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Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24: How he will approach the Champions League challenge – tactical analysis

In his inaugural interview as the new coach of Paris Saint-Germain, the seasoned Spanish coach Luis Enrique proudly declared, “I’m an attacking coach”. A critical juncture for the club, as its ambitious owners seek to achieve what cannot be reached: winning the UEFA Champions League.

Since the club was acquired by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) in 2011, they have been fixated on a distant dream of winning the UEFA Champions League. However, this pursuit has led them down a path of repeated reconstruction cycles and subsequent failures.

In this comprehensive tactical analysis, presented as a scout report, we will delve into the overarching issues faced by Paris Saint-Germain, particularly in the context of the Champions League. With Luis Enrique at the helm, the club embarks on a new era, where he emphatically stated, “The main reason is that the directors have an obvious idea of the team they want to build.” Do PSG actually now have what they never had?

From Mauricio Pochettino and whose before to Christophe Galtier and then now, from Leonardo Araújo to Luis Campos, and from the problem of Neymar and then Messi and his departure to the repeated dilemma of Mbappé, the Parisians keep hot, not with championships and numbers, but with issues and changes — The issues plaguing Paris Saint-Germain seem to be a continuous and ever-evolving cycle.

The build despair

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” — Michael Jordan.

Since the Qataris’ acquisition, which injected substantial financial resources into Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the team has experienced success in domestic championships. However, the dream remained unattainable.

Despite boasting a roster filled with numerous star players over the years, PSG have struggled to form a cohesive football and administrative team capable of sustained success. Their approach seemed to rely on short-term success and constant hope of achieving Champions League glory rather than building a solid foundation for long-term prosperity.

Successful teams prioritise building a solid infrastructure outside the pitch in modern football before focusing on on-field performance. This involves adopting an evident long-term approach, which then influences decisions in management, scouting, analysing, coaching, and player recruitment. Such an approach fosters sustainable success, and even in the face of setbacks, it allows the team to find its way back on track.

However, PSG’s impatience and lack of foresight prevented them from emulating the long-term team-building strategies employed by clubs like Manchester City and Newcastle now. While the owners spared no expense on acquiring top players, the club often made ill-considered signings before establishing a clear sports direction with a sports director and coach in place sometimes.

Moreover, assembling a team solely based on gathering the best 11 players in the world is not always a practical approach in a team sport. While having exceptional megastars can be beneficial, it can also lead to issues — what happened with PSG — like ego clashes and a lack of team chemistry. A team with multiple megastars may suffer from divisions and a lack of cohesion, hindering their performance on the field.

It is enough to express the presence of these stars. As of the European Champions Report of Football Benchmark in 2023, Paris Saint-Germain have recorded the highest-ever wage bill for a professional football club, amounting to an astounding €728 million (£645 million) annually.

Plus, despite the star-studded additions to the squad, PSG faced real tactical challenges during matches. Notably, even with stars like Leo Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé, the team struggled during out-of-possession phases, often having only seven players engaged defensively. This deficiency significantly hampered their effectiveness without the ball.

The fans believe that, as the ultras conveyed their concerns to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi through a formal letter. In this letter, they requested a meeting with him to express their dissatisfaction with the club’s approach to flashy signings. The ultras labelled PSG’s project as lacking a clear sports policy and direction: “a sports policy without real direction”.

Apart from signing significant stars, PSG have recently observed a shift towards more mature young signings, with particular credit to Luis Campos after Leonardo’s era.

During Leonardo’s era and in 2019-20, the club made signings like Abdou Diallo, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Mauro Icardi, Pablo Sarabia, and Keylor Navas.

On the other hand, Luis Campos has been instrumental in initiating a new project. He played a pivotal role in securing the renewal of Kylian Mbappe’s contract and also brought in promising talents such as Nordi Mukiele, Vitinha, Carlo Soler, Fabián Ruiz, Renato Sanches, and Hugo Ekitike.

