Following the international break, Ligue 1 football will resume Friday night with Nîmes hosting the French champions, Paris Saint-Germain. After a shaky start to their season, PSG currently sit 4th in the table with Rennes currently at the top. PSG will look to extend their run to five games unbeaten when they go to the Stade des Costieres. Meanwhile, the hosts Nîmes have had a mixed bag of results and currently sit 13th after six games. They started their campaign well with a 4-0 thrashing of Brest. Les Crocodiles then had a couple of losses and draws followed by an impressive away win at Montpellier. Nîmes will be looking to also push on from where they finished before the break, however, they will have to be at their best if they are looking to provide a shock result on Friday against the French champions. This tactical preview will provide tactical analysis into how the game may unfold, and what to expect when these two teams meet following the international break.
PSG’s coach Thomas Tuchel will likely continue to line up his team in their very aggressive 4-4-2 formation. In defence, they will be very compact and narrow, but in the attack, they quickly spread out and attack very aggressively. This will cause the line up at times to look like a 4-2-2-2 depending on the opposition, with Neymar and Angel Di Maria staying forward and attacking as very forward-thinking wingers. The middle of the park will then be supplemented with a combination of Marco Verratti, and either Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera, or Idrissa Gueye. Having the share of the possession, the full-backs Alessandro Florenzi, who is currently on loan from Serie A club AS Roma, and Mitchel Bakker will more than likely be able to push higher up the field provide an option out wide.
Nîmes coach Jérôme Arpinon will accept to not share a large amount of possession of the ball against the Parisians. They will look to defend deep, compact and to take their chances when they come. The threat that Nîmes will possess comes from the technically gifted and aerially successful Zinedine Ferhat, and the recently signed Yassine Benrahou. Benrahou was on loan last season from Bordeaux at Nîmes, but his deal was made permanent in June with a transfer fee of 1.5 million Euros. Nîmes will have to be fully concentrated for the whole 90 minutes and try and prevent an early goal. When they do regain possession, they must be smart with the ball and look to get the ball to their most dangerous players.
PSG’s possessional dominance
PSG will more than likely have the majority of possession as we mentioned earlier. This causes the team to flood the opposition half with possession.
The image above shows the PSG’s players’ average position throughout their 6-1 win over Angers. They had started the game with a 4-4-2 formation with Neymar and Julian Draxler as the wide players, Verratti and Paredes and the central midfielders, and a front two of Mbappe and Icardi. The image shows further how PSG’s formation shifts while in possession. Kylian Mbappe is the highest of the PSG’s attackers due to his nature to run in behind. You will also see that Neymar has drifted inside from the left into a central number 10 role. Similarly, this can be said of Draxler who had moved in from the right. This move inside by Draxler can also be seen done by Di Maria as well. The centre-backs themselves act more as quarterbacks for their team sitting on the halfway line playing long balls to either the wide-men or front two.
Above you will see how PSG’s players are positioned in their match against Angers. From this Angers match, PSG had 58% possession of the ball in total and 82% of that possession being in the Angers half. The black line is showing the back four for PSG. You will see in this instance that Marquinhos and Kimpembe are positioned inside the Angers Half. In yellow Verraiti is highlighted because, for PSG’s possession game, he is one of the most important players. He dictates the play and is constantly on the ball. In the image, he is about to receive the ball and quickly play it to Mbappe who is just ahead of him. Draxler is marked in red to show what we mentioned earlier about how he naturally will drift inside. Overall, the way PSG are positioned here in this image shows how deep into the opposition half they like to play. For Nîmes, this can be overwhelming, but they must look to win the ball back and try and counter.
The main attacking threat Neymar and Mbappe
While having possession is great for a team, it does not guarantee goals. Luckily PSG are blessed with enough attacking talent to supplement the rest of Ligue 1 on its own. Granted their large attack force, PSG’s main duo is that of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. So far Mbappe has scored two goals and assisted three in the three matches he has played. Meanwhile, Neymar has only participated in three matches so far this season, partly due to the red card he received in the match against Marseille. Within those three matches, he has already scored two and assisted one. In three matches alone they have been directly involved in 10 goals in three matches. An extremely high output that they will surely not slow down on.
