Is PSG suffering from “hyper-talentedness”?


soccer ball in stadium

Conditions like hypertension and hypersensitivity are known to exist. But how about hyper-talentedness? Well, Pochettino’s PSG – with its excessive collection of football’s finest talents – is showing us that such a condition exists as well.

Back in the summer, PSG executed a historic coup of signing Lionel Messi from Barcelona. With Messi’s six prestigious Ballon d’Or and an exhaustive list of glories won, it was understandable why top-notch bookmakers on perceived PSG as one of the prime favorites to win the Champions League trophy this season.

Would you expect less of a side already boasting the ferocious likes of Neymar, Mbappe, Verratti, Marquinhos, and Angel Di Maria?

You need no convincing that a forward line featuring Neymar, Mbappe, and Messi strikes fear into the hearts of premium European defenses.

Each player among the trio is a soccer magician in his right. Each of the three players can change a game in seconds independently.

Neymar, Messi, and Mbappe are incredibly spoiled with skills, trickery, and overall football intelligence. Mbappe even has further icing on the cake. Aside from his spectacular dribbling skills, Mbappe is arguably one of the fastest players in Europe.

But for all this wealth of talents, PSG inevitably lack balance, coherence, and defensive solidity.

We were thoroughly educated on this when PSG clashed with Man City in the second leg of the Champions League fixtures.

A 2-1 defeat – while not necessarily a historic embarrassment – abundantly revealed the deficiencies in PSG’s game.

Specifically, Guardiola’s hardworking and thoroughly synchronized Man City side showed us that PSG was perhaps suffering from hyper-talentedness. A condition of excessive individual talents.

Or would you say otherwise?

In large spells during the game, Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar notoriously abandoned their defensive duties. Possibly mistaking the encounter for a Caribbean fun trip, repeatedly, the cameras caught the trio walking when Man City was bombarding PSG’s defenses.

It is not surprising that in the Champions League this season, PSG ranked in the bottom three teams for pressure applied in the attacking third and the midfield. Only Sheriff and Malmo appear to be doing worse in pressuring teams up the pitch.

The likes of Paredes, Hererra, and Gueye were left isolated in the midfield and consequently outfought without a front three to call for succor.

More worrisomely, in several phases of the game, the young Nuno Mendes was forsaken to the relentless dribbling expertise of Riyad Mahrez. No Neymar or Mbappe was tracking back to help.

The current PSG setup is a stunning deviation from the football identity of a Pochettino team. At Espanyol and Tottenham, we saw a more shrewd Pochettino whose footballing philosophy was enshrined in hard work and collectivism.

In Pochettino’s traditional teams, everyone SUFFERED for everyone, with no player going on “holidays” when the team lost the ball.

Advocate suffering, and you are likely not to have Neymar on your side. For all his luxurious football abilities, Neymar had never made the headlines for defensive excellence.

From his days at Santos, Barcelona, and now PSG, the Brazilian poster boy was either making the headlines for his outlandish football skills or his hairstyles (we deliberately chose to exclude his partying).

The fans wouldn’t complain as much as Pochettino would. They pay for entertainment. They pay for the dribbles (the exquisite step overs, rabonas, rainbow flicks…) and the goals – not essentially the sliding defensive tackles or players outmuscling players.

So far, so good, Messi, Mbappe, and Mbappe can’t be legitimately accused of starving the fans of such engrossing entertainment. But there is no argument that they have fatally starved Pochettino of hard work and defensive enterprise.

What would the Argentine manager do?

Pochettino knows he has got hard calls to make – calls he wishes he could avoid. It takes more than guts to drop any of Mbappe, Messi, or Neymar, even when they are not playing at their best.

It is an unsaid declaration of war, both on the fans and even the PSG ownership.

The fans didn’t come to the stadium to see their finest players mopping the bench. The owners are not paying such suffocating wages to Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar to have them on the bench either.

Pochettino himself has his dilemma. All three players – even when playing below par – can momentarily conjure some magic and score. What is more, these are big moment players.

Having bathed in the global soccer spotlight for ages, these three players know how to cope with the pressure of big games and how to win them.

They did this against Man City in the first leg. Despite not playing as cohesively as they should, they delivered the goals when it mattered most, picking up the vital three points.

Moreover, given the respect these three players command from their teammates, dropping any of them comes at the expensive risk of a dressing room rebellion.

Would Pochettino be willing to risk all these damages, especially when the results have not been so bad?

PSG is enjoying an 11-point lead in the Ligue 1. Also, packing three football gods (Mbappe, Messi, and Neymar) in one team is doing PSG some wonders on the PR front.


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