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Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG’s confidence to Coupe de France success – tactical analysis

After previously being sidelined due to an injury Kylian Mbappé stepped up and pushed his team PSG forward to the Coupe de France final after a dramatic penalty shootout against Montpellier.

Mbappe gave PSG the lead twice but a couple of defensive errors resulted in a 2-2 draw in the regular time. Although the Parisians were the more dominant team throughout the game, their opponents had their moments and were able to take advantage of their opportunities. As per usual, Montpellier proved that they could come back from losing positions and threaten the opposition’s goal.

Their usual defensive flaws peaked through and they failed in defending against PSG’s deadly counter-attacks as well as against their through ball efforts which Les Parisiens are so efficient in.

Montpellier tried exposing the opposition with crossing frequently and that’s actually how they managed to get back into the game after conceding twice. Their impressive 52.94% cross accuracy helped them in creating 15 goalscoring opportunities. PSG’s struggles to protect the lead were underlined too as it appears to be one of their main problems.

In this tactical analysis, we examine both teams’ tactics and how they reacted to each other’s tweaks. The analysis will focus on how both teams tried to expose each other and what went wrong defensively.

Line-ups and formations

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Both teams’ starting XIs.

Michel Der Zakarian set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Dimitry Bertaud on the goal, who played a crucial part in denying PSG’s efforts on the goal. Daniel Congré, Vitorino Hilton and Arnaud Souquet formed the centre-back trio, while Mihailo Ristić and Salomon Sambia moved into the wing-back positions. It turned out that the Souquet – Sambia combination on the right is unable to stop  PSG’s attacks through the left, especially defending against Mbappé, who could easily take on them and move into a goalscoring position.

Teji Savanier and Jordan Ferri operated in the centre midfield, with Florent Mollet supporting the attacking duo upfront. Andy Delort and Gaëtan Laborde both fulfilled their purposes and broke through the Parisians’ defence, each of them scoring equalisers to bring Montpellier back in the game.

Mauricio Pochettino chose a very fluid 4-3-3 with Keylor Navas on the goal, supported by Mitchel Bakker, Abdou Diallo, Marquinhos and Alessandro Florenzi. Bakker turned out to be the weak spot in PSG’s backline due to his tendency to support the attacking actions. His area would often be free, which resulted in Montpellier focusing their attacking actions on the right flank.

Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes and Rafinha Alcântara formed the midfield trio who supported the attacking actions quite well and made sure to keep the possession and provide passing options in the advanced areas.

The MOTM Mbappé occupied the left-wing while Mauro Icardi moved centrally, supported by Pablo Sarabia from the right. The French wonder kid’s individual performance was on the next level and he produced a high number of chances for his team, including the two goals for the final 2-2.

Kylian Mbappé’s masterclass

After missing one of PSG’s most important games this season – the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, Mbappé came back stronger and put on a masterclass to keep his team’s hopes for a title alive.

The 22-year-old was the most efficient player on the pitch, constantly exposing the opposition with his pace, control and smart decisions. Both the right centre-back Souquet and the right wing-back Sambia failed in covering the Frenchman properly.

His movement was extremely threatening both during transitions and when Montpellier had already dropped to defend in line. Mbappé was successful in exploiting the spaces freed up by Sambia’s high positioning and Monpellier’s tendency to attack through the flanks. The wing-back was often unable to drop in a timely manner, and even when he did, Mbappé would easily take on him through his dribbling.

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Mbappe’s individual efforts on the flank would often leave the Montpellier defeners unable to react. In this case not only they couldn’t stop him on the flank but also failed to cover the central areas.

La Paillade were inefficient in covering the youngster when pinned back in their 5-3-2 formation too. The defenders would often get dragged out of position and leave spaces for him to cut inside or for one of his teammates to receive his crosses.

The PSG start had a 100% success in his shots as all five of them were on target, managing to score two goals and put his team forward twice. He attempted to dribble past his markers 15 times with 47% success. His occupation of both the wide areas and the half-spaces provided additional passing options and was a constant threat to the goal.

