In the age of data analysis, ‘moneyball’ and astute acquisitions, one team stands alone in their adoption of the old Galactico model when recruiting.
Over the past decade, a state-backed Paris Saint-Germain have thrown around disgusting wads of cash, hoping to attain the big-eared trophy that they so desire.
The Ligue 1 champions splashed €222 million on Neymar, €180 million on Kylian Mbappé, and €52 million on Angel Di Maria, just to name a few, and let’s not even get started on the wage bill which includes Lionel Messi reportedly being on upwards of €700k per week and Mbappé on €50 million per annum.
It can probably be argued that this heavily-financed recruitment strategy has been nothing short of a failure. Billions spent, and not a single UEFA Champions League trophy to show for it.
But this failure hasn’t just come at a purely financial cost. The French giants have also lost some wonderfully gifted academy players over the years because of their hefty import-based methods in the market.
Players like Christopher Nkunku, Mike Maignan, Kingsley Coman, and Moussa Diaby are just a few of the names to have left the Parc des Princes in recent times before achieving great success elsewhere. Another future star is set to follow suit this summer.
Eduoard Michut has recently been linked with a move away from PSG as the 19-year-old midfielder desires more game-time. Having been linked with Scottish champions Celtic among a plethora of other clubs, Michut could be a wonderful long-term investment this summer for a possession-based side.
This article will be a tactical analysis of Michut in the form of a scout report, looking at how the teenager fit into PSG’s tactics last season.
What’s interesting about Michut is the fact that, at just 19, he already made numerous appearances for PSG during Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure. However, these minutes were predominantly towards the end of the campaign and quite dispersed.
Nevertheless, Michut was used slightly differently for both the PSG U19s and the first team. The youth manager Zoumana Camara, formerly a player of clubs such as Leeds United and PSG, has used the 4-2-3-1 formation in 55% of the U19s side’s matches this season.
Contrasting this with the men’s first-team, over the course of the 2021/22 campaign, Pochettino mainly deployed his side in a 4-3-3, using the 4-2-3-1 in just 13% of his games. Hence, under Camara, Michut played mostly as a number ‘10’ while the teenager was positioned slightly deeper as an ‘8’ by the now unemployed ‘Poch’.
The visual above displays the three positions that Michut was utilised in. The 19-year-old was comfortable in all three areas, with most of his minutes coming as an attacking playmaker.
However, due to the fluidity of PSG’s system at youth and first-team level, Michut drifts anywhere in the middle third of the pitch, which shines through in his heatmap for this season.
This is something that will be analysed further but Michut tends to pop up in both halfspaces, between the lines and even in the pivot space during games to receive the ball which is why his heatmap is so dispersed.
The midfielder is extremely technical. Michut has wonderful vision and plays one step ahead of the game at all times. His movement and understanding of space is truly glorious to watch.
Michut is extremely nimble with the ball too and is capable of receiving in very tight pockets of space, making him quite press resistant, a lot like teammate Marco Verratti, although Michut’s qualities and style of play primarily resemble that of Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcântara.
But the youngster is a bit taller than Verratti, standing 5’10 or 178cm, although his frame is very slight, weighing in at just 68kg, or 149lbs. Regardless, this doesn’t stifle his ability in any way as Michut has a wonderful low centre of gravity which makes him extremely difficult to tackle.
One of the most vital attributes that all great midfielders possess is the ability to orient their body shape correctly when receiving the ball. You wouldn’t cross a road without looking left and right, all the while walking backwards, so you shouldn’t call for a pass without understanding your surroundings and setting your body posture correctly.
When players scan, several reference points are taken into account before taking a touch. The receiver must understand the space and time they have, where the opponents are, and finally, where their teammates are positioned. Only upon knowing these elements can a footballer give themselves the greatest chance of making the correct next action whether it be taking the ball on the half-turn, bouncing it back where it came, or finding a teammate elsewhere on the field.
Here is an example of wonderful body orientation from Michut receiving the ball in the middle third and switching it to the final portion of the pitch.
The teenager has opened up his body up before receiving, preparing to take the pass on his backfoot. Michut has also scanned numerous times, understanding how much time and space he had, allowing him to receive the ball in the manner he eventually did.
Once he had finally set the ball with his back foot, which also happens to be his weaker left peg, Michut quickly switched it out to Kylian Mbappé on the left to allow the French superstar to create a wonderful opportunity for PSG.