The image above shows PSG’s attacks and danger level against Angers in their last match. This shows that 89% of PSG’s attacks came down the left flank. This is the area that Neymar and Mbappe both operated from based on the image earlier of PSG’s players’ average positions throughout the match. These stats show just how involved and important these two players are for PSG. While you can argue that the right side’s attacks are much lower because Draxler was playing on the right, a player who is naturally right-footed and prefers to drift inside caused the attacks on the right to be much less threatening. One could argue that having Di Maria playing on the right would cause more attacks down that side. Regardless, the fact is that the majority of the attacks by PSG in their game against Angers came on that left side and will continue to come from that side because of the dominant influence of their two most important players.
The above images presented above show how dangerous PSG can be on the counter as well with its fantastic attacking duo. Neymar has received the ball in the middle as highlighted in red. Meanwhile, just ahead of him is Mbappe running in behind for the ball Neymar is about the play. Thanks to both of their talents Neymar can play the ball perfectly over, while Mbappe with his speed can get to the ball. He may not score here, but it shows just how easily and quickly PSG can attack you. Nîmes will surely be aware of this threat and will try and stop it, but that is easier said than done.
For Nîmes, if there is any chance for them to seek a win against the champions it will more than likely come from their own number 10, Zinedine Ferhat. The 27-year-old Algerian has started this year Ligue 1 campaign extremely well. He has three goals and two assists from the first six matches. Standing at six feet tall combined with strong technical ability makes him a very useful player on the counter-attack against PSG. From Mouhamed Anis Lourassia’s scout report, his analysis explains the tactics for how Ferhat is essential to Nimes attacking play. Ferhat’s main qualities are his dribbling and aerial success. Ferhat reports a rate of 7.55 dribbles per match with a success rate of 58.54%. This ranks him as one of the players with the most attempted dribbles per match in Ligue 1. However, against PSG his time on the ball will be limited so he must make sure to make the most of the ball when it comes to him.
A way that Nîmes will look for an advantage will be with Ferhat and his aerial ability. In terms of his aerial duels, Ferhat enters 6.33 aerial duels every match with a success rate of 58.54%. For a winger, this is an incredible stat as most will be known for their dribbling speed. The image above shows a map of Nîmes’ long passes in their past six matches this season. The red circles indicate the passes to Ferhat. Out of six matches, he has been either the first or second most passed to a player in terms of long balls. This shows the tactics laid out by Nîmes coach Arpinon. He clearly looks for the advantage that Ferhat posses aerially.
The image here shows Ferhat leaping to head the ball that has been played towards him from a goal kick. Also, the forward Nolan Roux is highlighted here because he is now making a run into space behind Ferhat, anticipating that he will win the header for a flick-on. For Nîmes, when they do regain possession, they should look for a long ball towards Ferhat. Ferhat will be more than likely marked by PSG’s Italian right-back Alessandro Florenzi.
Standing at five foot eight, Ferhat will back himself to win this aerial duel. For the rest of the Nîmes team, they should understand this advantage and look to position themselves in around where Ferhat might win the ball. From here, they should look to build a counter-attack and get in behind the high line of PSG. The attacks by Nimes will be limited due to PSG positional dominance and their overall quality being better than that of Nimes. They will need to stay focused and when the chance comes to play towards Ferhat.
The game on Friday night at the Costieres Stadium will see PSG more than likely having the share of possession. However, Nîmes will be going into the game knowing this and will prepare their defensive shape to counter any attacks by PSG. When Nimes do win the ball, they will need to look for their star player in Ferhat and hope to win an aerial duel and build up a quick counter-attack for a goal they will very much enjoy.