Paris Saint-Germain and manager Unai Emery completed a positive first season together, but ultimately fell short of their objectives this past year. The club finished runners-up to AS Monaco in Ligue 1, and suffered a disastrous defeat to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.
But there is every reason for optimism now in the French capital, after the arrival of Brazilian superstar Neymar in a world-record transfer deal. The 25-year-old has reportedly signed a five-year deal with PSG, and there is much for supporters to be excited about at the Parc des Princes.
But how will Neymar fit in with his new team-mates? And how will Emery’s line-up look?
The goalkeeper position appears set with German international Kevin Trapp, who has been improving since joining the club two years ago. Talented academy product Alphonse Areola provides depth, but has been the subject of several transfer rumours this summer.
With the arrival of Dani Alves on the back-line, Emery should utilise four defenders. This will allow Alves the necessary freedom to get forward in the attack on the right.
Along with Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, the PSG defence will have a wonderful familiarity with one another and a distinct Brazilian flair.
Flexibility in the middle
Unai Emery’s midfield will be where the Spanish tactician can become creative and can adapt to his opposition. Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi can operate in a variety of positions, while Marco Verratti is one of the best holding midfielders in Europe.
What makes Neymar such an exciting and spectacular player is his versatility, as he is able to play almost anywhere on the pitch. If Emery chooses to use an attacking front of Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria and his blockbuster new signing behind striker Edinson Cavani, PSG have the capability to completely overwhelm the French first division.
Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore provide excellent coverage for midfield positions as well. But it will be their Uruguayan forward who will be key in the upcoming campaign.
Cavani enjoyed an incredible run of form last term, finishing with 49 goals across all competitions. Even more will be expected of him despite this amazing output, and Cavani will still be the focal point at times during the season in the final third.
The best approach
Emery has options thanks to a midfield that can be deployed in different ways. Overall, he may find that a 4-2-3-1 formation will bring the best results, allowing their critical players to be in dangerous positions.
With Dani Alves getting forward on the right side, an extra defensive midfielder will provide adequate coverage in their own half. Depending on who they are facing, PSG may also be able to rely completely on Marco Verratti to handle this on his own. Emery will then be able to push another midfielder forward or add another striker.
Neymar now brings confidence and tremendous skill to a line-up that appears poised to challenge Europe’s elite.
Paris Saint-Germain boasts of some of football’s best players, and how manager Unai Emery uses them could make all the difference. With an emphasis on midfield alignment, Edinson Cavani’s work at centre-forward and the touch of Neymar out wide, 2017-18 has the possibility of being very special for PSG.