PSG using Sleight of Hand to distract Ligue 1 defences
Please give a warm French Football Weekly welcome to Maher Mehazi. Maher has offered to bring his multimedia talents to the website, combining articles with his own videos to give you an insight into the tactics and styles in Ligue 1.
What better way to start than looking at the relationship between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Gameiro, a very interesting read with Zlatan’s two match ban starting this weekend. It’s clear after the superb performance against Zagreb this week that PSG are going to miss more than just his goals.
Most of us are familiar with the ‘sleight of hand’. A momentary shift of attention opens a window of opportunity which one must quickly capitalize on. It is an effective technique that is easily adaptable. My father brought it home and perfected it at the dinner table. His unsuspecting daughter would be warned about the supposed spider on her chair. But by the time she turned to confront him about lying, her plate no longer held any fries.
My love for fries necessitated that I develop an eye for the ruse. So it was only appropriate that I managed to catch traces of the sleight on a football pitch.
The Sleight of Ibra
Zlatan Ibrahimovic demands attention. The big striker seems to thrive and grow when his image is adorned. The hair, the confidence, the swagger – opposing defenders can’t quite help the fact that they are drawn in. In a two-striker system, he is the spider on your chair. He selfishly shoulders the attention to unselfishly award a teammate with an opening. Kevin Gameiro is the supreme opportunist.
Gameiro will roam and exploit the spaces neglected by absent-minded defenders. He nips here, tucks there, and finds the gaps created by the magnetism Ibrahimovic emanates. Gameiro is the superego to Ibra’s id, and he doesn’t mind playing second fiddle. Gameiro acknowledges that it will be he who, ultimately, benefits from Ibrahimovic absorbing the attention.
Gameiro commented on the partnership when PSG play with two strikers. He told L’Equipe:
‘The defenders are often glued to Zlatan so it creates more space for me. We played like this at Lorient and it’s a system that I like. I have more space and that allows me to place myself in attacking positions.’
And on another occasion:
‘With a 4-4-2 we found our way with Ibra who attracts the attention of defenders. It helps the second striker find space and create chances.’
I was so impressed with Kevin Gameiro that I decided to compile a short video on his movement. Not all of these clips will emphasize the understanding that he and Ibrahimovic share, but it will shine light on an under-appreciated aspect of his game.