The UEFA Champions League group A had an interesting beginning after PSG’s three-nil victory over Real Madrid. Since the first game, the millionaire Parisians have imposed their dominance in the group. After Real Madrid’s draw with Club Brugge, a victory in Turkey could see PSG increase the gap between them and “Los Blancos”.
On the other hand, Galatasaray had a satisfactory beginning to their Champions League campaign by securing an away point against Brugge. The two supposed “underdogs” will certainly battle each other to remain in the European Competitions. After Brugge’s surprising draw in Madrid, Galatasaray had to secure at least one point in order to keep up.
This tactical analysis will dissect each team’s tactics examining the key tactical talking points from this match. Briefly, we will do an analysis of how Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Fatih Terim’s team, at home.
Let’s analyse first the home team’s tactics on their first Champions League game at the Türk Telekom Arena. Fatih Terim made a few changes in his team’s scheme and lineup. In fact, the Turkish started with an unusual 3-5-2 formation.
In order to match this new scheme Terim had to make changes in his last UCL starting eleven. The usual four men defensive line turned into a three central-back line composed by Marcão, Luyindama and Donk. The two frequent full-backs Nagatomo and Mariano remained in the starting eleven, playing in a slightly more advanced position. Galatasaray’s midfield stayed the same, except for Lemina who, due to his injury, gave his place to Belhanda. To conclude, Feghouli was benched owing to the addition of the third centre-back, destroying their previous front trident.
Paris Saint Germain started exactly the same eleven they presented against Real Madrid. Due to Neymar’s European ban, Thomas Tuchel once again chose Mauro Icardi to fill the striker position. In addition to the Brazilian superstar, Kurzawa and Diallo were also relegated to the bench. Equally to Neymar, the defenders were also starters against Bordeaux. However, the German coach decided to replace them with Bernat and Kimpembe. Overall, Thomas Tuchel did not change PSG’s usual tactics, a regular 4-3-3.
Galatasaray’s hybrid defensive strategy
Playing in the Türk Telekom Arena, Galatasaray always has the support of their amazing and loud fans. Therefore, the Turkish side seems to attack and defend with an extra “12th player”. Undoubtedly, this support was very present in the Champions League game against PSG.
Galatasaray’s defensive intensity was aided by the boos and whistles coming from the stands, aimed to stress PSG’s players. The Turkish team used the support to maintain a favourable aggressiveness throughout the game. Nevertheless, this aggressiveness also resulted in many faults by Galatasaray’s players. Luckily for them, the referee only showed one yellow card for the 22 faults Galatasaray committed.
Even though Galatasaray had that extra “player”, they also maintained a focused and organised defensive strategy. Indeed, the strategy was to alter their tactics to a 5-3-2 while defending in order to keep their goal well protected. Galatasaray maintained a compact team with all of their players in close proximity. The Turkish team adopted this system as demonstrated below.
Galatasaray’s defensive plan was not simply about changing their formation. They adopted two approaches throughout the game while defending PSG’s powerful attacks.
One of the approaches was to pressure PSG’s defenders and goalkeeper high up the pitch. This can be shown in the image below.
However, this high pressure was not made randomly. The Turkish team attackers choose the right moments when PSG’s could have more difficulties in coping with the home side’s pressure. In fact, it was noticed that the Galatasaray players pressured more intensively when Kimpembe had the ball. The less experienced PSG centre-back clearly triggered Galatasaray’s pressure. In the image above, this is clear. The ball got to Kimpembe and he quickly had to pass to Keylor Navas who cleared the ball.
This kind of method worked many times with PSG, who found it hard to keep the ball in their possession. Nevertheless, this strategy also meant that the defence and midfield had to follow the attackers up in the field. This, of course, led to an immense free space between Galatasaray’s defensive line and goal.
Alternatively, the other defensive method was a more reserved one. Galatasaray’s players were more cautious, waiting for PSG attacks in the midfield. Galatasaray maintained their compact team and PSG had difficulties in playing through the middle and between Galatasaray’s lines. Also, the Turkish team centre-backs would closely mark man-to-men PSG’s front trident. Additionally, Nagatomo and Mariano would keep an eye on PSG’s full-backs. This kind of positioning and strategy can be noticed in the image below.
