Paris Saint-Germain is off to a great start in the UEFA Champions League this season. They’ve played every team in Group A and have gone undefeated during that stretch. There’s one stat in particular though that may lead some to believe this is a different PSG than we’ve seen in recent years.
According to OptaJean, a sports data company, Paris Saint-Germain has allowed only one shot on target through three games in the Champions League, which is fewer than any other team at this stage of the tournament since 2003-04 when the started to track this stat.
1 – Paris have only faced 1 shot on target in their first 3 games in the Champions League this season, fewer than any other side at this stage of the competition since Opta analyses it (2003/04). Untroubled. pic.twitter.com/aJsh2K3HP0
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) October 23, 2019
PSG hasn’t played a bunch of tomato cans during this three-game stretch either. The reigning French champions hosted Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes and held them to zero shots on target and that was with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, James Rodríguez, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro in the starting lineup.
The only team to manage a shot on goal was Galatasaray S.K., who PSG defeated 1-0 in Istanbul. The Turkish side may lack the superstar names of Real Madrid but that team has plenty of talent up and down their roster and their home supporters are known for their ability to throw an opponent off their game.
Then most recently, PSG traveled to Belgium to face Club Brugge and they utterly demolished them with an incredible performance in the second half led by Kylian Mbappé. The scoreline is a bit unflattering for the hosts though. The first half ended 1-0 and I thought Philippe Clement’s team did a great job in the opening 45 minutes of pressuring PSG and taking the game to them. In the end, it was too much Mbappé who went on to score a hat-trick and assist Mauro Icardi.
Players like Marquinhos, Idrissa Gueye, Thiago Silva, Juan Bernat, Presnel Kimpembe, Thomas Meunier, and Keylor Navas deserve a lot of credit for this historic defensive statistic. These players have combined to completely control the midfield and snuff out any potential attack that may lead to a goal.
Even at 35-years-old, Silva is still getting it done defensively and cutting out passes before they reach their intended destination. Kimpembe has returned from a groin injury and looks more focused than ever to return to the incredible form that earned him a spot on the France national team that won the FIFA World Cup. Bernat continues to prove that he was one of the best bargain buys of the past decade with his ability to defend some of the best attackers in the world down the left flank as well as contribute to PSG’s attack. The other full-back, Meunier, has also been solid on the other side of the pitch and while he isn’t always appreciated by supporters, he has filled in admirably for the injured Colin Dagba and Thilo Kehrer.
Gueye and Marquinhos have combined to form one of the best defensive midfield partnerships in all of Europe. They possess the unique ability to lock down attackers and also launch a counter-attack just as quickly. What’s so fascinating is that Gueye only joined the team last summer and looks like he’s been in Paris for years. Marquinhos has blossomed into a stout midfielder but he’s a natural center-back that manager Thomas Tuchel converted last season.
Jokes will be made about how little Navas has had to do since arriving in the French capital from Real Madrid but his leadership and ability to organize his defense shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, his ability to stay focused for an entire 90 minutes and make a key save when called upon will be vital in the knockout stage and something previous PSG goalkeepers struggled with in the past.
Considering the firepower PSG has upfront with the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Angel Di Maria, Neymar Jr., Mauro Icardi, Edinson Cavani, and Pablo Sarabia, it’s almost scary to add to that a defensive midfield and backline that has held three teams to one shot on goal over the span of 270 minutes. If that doesn’t prove this PSG team is different than previous versions, I don’t know what will.
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