Paris Saint-Germain hosted AS Monaco in an intriguing match of the 20th round in the Ligue 1. The game ended in a high scoring draw with both teams scoring three goals each.
For Paris Saint-Germain, it was another match and even though they just got a single point, that took them a step closer to securing a Champions League spot and their seventh title in eight years. In contrast, Monaco’s season could not be more opposite to that of the Ligue 1 champions as they couldn’t find a decent form again and finished ninth this season.
Monaco started the season with Leonardo Jardim back in charge for the second time. But due to a disappointing start to the season, Monaco decided to replace Jardim. His replacement was the Spaniard and former Spain assistant Roberto Moreno. This highly anticipated match was also the first match the Spanish manager was fully in charge. A great opener to showcase Moreno’s football ideas, giving us a perfect opportunity to analyse the game.
This tactical analysis piece will examine the tactics that were deployed by Moreno and the former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel in this entertaining game.
Furthermore, we will provide a thorough tactical analysis of the different shapes that were utilised by both teams in this game, in addition to providing details on some of the key elements of their tactics.
Lineups and formations
Tuchel set out his PSG side in his favoured 4-4-2, a system that becomes very narrow and compact when out of possession. In possession, his side changed to a more attacking variant in the form of a 4-2-2-2. Later on, we will discuss the relevance of this structure. The former Real Madrid goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, started in goal. The back four consisted of Juan Bernat, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, and Thomas Meunier. Marco Verratti and Idrissa Gana Gueye were the two central midfielders, with Neymar Junior playing on the left and Angel Di Maria on the right. Their two strikers were Mauro Icardi and Kylian Mbappé.
The Monaco manager Moreno also chose to start his team in a 4-4-2 system. Benjamin Lecomte started in goal. The defensive line existed of Benjamin Henrichs, Guillermo Maripan, Kamil Glik, and Fodé Ballo-Touré. Monaco’s midfield consisted of Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoué Bakayoko while the flanks were occupied by Aleksandr Golovin and Gelson Martins. Wissam Ben Yedder and Keita Baldé led the line for Les Rouge et Blanc.
PSG dominated the early stages of the match in terms of possession, and one reason for this was their attacking structure. To accommodate the qualities of Neymar, Di María, Icardi, and Mbappé, Tuchel had PSG build their attacks in a 4-2-2-2 formation. To create this shape, Bernat and Meunier advanced slightly higher, Neymar and Di María drifted inside from the flanks to play between the lines, and Mbappé and Icardi split to take up positions between the full-back and centre-back as shown below.
One of the keys to this formation was the positioning of Icardi and Mbappé. By placing the strikers in the gaps between the centre-backs and full-backs, Icardi and Mbappé pinned all four defenders in the Monaco backline. These positions of the strikers cause hesitation for the opposition when stepping out. Because if they do step out, it creates space behind the last line for Mbappé and Icardi to run in. As a result, Neymar and Di Maria have more space between the lines to exploit and then can receive the ball without worrying about someone pressing from their blindside. The width was provided by the two full-backs who pushed up.
PSG’s gameplan was far more complex than this structure on its own. Further up the pitch, the second stage of their gameplan would occur. Once progressed, they would create a three versus two overload down the left side – this is how PSG’s first goal fell. Monaco’s full-back and winger markеd Bernat and Mbapp so space openеd up in behind for Neymar to run in and to finish after the pass from Verratti.
Despite PSG’s control over the early proceedings, Monaco were able to grab an early equaliser against the run of play in the seventh minute. And they could have even taken the lead six minutes later. Monaco tried to provoke PSG into a high press in order to exploit the space in behind PSG’s defence.
In the below image we can see this happened through the inside position of Ballo-Touré and Henrichs. This position of the full-backs provoked the second line of PSG to engage in a press. To progress via the flank, the striker Keita would move to the half-space. Golovin would stay in the same horizontal lane as Bakayoko to create a diamond between the four of them.
This creates diagonal passing options and enables one-touch passing. The first two goals of Monaco came from the left side, showcasing this well-rehearsed tactic.
As PSG dominated possession the whole game with an overall possession percentage of 62%, it wasn’t always possible to create chances against PSG through long sequences of passes.
To combat PSG’s flexible structure, Monaco shaped up in a flat 4-4-2 without the ball, keeping a large field as compact as they could and reducing the space between the lines. With every backwards pass, the away side’s block tried to push up and keep the ball away from their own danger zone.
From here Monaco tried to lure the Ligue 1 champions into a pressing trap. They would try to prevent passes being played to the outside and leave the PSG’s pivot in open space. The image below shows how Keita is preventing Marquinhos to play a pass to Meunier as his body shape suggests he is ready to intercept. Ben Yedder and Fabregas allow Gueye space in the centre of the field. But once played to Gueye, Monaco press in a box shape by running onto him. The two strikers press from his blindside and the two centre-midfielders also deduct his space by pressing forward.
From here Monaco starts a counter-attack with the wingers exploiting the uncovered half-spaces. The half-spaces are the most ideal zones to use during a counter-attack. The half-spaces provide the right distance between each individual when in a transition and at the same moment, the opposition still gets stretched horizontally. Also from the half-space position, blindside runs are more common to perform.
But this pressing trap wasn’t always effective. When the strikers forgot to follow through on the pivot, he would receive without pressure. In the example below, that gave the pivot time to pick out Di Maria between the lines. With the two strikers pinning Monaco’s back four, PSG created a four versus four situation with the ball carrier facing Monaco’s goal. From this situation, PSG restored their lead.
As Monaco were trailing in the second half, Moreno looked to his bench in order to find the equaliser. Around the 65th minute, Islam Slimani entered the pitch replacing Fabregas. This substitute had drastic consequences for both teams.
With this substitution, Monaco looked to play more direct and Slimani became the target of long balls. If the Algerian could not win the first ball, his teammates around him would try to win the second one. Most long balls targeted the right side of PSG, the same side they attacked when playing on the ground. The statistics confirm Moreno’s approach: from the moment Slimani entered the pitch until the end of the game, Monaco played 18 long balls. In comparison, during the opening 30 minutes, the away side only played six long balls.
Moreno’s tactics also had an impact on Tuchel’s approach. As Slimani is physically more imposing than his opposition, it is more likely he will win the aerial battles. So Tuchel looked to stop the long ball being played rather than winning the aerial duel. The stats confirm that after Slimani’s entry, PSG pressed with more intensity. Before Slimani’s entry, PSG had a PPDA of 16.0. After Slimani’s entry, this changed to 7.8. This shows that they doubled their pressing intensity after Slimani’s entry.
Below is shown how PSG pressed Monaco as high as possible. Normally two players will press the player on the ball, with the other players closing passing lines and marking players closely.
Lastly, Slimani’s entry led to Monaco’s equaliser. As he is a classic number nine, he does most of his work inside the penalty area – his goal underlined this. Slimani positioned himself between the opposing full-back and centre-back. What follows is a typical Slimani goal, a deflected shot gets stopped by Navas but the rebound is tucked in by the Algerian.
To conclude this tactical analysis, it’s fair to say that both teams left it all on the field. This game introduced Moreno to Ligue 1 in a spectacular way. Both teams showed their tactical flexibility.
With PSG already crowned champions of the 2019/20 season, their focus now remains on the Champions League which resumes in August. If Tuchel’s men hope to achieve glory in this competition as well, they will have to fix their defensive frailty. Especially in transitional moments.
For Monaco, it was quite a tough season after finishing ninth in Ligue 1. With all their internal problems, the club will be happy to end this season and look forward to the next one. With Moreno in charge, Les Rouge et Blanc can look hopefully into the future.