PSG exploring Galatasaray’s audacity
Galatasaray had the audacity to play without defending with many players near their area. Undoubtedly, they were capable of creating some difficulties for PSG. However, the French team figured out how they could take advantage of Galatasaray’s high defensive line.
The French team started launching long balls for their front three, especially for Di Maria and Sarabia. As seen in the image below, Di Maria positioned himself in order to explore the space in the back of Galatasaray’s defence. Through this kind of play, PSG had many opportunities to score throughout the match. PSG players soon started to notice that they could take advantage of this situation with quick counterattacks. Consequently, they created huge levels of danger and good opportunities through counterattacks.
Additionally, PSG’s full-backs ensured the team’s width on the field. Bernat and Meunier were important pieces in PSG’s attacks. As seen in the image below, PSG’s full-backs were more wingers than defenders. For this reason, the three frontmen were always 3vs3 with Galatasaray’s central defenders.
This gave them the opportunity to explore the space behind Galatasaray’s backline. By making combinations between attack and midfield, PSG could break the Turkish backline close marking. In this way, they could create dangerous attacks on the opposition’s goal.
Overall, PSG were clearly the most dangerous team. With a divided ball possession, the Parisiens had more shots and opportunities to score than their opponents. The Turkish team only had three goal-scoring opportunities in the match compared to the 11 attempted by PSG. Nonetheless, PSG were not as clinical as they should have been.
Indeed, the French team attempted 16 shots throughout the game resulting in only six shots on goal. Additionally, PSG players were inside the opponent’s box many times, as can be seen in the image below. Of the 16 shots, 12 were inside Galatasaray’s area, but only five were on target (including Icardi’s goal).
Galatasaray’s inability VS PSG’s consistency
As described above, Galatasaray were unable to create goal-scoring opportunities. As seen in the graphic below their attacks were mainly through the left side of the pitch. Even though their attacks through this side were more dangerous, the 0.37 xG (expected goals) were undoubtedly low.
Nagatomo was the main source of this attacks but he was unable to create dangerous chances for Galatasaray. Taking a look at Terim’s team shots it’s clearly noticeable that they were not that close to scoring. The Turkish team only attempted six shots and only two were on target.
Galatasaray’s incapacity was very much due to PSG’s midfield defensive efficiency. Tuchel’s side won the battle in the midfield. Marquinhos, Verratti and Gueye were very important in preventing Galatasaray getting close to PSG’s goal. The PSG midfielders won many duels, made many recoveries and many interceptions.
Let’s take a look at PSG midfielders Wyscout statistics. Marquinhos registered 100% effectiveness in his defensive duels, made 16 recoveries and intercepted nine plays. Gueye had a 60% success rate in his defensive duels, made three recoveries and intercepted five opponents plays. Marco Verratti had a 50% defensive duels success rate, recovered 10 balls and intercepted four Galatasaray’s plays.
The French side midfielders clearly prevented Galatasaray’s men to reach PSG’ goal. In fact, Ryan Babel was clearly stifled by PSG’s midfield and defence.
In the end, the German coach realised that his team needed to secure the three points and changed PSG’s scheme. Equally to Galatasaray, the french side played in a 5-3-2 since Di Maria’s substitution in the last 10 minutes. This defensive strategy can be seen in the image below. Tuchel’s side defended with more man but had the freshness and speed of Choupo-Moting and Mbappé at the front to keep a dangerous attack.
To sum up, PSG won the game fairly and they could have returned to France with a more comfortable score. Defensively wise, they were very solid and got a clean sheet. Their onslaughts could have been more efficient but were enough to secure the three points. Above all, PSG remained 100% victorious in this season’s UCL and have a four points advantage to the second classified, Club Brugge.
Galatasaray defended well but were not able to attack dangerously. PSG’s only goal made the difference between leaving the game in front of Brugge or behind them. Nevertheless, the Turkish side is still very well placed to keep fighting for the 3rd place. Brugge secured an incredible draw against Real Madrid and, now, Galatasaray has the chance to do the same at home.
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