Luis Enrique has repeated since his arrival that he wants to rely on 22 starting players, and little by little, a clear hierarchy is emerging in almost all of his starting 11 players during the matches that count. But at the beginning of autumn, there is one position that has not yet been determined in the competition: the position of third midfielder capable of covering the left part of the field.
A mixed role between midfield and attack has been shared by Vitinha and Kang-In Lee for several weeks, two players with different profiles. It seems that the rise of the South Korean will reshuffle the cards and provide a new alternative to the Spanish coach. Decryption.
Dynamic: Korean drop shot
After a normal start to the season, the South Korean player returned after winning the Asian Games last month. Reigning champions in their last three Ligue 1 matches, the 22-year-old impressed with a brilliant pass at Brest (3-2 for Paris Saint-Germain) and a goal that was equally impressive against Montpellier (3-0).
But what is striking is the personality of the number 19 on the field, which is equivalent to the one he expresses in the locker room. Coming off the bench, he brought me madness, as he was able to create and bring danger: he scored a goal in the first leg against Milan, and the left-hander was about to do the same in the return leg during a fixed half-time.
“He wants to prove and show that he is not there to be a luxury substitute,” believes Laurent Robert, the former left leg of Paris Saint-Germain (1999-2001). What he wants is to play game after game and through his performances put pressure on Vitenha who has not yet reached his full potential and who may have been a little overconfident. »
The 23-year-old Portuguese was not clumsy either when he had to replace… Kang In Lee during the match, with a goal he scored against Montpellier. But the overall feeling remains less impressive. Vitinha’s remake, released in August and September, falls into the faults of last year and lacks impact in some of its selections. Once again, the Portuguese became too neutral at times, as happened in his match in Milan where he often lacked spontaneity.
Playstyle: Creator vs. Worker
Over the past few matches, Kang In Lee has shown how capable he is. In a midfield that has often lacked creativity, the South Korean is able to bring that technical prowess combined with interesting tactical discipline in counter-pressing and substitution. A self-sacrifice that pleases his coach.
“He’s a real footballer, but we shouldn’t limit it to his left foot,” says Laurent Robert. He shows something different: he has speed, athleticism, change of pace, dribbling and above all generosity. He is a player who does not need others, follows his actions, tries things. »
This lack of grit can sometimes be criticized against the Portuguese, who develops a less imaginative but more collective register and works hard to provide more balance to his team when he loses the ball. Above all, it frees up space and gives Mbappe more freedom. A profile that can be interesting depending on the adversity.
Integration into the collective: valuable versatility
If there’s one point the two men agree on, it’s their diversity. A valuable asset that Luis Enrique did not fail to highlight when commenting on Vitinha’s start to the season. “He has technical and physical skills that fit perfectly with our game ideas,” the Spaniard summed up. With us, he plays more in the middle, but he can play as an attacking midfielder, sometimes, on one side. It’s interesting that a player can change positions in the same match, but you have to know how to do it well and he knows how to do it. »
The observation also applies to Kang-in Lee, as he is more comfortable when it comes to occupying the two lanes and is able to insert himself into the heart of the game depending on his features. “He always plays from three quarters, which makes it easy to absorb information and get into the flow of the game,” says Robert.
He continues: “Ultimately, I would say it is off to a good start. But these two boys have not yet shown their full potential. We expect them to be at a very high level and not in Ligue 1.” Still, the identity of the defending champion on Saturday afternoon in Reims allows us to see more clearly and choose between the two candidates for this valuable folding seat.