Now Luis Campos seems also about to be fired as well — PSG are eyeing a move for Paolo Maldini as their new sporting director in the event of Luis Campos’ departure. (Source: CorSport).

In anticipation of an imminent change in the sporting director position and before finalising their new coach, PSG has been active in the summer transfer window, securing significant signings. The most notable additions in the graphic below:

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

PSG’s Champions League tumbles

Perhaps the best person to express the team’s hardship with the Champions League is their former coach, the French Laurent Blanc — “I know a bit about the place, the club, et cetera,” Blanc said. “The problem with Paris is that when the number one goal and the goal that interests you and all the fans is no longer achievable, it seems that the season no longer exists.”

The former Manchester United player continues, “The Champions League goes on, and everything is fine. The Champions League unfortunately stops, and then it’s all over. The season is over, and we talk about the next season.”

The root cause of PSG’s recurring loss of passion after exiting the Champions League can be attributed to the lack of intense competition in Ligue 1 compared to other top leagues, such as the English Premier League, where Manchester City competes. While Man City has dominated the Premier League in recent years without winning the Champions League, their players and fans remain passionate due to the fierce and competitive nature of the league.

Unlike the Premier League, where every match is a challenging battle, PSG’s dominance in Ligue 1 creates a lack of intense momentum and ambition, leading to a drop in passion and motivation after Champions League exits.

Over the past seven years, PSG has faced five Champions League exits before the quarter-finals, except for their notable achievement of reaching the final in 2020. The graphic below illustrates PSG’s Champions League performances since the takeover by the Qataris.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

The graphic highlights that the club’s owners do not display significant patience with coaches if they fail in the Champions League. Interestingly, despite several prominent coaches, including Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, and Carlo Ancelotti, the coach who remained with the team the longest was Laurent Blanc himself.

Is Luis Enrique the chosen one?

Indeed, the circumstances surrounding Luis Enrique’s appointment were similar to those of his predecessors. The team had already made several significant signings before finalising the contract with the Spaniard, indicating that there has been little change in the administration’s mindset.

Luis Enrique has shown his willingness to take on this new challenge at PSG. With the team boasting a group of excellent players, Enrique’s recent experiences with the Spain national team have demonstrated his growth as a coach.

Luis Enrique’s tactics revolve around a preference for possession and controlling the opponents, employing high and counter-pressing. While he brings valuable tactical acumen to the table, the real challenge for him now lies in managing the dressing room and fostering a positive team dynamic.

Luis Enrique’s coaching philosophy revolves around a positional play approach, which emphasises seeking superiority in various ways — positional, numerical, dynamic, and qualitative. Different types of players use different tactics and sub-tactics but under the same positional mindset. The pass map in the below graphic with Spain in Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 illustrates their possession and horizontal approach.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

Typically favouring 4-3-3, Enrique’s team ensures coverage in all five vertical lanes. During the build-up, they adapt to opponents’ high-pressing schemes by employing a 4-1 or dynamic 4-2 base for build-up, always looking for the spare man through the combinations.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

To excel in this system, players like Lucas Hernández, Milan Škriniar, and Marquinhos are well-suited as centre-backs due to their ability to handle pressure and play progressive passes, as Lucas Hernández did 88.9% pass completion per 90 last season with 5.82 progressive passes. In comparison, Škriniar had 91.3% pass completion per 90 with 3.83 progressive passes (as per FBref).

Donnarumma is the top choice but needs improvement in initiating build-up play, especially against high-pressing clubs in the champions league.

Enrique’s team often uses 1-2 or 3rd man combinations to advance higher to find free players, with the No. 8s given the freedom to move vertically behind the opposition’s midfield to receive. Manuel Ugarte, Marco Verratti, and Fabián Ruiz perfectly fit Enrique’s approach, especially Verratti, renowned for his progressive passes and passing ability.

