Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

PSG need more Vitinha's

This was an incredible achievement by Luis Enrique to take PSG, the youngest starting XI since 2009, to a Champions League semi-final, but they needed more Vitinha’s to break Borussia Dortmund down.

PSG are a rigid positional team, built like they have a pole taped to their back, but many must think, 4-3-3, same thing every match, keep possession. They are more tactically involved than you’d think.

In the first leg against Dortmund, Nuno Mendes was kept back in the rest-defense to ‘protect the left’ from Dortmund’s long-balls. Dembélé had this interesting integral role that had him covering a lot of ground.

Figure 1.1 - Goncalo Ramos tracking back to follow then tackle Emre Can.
Figure 2.1 - Fabián Ruiz drops into PSG's back-three to allow Nuno Mendes to get forward, which allows Kylian Mbappé to invert.

In the second leg, midfielder Fabián Ruiz stayed back which allowed Nuno Mendes to push forward to the left-wing. That allowed Kylian Mbappé to invert infield to form a front-two with Goncalo Ramos. That change allowed Ousmane Dembélé to stay forward, and Goncalo Ramos was tasked with marking Emre Can.

They did miss Bradley Barcola’s ingenuity but if they keep Barcola on then Dembélé would have to play that strange role in and out of possession that he played in the first leg. Ramos was a bulldog out-of-possession but he lacked adequate finishing in the box so it kind of cancelled out the change. The positive was that Dembélé could focus on attack.

PSG’s crossing was bad. Nuno Mendes, Achraf Hakimi, and Ousmane Dembélé let them down because their delivery into the box was wayward. It wasn’t helped that when they got that pass to connect, they hit the woodwork four times.

Vitinha was the bright spot. The Wolverhampton Wonders blood runs deep. Wolves are a team of dribblers and Vitinha, a former Wolves player in 2020/21, is no exception. If you want a dribbler, go to Wolves. His ability to swerve and glide past tackles paired with his pinpoint passing is not something you can easily find. He has that sixth sense to find the chance.

That rigid positional pole stuck to your back, stick to your position, style that Luis Enrique deploys needs players like Vitinha to succeed. Thinkers. Players that know how to slow down a game and then pick out a pass. Outside of Vitinha, they don’t have many thinkers, just those that can execute. They need one more thinker in that midfield and maybe one on the wing.

Match: PSG 0-1 (0-2) Borussia Dortmund, 7 May 2024

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