Whenever a new manager takes over at a club, they will always want to implement their own style as quickly as possible but without ruffling any feathers. Sometimes, in order to do this, they look for a player who can be their representative on the pitch.
Unai Emery is no different. So the Spanish coach must have been delighted when he found out that Paris Saint-Germain were already in contact with Grzegorz Krychowiak this summer.
“The coach is always a major factor when a player joins a new club,” the Polish midfielder told the official website when his signing was confirmed. “But my discussions began with Paris before I knew that Unai Emery would be named coach. When I found out he’d be here too, that obviously made my decision a lot easier.”
It’s a combination that has worked brilliantly since the player made the move from Stade de Reims to Sevilla in 2014. The Spanish side already had a good level of pedigree, and they, with Emery’s help, brought Krychowiak’s game to another level—benefiting the club at the same time.
Their journey in Andalusia ended with three straight Europa League triumphs, something that PSG are hoping to emulate at a higher level in the Champions League.
PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi told the press, per the club's website:
I am very satisfied to see Grzegorz Krychowiak join our club. He has been very successful over the past two seasons with Sevilla FC, especially in European competition, and has been one of the standout performers at UEFA Euro 2016, in France. Grzegorz represents the values of hard-work and fighting spirit, so important to our Club, our fans and our new coach with whom he wanted to continue playing. I have no doubt he will become an important member of our squad.
Due to his late return after the Euros, Krychowiak has only featured for 29 minutes in pre-season, coming off the bench in the International Champions Cup fixture against Leicester City.
It wouldn’t have been the debut he envisioned, coming on to play in a back three, but he was still able to show his obvious quality.
Krychowiak is tall and powerful, he stands big and uses his body to his advantage. He has the speed and quickness over the first few steps to burst in front of opponents, and then he uses his strength to hold them off before finding the pass.
In the past, PSG became very reliant on the trio of Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta. Krychowiak has elements of all three and is going to be a huge addition to the midfield this season.
“There’s no guarantee that the tactics used here will be the same as at Sevilla,” continued Krychowiak. “Tactics need to be adapted to the players at a club. So, even though it helps that I know Unai and the way he works, this will be a new adventure.”
From what we’ve seen so far, Emery is trying to install the same philosophy as he did at Sevilla. The tactics are very similar, playing 4-2-3-1, but his formation is a lot more fluid, allowing for the creativity of his attacking players to shine through.
In principle, the base of the team is going to follow the same characteristics—that’s where Krychowiak will be so important. He has already shown the intelligence he has during the game.
Coming on against Leicester, he slotted into a makeshift defence and controlled the last 30 minutes. It is perhaps his grounding in the French game that makes that transition very easy.
Quite often, especially in the youth ranks, you will find a number of centre-backs who can step forward into the midfield and, vice-versa, midfielders who can drop back.
When you play with full-backs who push far forward, something PSG will look to do—as previously discussed in this column—you often, and quite regularly in France, see the defensive midfielder drop into the back line to create a three.
This protects the defence, lets the full-backs bomb forward and is quite a natural progression. Krychowiak can do this effortlessly.
During that game against Leicester, with Thiago Silva out injured, he came on and took up the defensive role with Presnel Kimpembe at left centre-back and another midfielder, Lorenzo Callegari, playing the central position.
The Parisians were never rattled, despite an experimental defence, and that is credit to Emery’s organisation and the attitude from the players.
Former Reims team-mate Prince Oniangue told the PSG website: “[Krychowiak] worked so hard in midfield and had such determination. But he also has a secret: he works harder than everybody else! He gets to training before anybody else and works in the gym before and after training. He reaps the rewards on the pitch. Playing next to him, I enjoyed my best ever season.”
That is the sort of attitude that Al-Khelaifi was talking about. If Krychowiak can help breed that sort of culture throughout the club, from first team to the youth setup, then it will create a hugely successful project.
What the Polish midfielder isn’t going to give you is double-figure assists, with only two for Sevilla last term, per WhoScored.com. That doesn’t mean he’s not creative, though. He is the man who starts the move, keeps the play flowing and looks to switch the direction of the attack with accurate long balls.
Against Lyon, PSG were given time on the ball, and Motta and Benjamin Stambouli were able to find the forwards over the top of the defence. Once you add a player with the passing ability of Krychowiak, the danger of sitting off and playing defensively is increased.
Bastia, although they lost 1-0, were able to pressure the ball, and without a player like the 26-year-old, it worked well and stifled the attacks. Too often last season, when PSG looked off the pace, the level of play dropped and they looked lethargic.
According to Krychowiak's old boss, Landry Chauvin, no matter what you get from everyone else, you can always expect a performance from the former Stade de Reims midfielder.
The former France international told the PSG website:
He is a really hard worker. Someone who will rarely have a bad game. Even when he’s out of form or doing tough, you don’t notice because he keeps everything simple and neat. He has really taken a huge leap forward in his progression at Sevilla. He’s not just happy to be a defensive midfielder, he’s now a real box to box player. He gets through a mountain of work... He continues his steady rise to the top. He always wants more. We haven’t heard the last of him. He has all the positive attributes of his Polish origins, culture and education. They will help him throughout his career.
There is a very good chance, if he has found more fitness this week, Krychowiak could make his debut against Metz at the Parc des Princes on Sunday—or away against Monaco in Week 3. That would be the perfect opportunity for the new signing to show the home fans just what he is capable of; plus, we may get to see the very exciting combination of the Pole linking up with Verratti at the base of the midfield.
With what Krychowiak has to offer the midfield, it could complement the Italian perfectly. PSG could have the base for one of the best midfields in Europe. It’s just up to Emery to bring the best out of them both.