Manuel Ugarte, Marco Verratti, and Fabián Ruiz perfectly align with the manager’s approach — Verratti can be used as a No. 6 or No. 8; the Italian midfielder is one of the best progressors in the world, as the below graphic illustrates his progressive passes and passing map during last season he did 92.6% pass completion per 90 and with 9,81 progressive passes.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

The Spanish talented Fabián Ruiz is at his peak at 27. Further, the new signing Manuel Ugarte, who hit 91,6% Pass Completion last season, can play as a No. 6 while Verratti drops alongside him to create the 4-2 base. On the full-backs during this phase, PSG have two of the best young attacking full-backs in the world, Hakimi and Mendes.

Enrique’s team usually builds slowly during the penetration, using combinations a lot, overloading one side to lure the opponents and switching to the other side to isolate the winger or the attacking full-back, stretching the width (Overloading to isolate).

Moreover, while luring the opposition from side to side, the farthest No. 8s commonly move vertically to receive into the half-space. At the same time, the opposition’s full-back is busy with the winger, and the nearest centre-back is focused on marking the striker.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

A player like Verratti between the lines and into the small spaces would be essential to keep the possession from side to side, playing as a relay player to maintain the ball by quick combinations while the other midfielders are positioning themselves in between the lines to gain the positional advantage, Fabián Ruiz would be dangerous there because of his attacking abilities.

With Enrique, the striker always seems to drop off to provide an additional passing lane which also opens gaps in the opposition’s backline to the advanced No. 8s to exploit. Neymar would be a perfect dynamic striker if he stayed, or even Marco Asensio, who sometimes operated this role with Sapin.

In the final third, different mechanisms are used by various movements of the full-backs and wingers. In the situation of Achraf Hakimi and Mendes overlapping on the line, that would reflect on the wingers’ run toward the half-spaces, Mbappé on the left and Asensio on the right. Mbappé would be ready to exploit any gaps generated by the dropping-off striker.

Also, the wingers can stretch the line to be isolated into ample space against the opposition’s full-back while the full-backs underlap and sometimes invert. Also, Nordi Mukiele on the right or Lucas Hernández on the left would be choices as defensive full-backs who invert into the first line.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

Luis Enrique’s defensive approach revolves around high pressing, executed aggressively. His teams maintain compact lines and utilise diverse pressing triggers to disrupt the opponent’s build-up, swiftly regaining possession.

As the transfer market continues, PSG remain actively involved, and rumours have linked the club to several strikers. Among the closest names associated are Dušan Vlahović and Randal Kolo Muani.

Luis Enrique at PSG 2023/24 - scout report

The graphic displays Luis Enrique’s expected preferred 4-3-3 setup based on the current squad.

Donnarumma will take charge in the goalkeeping position, while Lucas Hernández and Milan Škriniar are the chosen centre-backs. Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes will likely secure their positions as full-backs unless the coach opts for a more defensive full-back option like Nordi Mukiele on the right or Lucas Hernández on the left.

Manuel Ugarte, Marco Verratti, and Fabián Ruiz perfectly align with the manager’s tactical approach and will play crucial roles as cornerstones in the midfield. Additionally, Renato Sanches, Warren Zaire-Emery, and Vitinha are expected to make valuable contributions and have proven highly effective when called upon.

If Enrique opts for a false nine, Neymar will likely be a formidable solution in that role. Meanwhile, if Kylian Mbappé remains with the team, he will continue to occupy the left wing or the dynamic striker role while Marco Asensio is on the right.


This analysis explores the challenges Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) faced in their pursuit of UEFA Champions League success.

With the appointment of Luis Enrique as the new coach, PSG seeks to address issues related to management, squad building, and motivation after Champions League exits. The club’s dominance in Ligue 1 and impatience with coaches add to the complexities. Can Enrique spearhead a successful era? Only time will tell but he comes with a decent track record and a reputation that should command respect from the dressing room.