It’s not just Mbappe’s life: Paris Saint-Germain can rely on the quality in front of goal of its midfielders when they face Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Against Montpellier on Friday at the Parc des Princes, the attack of Kolo Mwani, Dembélé and Mbappé remained muted, and the midfielders shone.
Lee Kang-in passed the top corner while Mbappé crossed for Hakimi between his legs. Warren Zaire Emery finished off the exchange with Dembélé with a perfect shot from the right flank. Vitinha increased the score with a cross shot on the edge of the penalty area.
These three environments are not their first attempt. Lee Kang-in scored against Milan on September 25, and against Zaire Emery in Brest four days later. Vitinha has always had good shots but the three stars Messi, Mbappe and Neymar were eating up goals last season. The Portuguese has already scored as many goals at the start of the year (2) as he did throughout last season. Midfielders Fabian Ruiz and Carlos Soler, who often support the troops from the bench, also scored their goal against Strasbourg.
This is a new trend led by coach Luis Enrique, who arrived in the summer. Its principle is “Attack at 11, Defend at 11”. Midfielders in particular have the task of projecting themselves very quickly towards the opposition surface, to be on the receiving end of ground level crosses, most often from Achraf Hakimi or Ousmane Dembélé.
They often find themselves unmarked thanks to the work of the centre-forwards, Randall Kolo Mwani or Gonzalo Ramos, who aim to act as a decoy for the opposition defensive block or as a support point for a throw-in.
When asked last Thursday about the lack of chances in the air for Gonzalo Ramos, Luis Enrique replied: “That’s what we ask of him… We need a No. 9 to come in and support us to leave space.”
Luis Enrique also asks Vitinha or Kang In Lee, now contenders for the left midfielder position, to occupy the left wing of the attack depending on the phases, to stretch the opposing team. This also raises controversy among observers, some of whom see the Spanish coach’s system as a 4-2-4 plan, which is a rare method in European football.
Of the starting midfielders, only Manuel Ugarte has yet to score. This is partly due to his role as a recovery player positioned low on the pitch, often close to the central joint in defence.
But it is not unlikely to see the Uruguayan, who arrived this summer, open up his shots quickly, and who has already shown a certain talent in striking. On August 12 against Lorient (0-0), he was about to give his team away with a powerful shot into the top corner.