In matchweek 12 of the Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain hosted Girondins de Bordeaux and failed to leave the match with all three points, ensuring that this already very competitive league season remains as such. Les Parisiens chose to rest key player and former Manchester United man Angel Di Maria, while also suffering losses through injury in Marquinhos and Julian Draxler. This will prove to have to cost them in our analysis, as PSG often failed to break through the Bordeaux defense.
Former PSG players Hatem Ben Arfa and Yacine Aldi came back to Paris with a vengeance, as the two orchestrated the goal that levelled the match. In a league where PSG are expected to win every season, dropping points at home to a mid table side will prove costly in the long term as Lille, Lyon and Monaco are keeping up the pressure.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the strategies and tactics deployed by Bordeaux to punish PSG’s poor defending, while also analysing why PSG failed to create chances with such a star-studded team.
Both teams line up in a 4-4-2 formation, however, in this analysis we will see how different each side played when in possession. PSG relied on Presnel Kimpembe’s versatility, as he would often switch from left centre-back to left full-back, or, act as a left centre-back in a back three when Marco Verratti dropped between him and his defensive partner Timothée Pembélé. This versatility would help PSG build up an attack from defence, but will prove to not be enough.
Bordeaux deployed their usual starting lineup with no notable changes. Toma Basic often dropped deeper to receive the ball in transitions from defence to attack, while also being tasked with marking Verratti several times in the match. This was done because Bordeaux boss Jean-Louis Gasset learned early on that Verratti was the source of all of PSG’s possession.
Below we see Bordeaux defend in a standard block. Not too far back into their own half, but not high enough that they can be exploited by long, over the top passes into PSG’s pacey forwards. PSG ask Moise Kean, Kylian Mbappé and Leandro Daniel Paredes play centrally to overwhelm the Bordeaux defenders. Bordeaux can ignore this, because they have a midfield four that will prevent passes from getting through. We can see that as PSG look to build an attack, Veratti is isolated and cannot help the attack smoothly.
Later into the match, PSG brought on Ander Herrera and Di Maria to help break down the Bordeaux defence. This proved to be ineffective, as the Bordeaux forward players would screen the midfielder dropping to receive the ball. In the photo below, we see Herrera trying to drop deeper, but is covered well. Neymar was tasked with sitting between the Bordeaux midfield and defensive lines, while left full-back Mitchel Bakker prepared to attack the space in the wide left area of the pitch. This would be beneficial if PSG were able to get the ball to them.
PSG: victims of their own talent
On the ball is Verratti. Ahead of him is Bakker, Neymar, Mbappé and Rafinha. Alessandro Florenzi is touching the right-sided touchline as well. With six teammates in front of him, Verratti has zero quality passing options. The PSG players listed are marked, or in the case of Bakker, are out wide. While talented as he is, Verratti proved that he struggled to remain alone in midfield, despite having world class teammates in front of him. Circled below is space that should be occupied by any teammate of Verratti in order to play through this Bordeaux defence.
As the first half went on, PSG did try to change the way they build the attack. By switching to a back three, this would give them a numerical advantage in their build-ups. However, the same problem existed: Verratti was on his own. A little different than the above example, below Neymar and Rafinha now look to enter the circled space. However, Bordeaux forward Josh Maja and midfielder Otávio effectively cover Verratti to ensure that the attack is not done through him.
PSG are vulnerable
PSG showed us that they do not have their defensive tactics figured out. On the ball is former Arsenal man Laurent Koscielny. He has a plethora of passing options backwards, sideways and forwards. Midfielder Basic sits between the PSG midfield and defensive line, waiting to receive the ball. In the match, Koscielny was able to pass through both of the circled zones below because no PSG player occupied them. Similar to how Bordeaux neutralized Verratti, PSG failed to show Bordeaux the same respect, and in return, were exposed often.
Below is another example of PSG lacking defensive stability. Paul Baysse can be seen below passing to right full-back Enock Kwateng. PSG not only failed to defend the wide spaces, they have also allowed Bordeaux to match their midfield numbers almost man for man. Additionally, Bordeaux have options going forward, something PSG have lacked. This option is the forward Maja, as he eyes the space between midfield and defence, circled below. Maja is capable of dropping deeper to help attacking PSG’s final third.
The Bordeaux press
Bordeaux do not have the stars that PSG have. However, to make up for this, they work their socks off. When out of possession, Bordeaux will push men forward. They use a combination of man-marking and pressing to force a turnover in the opposition half. Below we see just that. PSG attempted to build an attack out of defence and the Bordeaux players began attacking any potential passing options for PSG. Bordeaux immediately ask questions of their opponents, and PSG did not have many answers.
In the second half, Bordeaux continued to harass PSG. When a team effectively presses, it can lead to upsets like the one we are seeing. Bordeaux press, this forces Les Parisiens to kick the ball long and risk losing it to the Bordeaux defenders, pass it backwards and risk losing the ball if the goalkeeper is unable to distribute it well, or get dispossessed. Florenzi is on the ball below and has nowhere to pass the ball to. He doesn’t even have the option of dribbling the ball because he is being pressed so intensely.
Both sides try to exploit the switch of play
On the ball is Otávio. He receives the ball after his team wins a five-versus-five encounter as seen in the orange box below. Otávio now was a chance to immediately switch the play of the game to a side of the field where his team now has a one-versus-one encounter. Notice how the PSG player closest to him runs away from the ball. The problem for PSG here is that Bordeaux have six players in their half, and if the play is effectively switched, then this attack will be deadly. If the five boxed players can centralise, they will overwhelm the PSG defence, which could lead to a goal scoring opportunity.
PSG relied on Verratti’s distribution often as we stated earlier in this analysis. Left full-back Bakker looks to attack the wide space left vulnerable by Bordeaux as seen below. The difference between the two teams’ strategies of handling each other’s distribution is that Bordeaux press Verratti with the two forward players, but PSG do not press Bordeaux at all.
Closer to the end of the game, PSG threw what seemed like every man forward. Bordeaux stayed in a low block, so switching the side of play frequently could disrupt this. Here’s the problem: on the ball, Herrera looks to switch play to Bakkre, but Bordeaux can effectively man mark Neymar, Kean and Paredes. There is no overload of the central defenders, meaning that even with so many PSG numbers forward, quality chances will be limited, if there’s any.
PSG should be disappointed that they failed to create quality chances with the world class team that they have. After matchweek 12, they sit just two points above Lille and Lyon in the Ligue 1. They take on Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League on December 2 and will be looking to bounce back immediately if they are to make it past the group stages.
Bordeaux will leave this game with their heads held high after putting in a brave performance against one of the strongest teams in Europe. Clear of relegation by eight points, they will be able to rest easy while focussing on mid table contender Brest next matchweek.