After knocking Bayern Munich out of the Champions League, avenging their final loss last year in the process, much of the Paris Saint-Germain credit will go to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Yet, in reality, the Paris Saint-Germain Champions League progression is largely down to the brick wall of Idrissa Gana Gueye.
The former Everton man proved in the space of a week why he belongs at the top, acting as a blockade and providing the foundations for PSG’s potent counter-attacking play. And this wasn’t against any team, either.
It was against Bayern Munich: The team that has won it all in the last 12 months and the team that, albeit without Robert Lewandowski, have one of the greatest attacking threats in Europe.
But Gueye, accompanied by Parades, took one look at the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller- who are almost glimmering with the tint of silverware, and slammed the door to the last four of Europe’s elite competition into the Bayern players’ faces.
Gueye: Quietly Helping Paris Saint-Germain Progress in Champions League
Providing the Spotlight for Neymar and Mbappe to Shine
Players such as Gueye don’t often get the credit they deserve. Instead, the spotlight is handed to those with the most skilful flicks, most devastating touches and most clinical of finishes.
What many people fail to understand, though, is that it’s because of players like Gueye that Neymar can progress and produce his best. Neymar and Mbappe can fly forward, alongside the likes of Di Maria, knowing full well that a safety net lies behind them. And that’s what makes them so dangerous.
In Ligue 1, they have far from impressed and could lose out on the title. In the Champions League, however, Paris Saint-Germain have looked like one of the most threatening contenders. Of course, there are several reasons behind this. one being the want, the desperation to finally lift a European cup, and the other being a change of approach.
Champions League Gives Paris Saint-Germain Chance for Change
In Ligue 1, PSG are the biggest fish, swallowing up those vulnerable around them. Therefore, naturally, they are the team asked to break down low blocks and prevent the counter-attack.
Of course, they have the players in the frontline to do that but perhaps lack the creativity in midfield to really impress- something that has only just been exposed this campaign.
In the Champions League, however, Paris Saint-Germain are often seen playing the smaller fish. They are the team set up in a low block with counter-attacking in mind. And this suits everyone. Mbappe’s speed and Neymar’s trickery go from combining against five or six players to one on one scenarios on the counter.
Meanwhile, the system sticks to the strengths of Gueye or Ander Herrera. Both are experts of forming the crucial blockade rebounding any chance of an opposition breakaway. Against Bayern Munich- a team that will dominate possession- Mauricio Pochettino got it spot on in both legs of the tie.
He didn’t just rely on the individual quality of his forwards. Instead, he created a fully functioning dangerous team. Every player was placed in a role to suit their strength. Neymar came away with Man of the Match, Gueye, the unsung hero, came away with Muller neatly tucked away in his back pocket.
Interesting Tie Against Manchester City Could Await
As things stand, PSG will be facing Manchester City in the last four of the Champions League, with the Citizens set to play Borussia Dortmund with a 2-1 advantage. If City do progress, admittedly, many will write PSG off. But they shouldn’t.
The game against Bayern Munich provided the Frenchman with the perfect practice for Guardiola’s City side. Like Bayern, City utilises a high-line and a possession-based game. The only difference is, Manchester City have a better system when it comes to defensive stability than Bayern Munich. But not a system that hasn’t been exposed by a counter-attacking side in the past.
If you just cast your minds back to last season, Manchester City, without Ruben Dias and the now revitalised John Stones, were as easy as ever to get at on the counter. Wolverhampton Wanderers proved this not once but twice.
At the Etihad, the pace of Adama Traore combined with the technical ability of Raul Jimenez on the counter to win 2-0. Months after the victory, they did it again- this time a 3-2 win. Two players, one quick, one with technically excellent taking advantage of an exposed high-line. Sound familiar PSG fans?
It looked as though that leak had been solved by Guardiola this season, too. Yet, against Leeds United, it was exposed once more. Bielsa’s side sat back, soaked up the pressure before countering to score a last gasp winner.
If Leeds and Stuart Dallas can do it, then Neymar and Mbappe could well have a field day.
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