PSG: what is Real Sociedad really worth?


By: Manu Tournoux

They are one of the fashionable teams at the moment in Europe, mainly after this nice run in the group stage. Liga fans already know Real Sociedad well, since Imanol Alguacil’s troops have been well established at the top of the table for several years, just as they won the 2020 Copa del Rey. Above all, it is a team that is generally appreciated by everyone in Spain. By the football it plays, resolutely focused on the offensive, but also by its model, based mainly on the training of young local players. Without being as restrictive in its recruitment and training policy as Athletic’s neighbor, the San Sebastián team is a reference in the production of young talents. A CIES study carried out last season showed, for example, that Real Sociedad was the team that used the most home-trained players in Europe (17 in total), ahead of Athletic (13) and OL (11). ). This is clearly the trait that best defines this club and its main particularity.

It is also an operating model quite similar to that of FC Barcelona. The club has a network of more than 80 amateur partners in the region from which it does not hesitate to draw to find the talents of tomorrow. All the teams, from the youngest to the pros, train at Zubieta, the club’s training center, and there is the desire to create a real common identity. All with a touch of modernity. As explained in an article published on our site a year ago, the club is structured around five pillars which will determine the success or otherwise of the club and its players: training, competition, education, evaluation and selection. High standards are required, and all players are monitored very closely. Real Sociedad is also one of the pioneers in the use of data among young people and among its professionals.

A solid collective, but also good individuals

This is all well and good, but what does it look like on the ground? It is, unsurprisingly, a fairly young team, with an average age of 25 in the squad. Which harms him in certain areas – there is an obvious lack of experience – but also gives him a touch of carelessness and madness. Takefusa Kubo, the Japanese star, is the best example. But not only that, since even if they are not necessarily known internationally, Real Sociedad can rely on a very strong backbone, counting several players who are among the best in La Liga in their position. There is Alex Remiro in the cages, he who is Unai Simon’s understudy in the Spanish selection. He is well protected by Robin Le Normand, the Franco-Spanish defender, still very successful this season, and well accompanied by Igor Zubeldia.

But the strength of this team undoubtedly lies in the midfield, where we find a trio which is one of the very best in Europe: Martin Zubimendi, perhaps the best defensive midfielder in the Spanish championship, Mikel Merino who is a reference in Spain and who is an extremely versatile midfielder, then Brais Mendez, who brings a little creativity and madness between the lines. This is especially where PSG will have to prove superior. The Basque defense is generally takeable, just as its attack can be neutralized if Take Kubo is well muzzled, with this absence of a real efficient 9 since the departure of Sorloth. Mikel Oyarzabal, offensive leader of the team in recent years, is having a little trouble coming back after his long knee injury. On the other hand, the midfield is really the sector where Real Sociedad can look PSG straight in the eye. Luis Enrique is probably already aware of this, and he will have to build a solid plan to dominate the midfield.

What to expect ?

PSG must expect to face them with a team structured in 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 depending on the actions, which will put its foot on the ball and which is particularly well-established. She will mainly look to keep the ball around half of the field, before finding a player between the lines, and really launching the attack phase. However, the danger will mainly come from the flanks or from the arrival of midfielders launched from the back lines, since Real is having difficulty in the opposing area this season. The proof is that it is only the 13th team in La Liga in terms of balls touched in the opponent’s area, while it is sixth in the ranking. PSG should therefore not have any major problems in this area, and will suffer much less than if it had drawn a team with efficient top players. Fortunately for Imanol Alguacil, he can rely on several players who have great ball striking in the team, like Kubo, Mendez, Merino and Oyarzabal. It’s also a team that is increasingly strong from set pieces – a third of its goals this season – and the Parisians will therefore have to be particularly strong in this area.

A fairly versatile team with the ball in short, which has several strings to its bow to score. On the other hand, behind, it can have some problems, particularly on rapid transitions. It’s a team that plays quite high overall, with full-backs who come to lend a helping hand to the attack and central defenders who are sometimes at midfield level. If PSG recovers a high ball, it can take advantage of the speed of many of its attackers to hurt. In the area – even if Luis Enrique should obviously still play without a real 9 – PSG also has a card to play since the defense sometimes still makes some careless errors which are costly. Certainly, Real Sociedad is the most affordable rival that PSG could come across, but it won’t be a cakewalk…

Categories PSG

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