Mbappé was not only involved in their positional attacks but was also their key asset during counters, thanks to his pace and positioning. He also provided an additional threat from corners, although the team couldn’t utilise these chances.

The player now has scored 39 goals in 44 games in all competitions this season and assisted 10 more, becoming one of the most feared forwards in the game.

PSG’s attacking efforts against Montpellier’s defensive set-up

PSG relied on a lot of movement and smart passing in their attacking actions. They tried overloading the opposition half with players in order to break through Montpellier’s low block. They’d use smart positioning to open the passing lanes and create one-touch pass combinations in efforts to progress the ball and open spaces. This would often result in the opposition being dragged out and allowing PSG space.

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Montpellier’s defenders allowing to be dragged out with two simple movements.
Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
PSG used their movement and one-touch pass combination to open a defensive gap.

As mentioned, La Paillade would drop in a 5-3-2 out of possession, concentrating their actions on covering the flanks where PSG would sometimes intentionally drag them, opening spaces centrally. This helped the Parisians in their efficiency in the central areas. They’d constantly circulate the ball between the midfielders and wait patiently for good opportunities to penetrate.

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Montpellier’s 5-3-2 out of possession.

Although Montpellier’s defence was quite vulnerable they occasionally managed to keep the opposition away from the goal. This forced PSG to switch play and initiated even more movement and increased spatial awareness from the Parisian side. Whenever they were unable to open the passing lanes, the team would shoot from outside the box.

PSG relied on crossing, but what troubled their opponents the most was their through ball efforts. Montpellier usually struggle to defend against through balls and skilful players and their Coupe de France display made no difference. PSG’s creativity would often cause a chaotic reaction from the opposite defenders and only the outstanding performance of the goalkeeper Bertaud would save them. The keeper made six saves throughout the game, deflecting a few very dangerous chances. He was the key man to push his team to the penalty shootout.

La Paillade’s attacking strategy and PSG’s reaction

Montpellier focused their attacking actions on the flanks as per usual. As mentioned, they looked to expose the weaker PSG side where Bakker was often out of his position due to his high positioning. They would overload the right side in their ball progression efforts, trying to provide as many passing options as possible. This meant their wide players combining with their teammates in the half-spaces.

They would overcommit to their attacking actions though and often struggle in transitions. PSG made sure to take advantage of these situations by quickly recovering the ball in their defensive third and initiating counter-attacks. The team were very efficient on a counter thanks to their pace. It was very difficult for the Montpellier players to outrun their opponents and the Parisians created four goalscoring opportunities out of seven counters.

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
The space between Montpellier’s lines when caught on a counter.
Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Montpellier’s difficulties to defend counters.

La Paillade changed their strategy after conceding the second goal and switched to high pressing in aim to recover the ball in the advanced areas and equalise. Their PPDA dropped from 23.3 to 10.7 after the 70th minute and it immediately gave results. They pressurised the PSG defenders who started committing individual errors and their work under pressure was poor. This eventually led to Montpellier’s 83rd-minute equaliser.

Mbappe to the rescue: How his efforts boosted PSG's confidence to Couple de France success - tactical analysis tactics
Montpellier’s efforts on the flanks and PSG’s defensive vulnerability. Their marking wouldn’t often be on point, leaving gaps in the advanced areas for the opposition to exploit.

Conclusion

After an eventful regular time, the Real Madrid target Mbappé’s efforts inspired the team but couldn’t compensate for PSG’s defensive mistakes, the game continued into a penalty shootout where the Parisians earned their spot to the final with 6-5. Moise Kean, who replaced Mbappé in the second half tuned out as the hero of the evening scoring the decisive penalty after a crucial Sambia miss a couple of minutes earlier.

Despite qualifying for the Coupe de France final, this game underlined PSG’s defensive vulnerability which stripped them from both the Ligue 1 title and the Champions League dream.