PSG vs. Arsenal: The Key Points

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Ayo Moses plays football, coaches and is a tactical analysis enthusiast. Here are his keen-eyed observations from the PSG – Arsenal match:

First half analysis

  • PSG prevented Arsenal’s build up with Rabiot closing down/marking Coquelin and Verratti on Cazorla while Arsenal used a medium block 4-4-2 and high block 4-2-3-1. The latter became a problem when PSG won the ball because there was so much space between Arsenal’s fullbacks and wingers – see PSG’s goal.
  • Coquelin is not just a defensive destroyer and  tends to drift into forward areas to pick up the ball. Leads me to conclude that Xhaka will replace Carzola in the long term. His long diagonal balls will offer great dimension from deep.
  • Matuidi acted as an overloading player in the offensive build up stage, sometimes drifting as far as the other side to help overload. Arsenal should have done more to combat this.
  • Verratti grew into the game and showed why he is an absolute gem of a player.
  • Serge Aurier is easily among the best five right backs in the world. Arsenal struggled to cope with the combinations between him, Di Maria, Verratti and occasionally Matuidi when he drifted over.
  • Oh Cavani? What has happened to this once instinctive finisher?

The game saw the best & worst of Cavani

Second half analysis

  • Arsenal were rejuvenated after the break, switching to a 4-3-3 high press, aggressively man marking PSG during the buildup and putting constant pressure on Verratti. Good tactical adjustment from Wenger as Verratti completely controlled the game in the first half. A midfield trio of Xhaka (DM), Cazorla (CM) and Coquelin (Cm) might be interesting, the Ozil issue aside.
  • Arsenal also overloaded central areas with Oxlade Chamberlain, Ozil and Iwobi drifting in centrally with the intention of releasing play towards the left side of the field perhaps to exploit Di Maria’s lack of defensive awareness. The equalizer came from the left, as did Iwobi’s great chance late on.
  • Sanchez found space in the “hole” and did  a decent job of it roaming but failed with his final pass, final decision. This is what makes Messi the best in the world in this role.
  • PSG started the second half in a 4-4-2/4-5-1 medium block forgetting all they did well in the first period when closing down Cazorla and Coquelin. My guess is the change in shape by Arsenal controlled this. Wenger won the tactical battle second half
  • Key Point – Arsenal have got their man in Mustafi. I dare say he is a better defender than Koscielny. The German made three vital interceptions high up the field to prevent counter attacks from PSG in the first and second minute of the second half and showed great awareness in commanding the defense (as seen in minute 54, 60 and 66 where he delays a counter attack). A possible weakness will be dealing with crosses, though Koscielny left him exposed often.

Questions at half time

  • Will Emery find a way to prevent Arsenals close passing game in the final attacking phase? Answer: No. Arsenal scored from this situation.
  • Did Arsenal find a way to control play on the right and left flank? Answer: Yes, but more so on the right with Iwobi staying inward to prevent the overload caused by Matuidi. Sanchez was seen sprinting back to track Di Maria which can only mean the team was made aware of the threat posed on that wing and by overloading the left side Serge Aurier was forced to defend more.

Notes at full time

  • Why was Cavani not substituted long time ago and how will PSG solve the Cavani conundrum?
  • Can Wenger fit Coquelin, Cazorla and Xhaka into the same team?
  • Wenger claims he has a squad of men now, not kids. They showed this in the early stages of the second half but was this result a consequence of profligacy by PSG or grit and luck on Arsenal’s side?
  • Overall Wenger proved the better tactician but keep an eye out for PSG. I see them making the quarter finals and a place in the last four is achievable.

Standout performers

  • PSG – Marquinhos, Verratti, Aurier.
  • Arsenal – Ozil
  • Man of the Match – Serge Aurier

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