Paris Saint-Germain get set for their midweek fixture against FC Metz on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at the Stade Saint-Symphorien at 3 p.m. The club returns to action only three days after forward Mauro Icardi’s goal at the death against Olympique Lyonnais secured the three points for the Parisian squad.
Despite the fact that PSG have won seven out of their opening seven league games this season, the team has not performed up to the level expected of them. Of course, this comes as a surprise to the majority of football fans, as “Les Parisiens” front trio of winger Neymar Jr., forward Kylian Mbappe and attacking midfielder Lionel Messi are expected to win games with ease.
However, this has not been the case. Subpar performances in the league, along with an abysmal start to their UEFA Champions League campaign, indicates that much work is still needed to be done. In his pre-match press conference, head coach Mauricio Pochettino urged for patience:
“It takes time to find the rhythm, you have to form a bond,” he said.
Furthermore, the Argentine manager discussed the positives that came out of the team’s tactical setup against Lyonnais: “We played against Lyon in 4-2-3-1. We managed to pass the ball better.”
Most importantly, he expanded on how the relationships between players on and off the pitch have an impact on the cohesion of the squad as a whole: “Leo Messi and Angel Di Maria, or Messi and Neymar know each other. We have to integrate Mbappe into that. I think this will take some time.”
Pochettino truly has a tall task in front of him, as he’ll have to build a system that suits all three superstars. Moreover, he’ll have to manage all three egos as well; Mbappe’s desire to leave over the summer to be the star man at Real Madrid makes this task that much harder, as the French international clearly wants to be the main superstar.
Ultimately, the team’s success, or lack thereof, will be dependent on their willingness to share the glory. Another big factor that comes into play is if all three will be able to gel together on the pitch; Messi and Neymar made it work at FC Barcelona, but there are no guarantees that such success will repeat itself in Paris. Additionally, Mbappe has never played alongside Messi, and will have to adjust his game in order to coexist with the Argentine international.
Although the team does have a midweek fixture, a bone contusion sustained by Messi means that all three won’t be able to share the pitch and continue to learn how to play with each other. Messi took a knock to his left knee against Lyonnais, which forced Pochettino to take him off the pitch late in the second half. While the decision to take off Messi was not popular at the time, the Parisian faithful now understand that it was necessary in order to avoid worsening the injury.
PSG will have to prepare for a Metz team that has lost its two previous matches to RC Strasbourg Alsace and ES Troyes AC, respectively. “Les Grenats” are a team that aren’t afraid to attack the opposition with their speedy forwards and balls in behind. Despite the two shutout losses, Metz have been able to find the back of the net six times this season, and will be desperate to attain their first win of the campaign.
Paris’ main priority will be in regards to the midfield, which is an area of the pitch that they have struggled to control all season. Pochettino has tried multiple duos that include the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Ander Herrera, Marco Verratti, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Danilo Pereira and so forth. The only duo that has created some sort of stability in the middle of the park has been Verratti and Gueye. However, Verratti is still recovering from an injury and won’t be able to participate in the upcoming match, which means Pochettino will once again have to experiment with the midfield.
Even with the stability that comes from Verratti and Gueye, it seems that another center midfielder is needed to create more of a physical presence in midfield. One possibility would be to change the formation to a 3-5-2 and have a defensive midfielder (Gueye) alongside two center midfielders (Verratti and Wijnaldum).
The reality is that Pochettino has little time to find a perfect solution, especially with their crucial fixture against Manchester City in the Champions League in less than a week’s time. If the Argentine fails to find an effective duo, things might just begin to get ugly in the French capital.