My first post in a while, so though I’d go a bit tactical. Considered an earlier season title battle, this promised to be an important game for both sides even with Marseilles changing their manager earlier in the season.
PSG started the match with 4-3-3 consisting of Cavani, Di Maria and Ibrahimovic as the front 3. Cavani and Di Maria would exploit the pockets in and around the full-back and the centre-backs of Marseille. In addition, Ibrahimovic tried to come and receive the ball from the midfield players. Thiago Motta was the deepest midfield player dropping inbetween the centre-backs to receive the ball and attempt to play forward. Verratti acted as another defensive midfield when needed and then supported Matuidi who performed as the most attack minded of the 3. Both Aurier and Maxwell bombed on high up the pitch allowing Thiago Motta to drop in and receive. As well, Di Maria and Cavani could go in off the line looking for the ball.
For the benefits of the system, it has its drawbacks. Primarily, as a result of the three luxury players in the front 3. Cavani was the showed to be the main defensive assistance. But positionally clearly did not know what he was doing, so did not help much. As a result, this allowed Marseille to have some joy in the spaces between the Wide Forwards and the Full Backs. Or if the Full Backs had pushed on, even behind them. The midfield 3 provided good cover but were rarely tested by Marseille. At times, PSG were defending with 6, but because Marseille could not keep the ball. They failed to exploit the opportunities presented to them.
Marseille on the other hand decided to start with a 4-2-3-1. This ideally meant that Cabella could act as a number 10 for the Batshuayi. Barrada and Alessandrini would provide some width or come in off the line for the full backs to overlap. Diarra and Silva would collect the ball from the defence and then help break the lines to the more attacking players. This in principle was how it should have worked, but PSG stopped them playing out of the back. They then were forced to play more direct passes into the forward players. The full backs did offer much going forward so failed to exploit the spaces provided by PSG. As a result of these problems, Marseille struggled on the ball and could not form coherent attacks. Although the goal came from this system, it was from a deep cross and had to be perfectly executed.
In defence, problems came with the midfield. Cabella didn’t perform like an attacking midfield, he was more like a second striker. This then created a 4-4-2 when defending and PSG outnumbered Marseille in the middle of the park. The midfielders couldn’t lock on and so PSG passed the ball in and around the midfield. Also as the Batshuayi and Cabella did not press the PSG Centre Backs effectively, so it was easy to get out of the defence to the midfield. If Batshuayi and Cabella did not press at all, the PSG Centre Backs had loads of time to pick passes. All of these let Cavani, Di Maria and ibrahimovic do their thing.
After 71 minutes, Michel brought on Ocampos and Djadjedje for Barrada and De Ceglie. The system changed from a 4-3-3. this meant it was man for man in the midfield. This allowed Marseille to have more possession of the ball and where able to challenge PSG all over the pitch. Djadjedje also put pressure on the left side of PSG’s system. When he pushed forward Pastore who came on for Ibrahimovic had to track back more. When he did not it enabled them to exploit the spaces inbetween the PSG players particularly down the right wing. Consequently, leading to a number of quality opportunities, which they did not take. PSG still had chances, which came as a result of Cabella again not tracking back or marking one of PSG’s midfield 3. This meant Diarra, Silva or Sarr (who came on for Silva) had to cover 3 players and were drawn out of position. This then effected the defenders who were also pulled out of position and so Pastore, Lavezzi and Cavani created problems near the end of the game.
Although the final result was 2-1 to PSG, they should have won by a higher margin. PSG were not really troubled throughout the contest and during the match had high quality matches to put the game out of sight. If Marseille had started with a 4-3-3, I believe Marseille could have won the game. They would have been defensively better off as well as pose more of a threat in an attack. During the last 20 minutes in which Marseille had changed their system, they caused PSG’s problems and looked the better side. I’d question if the top clubs in france all played the right way against PSG, then there stranglehold on Ligue 1 would be broken. This was a missed opportunity for Marseille.
The ideas for diagrams came from @TomPayneftbl and Spielverlagerung.com.