Paris Saint-Germain had an interesting transfer window with more than a few twists.
They started off signing Ander Herrera on a free transfer, which seemed like a canny bit of business to replace the outgoing Adrien Rabiot. The Parisians then spent the entire summer actively trying to find a buyer for Neymar while also refusing to sell for less than their incredibly high valuation of the Brazilian. In the end, he stayed.
While everyone was focusing on Neymar, PSG snuck in a few interesting moves. They added Abdou Diallo to protect the future of their defence, Pablo Sarabia to add some offensive flair, and Idrissa Gueye came in from Everton to add some much-needed defensive balance. Then on the final day of the window, they pulled off a shock deal for Inter’s wantaway misfit striker Mauro Icardi.
With all this business done, just how could PSG line up this season? We’ve had a look and come up with four different line-ups.
1.) The Big Guns
PSG’s first-choice XI should actually be fairly similar to last season’s because, when everyone was fit, there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with it. Of course, the major problem was that Neymar and Edinson Cavani found their seasons truncated by injury and it took Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria activating beast-mode to ensure PSG won things.
Still, with new seasons come new faces. Perennial Champions League winner Keylor Navas has joined PSG to keep goal – and remember the Costa Rican has never not won the Champions League when he has been a starter. Three seasons in it as the main man, three trophies won. That’s some quality experience for a side desperate to win Europe’s Big Cup.
Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat are the flying full-backs, tasked with getting forward to support attack. Brazilian pair Thiago Silva and Marquinhos anchor defence. Silva may be past his best but can still produce in the big games and Marquinhos is a phenomenal stopper. Ahead of them, new signing Idrissa Gueye shows up and adds a whole load of tackling to PSG’s midfield.
The Senegalese was the most prolific tackler during his time in England and should bring that incessant work-rate and defensive diligence to the PSG midfield (which had Marquinhos in this position last season remember) allowing Marco Verratti to venture further forward and influence things higher up the field. The final midfield spot belongs to Angel Di Maria, the versatile Argentine would play a hybrid role, dropping back to defend the middle but push forward into a wide role that would allow the PSG winger to cut infield.
And that winger is, of course, Neymar. The Brazilian ended up staying and will re-form a deadly front three with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé. The three of them are devastating athletes and wondrous technicians. Their games combine so well and their sheer goal threat makes them a danger to any possible opponent at home or abroad (and they will have a chance for a huge scalp early on against Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage).
2.) Parisian Diamond
Of course, the big thing about PSG in the last two years has been that Neymar always gets injured. And given Kylian Mbappé is currently out and has also shown a propensity for petulance that should see him pick up more suspensions along the way, what if there should be a situation where the Parisians have to make do without their two stars?
Luckily their transfer business has seen them able to cope better than they would have in previous years. A diamond formation would allow them the kind of control they would need to offset the loss of such absurd offensive firepower. So the goalkeeper and defence are much the same as the main line-up, although Thiago Silva is replaced by Presnel Kimpembe because the young Frenchman would make the PSG defence more dynamic and athletic.
Verratti moves to the base of midfield; the Italian’s vision and technical excellence would see him control the game from here a la Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso or Andrea Pirlo. Ahead of him Di Maria and Gueye act as box-to-box shuttles, moving up and down the pitch to help facilitate ball movement. Obviously Di Maria would be more offensive and Gueye more defensive, but these two would provide balance and thrust. At the head of midfield would be new signing Sarabia. The attacking midfielder excels between the lines and is a player capable of great creativity as well as goalscoring with his wand of a left-foot.
The strikers would see South American duo Cavani and Icardi team up. Cavani is a PSG legend and has the pace and movement to strike up a good partnership with basically anyone. His relentless running would play well against Icardi’s more reserved and thoughtful movement. The Uruguayan would get involved on the ball while the Argentine plays more off it, showing up to bury chances and little else. His predatory instincts should see him rack up quite the goal tally.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
3.) The Back-Ups
Ligue 1 can be physically gruelling and the Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France even more so. In order to avoid injuries, PSG will have to rotate their squad. And now they have something approximating a decent back-up XI that could play in cup games. Loanee Sergio Rico keeps goal while youth product Colin Dagba fills in at right-back. Thilo Kehrer partners new signing Abdou Diallo in a central defensive partnership that has talent (but is also prone to the odd error) while at left-back Layvin Kurzawa fills in aptly for Juan Bernat.
Midfield is anchored by Leandro Paredes, the Argentine bringing a metronomic passing ability to midfield. With Paredes there, PSG would be able to own the ball in the way that Thomas Tuchel likes. And it would make life easier for Ander Herrera as well as youngster Adil Aouchiche to keep things ticking over. This midfield is all about minimising risk and getting the ball forward to the attackers.
Julian Draxler plays on the left-wing in an expanded role that should give the German the chance to flex muscles he hasn’t done since he joined PSG really. Draxler is an incredible player when unleashed, so should do really well here. On the right, Pablo Sarabia fills in a role he has already filled a few times this season, offering creativity as he cuts in on his left foot. And then in attack, we have Icardi, the perennial troublemaker doing little else but hammering home all the chances created.
You always need a Plan B, and with Thomas Tuchel that has tended to be 3-5-2. The German tactician likes the flexibility it brings and with his current PSG side, if everyone is fit, he could make greater use of it than before. Obviously Navas is in goal and then the defence sees the athletic Kimpembe and Marquinhos flank the veteran Thiago Silva. With the PSG captain organising the defence this back-line has the potential to cover the entire width of the pitch, freeing up the midfield.
Leandro Paredes plays at the base of midfield, using his direct passing to move the ball forward at speed and unleash the four attacking players. Out wide we have Meunier and Bernat, offering attacking width while also being capable of tracking back to help form a defensive quintet if the Parisians find themselves up against a particularly difficult opponent.
Verratti and Di Maria play at the heart of midfield with the responsibility of basically doing everything. They have to get back and help Paredes run the show, flank out wide to help create overloads but mostly supply good passes for the forwards. In this system, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé are unleashed as a dynamic duo full of fearsome pace and goalscoring ability. This Plan B would allow PSG to attack their opponents from a different angle and what’s best is it requires just one substitution from their primary line-up to happen.