With the start of domestic seasons fast approaching, teams are trying to put the finishing touches on their preseason preparations. Integrating new players, evaluating youth, and figuring out how to make the most of their roster has many coaches putting in some late nights.
PSG has as many decisions to make regarding lineups and integration of players as any club. The key to achieving the lofty goals set for the club will be getting the most out of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's talents. The Swedish hitman is the player Carlo Ancelotti needs to center his attack around.
Unless Ancelotti has a major change of strategy, PSG will line up in his preferred 4-3-3 with Ibrahimovic filling the central attacker role. From this position, Ibrahimovic will be able to use his wide array of skills to inflict damage on opposing defenses. He will also be able to use his centralized position to provide for his teammates.
Ibrahimovic will be the center of opposing defenses' attention throughout the season. Many teams will assign their central defender pairing with a marking and support strategy to keep a body on Ibra, and another ready to accept coverage during his runs. The hole in this strategy will be exposing the full-backs to single coverage against the wing attackers of PSG.
Ancelotti will use his depth of attacking players on the wing to support Ibrahimovic to great advantage for PSG. A combination of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez, Nene and Javier Pastore will flank Ibra in the lineup. All four have tremendous ability in taking on defenders.
If teams use a central defense tandem to contain Ibra, the PSG wingers will have a multitude of chances to take defenders one on one. This plays into the creative strengths of the PSG attack. When they are able to beat their defensive marking, the central defensive pairing will be put under tremendous pressure.
One of the centerbacks will have to close out the wing to prevent a direct run on goal. This will leave Ibrahimovic in a single marking. Ibra’s size, quickness, and intelligence will allow him to lose his marker or create space to give a massive target for wingers who are adept at distributing the ball. With his height and soft touch, Ibra gives his wingers multiple options on where to put the ball.
Ibra’s presence in the center also opens up space for his wingers to make runs into dangerous positions. Ezequiel Lavezzi has shown during the preseason, and in his time at Napoli, his ability to cause havoc with his off the ball runs. Menez, Nene and Pastore are also good at moving off the ball. Giving players of this ability the ball in space will give defenses fits. With other distributors on the pitch in Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva and Mohamed Sissokho, opportunities will be there when the runs are made.
Another way Ibra will help get the most out of the PSG attack is his own distribution of the ball. With his size and ability, Ibra can hold the ball up against pressure and find his mates on the off the ball runs we discussed. Whether holding up the ball and playing from his feet to feet, or using his height to slip a high ball on, PSG will be able to use Ibra as a distributor in their attack.
Playing the centralized role will also give Ibra opportunities to take on defenders, especially on the counter attack. His goal against DC United is a perfect example of how much skill Ibrahimovic has for a big man in taking on defenders. With the skill he is surrounded with, Ibra will have opportunities to get the ball 25 yards out with a single defender to beat. Those situations have seen him be very successful in creating chances.
Carlo Ancelotti has a multitude of ways he can use Ibrahimovic in his attack. Whether a target man on set pieces, a distributor, a creator, or an off the ball runner, Ibrahimovic was the perfect addition to the PSG attack. Ligue 1 and Europe are about to find out just how dangerous the Swedish star has made PSG.