Man City show collective power with Champions League victory over star-studded PSG
Posted On November 25, 2021
Amid all the geopolitical dimensions of this Manchester game and the big stars on display, it can help set up one of football’s little quirks.
What price for Mauricio Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester United in the knockout stages of the Champions League? At least this is the prospect that opens the last trip of the Argentine in the city, after a result which is almost certain to leave the French side second in the group.
Meanwhile, Manchester City look like potential champions again, following a 2-1 win.
The individuals of Leo Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar this time didn’t have enough for Pep Guardiola’s superbly integrated squad. None could match Bernardo Silva in this match, whose touch of class – there is no other expression – won the match.
One argument could be that this is why there has been some reluctance to get Pochettino, but it really says more about PSG.
They remain a star vehicle more than a squad or a team. Pochettino tries to get around the problem. There was also a period, when PSG were leading 1-0, as it looked like the type of performance Manchester City and the rest of Manchester city have already seen.
It could have gone like the first game, which was a 2-0 win over PSG.
As it stands, City has ensured a different result. That in itself is sharp, even though a single dot separates them at the top of the group.
However, the two clubs are one of the biggest problems in football, along with the way states own them for sports washing purposes, they are also two different aspects of what you do with them. It also represents the division that currently defines the top of the Champions League. City is a collective system. PSG are a collection of individuals, all three of the best individuals to have played modern football, one of them perhaps the greatest of all time.
The match therefore took on this predictable complexity.
There have been long stretches of time that City’s machine has worked and sought to make the PSG defense amassed all over the pitch work. This has led to a plethora of opportunities, especially in the early stages. Rodri had a head clear of the line. Riyad Mahrez saw a deflected shot over the bar. Ilkay Gudogan hit the post.
Against this kind of chaos, about 30 meters from the field, the stars of PSG walked for the most part in a strange serenity.
It might sound absurd, but perhaps offers a logical explanation for why players like Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye suffer from muscle injuries after just an hour. They and the rest of the “other seven” of PSG have to do a lot of racing to compensate for the lack of attack. Keylor Navas must be very strong, which he does with impressive consistency. A save by Gabi Jesus was superb.
The payoff for indulging in this trio is that when you finally give them the ball, they can take your breath away and take the game away from you.
It is their power, in many ways.
It’s impossible to deny the electricity flowing through a stadium as they step onto the ball, even if it is sometimes out of sheer fear. What other thrill can there be when the three rush to their goal, capable of almost anything?
Kylian Mbappe did something you wouldn’t expect, be warned, by missing his first big chance. After Neymar passed him in the first half, in a possible reprieve from City’s assault, the French star deflected the ball well over the bar.
He was just looking for his range, however.
In the 50th minute, after another push from the depths, Mbappe was putting the ball between Ederson’s legs with the type of finish that has become so familiar. Messi had been the architect, passing over Neymar’s dummy before making his way into the box to play a ball that ultimately fell on Mbappe.
The way that spoke to another difference between the sides.
While PSG are all sweeping races and lightning bolts of individual inspiration, City are all coordinated moves.
Both of their goals were due to the kind of movement that seemed so repeated, the result of so much preparation.
Both came from crossfield balls which exploited a clear gap behind PSG lines, to deliver an easy finish after an impressive job.
For the first, it was Rodri’s ball. Kyle Walker had to fight again to force the ball, allowing Sterling to intervene.
For the second, a few minutes later, it was another divine Cancelo ball.
Even that was just a simple act of support for the main event, which was Bernardo’s exquisite touch.
He removed all the fizz from the ball with magnificent finesse, allowing Jesus to hit again.
The two continue after that, due to Leipzig’s pounding against Club Brugge.
The bigger question is what next? It makes more sense than what the draw has in store.