Scouting Report: Arsenal v PSG

We return to Champions League action against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, and ahead of the game Michael Cox examines our opponents.


Unai Emery replaced Laurent Blanc as manager in the summer, after the hugely impressive achievement of taking Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles.

Nevertheless, the PSG side has remained very familiar. The departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic inevitably meant Emery was forced to change things in the final third, although this simply involved Edinson Cavani switching to his natural centre-forward position, having spent the last few years playing a wide role in the front three.


PSG generally play a fairly standard 4-3-3 system. Cavani’s move to the centre-forward position means they tend to deploy two wingers. However, in the reverse fixture Emery pushed box-to-box midfielder Blaise Matuidi to an unusual left-sided position, perhaps to contain the attacking threat of Hector Bellerin. With the Spaniard unavailable, though, PSG should revert to their usual shape.


PSG are excellent in midfield, and are capable of dominating possession against major sides. Thiago Motta is a strong, positionally disciplined player who sits deep and plays passes out to the flanks, while Marco Verratti drops deep right a right-of-centre position to orchestrate play with ambitious diagonal passes. Pressing both is difficult, and Verratti is probably the man Arsenal must concentrate on.


While Angel Di Maria was inconsistent at Manchester United, he’s a stunningly creative player capable of outrageous passes into attack. He can play out wide on the left, but can also drift inside to provide ingenuity between the lines. If passed fit for this game, Arsenal’s right-back will be his direct opponent, but the central midfielders must be wary of his movement.


PSG generally push both their full-backs forward, which can leave space for opponents to counter-attack into. Notably, they’ve been dealt a late blow with the news right-back Serge Aurier was denied access to the UK on Tuesday because of an ongoing court case. Thomas Meunier, an attack-minded right-back, should start instead. 


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