Thursday, May 13, 2021

Manchester City expose brittle Paris Saint-Germain’s lack of maturity

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Pep Guardiola’s side suffocated their opponents in the second half as PSG’s collective meltdown gifted City the upper hand

It may be that history comes to look back on the past few days as a turning point in the history of European football, as the Super League, a desperate gamble by the impoverished traditional elite, was crushed and the petro‑clubs, having challenged for so long, finally took charge. And in a great time of crisis, of such flux that unlikely alliances have been forged and the quest for at least some good guys in football ownership – anybody, anywhere – landed upon some spectacularly implausible candidates, there is something deeply reassuring that some constants remain: deep down, Paris Saint-Germain still have the personality of Violet Elizabeth Bott.

It had all been going so well. They had beaten Bayern Munich with two performances of great discipline, especially at home. And they had much the better of the first half against Manchester City on Wednesday. As Pep Guardiola sat his full‑backs deeper than usual – an element of caution that, yet again in a major European tie, did more to disrupt his own side than the opposition – PSG looked quicker, brighter and sharper.

Neymar was a constant threat. Ángel Di María, forever undervalued, foraged and connected and kept slinging in almost undefendable set-pieces. Idrissa Gana Gueye was imperious at the back of midfield. While there were a couple of warning signs when City did press – notably the chance Phil Foden drove straight at Keylor Navas – PSG probably should have been more than one up at half-time. Mauricio Pochettino, it was possible to believe, had found a way to position the abundant talent PSG possess in forward areas within a tactical and emotional ethos that allowed them to defend in numbers.

And then Guardiola released his full-backs. City began to control possession. The second half became the game that had been widely expected: City probing, PSG sitting deep and looking to counter. It’s a dynamic that has not often suited Guardiola sides against the elite in Europe, but City this season press well enough that opponents have consistently struggled to play through, over or round them. Slowly, PSG were suffocated.

Jürgen Klopp insists that . . .

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