Mauricio Pochettino- Bringing the Best Out of Star Players
On January 23rd, newly led PSG under Mauricio Pochettino faced 7th ranked Montpellier. Today, we will dive into the attacking tactics that Pochettino utilized, and how it unlocked the best attributes for Neymar and Mbappe. During the buildup from midfield to final third, Pochettino utilized a 1-3-6 formation. Diallo became the last defender standing to cover any counter attacks. Verratti, Paredes, and Marquinhos occupied the central area near the halfway line. Florenzi and Kurzawa both pushed up near the touchline to create width, while Neymar, Mbappe, and Di Maria stayed in the central area of the field, constantly rotating and linking plays amongst each other. Ahead of the creative trio, Icardi led the line.
The main tactic for PSG was to create overload in the central area of the field, quickly pass the ball to the fullbacks by using the vision and the keen passing ability of Verratti and Parades, and break down the opposition near the touchline by the fullback linking with CM. This was highly affective due to the fact that the three central players (Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria) pulled the opposition central players inward, and forced the backline to step forward. By doing this, it created space in behind, and isolated the opposition fullbacks in a 2 vs 1 situation. If the opposition were to go on a counter attack, Paredes, Verratti, and Marquinhos were responsible with rest-defense to prevent opposition to go in behind.
The trend of using the fullbacks for crosses and looking to shoot on goal inside the box was shown in data as well. Provided by WhoScored.com, we can see that both fullbacks operated high and wide in the pitch to create width. In addition, most of the crosses came from the fullbacks as well (Florenzi with 4, Kurzawa with 3, which was the highest number of crosses in the team).
In addition to pushing fullbacks high and wide, PSG also looked to directly play in behind using numerical overload in the central area and using the pace of Mbappe to their advantage. This tactic was highly affective due to the fact that PSG were successful in rotating players within the midfield to create passing lanes amongst each other. By doing this, Neymar was able to find space and time to play the ball behind the opposition backline. In addition, Mbappe used his explosive pace to get in behind the backline with relatively no issue. Montpellier, on the other hand, did a poor job of line management and gave up too much space behind the defensive line.
Another example of CMs being able to find the movement of Mbappe behind the backline.
During counterattacks, PSG were extremely dangerous as well. By the keen awareness of finding open space and vertical passing, PSG were able to unlock the tight defensive organization of Montpellier. The following sequence took only 3 vertical passes, but the pace and the movements of the players was extremely deadly.
The individual skill for Neymar stood out in this game as well. Although Neymar is known for his flashy skill, he possess great awareness and key movements to create separation between the defender to receive the ball. In the following video, Neymar's double movement created separation in order to flick the ball in behind the defensive line to Kurzawa.
The final score between PSG and Montpellier was 4-0. Time will tell how PSG can prosper under the Argentinian boss, and it will certainly be a team to keep an eye on.