My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
In this tactics blog, I will try to explain how PSG managed to beat Glasgow City in the Champions League Quarter-Final First leg.
Glasgow City set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but were organised into a narrow style. This forced PSG to attack down the wings, but City’s setup allowed the French side to dominate the possession. It was clear City were sent out to defend with a high degree of organisation, and attack on the counter. However, when attacking, too often they found themselves losing out on physicality and pace to the French team.
But the key to PSG’s success was their fluidity. They began with a formation that seemed to be a 5-3-1-1, but because of their movement, writing what formation they played is pointless.
The overloading of players made it a nightmare for the City players. In the example to the left, PSG’s Laure Boulleau has the ball whilst City’s Leanne Ross has an impossible decision– who does she mark? She has to position herself in a position where she can react to any pass, but notice that Anissa Lahmari is unmarked down the left-wing. It was this that troubled City and the PSG attackers would move in and out of positions, always moving, always looking for the pass. And the back three of PSG were superb in dictating the play.
And even when PSG got into the final third, City still had the same defensive problems. The City back four defended brilliantly as a unit, defending perfectly in line, which enabled them to catch PSG offside on several occasions. But again, the City players had the same issue in working out which player to mark.
The issue comes down to the zonal marking they used, but despite what some pundits will claim, both man-marking and zonal marking have huge issues. City’s organised defence meant PSG only had four great scoring chances and with all the possession they had, it shows zonal marking can work. If City had defended with man-marking, they would have tired into the second half and possibly could have lost heavily. The problem comes attacking.
Glasgow City got a lot of joy down the wings, and I was impressed with the attacking ability of Emma Black and Hayley Lauder. However, City struggled with two issues: the final pass, and changing flanks. The final pass was always just overhit, and that can happen to the best teams, but they never looked comfortable on the ball. What I am about to say might sound contradictory, but City needed to be slower and quicker on the ball.
There were times when they needed to spend time keeping possession, although this is very difficult when you are dealing with a PSG side, full of running and overloaded in the middle. But when City breaked, or tried to create a goal scoring chance, they needed to move the ball quickly, with one or two touch passing, switching the ball to the other flank and not allowing the opposition to settle. This is very simple for me to write here, but much harder to replicate on the pitch.
And one of the reasons why City struggled with their attacking play was because of the role of Kheira Hamraoui. She played the anchor role perfectly, and it was her positioning that impressed me the most. Always, she predicted where the danger was and even dropped back into the back three on occasions. And her finish for the second goal was pretty special.
It was evident that PSG knew instinctively which player should drop into which position. Anissa Lahmari and Kenza Dali swapped wings several times or when Laure Boulleau broke down the left, Lahmari would drop deep. These are just two examples, but it happened throughout the team.
So how do City improve their attacking play in the second leg? To my mind, there are two options, but in both they have to commit women forward.
Option One – Stick with 4-2-3-1
If they stay with the same formation, the midfield two of Jo Love and Kerry Montgomery need to stick to a disciplined defensive role. They did so in the first leg, but they tried to dictate the play and broke forward. The two full-backs (Emma Black and Nicola Docherty) need license to break down the flanks, which in turn would allow Hayley Lauder and Leanne Ross to get into the box. But when this happens, Love and Montgomery need to fill in the defensive roles of Black and Docherty in case of a PSG counter.
Option Two – Play a Back Three
They could set up with a similar system to PSG. This option does have the unfortunate drawback that sometimes centre-backs struggle to adapt to the different responsibilities that a back three require. And with only six days to prepare, this could make this option a bad choice.
What this system does do is improve the number of players you can break with five attacking midfielders and a striker – assuming a holding midfielder is played.
I would suggest the first option is the easier one to implement in the short time period. Whatever Glasgow City do next Saturday, they have one, albeit complex aim – increasing the number of players getting forward, whilst maintaining their defensive solidity.