New PSG, same problems for Mauricio Pochettino
CommentsSenator: Ex-Budget official in anomalous contract had backerEduard Bañez wants to resume showbiz career in Philippines© Provided by 90min Lionel Messi could be set for a bumpy ride with PSG | ANP Sport/Getty Images
The world of football watched on on Sunday evening as Paris Saint-Germain beat Stade de Reims in the north of France.
A brace from Kylian Mbappé gave the Parisians the three points at the Stade Auguste Delaune, on a night that won’t be remembered for the scoreline.© FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images Messi battling for possession | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images
Not only did Lionel Messi make his debut for the club after signing from Barcelona earlier this summer, but it felt like a farewell party for Mbappé, who could be off to Real Madrid in the coming days.
The buzz as their names were announced before kick-off was borderline fever pitch, with tickets sought across the world.
Thankfully, the excitement took attentions away from a lacklustre performance from a team who look like they don’t yet know how to play football together.
One of the biggest criticisms of PSG in recent seasons is how they play football as a collective of individuals as opposed to a unified squad.
In Mauricio Pochettino’s aggressive 4-3-3 on Sunday evening, this was enunciated as they struggled to break through and kill the game off.
After going 1-0 up, Ilan Kebbal managed to get forward and pull off an excellent shot at the PSG goal, which Keylor Navas had to get a hand to. In the second half, Marshall Munetsi thought he made it 1-1 but his strike was ruled out for offside.
These are just glimpses of an evening dampened by individuality as the team struggled to play in a set system – something we have already seen in PSG’s early-season games where they have conceded sloppy goals to lowly Brest, Strasbourg and Troyes.© FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images PSG players celebrate | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images
Georginio Wijnaldum, for example, looked hampered in central midfield, as opposed to his normal advanced role in the space between the striker and the middle of the pitch. He started on the right side of the trio, and looked unsettled when he got the ball, as if he didn’t know what to do.
Midway through the first half, his natural instincts came into play and he broke position a number of times. Unfortunately when he did, the midfielder was coming from a totally unnatural area and fired well wide.
Meanwhile, Marco Verratti was repeatedly caught out with the ball and lost possession for PSG.
Up front, Neymar didn’t seem to know what his position was. While he did create problems and he won the team a number of set pieces, the winger was often found in the area where a number nine would normally operate, in midfield where a ten should play, or back where a deep-lying playmaker might camp themselves.
If this was supposed to be a demonstration of the fluidity of ‘total football’, no-one seemed to have read the script.© FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images PSG attacking on Sunday evening | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images
While it is early days, these are not fresh criticisms levelled at this side, and a number of managers have lost their jobs for failing to rectify these issues.
When the Champions League knockout stages begin in February, Mauricio Pochettino will have been in the role for over 12 months. At that stage, his charges will have had more than enough time to understand his high-press philosophy.
By then they should be a well-oiled machine with Neymar out wide cutting in, Verratti controlling the traffic, Wijnaldum camped behind the front three, and Messi, Neymar, and maybe Mbappe, running riot as they dominate Ligue 1 and look like favourites for that coveted European crown.
If that isn’t the case and Pochettino fails to iron out these issues with the quality of player he has at his disposal, it can be seen as nothing less than a major failure.