Tactical analysis: Manchester City’s return to the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain


After a hard-fought 1-1 draw between Real Madrid and Chelsea, the Champions League staged another semi-final as Paris Saint-Germain hosted Manchester City at Parc des Princes.

The home side were certainly in the Champions League mood this season, having knocked out Barcelona in the round of 16 and taking revenge on Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

Naturally, the last disappointment of last season was not forgotten in Paris, and an instant buyout would be the best way to heal this injury.

City are arguably the best team in Europe this season – no doubt after the start of the year – so anything that isn’t a Champions League success would be seen as a small failure, to say the least.

Pep Guardiola had received a lot of criticism for his inability to bring the Mancunian team past the quarter-finals in four attempts, so it was a huge chance for him too to add Europe’s most coveted trophy to the vast cabinet located somewhere in the Etihad. The stadium complex would irrefutably make City one of the best of all time.

PSG got off to a great start and even took the lead in 15 minutes, but they fell to a second-half comeback from the visitors who saw the game end with a score of 1-2.

In this analysis, we’ll break down the key tactical aspects of this huge Champions League encounter.

Decisive threat from PSG

While City have been pretty adept at defending set pieces this season, they looked quite fragile against PSG.

As this visualization indicates, PSG have been very successful thanks to their six corner kicks. Five of them were delivered in the box, with each landing in and around the six-yard box, and three of them resulted in a goal attempt, while one had to be hit by Ederson . Obviously, the near post deliveries gave them the most joy.

To understand why this was the case, let’s first try to understand PSG’s cornering routines:

Their plan was fairly straightforward – they used three of their less dangerous in-flight men, including Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes, to clutter up the six-yard box, where City had five offsets, including their full four backs.

Just outside, the other set-piece shooter (Neymar / Ángel Di María) waited to draw City defenders more around the six-yard area.

This served to divert the spotlight from the real dangermen – Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe, who hovered around the penalty spot.

Their scorers – İlkay Gündoğan and Bernardo Silva – were certainly surpassed. With City standing fairly narrow horizontally, PSG’s two center-backs were free to run to the front post or the back post.

In the case of Marquinhos’ goal, the Brazilian made a run to the near post, while Kimpembe went the other way.

This flurry of movement left Gündoğan and Silva stunned, leaving them with a brief of surveillance. Marquinho ended up hitting his head at home but had he missed the ball PSG likely would have scored anyway as Kimpembe was free at the far post.

In other cases, those cluttering up the six-yard area could go to the near post to lead the ball, although those two efforts were not on target as these players weren’t the best at leading.

Manchester City Press

PSG are used to keeping a good amount of possession for themselves in Ligue 1, so they have posed a challenge for City in that regard. Guardiola’s team responded with another modified pressing structure.

Their form was a 4-2-4, as Silva rose from midfield to join the front line. As you can see here, Kevin De Bruyne was the trigger, and he usually went for Paredes, who came back from midfield to create a back-three in possession of PSG.

Further on, the wingers (Neymar to a greater extent) fell back inside to allow for overlapping full-back runs (although these are rare), while Idrissa Gueye was the only one to hold the middle of ground as Verratti occupied the left half-space further forward in a 3-4-3.

The idea from the city’s point of view was to force their opponents to pass through Gueye’s center. They did this by asking the wingers to tilt their runs while pressing down, which would take the full-backs out of the game.

Since De Bruyne’s trigger move would be directed towards Paredes, he would be taken out of the game, so the center-back in possession would either have to play a risky ball or feed Gueye, who would be surrounded using the midfield duo of ground.

The trade-off for this was that City wouldn’t be able to push all the way down the pitch, as adding Navas as a passing option would render their strategy ineffective.

Therefore, they had to concede some territory to exercise this plan. It didn’t quite work out, however, as Gueye showed great poise by selecting 31 of his 40 assists in the game in just the first 45 minutes.