Arguably one of the most impressive aspects of Michut’s all-around game is his two-footedness. The young Frenchman is excellent with the ball at both of his feet which allows him to be very dynamic with how he orients his body to receive.
While the right foot is certainly his strongest, Michut’s left foot is scintillating at times too.
Here is another example of the player’s impressive ability to scan and read all the right reference points before progressing his team into the final third.
Here, Michut had positioned himself in a rather tight pocket of space. After several scans, realising he had enough time and space, the 19-year-old positioned his body to the side, facilitating the ability to receive the ball on his back foot and take it on the half-turn before slipping in the PSG winger.
This kind of ability against a low block, in particular, is absolutely vital for any side that wants to dominate possession through positional play. As low defensive blocks are generally always compact between the lines, players have extremely limited time to receive the ball in this area and turn.
Michut gives his teams this ability to play to him between the lines of a low defensive block where he can turn on the ball and slip runners in behind, breaking down the defensive unit.
Build-up phase and positional awareness
Despite his limited minutes in the first-team, playing in a tactical system like Mauricio Pochettino and Camara’s allowed Michut to play to his strengths during the possession phases.
Both styles were highly fluid on the ball, with players given license to rotate and interchange positions regularly providing the structure wasn’t unbalanced.
Because the shackles are off, even when positioned in a higher role, Michut drops short during the build-up phase to provide his backline with a forward passing option to bypass the opposition’s press.
To bang the previous section’s point home once more, Michut’s excellent understanding of body posture allows his side to play through the opponent’s initial pressing and advance quickly up the field because he can turn and drive forward.
This is a wonderful example of Michut’s capabilities to help his team bypass a high press in their defensive third.
Montpellier are pressing PSG high up the pitch despite being 4-0 down in stoppage time, albeit a half-bothered press. The goalkeeper plays the ball to the feet of Michut who has come short to receive a pass.
Straight away, Michut is already prepped to take the ball on the half-turn on his back-foot before playing out to the fullback wide on the right. Within the space of three seconds, it was a truly sumptuous showcase of the midfielder’s ability.
Further up the pitch, Michut drifts all over the place, hence why his heatmap is so dispersed. In the few games he played for PSG’s first-team, the youngster would often move into the pivot space when it was vacated, to receive the ball or even to the sides of the centre-backs, creating a three-man first line.
In this image, Marco Verratti, who was playing as the single pivot in PSG’s 4-3-3 dropped into the first line to create a temporary back three. In doing so, the pivot space behind the opposition’s first line of pressure was vacated.
Spotting the empty space in this area, Michut dropped into it and acted as a wall-pass for the brief back three.
In the next image, Michut sees there is a lot of space in the deeper wide areas and so moves out to the side of the left centre-back Presnel Kimpembe, who is rumoured to be heading to Chelsea this summer.
Some midfielders are incredible at plugging space whilst defending but Michut is the complete opposite — he plugs the space while his side are on the ball. Where there is space on the football pitch not being occupied, you can be guaranteed that Michut is there looking to receive a pass.
Needs defensive improvement
Two elements that cannot be taken away from Michut are his determination and tenacity when defending. The youngster is hungry to win the ball back when his side lose possession and is very aggressive with his pressing and tackling, sometimes too aggressive.
However, the main issue is that Michut isn’t great off the ball, particularly when his side are defending in a low defensive block.
Here, PSG were defending in a 4-4-2 with Michut being tasked with zonally marking the right halfspace. The player switches off and the opposition are easily able to play into this area between the lines.
Michut isn’t very good at protecting the backline, meaning it would be rather difficult to play him in a deeper role as a lone pivot, especially out of possession. Players that operate as a ‘6’ need to have immense positional awareness and be constantly scanning to cut off passing lanes between the lines.
While Michut scans a lot during the attacking phases, he has a tendency to be a bit lackadaisical out of possession which is something that still needs to be worked on.
Given his wonderful ability on the ball, if he does move on from PSG this summer, it’s likely that his new club will be one with a heavy emphasis on ball retention and positional play. A side like Celtic under Ange Postecoglou seems perfect for the midfielder.
Michut would be a serious coup for any team looking for a highly-skilled technician in the middle of the park, playing in a role where there wouldn’t be too much exposure of his defensive weaknesses.