Mauricio Pochettino faces a struggle to find balance in his Paris Saint-Germain side and Lionel Messi’s position is at the heart of that struggle, according to reports in France.
The Ligue 1 giants remain clearly seven points at the top of the rankings after they escaped Le Classique against Marseille on Sunday in a draw following the sacking of Achraf Hakimi.
Despite their standing in the league and their return of seven points from three Champions League group matches this season – including a 2-0 win against Manchester City – L’Equipe claim the work is only piling up for the Argentine boss.
Mauricio Pochettino faces a struggle to find balance in his Paris Saint-Germain side
The main issue is the position of Lionel Messi, who played on the right at Marseille
They claim PSG’s progress under the ex-Tottenham manager has been slow after 10 months on the job, with Pochettino struggling to find a style of play given their problems with attacking efficiency and a worrying defensive fragility.
The report claims Pochettino’s audacious decision to start Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria behind Kylian Mbappe in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Rennes, Lyon and Marseille ‘has revealed flaws’ on both sides of the game field.
The main issue is where Pochettino Messi should play, with the latter operating from the right against Marseille on Sunday.
But the attacking formation – which saw Neymar play centrally in the three behind Mbappe – delivered ‘highly contrasting’ results at best.
L’Equipe claims the bold decision to play Messi, Kylian Mbappe (left), Neymar (center) and Angel Di Maria (not pictured) all together in the same squad has exposed flaws
This is because Messi can play on the right with his left foot and develop his ‘natural’ relationship with Mbappe.
They suggest a 4-3-3 could be a solution to the problem following their success with the system against Manchester City, with PSG appearing more consistent, at least defensively, as Mbappe and Messi teamed up for the latter’s first goal for the club. .
But they admit that doing so would result in Di Maria falling on the bench and there is no guarantee that the problem of Messi’s position will be resolved.
Instead, the report claims Messi’s most effective position behind Mbappe would be to leave the former “at the center of everything”, bridging the physical gap between the duo and somewhat concealing Messi’s lack of tracking.
They recommend moving Messi to help develop his ‘natural’ partnership with Mbappe
They also claim that since the arrival of Messi, PSG no longer attack through their full-backs, without Hakimi – who provided 10 assists at Inter Milan last season – nor left-back Nuno Mendes to cross for their team-mates against Marseille.
The Portuguese also struggles defensively, adding further pressure on Idrissa Gueye in central midfield.
But the main concern is Messi, who Thierry Henry says is too ‘isolated’ at PSG and that they need to do more to get the best out of the Argentine.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored three goals in the Champions League but has yet to open his Ligue 1 account in four domestic starts.
‘He [Messi] is isolated, he is less on the ball,” Henry tells RMC Sport. “I wouldn’t say he’s sad, but he’s isolated. I prefer it in the middle.
A 4-3-3 formation is another alternative, but that would probably miss Di Maria (right)
‘I’m having trouble with Leo on the right. In the middle he can set the pace.
“I don’t think he can make a difference on the right, but then I don’t have the exact details from a tactical point of view,” added the former Arsenal star.
“Obviously, if you stay high and get out of the way, you won’t have any impact. Then you have fewer balls going to him.
“Messi doesn’t talk much, he speaks with the ball.
“For now, the Kylians team. Kylian is the one who makes him shine the most. The ball goes more to him.
“There can only be one conductor at any time, otherwise you won’t be playing at the same tempo. And there are too many conductors on this team.’
Due to Messi’s involvement, players like Achraf Hakimi (front) attacked less from wing defender