Second Look: How PSG Defeated Angers

Paris Saint-Germain continued their perfect start to the Ligue 1 season with a 3-1 victory over Angers SCO last weekend. Edinson Cavani made his anticipated return to join Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé and the fearsome trio proved to be too much for an Angers side that will likely be battling relegation.

Let’s start with the goals…

PSG Goal

Cavani: PSG 1-0 Angers

First off, regardless of how it came, it is great to see Cavani score in his return.

With that out of the way, this was…um…not the most impressive goal to say the least. Thiago Silva makes a lovely step-up and passes to Neymar to start off the move but I think that PSG may have gotten away with being offside.

Regardless, Neymar makes the cross on the ground, which is intercepted by the defense, but it takes a lucky bounce right into the path of Cavani who scores an easy tap-in. Once again, it’s good and fun to score goals, especially when a player like Cavani is making his season debut, but this was not exactly one for the highlight reel.

Angers Goal

Mangani: PSG 1-1 Angers

Once again, we won’t bother with the actual penalty, but rather how it was won. In the end, a tough decision for the Thilo Kehrer who was making his debut., but it was the right call. Angers put a dangerous ball in and I don’t think Kehrer saw that it was as close as it was so instead of making a nifty interception he ends up committing a foul.

Kehrer did not have a great debut but some of his mistakes were the sort of things that tend to happen with a debut like this and he did make a couple of nifty plays. Even though it was the correct call, it’s a tough one here for Kehrer and hard to pin too much blame on him.

PSG Goals

Mbappé: PSG 2-1 Angers

Utter brilliance.

There is some irony to the fact that Mbappé managed to put this one away but failed on a few easier chances at other points in the game, still, a world-class cross by Angel Di Maria and a world-class finish by Mbappé.

The most impressive thing here is the way that Mbappé sizes up the ball from distance. He has to stop his run very early and read the bend of the pass before leveling the volley to the net. An absolute banger and wonderful goal in pretty much every way, Mbappé is transforming into something entirely different right before our eyes.

Neymar: PSG 3-1 Angers

This goal was simply sublime. Adrien Rabiot is heavily involved by getting the initial move started and then completing a great give-and-go with Mbappé, who made a lovely run. Neymar steps into the space behind Cavani where Mbappé finds him. Neymar makes no mistakes as he easily slots the goal into the lower corner with his left foot. There was very little that Angers could’ve done on this goal. Once again, this play is really made by that return pass from Rabiot to Mbappé as it is what really springs the play.

About Rabiot

So, I’ve been a bit hard on him in the first two games, and I still stand by my comments. He wasn’t very good. This game was different though, although he did have one bad defensive mistake:

This was probably Angers best scoring chance of the game and it all happens because Rabiot finds himself behind the play, which causes the back line to bend out of position.

Those sorts of mistakes were regular the last two weeks, but other than that, Rabiot played a really great game. He was instrumental in PSG’s third goal and also performed well defensively all game.

Angers gets a quick break out of a PSG corner gone wrong and Rabiot gets on his horse to run all the way back and uses his body to win the ball back. Those are the sort of plays that PSG needs out of him. It’s also worth noting that it is none other than the lovely Cavani who gets back for the finishing sliding tackle.

Not as impressive, a full-field run there but Rabiot still gets back, wins the ball, and controls it under pressure.

Even though he doesn’t quite finish this move, he makes a really solid offensive move and then once again shows great hustle to get back and help PSG win back the ball towards midfield.

I could go on with Rabiot in this game, he was superb. But, I just wanted to highlight his good play since I’ve been a bit hard on him the past two weeks. He played a really good game.

What was the difference between the halves?

A lot of people will bring up the formation change, but I’m not actually sure that it had too much to do with it. It could have, but PSG was pretty well in control of the game already in the first half. They tightened up in the second half to a total stranglehold, but this was not a similar case to En Avant de Guingamp or even Stade Malherbe Caen.

In both of PSG’s first two league games, there was a significant stretch (the first 33 minutes of the game against Guingamp and the first 30 minutes of the second half against Caen) where the opponent was really in control of the game.

Before even getting to the defense, PSG had several other good chances to score beyond the one goal they managed in the first half.

In both instances, PSG builds with good possession into a great scoring chance.

Angers did have a few opportunities and had possession occasionally, but there really was no extended stretch where they were in control of the game. And when they had the ball, PSG’s defensive shape was mostly solid.

This counts as a shot on goal for Angers, but if an opponent scores from there (and obviously it will happen at least a couple of times this year) you tip your cap and move on. In fact, it almost happened in this game.

Here, Angers catches PSG on the break, but the defense is back and in good shape. A nearly divine strike but it still stays out. Once again, if opponents put goals in from there then you just have to pretty much live with it. Any team that plays any sort of attacking and aggressive style will allow these occasionally and PSG seems well-prepared to deal with it.

PSG also was lethal in coming into immediate counter-attacks following the times where Angers opened themselves up a bit, which was a nice continuation from the first two games of the year.

The combination of speed at the front with Neymar being nearly unstoppable in the open field makes the prospect of opening up at all incredibly dangerous against PSG.

In the end, probably the most concerning defensive moment came at the very end of the game.

I get it, the game is almost over, Neymar has basically been treating it like a pickup game for the last 20 minutes, everyone is tired. But, there is simply no excuse for the sort of lazy defensive effort.

All that said, whether because of formation or otherwise, PSG took an utter stranglehold on the game in the second half. An awful lot of it looked like this.

Just total control.

Did you say pickup game?

Yes. Remember how some people were speculating about Neymar not looking quite as adventurous and fun as he usually is? Yeah, that went away in a big way in this game. Maybe some switch flipped and he’s happier now, or maybe it is just a case of Cavani, Mbappé, and an eventual two-goal lead finally forcing an opponent to give him some space to work, but he was fully back in his bag of tricks, even the ones that didn’t work it was great to see him trying.

And of course:

I seriously don’t know how people can dislike this guy. He flops sometimes but so does everyone else. The sheer disrespect of many of these moves is totally delightful.

Final verdict

PSG has three wins from three games, but this was the best one. PSG didn’t totally dominate from start to finish but they were not too far off of it. And it is important to remember that for all the fussing about some defensive laziness and, at times, ineffective midfield play, PSG has nine points, nine goals, and only given up two goals through three games.

Regardless, a really solid win and a really fun game to watch. See you next week.

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Posted by Joe Sinke