FC Metz – Paris Saint Germain: Paris Saint-Germain Get Past Metz Despite Uninspired Performance (0-2)

Ligue 1 behemoth Paris Saint-Germain took a trip to the Stade Saint-Symphorien to face newly-promoted Metz. This Ligue 1 game came at one of the worst possible times for PSG, as they had to deal with plenty of injuries and off-field drama. In spite of their troubles, PSG claimed a controlled, albeit unimpressive, 2-0 win over Metz.

Tactical analysis and match report by Julian Chingoma.

Trailing league leaders Rennes by three points and without star men Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani through injury, PSG also had the ongoing Neymar saga to deal with. Metz had a lot less on their mind, having made a decent start to their Ligue 1 campaign. They sat at mid-table, having collected four out of a possible nine points so far. They would have certainly been looking to capitalize on the circumstances surrounding the visitors. 

Manager Frédéric Antonetti sent out Metz in a 4-3-3 shape. The defense and goalkeeper remained unchanged from their loss to Angers. In goal was Alexandre Oukidja while Fabien Centonze and Thomas Delaine were the fullbacks, while Stopilla Sunzu and John Boye were the central defensive partnership. The midfield three was made of captain Renaud Cohade along with Habib Maïga and Mamadou Fofana, who both came in for Kevin N’Doram and Victorien Angban. The wingers were Opa N’Guette and Farid Boulaya, who came in for Ibrahima Niane. Habibou Diallo would be the home side’s striker. 

Thomas Tuchel matched the hosts in a 4-3-3 formation for this clash. There had been a reshuffle in personnel from their previous tie, as Mbappé and Cavani were unavailable for selection. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting claimed a starting berth up front. He was joined by Pablo Sarabia and Ángel Di María, who moved forward from midfield to join the front three. Idrissa Gueye and Marco Verratti were joined by 17-year-old youth product Adil Aouchiche in the midfield three. The backline was Colin Dagba, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva in for Abdou Diallo and Juan Bernat. 19-year-old debutant Marcin Bulka was introduced in goal for Alphonse Aréola, feeding transfer speculation that Aréola will be involved in a transfer trade deal with Real Madrid. 

PSG in control 

PSG dominated possession in the first half, but could not create any clear-cut chances from open play. They would end the game with 68% possession, illustrating the monopoly they had on the ball throughout. Sarabia and Di María would start out wide while building up. Once the fullbacks started to push up, they would have the option to remain out wide or move centrally. The fullbacks would adjust their supporting runs accordingly, either overlapping or underlapping. 

The midfield saw Gueye and Verratti help more during buildup from defense, with Aouchiche usually be the furthest forward, adjusting his positioning to the other two players. At times, this advanced positioning allowed Sarabia and Di María to drift to one side. Since he would occupy the vacated position, usually on the right. 

Metz defended in either a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 shape. They would look to remain compact and deny the passing options in and around their box. Any PSG player receiving the ball in these areas would be pressed immediately. This resulted in Sarabia and Di María being pushed back and having to collect the ball from deep. This would take away an option in these advanced areas. Another consequence of this was Choupo-Moting’s struggles to hold the ball or link up with teammates. He would be crowded out as soon as he got possession and did not have much option but to attempt difficult one-two combinations with whoever of Sarabia or Di María were supporting him.

General positioning when PSG had the ball.

While Metz did well to stay compact and repel attacks from PSG, they could not play the ball out from the back themselves. PSG’s pressing certainly made it difficult for the hosts to keep the ball on the ground. The away side rarely dropped back to defend and would simply set up in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape, with Aouchiche staying more advanced in the defensive shape at times. 

Metz were also reluctant in the early going to push too many players up the pitch. Instead, they relied on direct balls to the forward options either in behind the PSG backline or straight to Diallo to hold it up. The Metz striker looked dangerous, providing dynamism and decent hold-up play. In one instance, he latched onto a ball over the top from Boulaya and did well to fend off the contact of Silva and Marquinhos. He then sent a volley flying wide; s a good attempt nonetheless. And having scored three goals in three Ligue 1 games heading into the clash, had he been provided with more consistent service, Diallo may have been able to threaten PSG’s goalkeeper Bulka more often.

Set pieces prove the early difference

Both of PSG’s goals came from set pieces, the first of which was a 12th minute penalty. t was a well-worked corner routine that led to the foul on Bernat in the box. A quick corner kick from Di María was played low to Choupo-Moting, who immediately laid it off around his left side to an onrushing Bernat. The ball by Choupo-Moting was a little short, and this gave Fofana an opportunity to try to take it. But he was beaten to it by Bernat and to make matters worse, he subsequently tripped the PSG left back. The referee pointed to the spot and Di María tucked it home giving PSG the lead.

Much of the same ensued after the opening goal, in terms of the dynamics of the game. PSG continued to probe but struggled to break their opponents down. They did hit the woodwork through a Gueye header from a corner, before they doubled their lead from an indirect free kick. Just before half-time, PSG earned a free kick in the central areas from a foul on Sarabia. Verratti swung in an inviting ball that Choupo-Moting duly met and sent into the back of the net. This would be the only notable action in the first half.

Metz provide some threat

The second half saw a changed Metz side in terms of their approach. At a two-goal deficit, they began holding the ball more and looked to build attacks using sustained possession instead of their quick, direct play from the first half. PSG then started to drop back more often; they would do so in their 4-3-3 shape or a 4-5-1 formation, if the Metz fullbacks pushed Sarabia and Di María back. 

At times, Metz showed great ball circulation and freed up some space for their fullbacks and wingers to attack in one-on-one situations. In the 57th minute, Angban came on for Fofana to provide more energy and seemed to press PSG higher up the pitch. Metz captain Cohade also came off for Marvin Gakpa, who certainly provided the more attacking impetus. The substitute even threatened with a long-range strike late on, drawing a nervous save from Bulka.

From PSG’s perspective, the second period brought some better play and better goal-scoring opportunities. In one instance, with Marquinhos on the ball at the back, Choupo-Moting dropped deep and dragged a defender out of the backline. Di María timed his run brilliantly through the newly-formed gap and was then found by a great ball from Marquinhos. Di María then brought out a decent save from Oukidja at his near post. 

A notable change in shape for PSG came when Kurzawa was brought on for Verratti. Normally a left back, here, he was deployed in the left wing area. Gueye and Leandro Paredes – Aouchiche’s replacement – would act as the double pivot. Sarabia would then move closer to Choupo-Moting. 

This positioning resulted in a good sequence of play although an offside was called. While Choupo-Moting showed great effort to get past multiple markers after collecting the ball from a throw-in, Sarabia made a run through the middle. Kurzawa’s positioning meant the right back had to follow him and create the gap in defense that Sarabia ran through. Choupo-Moting failed to find him but the ball made its way to Bernat, who played a ball straight to Sarabia. The Spaniard had delayed his run but was still caught offside and only shot straight at the keeper anyway. This was some of their most penetrative play throughout the game and it came in the 88th minute, which is indicative of their struggles going forward.


For PSG, this game looked a lot like their Super Cup win over Rennes: winning mainly on individual quality. Should we worry about them? Well, there is a lot of stuff going on off the field; with this win under their belt they can now look to sort out their off-field issues while patiently waiting for their injured players to recover. Next, they return to home comforts to face Strasbourg. Metz will look to quickly pick themselves up as they go away to Bordeaux in their upcoming fixture, participating in the brutal annual merry-go-round that is called relegation race.

Plots will be added to this article as soon as possible.


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