Tactical Breakdown of Paris Saint-Germain's 4-2-2-2 Formation
Carlo Ancelotti had an enviable, yet somehow unenviable, job this past summer: take Paris Saint-Germain's fully loaded squad and deduce a starting XI and formation.
With so many options, so many players and so many angles to go at, the Italian coach was understandably flummoxed as to how he could get the best out of them.
After trying a 4-1-2-1-2, a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, Ancelotti finally settled on an unorthodox-looking 4-2-2-2 formation.
Here, we break that down for you and show you how it works.
On the attack
It's a very loose 4-2-2-2 formation.
Ancelotti employs a pretty regular back four with two traditional centre-halves in no need of surging forward (although Thiago Silva sometimes obliges) and the full-backs are well balanced.
The system works better with Christophe Jallet—despite his shortcomings—at right-back rather than Gregory van der Wiel in my opinion, and that's down to the defensive indiscipline the Dutchman creates on that side when combining with Lucas Moura.
Marco Verratti plays as a deep-lying playmaker and hovers in front of the back four, and Ancelotti has found a way of incorporating all his key attacking outlets without destroying his blossoming partnership with the midfield terrier Blaise Matuidi.
Matuidi is the physical link between Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and plays as something I would label a semi-shuttler (he's not box-to-box, he's more box-to-striker). The reason for this is twofold: he's a very capable tackler who is needed in case Verratti is outnumbered on the counter, and this is a very attacking formation that doesn't need him surging forward anyway.
The two advanced midfielders play in "tweener" roles all game. They're never touchline wide, yet never central. They occupy a position in which they can get a defender square on and shift one way or the other, and it helps explain how Lucas has taken to Ligue 1 life so well—Ancelotti is helping him.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays in a striker's role and Ezequiel Lavezzi plays in a slightly deeper, roaming role just off him. In some ways, again, Ancelotti has tried to replicate the Argentine's role at Napoli to help him adapt after a tough start.
This is why some suggest PSG are utilising a 4-4-2 formation.
On the reverse, les Parisiens drop into two banks of four and leave their two strikers up front with no defensive responsibility.
They're compact, they work hard and move quickly to snuff any danger out and for a side who dominates games so often, they're surprisingly well-drilled at this.
They showed fantastic shape in beating Marseille 2-0 when L'OM had the better of the game, and on occasion against Toulouse they were near perfect.
What's interesting is how, when they regain possession deep, they rely on Lucas or Javier Pastore to travel forward with the ball in the wide areas and relieve the pressure.
Lucas has been running rings around players lunging in to regain the ball quickly, and he could well be paired up one-on-one in the UEFA Champions League with some of the world's best full-backs.
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