Reims – Paris Saint-Germain (L1, matchday 10): Neymar (PSG) flag bearer, a find that seems like a chimera?

It had already been dormant for some time. Against Benfica (1-1), it became clear. Announced in the usual attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, Neymar was actually in midfield. Positioned as left flag alongside Marco Verratti and Vitinha, the Brazilian was used in a more defensive register than he is used to. A surprising choice.

But Galtier did not do it by chance. “Regarding the position of Kylian and Messi in relation to Neymar, there was this desire to maintain offensive power, because Neymar has incredible offensive power and is very important in this device.explained the Parisian coach. But we also had to maintain density at the heart of the game, in particular Marco Verratti in front of the defence, because Benfica is a team that puts a lot of people inside, practically four players, and we had to protect the axis of the defence”.

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The perfect compromise

Galtier continues to search for the right formula to balance his team. In that sense, he tried the bet of aligning his Brazilian strategist in the center of the field. For a fairly mixed result. Between two positions, Neymar did not have the offensive influence that he has shown since the beginning of the season. And his defensive contribution did not have the expected effects, despite the player’s obvious effort. There was something better in the Parisian atmosphere but the whole still left a lot to be desired. Above all, the defense was just as exposed despite the repositioning of the gold-green star.

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The Parisian coach, however, had reason to try this option. He not only responded to a specific logic, facing the most competitive team in midfield that PSG has faced since the start of the season. Above all, it made him dangle the prospect of the ideal compromise: maintain that system of three central defenders that he has put in place since his arrival on the Parisian bench, while strengthening his midfield by adding a third element, without having to leave. from the starting eleven one of his three attacking stars.

A configuration that changes everything

Therefore, the idea made sense for a long-term vision, not just for the trip to Lisbon. It also corresponded to a certain logic in the mind of the Parisian coach. If Leo Messi holds that role of free electron between midfield and attack in his 3-4-1-2, it is Neymar, but considered a second striker along with Mbappé, whom he has always seen as the guarantor of the Parisian collective balance. “It has that ability to repeat efforts, it has volume, intensityexplained after the victory in Lyon (0-1). He is generous with the team.

“Neymar is the one who gives the best balance”

This was still the case against Benfica, but in a different configuration. For Neymar it was no longer about abandoning the attack to come between the lines and accelerate the game with passes and dribbles, as he knows how to do. But participate in the development of offensive movements from further away before projecting forward to bring the surplus in attack. His qualities can lend themselves to this mission. But the role of midfielder implies a dosage in taking risks that the Brazilian is not used to. The goal conceded by Paris in Lisbon illustrated this perfectly.

Paris has no time

The limit of this tactical choice is also defensive. There is a need to coordinate your movements with the other Parisian circles to optimize the ground grid and recovery. Neymar is not used to this type of trip and he felt it against Benfica. It’s legitimate for a player who plays in a much more offensive register. Stabilizing him in a torchbearer role would take time. Paris really doesn’t have it with the very tight sequence of matches in this season compacted by the World Cup.

But above all, it is not necessarily in your interest. Neymar’s impact in attack is too notorious in general, and since the start of the season in particular, for the idea of ​​taking him a step back to raise no doubts. Galtier is certainly tempted to insist on this path. But he looks like a chimera. The Parisian coach will probably have to resort to another option in the search for his collective balance. Even if it means sacrificing his system by switching to 4-3-3? Or a star attack from him to keep his 3-5-2? The problem remains. But repositioning Neymar is not necessarily the best way to solve it.

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