paris has been in the average of Ligue 1 teams since the resumption. Last season, only OM (9.1/game) committed less than the team then led by Pochettino (9.4). “Useful” faults to prevent PSG from putting themselves in danger on defensive transitions. Because that is where he is most vulnerable.

The challenge of defensive transition

This is inevitably the defect of a system which includes only two recuperators and where the pistons evolve like real wingers in the offensive phase. The exceptional quality of the PSG allows him to largely attenuate the phenomenon by limiting the losses of ball. But zero risk does not exist and the slightest error is detrimental in a configuration that automatically exposes the defense. Lille, a team which has an offensive quality probably superior to that of Clermont and Montpellier, highlighted this structural defect of the Parisian 3-4-1-2 by addressing more than 15 shots on the cage of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

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Paris has to live with this constraint, but it has already made good progress in the process which should allow it to mitigate its negative effects. He manages quite quickly to put back in place a defensive base animated by seven players (the three centrals, the two pistons and the two central midfielders) to erect a protective barrier in front of his surface, slow down the opposing progression and allow the defensive withdrawal of his elements offensive. Who must also fully play their defensive role in this system which imposes it.

The crucial role of Neymar

This is one of the feats achieved by Galtier at the start of the season. Kylian Mbappé, Leo Messi and Neymar shone in attack, but also by their activity on the defensive phases. The Brazilian, in particular. “Neymar, among the three in front, he is the one who gives the most balanceunderlined Galtier on Prime Video after the victory in Lille. Compared to this system which has many advantages but also disadvantages, it is very important that one of the three attackers provides balance. Otherwise, it can be exhausting and annoying. We have been working in this direction for eight weeks now so that everyone makes the defensive efforts when they can do so.

That it lasts is the issue that will define the ambitions of PSG this year. Paris has a completely different face than last season in its new system. With players flourishing in roles that suit them, and an offensive strike force finally equal to the exceptional talents that make up its workforce. But it is the ability of all its elements to assume the defensive constraints of this scheme that will allow PSG to display its best performance. It has the flaws of its advantages. If Paris has rarely been as flamboyant as in this 3-4-1-2, the figures already show him that this configuration no longer allows the culpable relaxations of his past.

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