Paris Saint-Germain – Angers: Life With And Without Neymar For Successful Parisians (4-0)

In the unexpected clash between league leaders PSG and second-placed Angers, PSG spent their time attacking and showed total domination, despite the visitors’ opportunities in the first half. 

Tactical analysis and match report Simon Piotr

After defeating Galatasaray in a difficult game away from home in the Champions League, PSG had to win at the Parc des Princes to secure their position on top of the French league. 

Before matchday 9, Angers were co-leading Ligue 1 two points ahead of PSG, despite having the seventieth budget in France. Besides some good-old efficient finishing – Angers scored 5.1 goals more than their expected goal The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. output – they have been manifesting themselves very well early in the season. A great reward for Stéphane Moulin, who has been coaching the team for eight seasons straight, and has taken the club from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1 in 2015 and maintained a spot in the French elite division ever since.

Regularly playing in a classical 4-3-3 formation for a few weeks, manager Thomas Tuchel kept the same system in place on Saturday afternoon, but there is a huge difference between the team he lines up in Europe and the one in Ligue 1, explained by the presence of Neymar. Suspended for the two first Champions League games, Tuchel could not field the Brazilian genius against Madrid or Galatasaray. The challenge Tuchel face is between building a competitive league for the European season and building a team around Neymar when he is able to play. 

However, the German coach kept to his 4-3-3 system, with everyone more or less in a classical position. Neymar and Sarabia as wingers, Icardi upfront, Paredes-Gueye-Verratti in midfield, the only original thing was playing Herrera as right back due to the physical problems in that position.

As for the visitors, they lined up in the same 4-1-4-1 setup they had been using since the last four games. The team was composed of: Butelle, Manceau, Traoré, Thomas, Nouri, Santamaria, Lage, Capelle, Bobichon, Ninga, Alioui. But like most teams coming to the Parc des Princes, Angers had to take a much more defensive approach than what they would do in a regular game.

PSG’s territorial domination and efficiency to take the lead

It was obvious right from kick-off that the game would have a clear scenario. Paris in attack, and Angers defending. Indeed, the Parisians quickly had more than 70% possession and kept that level of ball control all game long. Their movements were pretty classical given the players on the field; wingers tucked in to play between the lines, and fullbacks would occupy the wings high and wide. The triangles created by the 4-3-3 shape were used to circulate the ball with ease on the whole pitch. The fluidity we saw in the passing is not actually something you see in every PSG game, depending on the tactical formula chosen.

Icardi was the only one not involved in the team’s passing, he was in fact the player touching the ball the least amongst the twenty-two players starting the game. 

PSG’s possession 4-3-3 system with the center-backs and the holding midfielder securing possession at all times.

Angers decided to defend quite deep in their 4-1-4-1 shape, the Parisian center-backs were left off pressure and the defensive block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. was positioned very low on the field. 

To prevent the fullbacks from creating superiority forward, Angers’ wingers would follow their movements – creating a 6-3-1 shape at times. However, that job was not done very well, as Bernat would often be found at pace on the left wing. More importantly, the opening goal came from right back Herrera, finding Sarabia, who then finished the action on his own to score his first league goal after twelve minutes in the game. 

Trailing, Angers had to react. We would not see them spend a lot of time on the ball, but they played some very interesting transitions with energy. PSG genuinely missed Marquinhos to counterpress and tactically foul these counterattacks, as Gueye could not penetrate high up until the box and track back to help his defenders at the same time.

Those transitions brought dangerous situations, especially after the first goal, as Kimpembe lost many duels but they were not very well played or saved by Navas.

The other part of the defensive plan for Angers was to be careful to never leave Neymar free to play one-against-one situations, and they were actually quite tough on him. This was successful for some time and Neymar even seemed frustrated to not be able to play his best football. But one mistake is enough to get punished when the differences in quality are this big. 

On a high ball recovery from Paredes, Angers’ block did not have their usual structure in place, and as a consequence, Verratti found Neymar, who could eventually play a one-versus-one, then Sarabia crossed to Icardi who scored his second goal of the week after giving his team the winner in Turkey. This meant PSG were leading 2-0 after 37 minutes with two shots on target; efficiency made their lives easier for the rest of the game. 

Second half: total control for PSG, who can seal the result

Coming back from the locker room, Angers did not seem able to produce any kind of reaction and apparently had left their strength in the battle at the end of the first half.

Tuchel added a twist to improve the overall balance of the system. Indeed, during the second half, Gueye and Verratti switched position so the Senegalese midfielder could be able to cover the space left by Bernat who basically played like a left winger all game long. PSG were still in control of the possession, but they were not conceding situations anymore. 

Despite not having fully recovered his best level yet, Neymar showed who the best player was during the second half. As minutes went, he was the only player maintaining the same intensity, if not more intense, until he became uncontrollable for Angers. When Icardi came out for Choupo-Moting in minute 72, the Brazilian even played like a false nine A striker that constantly drops deep and plays like a number ten. with two wingers by his side. Big chances were coming one after the other, but a lack of quality in the finishing made him wait until the 90th minute to score a goal after a good pass into space by Choupo-Moting. 

Meanwhile, PSG had scored the third goal already through Idrissa Gueye since the 59 minute, ensuring a deserved 4-0 victory.


Despite being close on the table after starting the season well, there was not much Angers could do against this PSG side. With the recent 4-3-3 system, Thomas Tuchel seems to have found a good formula to keep his team balanced with the three midfielders behind the front three. His choices also come from the state of his squad (Mbappé, Cavani, Draxler injured, no Neymar for the Champions League before the next game) but it does not seem to do him any harm right now.

Last season he was forced to build a team with four forwards almost every game and many players out of position with both pros and cons. We can assume he probably enjoys having the choice to make his team and build a more solid midfield while experimenting in a system that has proven many times how useful it can be for possession football teams. 

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