In addition, the inclusion of Paredes in the center-back in possession also proved to be crucial. He often sought to find Verratti, and although that involved a risk, his 92.3% success rate indicates he found the Italian midfielder in most cases.

In both cases, their pressing was not too successful since PSG managed to keep more than 45% of the ball in the first period, so the touch-ups were required at half-time.

Instead of trying to trap Gueye in the second half, City chose to squeeze Paris Saint-Germain all the way down the pitch.

They did so by moving up to a sort of 4-1-3-2, which saw De Bruyne or Silva squeeze the center-back in possession while the other kept Paredes in check before he could fall between them. Center-backs, and most Especially, Gündoğan pushed forward to prevent Gueye from having a space to receive the ball.

It worked much better, as the Senegalese midfielder was limited to 10 assists in the second half and PSG’s possession game was heavily stifled, with the hosts only dealing with one shot (also a stoppage shot). ) with less than 35% of the ball.

Manchester City in possession

As always, City kept most of the ball with 60 percent of possession.

PSG offered some opposition to their possession in the early stages by pressing a 4-1-4-1 form, as Kylian Mbappé led it with Paredes (who pushed from midfield) and Verrati respectively scoring Gündoğan and Silva alongside the wingers, which kept the full-backs in check.

For long stretches of the match, especially after taking the lead, PSG were happy enough to fall into a 4-4-2 in the middle of the block, with Neymar joining Kylian Mbappé up front while Verratti moving into midfield. left.

City started off with a lopsided 3-3-4 in possession that looked a lot like the form they had for most of the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur, as João Cancelo pushed past the back line to join the midfield line on the left.

There was a double division up front with Phil Foden and De Bruyne on the left and Silva and Riyad Mahrez on the other side, with the center left unoccupied.

It might have worked against a 4-3-3 in the Carabao Cup, but PSG’s 4-4-2 didn’t encounter any major issues with the wide division up front, so City had to change form. fast enough.

After conceding, City returned to the tried and trusted 3-2-5 with Cancelo as a reverse midfielder, while Gündoğan started advancing to join the front line, which included Silva as a false-nine ( sometimes extreme) and De Bruyne on the right. With this, the ban on occupying the central region was clearly lifted.

Soon after, a minor change to the front line saw De Bruyne and Silva swap positions, but more importantly this image shows how PSG fought City’s system change, using Ángel Di María to score Cancelo. Since Neymar cared about Rodri, their form quite often turned to 4-3-2-1.

So City came out with another modified system in the second half. The formation remained 3-2-5, but Cancelo’s tenure as a reverse full-back was cut short as he was invited to operate as a forward full-back and join the front line, where Foden moved to the inner-left position. to let Gündoğan fall back to midfield.

This is the system with which Guardiola’s side ended up looking the most stable, as they put in a dominant performance in the second half, especially after the introduction of Oleksandr Zinchenko in place of Cancelo to use a fullback. natural left in the advanced role.

More importantly, they held possession superbly in the second half, which was as important as the modified pressing structure to keep PSG quiet.

Conclusion

Despite all their experiences in terms of pressing and possession forms, City’s two goals were rather hazy, as one was a cross that was never meant to slip into the far corner, and the other was a free kick that required a hole in the wall to enter.

Anyway, it must be said that the visitors absolutely deserved this victory for their dominant performance overall.

PSG were limited to set pieces to trouble Ederson, who single-handedly managed more touches than Mbappé in the game, which is a great statistic to show how contained the French striker has been.

Neymar also didn’t look too bright for most of the game, as the French champions found virtually no joy in the transition, which they relied on for their success against Bayern.

Therefore, Mauricio Pochettino has quite a few things to think about before heading to Manchester, especially since his side also have a points deficit to reverse in the Ligue 1 title race.

The return leg at the Etihad Stadium promises to be another great spectacle of fantastic football, and it takes place next Tuesday.

Statistics provided by WhoScored.

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