Hide The Scene / Shutterstock.com
Ahead of kick off in Paris on Tuesday night, it felt like most pundits expected Manchester City to roll over Paris Saint-Germain. Yet, we saw something very un-PSG-like.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team was determined to defend – even if it was just seven outfield players doing it.
A beautiful evening of football ✨
📺 HIGHLIGHTS of #𝐏𝐒𝐆𝐌𝐂𝐈, 👇
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 28, 2021
Manchester City had been brilliant just days earlier defeating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge with pressing that hadn’t been seen for some time from the team. The Cityzens that were beaten 2-0 by PSG looked nothing like the side that defeated Chelsea, however.
Perhaps that has a lot to say about Chelsea, who are no winless in three straight games after losing in Turin to Juventus in Champions League play on Wednesday.
To say PSG’s win was a team effort would be a bit naive. Looking at the Parisians’ heat map, it is easy to see which players did the most work. Neymar spent much of the time at the halfway line with the occasional trip into the team’s defensive third.
Kylian Mbappe, playing as the team’s central striker, rarely ventured out of the Manchester City defensive half of the pitch. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi camped at the halfway line on the right side.
Messi’s goal in the second half that iced the game can be praised for it being a brilliant strike. Yet, Messi had camped on the halfway line, walking every time he didn’t have possession, waiting for an out pass.
Once he got it, he wasn’t about to pass the ball off.
The lack of commitment by the PSG front three to defend will prevent them from winning the Champions League. It may have worked once, but it won’t work every time.
The rest of the side’s heatmap metrics show them rarely venturing out of their own defensive third. It is something that won’t work against Europe’s elite teams every game, but it did versus a Manchester City team that had no Plan B.
The lack of a Plan B has long been the criticism of Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City team that outplayed Chelsea was nowhere to be seen rather the team that we saw was the side that struggled against Southampton the week prior.
Despite having an off night and PSG winning to nil, Manchester City hit the woodwork twice and collected seven shots on target. This was a gritty PSG performance, which is something no one has ever said about the club since Qatari Sports Investment bought it a decade ago.
Where was this performance against Champions League Group A co-leader Club Brugge on matchday 1?
Manchester City will now face off with Premier League leader Liverpool on Sunday. Guardiola needs the same performance from the team that defeated Chelsea rather than the one that lost to PSG.
The Parisians, on the other hand, will face Rennes in Ligue 1, giving Pochettino the chance to rest his part-time players Neymar and Messi – if he chooses to.
Champions League Group A is currently wide open with all four teams still within touching distance of qualification after two matchdays.