LOSC – PSG: Luis Enrique’s new controversial choices


By: Manu Tournoux

The next match. Qualified painfully for the knockout stages of the Champions League after a draw (1-1) obtained on the pitch of Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain found its way back to Ligue 1, this Sunday evening, with the farm intention to increase its lead at the top of the championship. Opposed to LOSC, undefeated since September 26 and a setback against Reims (1-2), the Parisians could indeed benefit from the defeats of AS Monaco, against OL, and OGC Nice, against Le Havre , to take a seven-point lead over the Aiglons. To do this, Luis Enrique innovated again. Achraf Hakimi on the bench, Warren Zaire-Emery, a handyman for the capital club, was then lined up as a right back in the Ile-de-France 4-3-3 (3-2-2-3 in the offensive phase).

A questionable starting line-up…

Suspended, Gianluigi Donnarumma gave way to Arnau Tenas while Danilo Pereira and Marquinhos formed the central Parisian hinge. In the midfield, Manuel Ugarte accompanied Kang-In Lee and Vitinha. Finally, on the attacking front, Bradley Barcola was, once again, preferred to Randal Kolo Muani and started alongside Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé, starting for the fourth time in a row in a number 9 position. generally unprecedented starting composition and strong choices made by the Spanish technician but a rather disappointing result, evidenced by the relatively lackluster collective performance of the Parisians and the draw (1-1) finally conceded in northern lands. Quickly questioned about his choices, Luis Enrique did not give in to panic, preferring to point out that these innovations could prove valuable for the rest of the season. “After every minute, one minute, 10, 70 or 90 that a player plays, this is information for us that we will use for the future. I don’t know the future but like the match in Dortmund, tonight will help us for the future. We have the goal of fighting for all the titles”assured the former Barça coach.

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The most striking choice but far from being the most questionable, Sunday evening, this hybrid role entrusted to the young Warren Zaire-Emery, sparkling in recent weeks. Sometimes right back when Paris did not have the ball, sometimes midfielder when the capital’s players had the ball, the young 17-year-old player, credited with a 6.5 by our editorial team, indeed held his position well. rank. “We managed to do what I wanted. That is to say having a player in the axis with a lot of quality when we had the ball, to provide support, and who continually changes position with Vitinha. This made it possible to generate situations of superiority against a Lille team which defends very well. In these situations, we were able to exploit the spaces. And I think it worked very well. I really enjoyed the match for 80 minutes. When he (Zaire-Emery, editor’s note) did not have the ball, he had to fulfill the function of a right-back”confirmed Luis Enrique at a press conference, also believing that he had seen “the best match of the season from a defensive point of view”.

A questionable tactical system

If this decision therefore generally proved to be profitable – even if the presence of Achraf Hakimi on the substitutes’ bench left Ousmane Dembélé much more alone on his right side – the rest is however much more mixed, starting with the new tenure of Kylian Mbappé in a number 9 role. Giving the impression of being lost on Pierre-Mauroy’s pitch, the Bondynois never really had any impact on this meeting. Despite scoring a penalty, his 16th goal of the season in Ligue 1, the former Monegasque distinguished himself with a more than questionable attitude. Little involved defensively, invisible in sequences and far too little impact, particularly in his play without the ball, the French international seems to suffer from this new positioning. A lower performance which nevertheless does not seem to frighten Luis Enrique, who decided to align the Tricolor at the forefront of the Ile-de-France attack for the fourth time in a row. “I’ve said it many times before: the only difference in each match is who is going to accompany him? Either on the sides or more in the axis. You can ask me this question a million times, it will always be the same answer”.

“Kylian plays where he decides. He has complete freedom to play inside, more on the side. If he is further outside, it is up to us to balance our positions. The difference is who will follow Kylian, an outside or inside attacker? It depends on the match.added, in this regard, the Parisian technician at the microphone of Prime Video. Also questionable is this new tenure of Manuel Ugarte in the Parisian midfield. If the 22-year-old Uruguayan midfielder, replacing against Borussia Dortmund, clearly seems to be suffering in recent times, the former coach of La Roja could also have trusted Danilo Pereira in a more advanced position and aligned a central hinge composed of Marquinos and Milan Skriniar. Finally, the new lackluster performance of Bradley Barcola, preferred to Randal Kolo Muani, also leaves one doubtful (2 duels out of 11 won, 2 successful dribbles out of 7 completed, 17 lost balls, no successful crosses, etc.). So many individual failures which should not hide the observed limits of this hybrid tactical organization.

With this 4-3-3 in the defensive phase, transformed into 3-2-2-3 with the ball, several of Luis Enrique’s men seemed, in fact, lost. The most glaring being Kylian Mbappé in this role of number 9, despite the presence of Randal Kolo Muani and Marco Asensio, two summer recruits capable of playing in this position. More generally, the fall champion stood out above all for a lack of offensive bite and a mobility sometimes well below what such a meeting should require. Too sterile, Parisian possession ultimately only resulted in a few hot situations and the statistics only reinforce this observation (2 shots on target out of 10 attempts). Weakened by the depth brought in by Jonathan David at the end of the match, the Rouge et Bleu defense ended up cracking. “We played a very complete match for 80 minutes, we lost control in the last 10 minutes, we couldn’t get out of Lille’s pressure. But that’s football, it doesn’t last 80 minutes. We knew it would be a very difficult match, Lille is a good team, they defend well, a bit like us. We leave with a draw. More than frustration, it hurts”, judged Luis Enrique at a press conference. Considering the Ile-de-France performance, I’m not sure that this analysis is shared by all observers…

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