PSG find themselves with a manager who is no fan of two striker formations. Is there enough room in the squad for both Zlatan Ibrahimovic AND Edinson Cavani?
For years, as manager of the French national team, incoming boss Laurent Blanc preferred 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations, emphasizing the importance of the midfield battle.
Yet last season, under new Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, PSG deployed a 4-2-2-2 formation that, while having its detractors, was enough to see the squad lift their first league title in nearly 20 years.
In spite of PSG’s possible striking abundance, if Blanc is a manager who puts a high priority on numerical strength in midfield, he cannot comfortably employ last season’s tactics.
As Sam Thompson, editor of the tactical blog just-football.com, writes in his April 10th analysis of PSG, “…PSG [often] consists of a defensive unit of six players, and an attacking unit of four players, with little crossover between the two.”
Does this sound like something a possession-minded, midfield focused manager like Blanc wants to hear?
The answer is clearly no, so what can Blanc do? Neither player is one of those interchangeable forwards, as comfortable out wide as playing down the middle.
One option is to accept the dual striker reality, but to do so in a way that sacrifices wing play rather than midfield numbers. They could employ something akin to the Massimiliano Allegri’s 4-3-1-2. This (along with the Blanc preferred 4-2-3-1) has the added benefit of moving the extremely talented Lucas Moura to his preferred CAM position.
A midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, and Blaise Matuidi behind a tight, central front three of Lucas Moura, Edinson Cavani, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be truly intimidating. Throw in Yohan Cabaye, a player Blanc praised heavily at Wednesday’s press conference, which can be seen here in a report from the Guardian, and you have a squad that must excite any PSG fan.
That mouth-watering possibility is only one of many, though, and each option presents its own difficulties.
Any 4-4-2 variation will involve players out of position – Moura on the wing – along with with fewer players in midfield than Blanc prefers. This is not to say that PSG can’t make it work. Ibrahimovic is a fantastic deep lying forward, a striker capable of holding up play and slotting through balls to incoming attackers. The two would give any defense cause for concern, even if the transition will have to rely on methods of which Blanc is no fan.
The Blanc preferred 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 both leave either Cavani or Ibrahimovic on the bench, which seems both unlikely and rather impossible, given Ibra’s temperment.
There is, of course, the outside chance that PSG are preparing to offload Ibrahimovic. With Cavani off the market, rich teams desperate for prolific strikers will only become more so.
That said, chances are it is Blanc who will yield and PSG will begin this coming season lining up much the way they ended last. Either way, PSG will go from strong to stronger with the signing of Edinson Cavani. If he can replicate his Napoli form in Paris, expect PSG to wreak havoc in Ligue 1 and across Europe.