Could Lyon's Formation Hold the Key in Solving Paris Saint-Germain's Problems?

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2014

Laurent Blanc needs to make some changes.
Laurent Blanc needs to make some changes.Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

After beating Monaco 2-1 last weekend, Lyon now travel to the French capital looking to capitalise on Paris Saint-Germain's poor form, but for the champions, the formation that Lyon use against them could hold the key to how PSG can drastically improve.

Since taking over this summer, new Lyon coach Hubert Fournier has continued to use the 4-4-2 diamond formation that was installed by Remi Garde last season.

Lyon have struggled this season as they have a whole host of injury problems, and Fournier hasn't been able to play his ideal starting XI.

This means he has been without French international Clement Grenier, dynamic midfielder Gueida Fofana and the experienced and pivotal Henri Bedimo at left-back.

Lyon's Clement Grenier.
Lyon's Clement Grenier.EuroFootball/Getty Images

When Lyon play with four men in the midfield, their style changes dependent on who Fournier is able to pick. If he can select both Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff, the side is more creative and looks to play smaller, intricate passes.

If he goes with Jordan Ferri or Corentin Tolisso, there is more energy and defensive presence, but the creativity has to come from higher up the pitch.

Laurent Blanc was expected to change his system this season, with Edinson Cavani playing more of a central role rather than being out on the wings. However, Blanc has continued with his 4-3-3, and this inability to change and adapt, plus some of his selection choices, has turned the Parisians a little stale. They seem to have lost their dynamic edge.

1-1 in Amsterdam. Not good enough from PSG and not good enough from Blanc. Again.

— Julien Laurens (@LaurensJulien) September 17, 2014

Playing away against Rennes and Evian, PSG lacked any attacking threat in the final third. Most of their chances came from long balls over the top or the occasional attacks down the wings, but in the end both sides were well organised and dealt with the threat.

If Blanc was to change to Fournier's 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2, it would help give PSG more of a threat in the final third and could bring out the best in the players he has in the squad.

In the current 4-3-3, Blanc is made to pick between Javier Pastore and Blaise Matuidi because he insists on playing both Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti. The development of Verratti has come to a stage where Blanc doesn't need both deep-lying midfielders; the younger Italian would be more than able to play the role himself and it should also aid his development further.

@Adz77 Both similar players & I think time has come for MV to play without TM by his side. It is starting to hold PSG back in midfield.

— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) September 18, 2014

When it comes to the more difficult and demanding games, Motta would still have a role to play, but against the weaker Ligue 1 opposition, there is no real demand to play both as it leaves PSG far too deep and defensive.

Verratti would play at the base of the diamond, and he could control the game with both Matuidi and Pastore either side of him. Once he returns to fitness, it could bring Adrien Rabiot back into the fold, giving the youngster more opportunities to play.

In a recent interview, via Ian Holyman of ESPN FC, Pastore mentioned that it was difficult to play the No. 10 playmaker role because of the way Ibrahimovic has adapted his game. The Swedish striker drops deep into that position, often picking up the ball in the areas that Pastore would like to operate.

Two things need to happen to help PSG. Blanc has to man-manage his players and basically advise Ibrahimovic to cut down how often he comes deep and play more of a pivotal role upfront, creating a partnership with Cavani, rather than just having two talented forwards with no cohesion.

With the diamond, you could then play Pastore as the No. 10 or one of the deeper roles, helping the Argentine midfielder find the holes that are created by having two forwards on the pitch. If you play Pastore deeper, you can play Lucas Moura in the middle.

Is Pastore the key?
Is Pastore the key?Michel Euler/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Brazilian offers a different option to Pastore; he can play centrally and he has the ability to beat players with his pace and skill, going both left and right, but he would also take the opportunities to push out wide when the gaps appeared.

The 22-year-old provided 11 assists last season, and any move inside, or a more prominent role in the attack, could add to his style and make him a much more dangerous threat.

Not having Cavani or Lucas on the wings would also allow Blanc to get the best out of his full-backs. Both Gregory van der Wiel and Lucas Digne are perfectly suited to being high up the pitch, adding to the attack.

When Digne played for Lille, he was more of a wing-back than a full-back but without dropping his defensive duties.

Having the support from deep would help the forwards and attacking midfielders create more chances, and would add two more options in the attack.

Its all kicking off at PSG! Dressing room unrest, players critical of Blanc, French players unhappy with privileges Ibra & his friends get.

— Julien Laurens (@LaurensJulien) September 19, 2014

Blanc has come under a lot of criticism for his inability to change tactics and make changes from the bench. Moving to 4-3-1-2 would open up a number of different options and would help him change the game.

With the players he has on the bench, such as Yohan Cabaye, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, Blanc could keep the same formation, but adding a different style of player into the mix would help change the game.

It doesn't have to be a grand gesture, but the slightest change could go a long way in helping this team reach its potential.

Despite their poor form, the champions will start favourites on Sunday, but if Blanc continues with the 4-3-3 up against Fournier's 4-3-1-2, it could be the formation that he should adopt that inflicts PSG's first defeat of the season.


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